updates: a good employee who’s really a terrible employee, boss has banned hot take-out food at lunch, and more

Continuing our annual December “where are they now” series, here are five more updates from people who had their questions answered here this year.

1. A good employee who’s really a terrible employee

I did take a lot of the advice that was suggested to me in the AAM post and comments. I brought my concerns regarding Leah to upper management, discussed options with HR, and had a very in-depth conversation with both Leah and my manager. We (all) agreed that the behavior was completely inappropriate, would be ceasing immediately, and she was issued further corrective action, including making her ineligible for promotion to the full-time position and putting her on a PIP for improvement. We hired another employee, Kara, who worked in one of our sister stores.

For the first few days, it seemed like Leah had taken the concerns to heart. However, as soon as Kara was allowed to work on her own without my constant supervision, the problems started up again. Kara was in my office multiple times 8-10 times within a week, refusing to actually address whatever was happening but insisting she hated her new job and wanted to return to our sister store. The third employee in the department informed me of Leah’s rude and hateful attitude, demeaning comments, and sabotaging manner. During this, I was gone for one day. I recieved four phone calls from three different employees and the vice president while I was gone, all in a panic, with Kara having a breakdown and threatening to walk out and allow herself to be fired to avoid Leah. Everything went in to lock down, Kara and Leah were placed on separate shifts, I stayed with Kara at all times to minimize contact between the two, but the damage had been done. After only two weeks at our store, Kara returned to her old job. Leah was given everything up to a final warning – the next step would have been termination.

My manager did not allow me to terminate Leah over the situation. We were already deeply in the hole for our budget, and down two employees out of five. Losing Leah would have meant our floundering department would have sank completely. I disagreed vehemently with the decision, but was overruled.

I’ll be frank, the entire debacle was the final straw for me, and I accepted a position outside of management with another company. The last I heard she was still working for the department, hopefully with a new manager who is more effective.

2. My boss has banned hot take-out food at lunch (first update here)

I relocated for my new role within the new company the beginning of 2016. In the space of two weeks, I realised that things were not going to be the best. The company I’d moved for had made such a disastrous shambles of carrying out a mass recruitment drive that there were a LOT of horrific decisions made in relation to a lot of staffing and such.

But based on how toxic the previous role had been, I handled the situation a lot better than someone fresh out of university (a LOT of people in the department). Working for someone who was so utterly backward and derogatory really helped develop a thick skin and how to deal with staff who thought better.

Although I’d reignited my job search, I did see a role within the company that appealed to me. I was appointed, and…

I’m incredibly happy! It’s such an utter contrast to before. I do have a much better work-life balance, I’m encouraged to travel to other cities to work with my team (we’re based all over the country), my manager and director are fantastic to work with – fair, driven and they’re open to ideas and projects and such. I’m currently driving a hiring campaign as I’ve identified massive gaps in the way the company treat candidates, and also working with new divisions to set up ongoing staff flow and such. We’ve recently had a big campaign day meeting to discuss our growth and the future, and its fabulous stuff.

And if anyone is wondering about the old place with the tyrant hating hot food…? Well, they’ve managed to open a major office in another big city. LinkedIn highlights the high staff turnover. And I’ve heard that they still haven’t managed to hire a replacement who worked to my speed and level…

3. Phone interview went terribly because the position was different than what I’d expected (#3 at the link)

I know this is an extremely old post but I wanted to send an update! As I mentioned in the comments on the old post, HR actually contacted me before I could contact them and very kindly confirmed that I was not a fit for the technical role — I laughed and agreed! He said they were still very interested in me though and set me up for another phone screen for a different position focusing more on troubleshooting. It went fantastically, I had an in-person interview scheduled for the following week, and I got the job! I have been there ever since, and have since been promoted to a new and more senior position. I think that being honest about my knowledge gaps and trying to stay otherwise positive helped keep me in the running. Thank you and the commenters for all the perspectives and suggestions!

4. My boss is having my employee do work for her old company (#3 at the link)

Well, it’s all still kinda hazy as to how legitimate the whole thing was. There’s no concrete evidence Sherry’s work was being used outside of our company and after that once incident, Jane hasn’t asked Sherry to produce any more newsletters. So maybe it’s over? Either way, there was unfortunately no real resolution. I think if it happens again, I’ll take the advice in the comment section and be more direct with Jane about it — while still treading carefully!

