my coworker blocks colleagues’ messages when they ask for help and is a jerk … and our manager won’t act

A reader writes:

We are a small HR department of about 10, in a corporate office of about 100 employees. We have one employee (who is, like me, a manager) who is often not in the office, or on instant messenger. Sometimes he is on travel, but more often than not he is either “working from home” or otherwise on some form of PTO. Often times people come around looking for him, and since he isn’t transparent with the team about where he is, the rest of the team is relegated to answer “I don’t know.” We will tell them to try calling him on his cell (which he rarely answers), but quite frankly this makes us look (as a department) like we are not cohesive or organized. What’s even worse are the times where he will schedule a brown bag lunch or (better yet) our flu shot clinic, then not even bother to show up to run the meeting. Without knowing where he is, one of the other nine of us are stuck picking up the slack.

So the other manager (there are three of us, who all report to a “VP”) decided to implement a department-wide calendar, simply by syncing our Outlook calendars to a team calendar. We thought this was a good way to keep everyone updated on where we were, if we were on PTO, teleworking, or in a meeting. So we implement it, and guess what? Everyone uses it except one person. Yep…you guessed right. Both I and the other manager addressed our concern with our VP, and she never responded. Or just says “well, that’s just Fergus.” So clearly she doesn’t see the issue. But it gets better.

She (or someone else) must have said something to him about his lack of use of the department calendar because he is now using it (five months later). Well….kind of. He puts entries into his calendar – but the entries are often times in another language (usually Arabic). He is a native English speaker, he isn’t of Middle Eastern descent, and we speak English in our office. My theory is he is putting his entries in Google Translate, then putting the verbiage it spits out onto his calendar. I myself checked out the verbiage in his calendar (using Google Translate), and they are, in fact, work entries (they are usually notifications that one of his internal clients will be in the office that day, or he is on PTO, teleworking, etc.).

To me, this is incredibly passive aggressive and unprofessional, and shows an utter disregard for working as a team. Frankly, if he worked for me, he would have one chance to correct it. My coworker and I discussed how to handle it, but both agreed that our manager will most likely do nothing about it, since she doesn’t seem to be that interested in managing him in general. She is okay with him coming in late, leaving early, “working” from home, etc. because she knows at the end of the day what work he doesn’t get done will simply be passed off to someone else. So we have decided, for the time being, to just ignore it and not pander to his immature and unprofessional behavior.

For what it is worth, he has blocked other coworkers on instant messenger after they ask him work-related questions. We have a company-wide requirement to be available by IM (as we support people who are remote), so my guess is that when these people “bother” him (by asking him legitimate work related questions, such as why they haven’t received an offer letter for their new hire, for example), he responds by blocking them on IM. I know this because then those people come to me asking me if he is here, can they get the info they are looking for, etc. And I end up helping those people since Fergus has made himself “unavailable” to the people he is tasked to support.

In the past, myself and the other manager have aired our concerns with our VP, but she has been less than willing to address it with him. Again, I have gotten the whole “That’s just Fergus” or “I’ll talk to him,” then she doesn’t. I know she doesn’t because I will air the same concern again and she will say “Oh yeah – I forgot.” So I have decided that this isn’t the kind of manager I want to work for, and I have been job-hunting for the better part of the last year.

I did read your article about what to do with a coworker who doesn’t pull their own weight, and while it helped, this situation is not something that is going to work for me long-term. So I just need some advice navigating this until such time as I get another job and can get the hell out.

And PS – I wont be offended if you tell me I am being petty about this. I hate that this is bothering me as much as it is.

What?! No, you are not being petty.

Your coworker blocks people who IM him to ask work questions and puts work-related information in another language so that people can’t read it, and your manager refuses to address it.

It’s hard to decide who’s the bigger problem here, your coworker or your manager, because they’re both shirking their duties in egregious and obnoxious ways. Fergus is being more openly obnoxious, but your manager is being incredibly negligent in knowing that it’s happening and not bothering to intervene.

Have either you or the other manager who’s peers with you and Fergus tried talking to Fergus directly? As in, “Fergus, why are your calendar entries in Arabic, which we can’t read? We need you to change them to English by the end of this week so that the shared calendar serves the purpose it was intended for.” And as in, “Fergus, Jane just told me that you blocked her on IM when she asked where the offer letter for her new hire is. It needs to be dealt with today, so please contact her about it.” And as in, “Why on earth are you blocking coworkers on IM when they ask your normal work questions?”

You also should push the problem back on to Fergus’s manager whenever this stuff happens. So when someone tells you that Fergus blocked her on IM, email Fergus about it and cc his manager. When Fergus schedules an event and then isn’t there to staff it, rather than just covering for him, you alert his manager — “Fergus scheduled a flu shot clinic today and hasn’t shown up. I’ve got commitments I can’t break, so I can’t cover for him.”

And do that every time. Right now, it’s apparently easier for your VP to ignore the problems than it is to deal with them, so try making that a lot more uncomfortable for her.

Right now, you’re covering for Fergus because you’re conscientious and want to ensure that work gets done and you’re concerned about how your department will look to other people. But by doing that, you’re inadvertently enabling the behavior. Effectively immediately, stop stepping in to mitigate the impact of Fergus’s behavior, so that your VP is forced to see and (hopefully) deal with how bad the problem really is.

{ 313 comments… read them below }

    1. Emac*

      I know, that kind of just blew my mind. I mean, I know it must be deliberate because I can’t think of how it would happen by accident, but it’s just SO incredibly petty and childish. I think it’s even something I would have thought of as a child, but still not done because I would have known it was too much.

        1. Kalamet*

          I work with people who *do* speak Arabic, and this would still be considered passive aggressive (we are in an English-speaking US office).

          1. Observer*

            In the US, of course it would be passive aggressive, since you need to CHOOSE to type in Arabic. Even switching from English to another language that uses the Latin alphabet generally doesn’t happen by accident. But, when you go to another alphabet that ALSO runs in the opposite direction, that’s totally deliberate.

            1. Zombii*

              I understand your point, but Fergus isn’t likely (per the LW) typing in Arabic, he’s just copy/pasting from Google translate, which takes very little effort—but still far, far more effort than this is worth. What an ass.

      1. Venus Supreme*

        Way back when during my high school days, I got into a fight with a friend on Facebook. He resorted to cursing me out in Portuguese (NOT his native language) and removing all the vowels so I couldn’t do a simple Google translate. Little did he know half my family is Portuguese/are native Portuguese speakers, and my dad did the translation for me.

        This happened nearly 10 years ago before I graduated high school or worked in a professional office setting. Before I even knew what HR was. Fergus needs a swift kick in the rear to get his act together. I’m shocked!!

        1. RKB*

          Okay, removing all the vowels is kind of funny. It’s terrible and I don’t condone his rudeness – but the fact that he went THAT FAR is just giggle worthy.

          1. Ted Mosby*

            Also, why bother cursing you out if he thought you wouldn’t know what he was saying? Seems like a weird obnoxious waste…

          2. Venus Supreme*

            Haha, in hindsight it’s funny! He did a slew of other mean-spirited things to me. Fortunately I had thick enough skin to not be bothered by his pettiness.

            Although my mom, the queen of holding grudges, found him at my high school graduation and had a few choice words for him. To be honest, it made my day!

            1. Teapot librarian*

              [Tangent alert:] I graduated from high school 22 years ago and my mom *still* holds a grudge against one of my classmates. (Who did nothing worse than general obnoxiousness and system-gaming.)

    2. Liz*

      The first time I saw it, I’m pretty sure I would laugh. The sheer audacity of it would be too much for my brain to handle, so it would be a “laugh so you don’t cry and/or break things” kind of moment.

    3. Merida Ann*

      Without any other context, if I saw the Outlook entries, I might think it was a font issue – I once had an issue on a discussion forum where I used a cool looking font for my post in English, but it showed up for one of my friends as Hebrew text because she had different fonts installed on her computer.

      Unfortunately, given the context about everything else with Fergus, there’s no doubt that this is deliberate and it’s horribly out of line. Ugh.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yeah, I was hoping this was the explanation, because if he’s actually putting entries in in Arabic, then this is next level passive-aggressive (I trust OP that it’s the passive-aggressiveness, but holy Toledo, Batman). It’s so absurd that it makes me seriously question the judgment of whoever promoted Fergus to manager. I can’t imagine that he was more reasonable when he wasn’t a manager.

        Anyway, my condolences to the OP. This made my jaw drop, and I was hit by a wave of frustrated anger on OP’s behalf.

      2. Emi.*

        And if it were a font thing, it would based on the (rough) equivalencies between Arabic and Latin letters, not Arabic and English words, so Google Translate wouldn’t be able to make sense of it, since “flu shot clinic” presumably doesn’t mean anything in Arabic.

        1. Aurion*

          Yeah, this. The fact that OP can use Google Translate on Fergus’ words means this was not a font issue, but a purely passive-aggressive one.

          Just…wow. It takes nerves to be that passive-aggressive.

          1. Kyrielle*

            Yep, I was going “oh, it’s probably a font issue” until I saw that Google translate worked on it. Holy whoa.

      3. MCL*

        The only thing I can think of is that maybe the language of his calendar is set to Arabic and he doesn’t know how to change it back? One of my Gmail accounts is set to a German language default, which I did on purpose. I think I’m being overly generous here, though. If I had a that kind of problem with my calendar, I would get it fixed. This is clearly not a normal situation.

        1. Cambridge Comma*

          That wouldn’t produce translatable relevant words though, so I think the OP’s instincts may be right here.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            Yeah, just to clarify in case anyone doesn’t quite get it, if you had your keyboard/font set to say, Russian, and you typed “Flu shot clinic”, the Russian characters that came out would obviously not translate to “Flu shot clinic”. Even if you ignore the translation being spelled and sounding very different, the Russian words for those terms probably don’t even have the same number of characters.

            So Fergus is actually taking the time to run his schedule entries through a translation program, then pasting the Arabic back into Outlook. I’m really surprised that someone so lazy would spend so much effort on avoiding work! It kind of defeats the purpose, IMO.

            1. MCL*

              Ah, I read OP’s first sentence that said that the TIMES were in Arabic, but then missed the part where they said that the actual descriptions of the time blocks were also in Arabic. Yeah, there’s no way that could be an accident.

                1. Maggie*

                  Quick history lesson:

                  They are not “Arabic numerals”. Arab traders took the numerals back home with them from India, where the numerals hail from and where the concept of zero was first developed. European traders picked up the numerals from Arab traders and called them “Arabic numerals” as they didn’t know they originated in India.

                  I have noticed that these days people push the whole “Arabic numerals” thing for PC reasons, but for me (especially when I channel my inner Sheldon Cooper) they will always be “Indian numerals”.

                2. a*

                  Kind of. The numbering system is the same, but the actual numerals are different.

                  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
                  ٩ ٨ ٧ ٦ ٥ ٤ ٣ ٢ ١ ٠

            2. Julia*

              Yeah. Like, if I had my keyboard on Japanese instead, and typed “flu shot clinic”, it would look like this:

              If he had his calendar in Arabic and just chose entries from multiple choices, like “out of Office” or similar, I could see it, but even then they should go back to English in someone else’s calendar?

      4. Marty*

        There is no way that this is a font issue; to computers, Arabic letters are entirely different from Latin ones.

    4. NoMoreMrFixit*

      Looks like we have our first candidate for worst manager of 2017. I am constantly amazed at the efforts people will go to in order to avoid working.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        It makes me wonder if we should also have a “Most Petty Coworker” award. (I’m kidding, but seriously—this is next level petty).

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Let’s avoid all the early-year nominees this year — last year, it got to the point that on every post people were talking about worst boss/worst coworker/etc. and I’d rather stay focused on useful advice for the letter-writers!

    5. Lablizard*

      I am impressed with the effort to go to translate to do this. If there were passive aggressive achievement awards, this would be a nominee

  1. Joseph*

    She (or someone else) must have said something to him about his lack of use of the department calendar because he is now using it (five months later). Well….kind of. He puts entries into his calendar – but the entries are often times in another language (usually Arabic). He is a native English speaker, he isn’t of Middle Eastern descent, and we speak English in our office.
    Um, what. This is fire-on-the-spot level insubordination. Refusing to use the calendar is bad enough, but this is well beyond that to a straight up middle finger pointed directly at whatever (more senior!) person gave him the order.

    1. regina phalange*

      +1 – I agree. I wish someone had already fired him because it sounds like he is not only not doing his job but his behavior is unacceptable.

    2. Code Monkey, the SQL*

      No kidding! I [kinda] get it; filling out a calendar can be fiddly and a pain. But putting all your entries into it in another language is next-level annoying and petty. He’s literally wasting everyone’s time, including his own, just to make a point about how he doesn’t want anyone to know his availability.

      The blocking thing is beyond excusable.

      1. tink*

        The level of extra fiddly required to put it into another language that makes sense just… this level of petty literally blows my mind.

        1. Evan Þ*

          It’s really not that much effort, given that he speaks Arabic; writing “flu shot clinic” in English isn’t really any easier than writing the translation in another language you speak well.

          On the other hand, it’s still totally inappropriate on a shared calendar in an English-speaking office.

          1. Sparkly Librarian*

            Does he, though? The OP says He is a native English speaker, he isn’t of Middle Eastern descent, and we speak English in our office. Of course, he could speak and write Arabic, but it seems less likely. And completely uncooperative and dismissive of the rest of the office’s needs.

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

            I don’t think he necessarily speaks Arabic. The OP says “He is a native English speaker, he isn’t of Middle Eastern descent, and we speak English in our office. My theory is he is putting his entries in Google Translate, then putting the verbiage it spits out onto his calendar” since he uses other languages too.

            My take is that he’s typing it in English, going to Google Translate and then pasting the Arabic text in the calendar. Which seems an awful lot of work just to make some kind of point, however obnoxious it is.

            1. MashaKasha*

              From my bilingual person’s experience, the only way you can paste something into Google translate and get normal English text as a result is if someone had run the same exact English text through Google Translate to begin with. I’ve received messages in my native language that make so little sense, I cannot even imagine what the person was trying to say; I run them through Google translate and they come out suddenly meaningful.

              1. Dust Bunny*

                This is a digital-age parlor game: Choose a phrase, translate it into a first language, then a second, then back to the original language, and see what you get. Hours of fun!

              2. Marty*

                Google translate has recently improved significantly, to the point where the translations are nearly as good as a human.

                1. StrikingFalcon*

                  That depends a lot on the language in question. Some are much better than others, but I wouldn’t say any match a translation by a bilingual translator. I can’t speak for Arabic, but I’ve generally found it useful for comprehension of a foreign language but not producing comprehensible text in another language.

                2. a*

                  Not for Arabic. You can use it to puzzle out individual words, but you definitely can’t rely on the sentences it spits out. Arabic also has a lot of differences between dialects, and Google Translate doesn’t support all of them.

                3. KV*

                  Haha, no, only for a few languages and for simple sentences. You should try translating some Japanese sometime. Anything remotely difficult pops out as gibberish.

          3. Delightful Daisy*

            OP didn’t say he spoke Arabic; OP said she suspects he’s using Google translator which makes it sound as if he doesn’t actually speak it.

          4. RKB*

            So, I’ve been studying linguistics the past six years, and Arabic is not a language that is simply and easily translated to English. Most of its “words” are sentences and phrases in English. The fact that OP is getting direct English translations means he is putting direct English into Google Translate or any other similar software, because computer-language software is highly fallible and doesn’t get the nuance of lexical gaps.

            1. Marty*

              …. Computer translation software used to be highly fallible, but since Google starred releasing their neutral network based translators late last year, this has changed. Those new translators are *impressive*.

              1. RKB*

                In the world of linguistics, it’s just not the same. When checking for prosody, sonority, and the various dialects from region to region, no software can compare. As much as I do submit to our Google overlords.

                1. Julia*

                  I agree. And it gets worse for language with different structures or many words with different meanings depending on context.

    3. Jessesgirl72*

      Yep. Unfortunately the only one with the authority to fire Fergus say “Oh well, that’s just Fergus!”

    4. Artemesia*

      Yes textbook insubordination. The manager is the problem. Would be tempted to go to her manager about it given the blocking IM from those he supports as well.

    5. Fiennes*

      Start putting all communications for Fergus through Google Translate and deliver them to him in Arabic. “Since that’s what you prefer…”

      (Not really, of course, but I would be so tempted!)

  2. Cambridge Comma*

    If people complain to you that they have been blocked by Fergus on IM, can you ask them to take it up with your boss directly? Right now it is more comfortable for your boss to ignore the problem. Having people come to her directly (because how can you defend that on Fergus’ behalf) may at least make it less easy to ignore the problem.

    1. Emac*

      Yeah, that’s a really good suggestion. Or having their bosses take it up with your boss, or even her boss.

      1. Christine*

        If anyone has a question regarding something that Fergus is doing or “should” be doing, direct the question to your mutual boss. Or have the individuals from other other department’s ask their manager’s to contact Fergus’s manager directly.

        When his manager ends up spending more time defending him and the interruptions it’s causing her, she’ll be forced to deal with it. What about your boss’s boss?

        Can you and your co worker’s request a mediation with Fergus? That might get your manager’s response, that if you group together and request it. That the team is willing to address the issue.

        1. TootsNYC*


          Your line, OP: “I’m sorry, that’s Fergus’s bailiwick. You’ll have to talk to Jane about it.”

          He’s not there to run the flu clinic? Don’t anybody step in!
          Send an email to Fergus and cc: Jane: “Fergus, your flu clinic has started. Where are you?”

          1. Rachel*

            I agree. And if someone comes to you again and says Fergus is still not here. Refer them directly to his VP, possibly even calling her to let her know. “Hey, VP, I’m sorry to bother you, but Fergus is apparently supposed to be running a flu clinic today. So-and- so is here in the office and I’ve let them know that you’ll be able to handle it for them.” You can do the same thing with the offer letter.
            The VP is being incredibly passive when it comes to Fergus- you need to start giving her a reason to care. Even if its that her admin is now having to handle this stuff. Let people know when Fergus isn’t in the office or won’t respond to AIM or email to go directly to her, that you can’t help.