5. Interview with a professional belly dancer

When you posted the interview with me earlier this year, my first novel Under the Knife had just been released under my pen name Laurin Kelly, and many of the comments expressed interest in the book and my equally unusual career path as an author of gay romance. I just wanted to send a very happy update along.

The Rainbow Awards are one of the biggest awards in the LGBTQ writing world, and when the 2016 winners were announced in September, to my shock and delight I was honored with three awards! Under the Knife was a Runner-Up for both Contemporary Gay Romance (their largest and most competitive category) and overall Best Gay Book. Most exciting though, Under the Knife came in 2nd place for Best Debut Gay Book. So in an experience beyond my wildest dreams, I have gone from fanfiction writer to published author to award-winning author!

{ 39 comments… read them below }

    1. Myrin*

      Seriously. What a frustrating situation for the OP! It will never cease to amaze me the length some people go to so that they don’t have to fire an out-and-out troublemaker – while I’m sympathetic to the personnel problems the OP describes, you can’t tell me that in all the time they (management higher up than the OP) have had to deal with Leah’s horrible behaviour they couldn’t have found someone with the same amount of knowledge but a better attitude.

      1. A Person*

        I’m going through something similar with a co-worker right now. Another co-worker and I are regularly having to fire-fight and manage fallout when this cock-schmear opens his damn fool mouth. Management knows this asshole is a freaking hazard but rather step up and fire him they seem more inclined to try and irritate him into quitting through various means. Hopefully, when contract renewal comes around management will do the sensible thing but given past performance…

    2. Zip Silver*

      It’s amazing that they chose a part time person on PIP over a full timer. Leah should have been canned long ago.

    3. Zombii*

      Upper management seems kind of like they support Leah’s plan to do all the work in her department by driving everyone else out. Wtf.

      1. Joseph*

        “Upper management seems kind of like they support Leah’s plan to do all the work in her department by driving everyone else out.”
        Frankly, at this point, you might as well call it a ‘successful plan’:
        >They lost two employees back before February due to Leah (as mentioned in the OP). These employees apparently can’t be replaced due to budget constraints.
        >Kara left their department because of Leah after two weeks – which if this job is similar to most jobs means she was still settling in and not yet full productivity.
        >They lost OP, the manager, over this.
        >Unnamed “third employee” clearly doesn’t like Leah either (given that she went to OP over it) and just saw that they chose part-time employee Leah over full-time employee Kara and manager OP.

        1. Lance*

          Pretty much. And yet another case of upper management choosing ‘more bodies’ over ‘more efficiency’ (or, in this case less bodies, with how many people Leah has effectively driven out).

    4. Tala*

      LW1 I went through something kinda similar this year (and my ‘Leah’ was promoted into my job when I eventually threw in the towel over her toxicity and upper management’s unwillingness to follow through on anything) and a piece of advice Alison gave (which I now incorporate into my job-hunting) was to not manage people you don’t have the authority to fire….or words to that effect. I’m all for fairness and due process but there are too many ‘Leahs’ wreaking havoc in companies who are too scared/lazy to do anything about them.

    5. Annonymouse*

      OP it isn’t that you weren’t an effective manager – it’s that your managers and bosses wouldn’t back you up and allow you to manage.

      Hard to manage a person and set consequences when you get overruled from above.

  1. Artemesia*

    #3 I know someone who knew he did so-so on the tech test for a position and immediately contacted the interviewer/hiring manager saying basically that they were not a good fit for X but were excellent at Y and Z related roles (i.e. tech adjacent type roles where being good but not great at X would be a real asset) and would be interested if such roles became available. The person was immediately called in to discuss this possibility and eventually hired in the kind of role they wanted. I think being very upfront about the fit is what made it happen much like your experience.

    1. SusanIvanova*

      I had a phone interview for software sales engineer, and did my best although the sales part didn’t sound all that fun. They called me back and said they didn’t think that was a good fit but they’d like to fly me out for an actual engineer job. And I got that job.