            Sometimes the best response to passive aggressiveness is extreme passive aggressiveness- super polite, smile on your face, butter wouldn’t melt in your mouth, passive aggressiveness.

            1. AKchic*

              ALL of this. Fergus’s manager isn’t managing him because the issue is not a problem for her. Make it firmly her problem and I guarantee she will manage the hell out of it.
              I bet everyone who has dealt with Fergus understands that the LW is not to blame, but they also think that the LW is doing too much to cover for Fergus, which enables both him to continue his bad behavior and allows the manager to bury her head in the sand and ignore the problems. Set the flaming bag of dog poo firmly on the manager’s doorstep and ding-dong-ditch.

    2. Gandalf the Nude*

      Yes, when all these complaints get filtered through you and the other good manager, it’s easier for the VP to write them off as only affecting you two, and which is an easier sacrifice for her to make. Get more folks to go to her directly so she can’t deny the scale of the problem anymore.

      1. AdAgencyChick*


        Not covering for this assclown any longer should also help. Refer any squawking from people left hanging to your boss.

    3. Zona the Great*

      Yes, this is a great idea. I would just simply say, “Oh, what? He did what? Weird. Here is his manager’s contact information. But I’m sorry, I simply can’t justify doing the offer letter for him since it is his job and he seems to be good at avoiding doing it. If I did it now for you, he will be rewarded and I will be punished, to put it in simplest terms. I wouldn’t feel right about rushing an offer letter for a hire that I wasn’t involved in.”

      I don’t like covering for people and I’ve never understood the concept of doing so.

      1. Colette*

        I would give the manager’s contact info out, but I definitely wouldn’t say the rest of this. In general, it’s bad to tell clients you could help them but won’t.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I would follow Alison’s advice—send the email inquiry to Fergus with a 1-2 line introduction (“hey, so and so said they can’t get ahold of you and asked me to pass along [the request]”) and cc the VP every. single. time.

          This avoids the risk of people being afraid to complain to the VP or the risk of you saying anything that would be perceived as an anti-Fergus dig. But OP and Manager #2 have to do this consistently and across the board, otherwise it won’t work. (it’s kind of like a prisoner’s dilemma)

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Sorry, I just realized it’s not like a prisoner’s dilemma. It’s like SARS.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Yes. It’s like a virus where Fergus is patient 0, and the HR department (particularly OP and OP’s co-manager) are infected and unable to breathe while Fergus gets to go around spreading his toxic ridiculousness.

                (but I know this is probably not an epidemiologically robust analogy ;) ).

        2. Adam V*

          I didn’t think it was giving out her information to clients; I read it as internal employees who were waiting on HR for some approval or another.

          1. Natalie*

            Internal employers are essentially HR’s clients, though, along with management. If I got this response from someone in my HR department, particularly for anything time sensitive, I’d be pissed, and probably going to their mutual boss to complain about both of them.

            1. Adam V*

              Right, that was kind of my point. I understand not bad-mouthing your coworkers to people outside the company, but I would have fewer qualms about saying it to someone internal who was upset at my department’s slowness.

        3. Adam V*

          Sorry, I read your comment wrong in my first reply.

          I would still probably push back when other employees come to me and say something like “sorry, I’m working on X for [other manager] at the moment, so I can’t pick up that task from Fergus now. Please escalate to [VP] if Fergus is unresponsive.”

          1. Zombii*

            It’s generally a bad idea to tell other departments you can’t do the work your department is supposed to do, regardless of how that work was supposed to be assigned. Mostly because they don’t care about the inner workings of your department or your (totally reasonable) excuses/explanations, and will escalate to your manager to complain about your department as a whole. Which, if that’s your strategy, cool, but presumably the goal is to get Fergus out of there without destroying the credibility of the entire department.

            Better verbiage, if you’re really set on this method, would be something like “Since you’ve been working with Fergus on this, try calling him on his mobile [provide number], and if you can’t reach him for any reason, reach out to VP [provide contact info].” They still might complain to her about you not doing it, but at least they’re more likely to mention Fergus in the conversation too.

          1. Colette*

            They are her clients, even though they work for the same company. Presumably others in the same department would be able to do the work themselves.

      2. Emilia Bedelia*

        I don’t know, I’m trying to imagine how I would feel getting that response as an internal customer and I would be pretty annoyed. You’re basically saying “I’m not going to do this for you, because proving a point is more important than this thing that you asked me to complete”. If it were a very low priority task, I’d be willing to play along, but if I had an emergency request I would be very unhappy to have more work on my end. To be quite frank, it’s not my problem if your department doesn’t function properly, and it’s not my responsibility to let my own deadlines slip to help you get control of a wildly out of line team member.

        When you say “If I did it now for you, he will be rewarded and I will be punished, to put it in simplest terms.”, you’re inversely saying “By not doing this for you now, I am rewarding myself and punishing you”. I’d prefer something like “Can you pass that along to Brunhilda, Fergus’ manager? I think this is something that she should be aware of.”

        1. ZVA*

          Yeah, I wouldn’t be happy with that response either—it feels almost adversarial, and definitely like it’s pulling the internal customer into unnecessary drama, and in my opinion it makes the email writer look bad… I’d stick with passing along his manager’s contact info and leave it at that.

        2. Meg*

          Right, I serve our internal customers. I can’t imagine telling them, “Well, that’s Fergus’s job, can’t help you, call my boss the V.P.” I might say, “That’s Fergus’s job, but I will see what I can do to help you,” and then following up with Fergus to ensure it gets done.

          1. AD*

            The situation described here is a little more serious than that. I think OP (as a fellow manager in the same department as Fergus) should push back when constantly having to pick up Fergus’s slack. I’ve seen senior managers in our org say “Nope, that’s not our team’s job” to internal requests that were misdirected (or which they did not want their group to have to do). YMMV

        3. Not So NewReader*

          I have done this. Granted the recipient of the news is not happy. But I cannot allow their emotions to manipulate me into doing another person’s work. They could have gone to the Big Boss the first time Fergus did not answer them. Instead they decided to just inconvenience me, knowing full well that it was not my job/work.

          If a person sincerely believes I am rewarding myself and punishing the person making the request, then that speaks to a different problem. It’s not punishment to ask a coworker to do what what they should have been doing right along.

          OP, don’t get lost in this type of thinking. It’s reasonable to expect everyone to their jobs correctly. It’s also a good idea to carry yourself with an expectation that people will do their jobs and do them with competence.

          Problems do not get better on their own and it is best to just loop the manager into the frequency that the problem is happening.

      3. Zona the Great*

        But aren’t these internal colleagues asking for the offer letter? If I misunderstood and it is really potential employees, good God, I don’t know what I would say to the poor person! But I would run for the hills if I were the potential employee.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I think it’s both—Fergus does this with coworkers within the HR department and with folks who are outside the HR department, including new hires and their hiring managers.

      4. IP*

        It would be unwise to do anything that would make the VP look bad to internal clients. So I would avoid writing down anything that implied that she had a bad worker and wasn’t managing him. But you can definitely point internal clients to the VP to escalate things falling through the cracks.

    4. the OP*

      I guess I forgot to mention – the people he is blocking are within the HR department – his coworkers!! My colleague pinged him (because he was “working” from home, to ask him to approve a requisition for a new hire offer letter. He didn’t respond, so half an hour later she follows up, again with no response. Finally an hour later she pings him saying “Nevermind, I got OP to approve it, since he started work without an offer letter in hand”. The next day she asked me if he was online (he was), and that’s how we determined he blocked her – because when she looked at him on IM he wasn’t online.

      1. Juniper Green*

        Oh yikes – just saw this and realized it was within your own dept. So yeah, it makes sense for your colleagues to be raising this directly up the chain. Hopefully more than one squeaky wheel will help this sleepy VP wake up to the problem.

      2. WellRed*

        I still think there’s room though for folks outside the HR dept to bring this directly to the VPs attention. As things stand now, if they can go to you, instead of him,well they’ll go to you.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        OP, Fergus is a raging nightmare, and your VP is way lax. I agree that the only workable approach, now, is to stop covering the things he’s doing and involve the VP. Right now it’s easy for her to ignore him because the rest of you are covering for him when he’s doing insane and egregious things that are honestly worthy of being fired. You’ve done a great job of keeping this from being her problem—make it her problem.

        If she were cc’d on every email to him for each time that he leaves everyone hanging, I have a feeling he may feel more like a nuisance to her than he does right now. And I would do this even if it relates to intra-departmental issues, like the one you described in your follow-up.

      4. MicheleNYC*

        Wow, I had no idea that you could actually block people on company IM. I just checked my companies IM program and that is not even an option.

        1. animaniactoo*

          I suspect that what he’s actually done is set to show “unavailable except to [____]”.

          So the other managers and the VP see him as being “online” but Jane can’t.

        2. Delyssia*

          On Skype for Business, you can. To test it out, I (temporarily) blocked my coworker who sits next to me, and she said I showed as offline once I had blocked her.

      5. LCL*

        Arabic? And that isn’t one of his languages? He will be trying to run a discrimination scam on you when he is called on his BS.

        1. MashaKasha*

          Unless they can prove that whatever he’s posting is not, in fact, correct Arabic. Wonder if that’s possible.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Given that they can parse it using Google Translate, I’d bet my bottom dollar it’s not correct Arabic.

          2. Marty*

            These days, Google translate is really, really, good. There has been a recent revolution in automatic translation.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Yes, but I thought its strength depends on the folks using it for translation? That is, its translation services have gotten much better in Spanish and French because folks who are bilingual have submitted corrections to the translation, which it’s incorporated and then improved upon. But I thought the improved translation hasn’t reached the same level of accuracy for Middle Eastern, Turkic, and Asian languages…

            2. Fafaflunkie*

              I’ll concur with that.

              I know this is off-topic, but I’ll exemplify: one day at work I had to make a sign to post in the back shop to explain (for the umpteenth time) a simple rule. Most of the back shop staff are of Middle East descent and thus speak Arabic. So I take the text of my sign, run it through Google Translate, reprint my sign, and ask the back shop manager (also a native Middle Eastener) if the translation looked good. He told me it did.

              The moral of this story: them back shop folks don’t know how to read, in any language. That, or they just ignored it. Told back shop manager to handle it. Eventually it did.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          It would be almost impossible to win a discrimination claim by saying that you speak Arabic. It’s a shared calendar that requires English fluency—that’s an essential job function, not national origin/language discrimination.

        3. caryatis*

          Speaking Arabic is not a protected category, although Arab ethnicity/Middle Eastern nationality might be. (If he speaks it, which from the Google Translate, it sounds like he does not).

      6. MWKate*

        I am completely baffled as to how management has let this go on. I can only imagine the type of response I would give if someone did this to me. Probably bewildered staring because who would even think up this stuff?

        Kudos to you for lasting this long and dealing with it much better than I would. It sounds awful.

      7. Jeanne*

        Nope. No. This is completely unacceptable. You and your coworkers need to continue to take this stuff to VP. (Yes, I know that has risks too but you can’t continue like this.) “VP, Fergus has blocked me on IM and will not respond to work inquiries. What would you like me to do to get the paperwork I need from Fergus?” or “VP, I cannot finish task X today. Fergus blocked me on IM and I do not have a timeline for when I will receive his approval.”

        It may be that VP will tell you to do everything without Fergus and not bother her again. If she does that, kill the joint calendar, stop contacting Fergus, and do the best you can.

    5. Juniper Green*

      Going to a VP to raise an issue, particularly the VP of another dept, can often be intimidating – I’d be concerned the complaint might not be raised if people had to report it directly to the dept head. In the OP’s place, I’d encourage my colleagues to report it higher up the chain if they felt comfortable, but still raise it myself.

      But yeah, the OP has to demonstrate that this is a problem for the VP to solve, not to punt to the team. Ugh. Good luck OP, please update us!

    6. Liane*

      Yes. I was surprised Alison didn’t include a script for that: “If your IM is blocked and Fergus isn’t checking VM, Uhura, [VP] Janeway is the one to ask about new hire paperwork.”
      (Not saying this is the script to use–I know there is a better one)

    7. Jessesgirl72*

      I think the problem is that they only see him as “unavailable” but because he hasn’t yet had the nerve to block the OP, she can see that he’s marked available to her while being marked unavailable to them.

      The VP with this much denial over Fergus is going to tell the complainers that he’s just unavailable and must be busy without the OP there to say he shows as available to her.

    8. LoFlo*

      The VP may end up telling the OP and the other manager to work it out among themselves, and that their complaining and not bailing out Fergus isn’t good teamwork. Common tactic of head in the sand managers is to turn the complainer into the problem child.

  3. Jeanne*

    I have to say your VP is a bigger problem. If people come to you saying Fergus blocked them and they can’t get info, say “I’m sorry to hear that. It is Fergus’s project so you’ll have to talk to Fergus or VP.” Maybe if other depts can’t get their work done, their VPs will hassle your VP enough to get something done. I’ve been here and it’s hard to stop covering for the slacker but you can do it.

    1. Koko*

      Yes! Don’t take this on. I also wouldn’t worry that your department looks bad for not knowing where he is. I don’t know where most of my coworkers are any given day, beyond whether they’ve taken a vacation or sick day. If someone asked me where a colleague was I would shrug and say, “I don’t know, have you tried emailing/IMing him to ask?” And if they tell me they get no response I’d say, “Have you tried CCing his boss?” If they tell me that didn’t work I would shrug and say, “I don’t know what to tell you, then. I don’t manage Fergus so I don’t have any authority to track him down or discipline him.”

      I also usually add, “Sorry I couldn’t be more helpful!” to the end of my shpiel when I’m rejecting taking on someone else’s work. I know a lot of people are really anti-apologizing in the workplace, but I see a shade of difference between apologizing for not doing something (which is taking on fault) and apologizing for not being able to do something (which is not my fault) where I don’t worry about undermining myself in this context. And it seems slightly less rude than, “Your problem is not my problem,” while getting the same point across.

    2. Coco*

      Agree the VP needs to feel the consequences of VPs incompetence of not dealing with the situation. This is a level of dysfunction I have never experienced in the work place… beyond belief!

  4. Murphy*

    Wow, I can’t believe that your VP doesn’t see the problem and isn’t willing to do anything about it. This guy’s behavior is absolutely ridiculous!

    1. Newby*

      It’s possible the VP doesn’t realize the scope of the problem. I like the idea of cc’ing the VP every single time so that there is no way that they don’t know how much of a problem Fergus is causing (and how much work he is simply not doing).

      1. Whats In A Name*

        I agree that cc’ing the VP every. single.time. is probably the only chance OP has of getting anything done at this point. While I still think VP is just refusing to manage I also have had some managers think things are “no big deal” because they didn’t realize the entire scope of the situation.

      2. Augusta Sugarbean*

        Agreed. I can’t remember the phrase I’ve read in the comments here but it’s basically, “make the problem visible” to the problem child’s manager. The VP isn’t acting because s/he isn’t impacted by it.

    2. zora*

      Or does Fergus have incriminating photos of the VP??? I just can’t even… my brain hurts trying to even comprehend this ….

    3. Fafaflunkie*

      Or maybe the VP and Fergus have something going between them that is the undermining reason for the VP’s inaction on the matter.

      I wholeheartedly agree to have all of Fergus’s inactivity documented via email, CCing the VP Every. Single. Time. If nothing improves with Fergus’s response time in short order, I would then go over the VP’s head and speak to whoever the VP has to answer to. This will ultimately know where you stand within how things operate within this company. If nothing happens then (or worse, you’re being called for bringing this to Big Boss when said Boss believes this isn’t a big concern,) then it’s time to seriously reconsider your commitment to this company. Time to update your resume, I figure.

  5. Katie the Fed*

    I read this twice and just realized that FERGUS is a manager too! Good lord. He’s not just a bad employee, he’s in charge of other employees!

    Do you have any kind of ethics office? In government we have an inspector general and things like this (fraud, waste, and abuse) would get reported there – this would qualify under timecard fraud and waste, I think. Can you go above the VP’s head? Is there anyone else you can raise this with?

    But yeah, agree wholeheartedly with the advice to stop making things work when Fergus drops the ball. Let the ball drop and be sure everyone knows why. This wheel is going to have to be REALLY squeaky before it gets the oil.

    1. the OP*

      I think if I had any intention of staying, I would go above my manager (the VPs) head. But sadly the poor management doesn’t stop at my VP, since she is poorly managed herself. Her manager (the President) is well aware of her shortcomings (as are most of the other employee in our organization) but he himself chooses not to address it. My colleague has dropped hints to the president, but she is more concerned with getting her work done before she goes out for maternity leave (which I TOTALLY get) – she is due any day now.

      Not that its an excuse, but sometimes it is easier to just pick up his slack then to fight it or pass it back off above. because there have been times when I have told my boss about something, and then she just delegates it to me anyway.

      1. animaniactoo*

        Oh Geez. Seriously, VP then delegates it to you – what do you think the reaction would be if you refused the delegation on the grounds that you have other work that needs to get done? I mean – Fergus can refuse to work, can you get away with it too? I’m saying evaluate this carefully, because sometimes they shoot the canary to shut it up. But if you can get away with “refusing to work” as well, and particularly if you can do that in concert with your co-manager, that would force your manager into not simply being able to re-delegate Fergus’ work anymore.

        1. FiveWheels*

          Hmm. With this level of irrationality it’s hard to make reasonable suggestions, but when you’re asked to do Y, what happens if you say “okay, but then I can’t do X. Which would you prefer me to do?”

          I have had some (not a lot, but better than nothing) with that script. By the next day of course there’s a Z to do and the conversation gets repeated: “Z is due today, but X is overdue from yesterday. Which do you want me to do?” ad infinitum.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Ugh, I’m sorry, OP—it truly sounds like the monkeys are running the circus. Do you think the constant cc’ing approach would be effective with your VP, at least insofar as it illustrates the magnitude of the Fergus problem?

      3. blackcat*

        It might make me a bad person, but I hope you get a new job and leave while your colleague is out on leave. Then your colleague chooses not to come back because she, too, has found a shiny new job.