  2. Mary V.*

    Leah sounds just like an employee in my former workplace – one of a few people like that who drove me to move to the competitor. I would just like to say, I LOVE this website! I found it while searching for answers to problems I was having with my former, terribly dysfunctional employer. I was having a hard time trying to figure out why they kept certain people, like Leah, on (maybe they have the “goods” on senior management?). Maybe someday I will relate some of the frustrating things that happened at that company, but for now I just love to read AAM’s level headed answers to workplace issues and the thoughtful comments that follow. There are a lot of really smart people out there. Reading this advice gave me the confidence to change employers and I now work for a well-run, NORMAL company. Life is good thanks to you all. Thank you.

    1. sumasi*

      I am thankful for this website also. It has helped men out so much and changed a lot of aspects about my work life. I am also happy for you too, being at a different job does wonders. Also Merry Christmas.

  3. Raine*

    If your place of employment has a place specifically for employees to eat, for the live of God eat there once in a while instead of at your desk — for the sanity of those around you. Hot food crunchy food slurp slurp belch whatever. I don’t agree in being a tyrant, especially if there is no set aside space to eat, but don’t fool you self.

    1. Temperance*

      Eh my office has a cafeteria, but eating in your own office or at your desk is completely fine. I also don’t know anyone who openly belches in our office or slurps loudly, because we’re all generally non-disgusting adults.

      1. Artemesia*

        People who make noise when they eat, eat smelly foods at their desk, leave grease spots on common spaces, and smelly garbage in their desk wastebaskets NEVER see themselves as a problem.

        In the original post on this I wondered why people didn’t just bring their lunch. Yeah it is annoying not to have appropriate vendors nearby but it is also annoying to fill the office with the smell of fish and chips every day. It is easy to throw an apple and yogurt and a sandwich into a bag and bring it.

        1. Temperance*

          If I’m not mistaken, wasn’t there an issue where it was difficult to bring lunch due to not having a refrigerator?

          I don’t disagree that gross people rarely realize that they’re gross.

          1. Artemesia*

            If you don’t have a refrigerator, either you bring lunches that don’t require it as generations of school kids have or you throw a cool block into the insulated lunch bag. So many problems are just not ‘problems’ if one gives it any thought.

            1. copy run start*

              This may not be a problem for you, but please don’t dismiss others concerns simply because you don’t understand them.

              1. Artemesia*

                Not having a stable shift to arrange daycare is a problem. Inadequate pay is a problem. Lack of advancement opportunity is a problem. Evil bosses that undercut your confidence or abuse you are problems. Hostile colleagues are a problem. Having to carry lunch because there is no convenient acceptable food to purchase nearby is trivial. Obsessing about the trivial can be a problem in a workplace. Choosing to dwell on trivial problems is a great way to make yourself feel miserable and put upon. Not a fun way to live.

                1. Candi*

                  Not everyone has time to throw even a basic sack lunch together -especailly if they must combine public transit with small children.

                  My housekeeping job was one of my worst jobs -but they did let us order from the food court places (10% discount FTW) before we clocked out, as long as we did cleanup nearby during any prep time. Meanwhile, food would go missing out of the fridge and the empty lockers we were allowed to use as cupbards. (Always when That One Guy was on shift, too… hmmm. But the mall manager liked him.)

                  (As for why such a bad job let us even have breaks and lunch -state law. And they were relentless about cracking down on violators.)

        2. CreationEdge*

          Apples are crunchy and noisy to eat! So are most veggie tray staples. Flavored yogurt often has a strong odor. My kitchen smells like yogurt right now because the youngest had some recently. Blech! I’d rather it smell like fish and chips!

          Deciding what types of food are sense offenders is subjective and personal.

    2. Mazzy*

      I totally agree almost every day I’m going on a walk or putting on earphones or opening the window to freshen the air because of this. And we have a slew of sit down fast food me healthy places around us, and none of the people doing it are working when they are at their desk, the main culprits are always scrolling on their phones or watching videos.