        That way, the VP would get to deal with the fallout.

      4. AD*

        So sorry to hear this is happening OP. It’s not surprising to hear there is further dysfunction in your organization – there would have to be, to have Fergus’s behavior go unchecked like this. And it’s truly egregious behavior.
        It sounds like you have one foot out the door, though – which is probably a good idea.

      5. zora*

        I get that it feels easier at the time to just pick up the slack and get it over with. But I think you need to reframe in your mind what a day at work is going to look like from now on.

        I wouldn’t even email my boss, every time Fergus doesn’t do something that needs to get done, I would walk into the VP’s office. Tell her to her face, Fergus didn’t show up to run the flu clinic, and I have a meeting, I can’t do it. Then even if she tells me to do it. I can either do the flu clinic, or the call about XYZ, which do you want me to do.

        Yes, most of your days will be full of standing in your VP’s office several times going over every single thing Fergus isn’t doing and waiting for her specific direction about what to prioritize. But the only way this is going to change is if the squeaky wheel gets REALLY loud.

        It will be frustrating to do this, and I know it will be hard feeling bad about all of the other work that is not getting done. But honestly, I think you will have better mental health in the long run if you put all of the stress of this situatoin back where it belongs, on the VP, and off of your plate. Good luck!

        1. TootsNYC*

          I would walk into the VP’s office. Tell her to her face, Fergus didn’t show up to run the flu clinic, and I have a meeting, I can’t do it.

          Actually, I’d suggest you walk into her office and say, “Fergus didn’t show up to run the flu clinic.” And walk out.

          Always choose the wording that includes blame (not “isn’t here”; say “didn’t show up”).
          And never ever ever mention the concept of you doing it. Get out of the conversation immediately. Don’t hang around as if you -expect- to be part of the conversation about how to handle it.
          Just leave and dive right back in to something urgent. Best bet: pick up the phone and call someone about a work something. Any old work something (keep a list of lower-priority phone calls to make–or just call someone to “verify” whatever you have in front of you, even if you didn’t need to). The idea is to make yourself completely NOT part of the problem-solving.

          Or say to your boss, “Are you going to take Fergus’s flu clinic?” in an offhand tone that sort of assumes the answer is yes and you’re just confirming the foregone conclusion.

          1. AKchic*

            Yes. This. VP is his supervisor, therefore VP is the logical person to cover for Fergus when he invariably does not show up or otherwise shirks his duties / responsibilities, not OP. All OP is doing is blandly informing of the snafu’s arrival and gently placing the steaming bundle of screaming excrement in the arms of VP so the VP can rock it back to sleep and take care of it. “Hi, your baby is here, you take care of your baby now, I’m going back to work” kind of thing. Fergus’s issues are VP’s baby to deal with.

      6. Amazed*

        Another poster further down in the comments shared an anecdote about how they’d seen someone pulling a similar stunt, and the way it finally backfired on them was that when they tried to hand their responsibilities off to someone else, nobody was around to take it.

        It might be worth a try to simply leave Fergus completely to his own devices on these matters and let him sink or swim as he will.

        No matter what, though, good luck!

      7. Fafaflunkie*

        Wow. Just. Bleeping. Wow.

        I’m so happy you see the writing on the wall and are planning your escape from this toxic environment. Best of luck!

        But for the sake of the coworkers you’ll soon be leaving, I would still make noise to President Dumbass, BCCing everyone who’s ever asked you about Fergus, just so they see you went to bat for them–yes, best to write this email away from work so IT can’t find out who got BCCd.

  6. Countess Boochie Flagrante*


    This situation is bananas. I’m not even sure how to help because this is just patently absurd. I guess Alison has it — make it harder for the VP to ignore than to fix.

    1. Tech Writer*

      Yeah, there really isn’t much you can do here other than polishing your resume. I’m so sorry, OP. It really sucks to have to work in an alternate reality where people get paid for thinking up imaginative ways to not do any work.

      (Is there any possibility that Fergus is someone’s nephew/brother-in-law?)

  7. Catalin*

    Is anyone else cruel/committed enough to learn enough Arabic to start a conversation with him in public in the office? Like, greet and start a normal work conversation with him and when he stares blankly at you, look at him pointedly and innocently say, “What? I assumed from your calendar that you’re fluent in Arabic. Do you not speak it?”

    1. LoiraSafada*

      Ha! I actually worked with someone that lied about their language skills (a certain level of fluency was a requirement of the job) and got busted when they used Google Translate on something…and translated their own last name without switching it back before sending it out.

      1. Catalin*

        That’s hilarious. I occasionally translate for my job and once had to correct a simple form from a major entity because whomever was in charge of making the form multilingual just used Google Translate.

        1. Arielle*

          At my old job, the French version of our website went a few days with “support” translated as “bras” because some developer took it upon themselves to use Google Translate rather than run it through our translation procedure.

        2. AliceBD*

          I do social media and occasionally we get questions from people in countries we have no prescence in using the language of that country, like Icelandic. I use Google Translate to understand what they are asking and then use it to translate an answer. BUT I also translate the sentence “This message translated using Google Translate” and stick it at the end of the message. I figure even if it is garbled at least it should give them some idea that it was not written by anyone even pretending to know what they were doing.

      2. AthenaC*

        I actually got an opportunity to bust out my spoken Chinese at a client meeting at my last job. On the way out the door, I said to my boss, “See? Now you know I didn’t lie on my resume about being able to speak Chinese.”

        1. Artemesia*

          I’m impressed. Before going to China I practiced with a disk for basic phrases. No one understood a word. Same thing for an Arab speaking country. I carefully practiced and when I used one of my phrases in the Souk, the vendor said ‘me no speak English’. I can do this with western languages but every attempt I have made with non indo-European languages has been a bust.

          1. AthenaC*

            It can be pretty hard – the first week of my language course we did very little but pronunciation practice. Gave me headaches but it was worth it!

          2. KV*

            If it makes you feel better, I see non-Japanese people instantly get a “sorry I don’t speak English” even when they’re speaking to the person in excellent Japanese. When you don’t fit the schema people expect, it takes the brain some time to catch up. Some are too biased to ever come around.

      3. Bellatrix*

        A bit off topic, but from my experience Google Translate has greatly improved in the past couple of years, at least for the languages I use (all indoeuropean).

        Sure, it’s absolutely no replacement for a human, but it can be a place to start if you’re translating a document in a rush – it just takes fluency to spot which parts don’t make sense and amend those accordingly. It’s easier to correct than compose. And of course, sometimes Google’s mistranslations are absolutely hilarious – and I imagine it’s even worse for languages that are far apart (like English and Arabic).

    2. AthenaC*

      Related story – I remember just enough written Chinese that I recognized the characters for “Qingdao Beer” on a banner in a small-town Chinese restaurant. As the hostess began leading us to our seats, I pointed at the banner and said to her, “Oh hey! You have Qingdao beer! Awesome!” She looked at me like I had grown a third head and just shook her head, “No … we don’t.” I was just cheeky enough to respond, “But … that’s what the banner over there says.” At that point, even my coworker started to look embarrassed, so I dropped it. I was amused, however.


    3. Trillian*

      Is it actually Arabic, or has he simply turned on an Arabic keyboard?

      I’d be contacting IT, all innocent, about these unreadable entries in the common calendar, and about those strange blocks in IM.

      1. MashaKasha*

        I like this idea. They won’t be complaining about a coworker, they’ll be reporting an Outlook/IM glitch. But the ticket resolution will end up being written proof that Fergus is the glitch.

      2. alter_ego*

        They’re running it through google translate and it’s translating though, so it’s definitely being written in Arabic.

      3. RKB*

        He would have to know the Arabic alphabet though, which is a considerable task.

        I commented above but because of the direct Arabic-to-English translations, he is definitely running it through Google Translate. Much of Arabic-to-English translations have nuanced lexical gaps. It is unlikely to get a fluent and correct iteration of a phrase that directly translates back to English with a computer if he was using an Arabic keyboard with learnt knowledge of the language.

        1. Marty*

          I was just testing this with some headlines for some bilingual Arabic medical articles, the translations were essentially correct. The new AI language models that Google began using a few months back are amazing.

            1. Lurker Shark*

              I also noticed this, and stopped reading Marty’s comments after realizing they are all love letters to Google Translate that add nothing to the conversation (first time, sure; the eighth? not so much), and are completely irrelevant to the LW’s situation.

          1. RKB*

            > Bilingual Arabic medical journals

            Bilingual denotes the speaker has knowledge of another language which inherently impacts dialect and translation.

          2. Mookie*

            I was just testing this with some headlines for some bilingual Arabic medical articles, the translations were essentially correct. The new AI language models that Google began using a few months back are amazing.

            Huh, that’s funny. I just translated this comment of yours using Google into Arabic and then back again and it wasn’t essentially correct at all, just gobbledygook.

  8. JB*

    It is always interesting to me when someone writes into AAM describing something totally bizarre and not ok, and asks if they are overreacting to it. Fergus is essentially refusing to do his job here, point blank.

    1. (different) Rebecca*

      Bad workplaces can have a gaslighting effect, where you begin to question your own sanity/reactions because everyone else treats this *bleep* as normal business practice.

      1. JB*

        It’s fascinating to watch it at work, and makes me question if there’s anything absurd at my workplace I take for granted.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I applied for a federal job–though I probably won’t get it, I’m very grateful to have several of you here, just in case!

            I’m lucky so far that most of my jobs didn’t have completely whackadoo stuff like Alison hears about on a regular basis. Before I started reading this blog, I wouldn’t have believed some of this stuff could even be real.

      2. Maxwell Edison*

        Seconded. After I left ToxicJob, it took me over a year to realize that some of the stuff that went down there wasn’t normal.

      3. bohtie*

        especially when you can’t get anyone above you to freaking DO anything about the problem, you really do start to wonder if maybe it’s just you! oof.

      4. krysb*

        Bad employees can do this, too. I’ve had to question myself over a number of employees because the line gets so blurred between seeing someone as being incompetent or insubordinate, and hatred of that person. It’s like a toothache, once you notice the bad thing, all you see is that bad thing and it feels like it’s ruining your life.

  9. animaniactoo*

    Be prepared for the VP to tell you to just get it done. At which point, I think the point you can raise is that you find it unfair to be held to a different standard and expand your workload to take on your co-worker’s tasks because he has made it inconvenient to work with him. So, you have the big whatever report to work on and you’re going to focus on that and perhaps VP can help Jane get the answer she needs from Fergus? Or get it for Jane themself?

    Separately, have you tried escalating to HR or whoever is above your VP? “I’ve brought these concerns up with the VP, but there doesn’t seem to be much action on them and it’s continuing to create a situation where we are regularly scrambling to cover things that were supposed to be completed by Fergus”?

      1. animaniactoo*

        Yeah, I saw that after I posted. I was still writing when s/he posted…

        Major next level ridiculousness.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I hear you. I wasn’t trying to nitpick—just wanted to clarify since OP noted that s/he’s in the HR department in her original letter :)

          But the not being able to go over the VP’s head is doubly frustrating. I would have advised the same thing as you, animaniactoo.

          1. animaniactoo*

            Oops. There it is in the first line, isn’t it? I guess I lost it by the time I got to the end with my eyes bulging out of my head.

            I mean, we’ve had people here refuse to work as instructed (see: the packaging manager who didn’t like going through the production manager for translations* and used Google Translate instead (yes, eventually fired)), but not just flat out refuse to work and BLOCK people from being able to talk to them.

            *Because they were at loggerheads over his slackerdom which meant that she was constantly getting packaging late. Yeah, the deadline was usually not realistic to begin with, but that means you do what you can and push back that this is what you can do, not you take a leisurely approach since it’s not possible anyway.

    1. not really a lurker anymore*

      Is the OP going to be covering for the person going on out on maternity leave? Because if the VP does just tell OP to get it done, everyone’s got limits.

      If so, that’s the perfect time to push on Fergus. “Well, boss, I’m covering Annabelle’s work so I can realistically get A, K and Z done this week.” With some kind of suggestion about Fergus being needed in the office for 40 hours a week the whole time or asking what of Annabelle’s work he’s picking up.

  10. Rachel*

    Is Fergus related to the VP or company president, or does he have blackmail photos of the VP? Why does he still have a job?

    1. MashaKasha*

      Wondering the same thing. Sounds like Fergus is doing none of the things he’s being paid to do (unless we count scheduling the flu shot clinic that he didn’t show up to). So, like you said, why does he still have this job?

  11. cncx*

    i hate to be that person but every time i have worked with someone who got away with murder like this, they were either related to someone in power, sleeping with someone in power, or otherwise had dirt on someone in power.

    i really don’t know if this is just “bad management.” i know the whole “never attribute to malice what you can attribute to ignorance” but there is not doing one’s job and not doing one’s job.

    1. LoiraSafada*

      I’ll also be ‘that person’ and say that I’ve only ever seen men get away with behavior this brazen and disrespectful. If this were a woman, I think we can safely assume she would have been gone long ago.

      1. animaniactoo*

        Sorry. Gotta counter-example for you. The woman in charge of approving a certain segment of stuff at a major licensor. I now have a “rush” item (48 hour or less turnaround time) on her end for 2 weeks. If our approvals coordinator on our end e-mails her for a status update, she may or may not respond – at all. She will usually respond and act on it within 24 hours if I e-mail her. But I’m not supposed to contact her directly. So when it becomes really truly urgent, my boss ends up going to the higher ups at the licensor to say “I need this and we haven’t heard anything about it”.

        In the past 4+ years, there have been several conversations about it with them – from an overall standpoint and not just on a case by case basis. Sometimes it gets better for awhile. Sometimes it just results in a coordinated list being e-mailed to her and her boss of the current status of everything she’s supposed to be handling (not yet due/overdue by 3 days/overdue by 2 weeks) and no change at all in getting it back.

        We regularly wonder how she still has a job.

      2. Aurion*

        Fergus’ boss (the VP) is a woman, and pretty abysmal in not dealing with Fergus, but she’s being taken to task by her boss (the President). So we have an example of a woman getting away with not doing her job right in the post.

        1. Aurion*

          *NOT being taken to task

          And I lost the last sentence… Let’s not debate this further since we’d probably derail the thread.

      3. Lily in NYC*

        Alison has requested that we not post this type of gendered comment because it tends to derail threads.

        1. AD*

          And yet, comments like this (and this one here is nonsensical to be honest) seem to trail every single post on this site these days.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                I think it will help if regular commenters keep reinforcing this point, though. All is not yet lost!

      4. AD*

        You must be in quite a bubble to have experienced only men getting away with poor behavior in the workplace.

      5. Elizabeth West*

        I have a friend whose previous partner used to work for a museum (run by the city) and her partner’s coworker was worse than Fergus. She was about two years from retirement and got away with the most insane stuff imaginable. Not doing her work, treating everybody like crap, the list goes on. Nobody would do anything; my friend’s partner finally had to leave just to get away with her.

        And my experience with a Coworker from Hell—well, she was related to the owners. Another employee told me they hired a salesman once and she bullied him so badly he walked off the job after three DAYS.

    2. zora*

      yeah, my first thought was Fergus has some photos? But also some people are just terrible in a very mediocre way. The real story is probably not as interesting as we’d like it to be.

  12. Matt*

    I’d be prepared to exit this company ASAP regardless of how this addressed. There’s a systemic culture of enabling a poor performer in place, and that’s not likely to change soon based on what I read in the letter.

    And when you give your written notice, put it in Arabic. :P

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, when problems go on and on it stops being a coworker problem and starts being an upper management problem. I find the latter more of a concern than a problematic employee.

      Sometimes it’s a symptom of huge corruption at the top. The upper management people are so tied up in their schemes that they do not have time to actually manage.

  13. Brett*

    In the meantime, put in a software req to have Translator for Microsoft Outlook with the Mini-translator installed into your Microsoft Office suite. Make sure the cc the VP on every bit of communication about the req, including the justification (“Fergus will only put entries on our shared calendar in Arabic”).

    Then have every other manager in the office do the same req.
    (I think it is only available for windows and not mac, but that plugin would quickly translate all of Fergus’s Arabic back into English, so that he puts in far more effort being a jerk than you have to put in undoing his jerkiness. And, of course, actually buying software just to work around him being a jerk should get some attention.)

    1. bohtie*

      I love this. It gets the job done AND documents it to the person who ought to be resolving the issue AND it’s passive-aggressively satisfying (I don’t mean that in a pejorative way but I can’t think of a better phrasing on 4 hours of sleep!).

    2. caryatis*

      But then the message the VP gets is that BOTH Fergus and OP are being unreasonable and passive-aggressive.

      1. Brett*

        Really passive aggressive would be putting in an IT help desk ticket that all calendar entries from one user are appearing in Arabic instead of English.
        IT would likely laugh first, then make Fergus’ computing experience his own personal hell.
        (Or they would just block Fergus from Google Translate.)

      2. Not So NewReader*

        It’s unreasonable to want to know what a message says? Then that would be a visual cue for OP to know to run for the hills.

        Some companies are destroyed by competition. Some companies are destroyed by the people inside the company.

  14. Anon Accountant*

    We dealt with similar circumstances here and what brought the impact to light was to stop picking up the slack. It’s hard but when possible stop picking up his slack. Let his lack of work be more apparent and keep his boss updated and do as AAM suggests about “other commitments and can’t make the clinic he scheduled today”.

    Keep doing this. Good luck!

    1. Sfigato*

      That was my thought, especially for the things that are more internal. From what it sounds like, in most of the meetings he schedules OP and her team are there, but maybe cancel the meeting if Fergus doesn’t show, saying, “Sorry folks, Fergus scheduled the brown bag and we don’t know where he is, so it’s cancelled.” Then the rest of the office would be impacted by his absenteeism, and it (hopefully) wouldn’t make your team look bad because the blame would be falling on his shoulders.

  15. Katie-Pie*

    I’m curious about the size of the HR department–is a 10-person HR dept. for a 100-person company a common ratio? I’d think 2, at most. (For perspective, I’ve never worked at a company large enough to have a dedicated HR department. As an accountant I and any bosses I’ve had have all played default HR. This includes my current company of about 50.)