  4. Mreasy*

    The original letter was about the boss banning food he deemed “unhealthy” entirely from the premises, and the issue being there were no options nearby for food that met his dietary oversight. Unfortunately, not all employees can or wish to bring their lunch (and a yogurt, apple, peanut butter, crackers would get me through about 3 pm before I started getting light-headed). The bigger issue was the boss’s oversight of employee dietary choices was part of an insane & toxic managerial culture. This wasn’t people eating bad-smelling food at their desks or being too lazy to enjoy fresh air!

    1. Artemesia*

      Why must a packed lunch be so insubstantial you get light headed? Generations of coal miners have managed to get through an arduous day on their packed lunches. I don’t want to commute long distances and do lots of other things either but if I had no other option I would suck it up. Yeah the boss is a jerk for wanting to judge lunches; he is not necessarily a jerk for wanting to ban smelly fast foods like fish and chips from the workspace. Packing a healthy , nutritious and substantial lunch may not be what someone ‘wants to do’ but it is easy to do. There is a lot of whining in the workplace about nothing much.

      1. BuildMeUp*

        Wow, I think this is unnecessarily harsh. Just because you would “suck it up” doesn’t obligate others to do the same.

      2. Candi*

        The foods that work best for packed lunches, especially unrefrigerated, also tend to be light on staying power. More substantial stuff requires more prep, involving time and possibly the purchase of smaller storage containers, freezer packs, and lunch boxes and bags that the worker may not have needed before. (There’s a reason I hoard storage containers.) These items cost, especially if you want them to last a substantial amount of time. Dollar store items tend to break soon.

    2. Elliot*

      The boss is a jerk, but this is a little overkill. Packed lunches and nutritious foods absolutely can create a substantial meal. My workplace is outside the city and there is no place to pick up lunch on a half hour break. We all work on our feet and pack lunches and survive without going hungry, and if someone said they needed a hot meal to not get lightheaded on a 9 hour shift we’d scratch our heads at them. I have an eating disorder and need to eat through the day too to not get lightheaded and very ill, but I have no problem finding healthy, inexpensive, high calorie foods to stuff in my locker. I live on the poverty line and have multiple jobs. Nobody “needs” to go offsite to eat a meal. For a lot of workers, especially poor ones, it’s not an option, and anyone who has the means to eat out every meal break is capable of bringing a lunch, which is much cheaper anyways.

      1. Why Don't We Do It in the Code*

        Artemesia and Elliot, your lives and experiences and situations are not the same as others’. You don’t know what other people’s situations are, even if you think you do. And trying to compare coal miners’ live with others is a whole strange level of equivalence. Sociologically and logistically their lives were and are very different than most people today. Family structure and obligations, location, transportation and more are just a few factors.

        1. caryatis*

          Example? I’m also wondering why someone would be able to afford buying food for every lunch and yet unable to afford a simple packed lunch. Rice and beans, hard-boiled eggs, canned tuna, chicken breast…all very cheap, easy to prepare and filling.

          1. OhNo*

            “Cheap”? Maybe, depending on where you live, and how easy it is to access grocery stores. Once you include travel costs to distant stores, prices can quickly become prohibitive.

            “Easy to prepare”? Not if you have a disability that makes preparing food difficult.

            “Filling”? Not if you have any kind of chronic hypoglycemia, or anything that requires your body to consume a lot of calories every day (heavy exercise, fast metabolism, etc.). And that’s not even getting into people who have food allergies or digestive issues that may make those “cheap”, “easy” options untenable.

            To reiterate: your lives and experiences and situations are not the same as others’. It’s ridiculous to assume that your experiences hold true for everyone.

  5. Tuesday*

    Simultaneously infuriated and fascinated by #1. I’m dying to know exactly what Leah said and/or did that was bad enough to push everyone else out without getting herself fired.

    I’m glad the LW got out, though, and found a new place to work. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from reading AAM, it’s that bad management will likely never change.

    1. Candi*

      To change that kind of culture takes a major shakeup from the top down, and a willingness to houseclean.

  6. copy run start*

    1) Sad that management finds Leah more valuable than the other employees, but not surprising. She is clearly willing to take on the extra work and keep the place afloat while understaffed, but it sounds like upper management is using her to patch the budget hole without addressing any issues. Good for you, OP, for getting out.

  7. CreationEdge*

    #4 Congratulations on the awards! It’s so cool to hear that a commenter turned interviewee has had a success like that!

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