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      It seems large to me. It’s proportionately quite a bit bigger than HR at my larger organization.

    2. Sibley*

      There are certain functions that are almost ALWAYS HR. Then there are others that can be, but can also fall into other areas. And apparently, they probably could function with 9 people anyway, since Fergus doesn’t seem to do anything.

    3. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      10-1 seemed quite high to me, too, unless that 10 includes support staff as well? I’m also wondering if payroll is considered “HR” in this office (in some places it falls under Finance).

    4. HR Caligula*

      10 read as very high to me too but OP notes it’s the “Corporate” office, likely there are a number of satellite sites supported.

    5. Natalie*

      My last company had 10 people in HR/Payroll, and they employed about 1500 people across the country. 10 to 100 is bananas.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Exjob has over 5000 employees and has a whole HR division in another state–our location and the headquarters each had one local person too. So did the giant international conglomerate that bought out OldExjob. But smaller places I worked only had one or two people, tops.

    6. Assistant Director of Human Resources*

      We have over 500 employees and 2 people in HR and 2 people in Payroll.

      I’m kinda jealous!

    7. Corporate HR*

      I interpreted it to be a 10-person HR department for a 100-person corporate office, not a 100-person company. I’m in a corporate HR office in a similar set-up; we support 10K+ employees in 100+ regional offices in multiple states.

      1. Ginger*

        I think that is correct. At a previous job, I worked at the corporate office in the HR department with about 10 or 11 HR employees, but there were branch offices all over the country and about 1200 employees altogether.

    8. LQ*

      HR can also mean a lot of different things at different places. HR can include training, recruitment, I’ve seen HR include Communications functions like writing for the web/managing a cms, I’ve seen HR include all accounting and payroll, and all internal documents. So it depends a lot on what HR includes for how big it is.

    9. Coco*

      As a VP over HR, my jaw dropped at 10 HR employees for “about 100” employees. That is very large. I wondered if it was a typo.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        It takes four of them just to cover all the errors Fergus makes. Then they need three more people to cover for the work that the initial four does not have time to do.

        That’s eight people. Then there is OP and the VP, which brings us to ten people.

    1. SJ*

      Hey, we’re only a few weeks into January! By the end of the year, this guy might not even break the top 10! :)

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        It’s kind of a terrifying concept, but given last year’s run, I think that’s very possible.

  16. Lily in NYC*

    Ugh, I had a coworker like this and it was the worst. It was even more difficult because she was high-level. Her disappearing acts were epic (never work-related). The only thing that worked was people to agree to stop covering the meetings she missed (she would expect people to cover for her last minute even though they would have no info on whatever the meeting was about and often had their own external meetings to attend). FINALLY, she didn’t show up for a meeting with a venture capitalist (really well known important guy in NYC) and no one covered the meeting. The people she usually got to cover for her were all at City Hall and not able to check their blackberries so they didn’t see her email demanding that one of them deal with it. The guy sat for 45 minutes before he got pissed and left. She got in so much trouble; it was awesome.

    1. Whats In A Name*

      I just gave you a virtual fist bump. It’s so great when someone gets caught in the act and its NOT all hearsay.

    2. Anon Accountant*

      Yay! Exactly how it should have worked out for her. I feel bad for the poor guy who had to wait but she shouldn’t have kept having others pick up for her constantly.

    3. 2 Cents*

      Man, she sounds like a great coworker! Seriously, though, if the 9 people left on the team band together and collectively say no to Fergus, whether that’s bumping things back to him, telling whoever is asking you for help that it’s Fergus, here’s his phone number, oh and here’s his manager’s email. (And if he is in charge of underlings, it might be worth taking a peek at all the extra stuff he’s having them do. I’m sure he’s not popular with his direct reports either.)

  17. Whats In A Name*

    I am normally not a fan of running to your boss over every little thing but in the case with Fergus I advocate it 100%. And you essentially do need to stop covering for him if it is taking away from your own work or personal time; I realize you probably don’t want to put the company at risk but if these flu shot clincs or other meetings are internal you need to do just what Alison suggested. “Fergus is not here and I have other tasks that need my attention.”

    I also agree that your manger is likely as much, if not more, of the problem, than Fergus. Knowing and allowing him to continue to enter entries in Arabic into a team calendar when no one on your team speaks that language. That would be shut down in a hot minute by ANY manager I have ever had – good or bad. Sounds like she just doesn’t want to manage him at all.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Not only have they gone to extremes to try to solve the problem themselves, Fergus’ behavior is accelerating. There is no need to being putting calendar items up in Arabic. OP when you do finally have that chat show how the problem is getting progressively worse and worse.

  18. The Southern Gothic*

    Screen shots of the “Arabic” calendar. Lots of them.
    These will come in handy when (after you are no longer covering for this nightmare co-worker) your manager or someone else asks you why no one was at the meeting/event/clinic.

    1. MuseumChick*

      Oh I like this. Use his passive-aggressiveness against him.

      Someone comes in looking for him:
      “Hey, where is Fergus?”
      “I don’t know, he wrote his calendar in Arabic.”

      Boss asked why no one showed up to something.
      “What happened? Why was no one at X?”
      “Fergus wrote his calendar in Arabic which none of us read. He’s blocked (list names) on messenger so they were not able to get a hold of him to confirm details.”

  19. MuseumChick*

    I like the advice to CC your boss on emails. While she will still probably ignore the issues it creates a paper trail if/when you want to use it at a latter date.

    I would also push as much as you can onto the boss that refuses to manage. When work not getting done because of Fergus becomes her problem it MIGHT force some kind of reaction.

  20. Ann O'Nemity*

    Am I reading this right – 10 HR people for a 100-person company?
    I’m not sure what the right ratio should be but this seems high.

    1. IvyGirl*

      It’s a 100+ person corporate office, which means that they are likely the central HR for branch locations as well.

  21. Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys*

    As a fellow HR professional, I take personal offense when people like Fergus makes our profession look bad. He allowed a new employee starting without an offer letter!?! Yikes, that is a HUGE compliance issue. You have no signed arbitration, at will or EEO statement in situations like that (among other issues) thus increasing the liability the company faces if the employee tries to sue later. For all everyone hates HR procedures, they are usually there for a reason. Reason #1 is to protect the company.

    Whenever possible, forward the issue to the VP with the explanation of how it puts the company at risk. Attach a dollar amount whenever possible. If Fergus is going to get the company into legal hot water or is costing money that doesn’t need to be spent, that could get the attention of the VP and President a little faster. If your company has a government regulatory body that it reports to or regulates the industry, use that information too. I’ve dropped a “I will be surprised if we do not see an EEO charge resulting from this situation” to trigger reactions to something handled badly. Good luck!

  22. SirTechSpec*

    It sounds like the VP doesn’t realize that this behavior is actually impacting the organization beyond an inconvenience. If you feel comfortable doing so (unlikely, I realize), I would make it clear that this is causing you to quit: “Fergus isn’t doing his job. In fact, he goes out of his way not to do it, by blocking people who attempt to contact him about work requests, and deliberately obscuring his calendar. I can’t continue to do both of our jobs. You can lose a bad manager, or a good one, and this WILL happen again until you deal with the problem.”

    1. Aussie Teacher*

      I like this. Have a big picture conversation with the VP and lay out the pattern of obnoxious behaviors and the impact it has on your team/colleagues. Ask her if there is a plan for dealing with it as you get the sense that people are starting to look for other jobs because of him. Ask her how many staff HR needs to lose before they deal with Fergus. Yep, might be too blunt – I’m a straight-shooter!

    2. Artemesia*

      Never make threats about leaving unless you have a job in hand — and then of course don’t accept a counter offer. This should only be said when giving notice not as a threat.

      1. tigerStripes*

        I agree with Artemesia. Explain why you’re leaving when you give notice because you have a new job to go to.

  23. FiveWheels*

    “Fergus scheduled a flu shot clinic today and hasn’t shown up. I’ve got commitments I can’t break, so I can’t cover for him.”

    That’s the key. Apparently the higher ups don’t care because in the end the work is done. When it’s not done, they’ll care.

  24. Kelly*

    Yeah, I would absolutely refuse to do a single thing he or someone he’s supposed to be supporting pushed off on me. Every single time I would refer that person to his supervisor and I would be too busy. I also wouldn’t be professional about any of this because I’d have crawled up his rear so quickly he’d be constipated for a month! What a JERK! And beyond that…the dude clearly has mental issues.

    1. Jessesgirl72*

      The Problem is the OP said (in the comments, not the letter) that in the past, when she’s gone to the VP over it, the VP then just delegates it to her.

      One can ignore or “so sorry, can’t” Fergus’s requests. You can’t do that to the VP.

      Or maybe you can, since the VP is so incompetent, but somehow I think she’d find her backbone to discipline the person she views as being the problem to her, and that’s OP, not Fergus.

      1. 2 Cents*

        You can tell a VP “sorry, I can’t” if you have something just as important to do (if not more so). Then it becomes, “If I do Fergus’ project, that puts me behind on X, which has Y deadline.”

      2. Not So NewReader*

        OP may have to point blank say, “I have tried X and Y and Z. I am now asking for your personal intervention in this situation as it is effect the reputation/productivity/ reliability of our entire department.”

        I don’t know why this worked. But in the past I have said, “I am formally asking you to ______.” And it really startled the slacking boss. I mean those words really rattled that boss’ cage.

    2. Susannah*

      Hi Kelly,

      As 100% legitimate as your and everyone’s frustration with Fergus is, lets not bring “mental issues” into the conversation without legitimate reason/proof. It’s not a catch-all term for people that are failing to adhere to standards of decency & workplace norms, in fact it also contains a lot of people that are trying their best.

  25. Cucumberzucchini*

    OP, have you considered following Fergus’s lead? I mean it seems impossible to get fired at your company. You could do the same things Fergus gets to do – work from home and block your employees on IM and schedule puppy days without showing up. Seems only fair ya know? Then when VP complains you can say, “Well that’s just OP for you, whatareyagunnado”? Would she pick up the satire?

    1. LadyKelvin*

      Who in their right mind will schedule a puppy day and then not show up. I would want to snuggle with ALL THE PUPPIES. Even though I have my own laying on my feet. But she’s not a 10 week old 18 lb bundle of energy anymore, she’s a 1.5 yr 60 lb bundle of energy with no sense of space.

      1. Cucumberzucchini*

        Gosh, I didn’t think of that. Of course you would show up to puppy day. I’d like to amend my suggestion to tedious powerpoint day in lieu of puppy day.

    2. Melissa*

      What about just being oblivious and unavailable the next time he schedules an event and blows it off? If you are getting told when you report a missing Fergus to just handle the event, can you just not report that the event is Fergus-less?
      Work out an important meeting with someone outside your department, and just be gone when the event starts. When it goes pear-shaped, someone will try and ask for help. If you’re not there, you can answer your cell with “please ask VP for some help; I am unable to cut my meeting short.”
      The VP won’t be able to dump it on you if you are working elsewhere.
      Are there times you can see a Fergus-flake coming, and so work from home that day?

  26. ArtK*

    I agree with PP. The VP is the problem. She’s not going to do anything about it unless it becomes her problem. Document and report.This isn’t tattling — it’s making sure that the company functions correctly.

  27. Boss Cat Meme*

    It just seems odd to me that you can’t just say to Fergus, “What’s with the Arabic?” What ever happened to just talking to someone in a calm manner when the crap is thrown in your lap? I don’t mean to bring up one of those Gen X vs. Mil discussions, (it might be a new worker vs. experienced worker thing instead), but is that part of the ever increasing trend to suffer fools gladly, letting them do whatever they wish, while everybody else knows about it, hates it, talks about it to each other, yet is unable to ever say one word to the offending party the very first time it happens? The very first time his calendar entries appear in Arabic should have been the time that one of his co-workers, especially if you are on equal terms with this guy, to say, “What is going on with this?” It doesn’t have to be a big confrontational thing, you’re asking him a question, ‘Why are you adding your entries this way when you know we cannot read them?” Ask him in person, to his face.

    It’s not just this issue, but more and more we are reading about people who put up with the shit show their co-workers put on every day, silently fuming, then going to a manager, where it doesn’t get resolved, and then it’s months later and it’s getting worse, and so and so on. There are things that definitely need to be settled by a manager, but a lot of issues might be settled by people simply talking to someone and asking them “Why are you doing this like this?” I know I would. As a Gen X’er (over 40) we are very direct, and have realized long ago that the workplace is where you work, as part of an organization that must communicate to produce, not to be besties. In other words, I don’t care if you, as my co-worker, are going to get annoyed with me and “unfriend” or “unfollow” me on social media because I asked you why you took a three hour lunch and dumped all your work in my lap. And I certainly wouldn’t do your work for you either. I would say to you, “That’s your job. Why aren’t you doing it?’ If you (Fergus) blocked someone on IM, I would say to Fergus, “Why did you BLOCK Pam? Why are your entries in Arabic? Where were you for the Flu Shot Clinic? Why aren’t you returning any calls? Why do you think this is okay?”

    1. MuseumChick*

      I don’t think this in a GenX vs. Mil thing. I’m right on the cusp of the two generations and I have meet way to many 40+ passive aggressive, conflict adverse workers and way to many dedicated, hard working, under 30s to buy into the generational stereotypes (whether they be good or bad). A fun example was a GenX boss I had at a job where I wasn’t making any money, had a toxic work environment (GenX boss would openly cry in the store when something went wrong), and there was no room for advancement. She was personally offended when I gave my notice.

      I think with the rise of the internet, which happens to correspond to the Millennial generation, it just seems like work issues like this are more common because the internet is full of stories of terrible bosses and co-works whereas in passed generation only a worker and their immediate circle would know about a terrible boss/co-work.

      1. Boss Cat Meme*

        This is so true, which is why I didn’t want to make this a Gen X/Mil thing. I work with multi-generations of people and every generation has their extremes from tiny mouse to charging buffalo personalities. There are plenty of older folks out there as well who are just too passive to “stir the pot” and make trouble no matter what, which might be what’s going on here too, in part.

        But I have found that more and more people are just adamantly opposed to speaking to people face to face in any way, even for the daily functions of production, and it’s troubling. The other day, for example, a group of 4 women and I were talking about ink supply and I asked “Mary” if we had any of the Blue Black left and she just put her head down in silence. Me: Mary? Are you okay? Is something wrong? Finally she admitted that Fergus had used the Blue Black for something else and he said he would order more but he must have forgotten (like it was some kind of secret or major crime). I asked Mary (who has been here for a while) to run and grab Fergus before he left for lunch to put that order in today and we should be able to print by Monday, and she did everything but flat-out refuse. Why don’t we just do this, or try that, or blah blah blah? I had to be all, Why can’t you just grab Fergus for me, please? Please?” She thought a note would be better or easier for Fergus so he wouldn’t be upset. Why would he be upset, that’s what we do, give Fergus what we need and he orders it. We get interns all the time too that can’t even communicate on the easiest, most non-confrontational things, like, “Could you please ask Fergus to bring up another glossy roll?” They don’t want to “bother” him when he’s working . . . for us, bringing up glossies. I am awe-struck when I need to teach them soft skills like, “Just say, Fergus, can we get another glossy roll please?” I guess it really is no surprise that so many people can’t speak up for themselves over the larger issues when they are afraid to speak up for themselves in the general day-to-day work tasks.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I think it’s actually going the opposite way. I watched the Silent Generation and the Greatest Generation never, ever mention the dead horse on the dining room table that was so clearly visible to all.
          Social rules. You just don’t point out things like that.
          I was a late baby boomer. My father thought I was off the charts candid. I thought his generation was so subtle about things it was the same as ignoring it.

          People don’t know what their parents can’t teach. Not knowing how to express something is one problem. Being afraid of expressing it is a much worse problem.

          1. Generational Generalisations: Gah!*

            Joe drinks his pay on Thursday nights and comes home to beat his wife senseless. It’s rude to say anything. Great generation.

          2. Mookie*

            Yep. The stereotypes were reactionary, emotionally-repressed stiff-upper-lippers preceding a generation of narcissist ne’er-do-wells preceding a generation of low-ambition pessimists bearing a generation of oversharing, touchy-feely types. Millennials don’t avoid confrontation, according to the prevailing taxonomy, but band together to create a very earnest power-point about the dress code.

              1. Mookie*

                Interesting op-ed! As a late member of the low-ambition cohort, I admire US Millennials enormously. The bulk of them are more clued in than I’d ever be and exhibit levels of empathy, wisdom, and mutability I wish my parents and my own generation had, are trying to navigate a crap “sharing” / gig economy, and seem to have endless energy leftover to fight the good fight without dragging their heels or urging people to stay patient. I’m not totally aligned with some of the centrist politics that seem to dominate their discourse, but otherwise I’m hopeful for the future despite some serious roadblocks.

    2. Brogrammer*

      Fergus is doing these things because he knows he can get away with them. That’s not a generational thing, it’s a jerk thing. If OP calls him on it directly, he’ll probably just block OP too.

      1. Boss Cat Meme*

        I didn’t mean Fergus, I meant his co-workers, who would rather do his work and give him a pass then to speak up to him directly and say, “Fergus, what is going on here? How do you expect us to communicate with you on this?”

        1. Boss Cat Meme*

          Or, even worse, to say it ‘s probably best to leave him alone, ignore him, not “play his games,” or just do his work without him, which is EXACTLY what Fergus wants to begin with.

          1. Brandy*

            One of our leads here said she doesn’t want anyone to email her. Its ridiculous. So instead we’re told to email her boss, who lets this be. I said I wish I had the power to say basically “leave me alone”.

    3. BjBear*

      Ignoring the generational thing for a moment, which I think is so broadsweeping that it doesn’t often apply (how can we stereotype people who run from my age (30s) to people just out of college as all acting/behaving the same way?), perhaps the OP and her colleagues have said these things in the past with no success?

      I have a colleague (GenX, for what it’s worth) who is a lot like Fergus. She’s hardly ever around, palms off her work, ignores emails and tells lies about ‘meetings’ she’s in when she’s not, and has refused to vacate our old office when we were told to move almost a year ago, because she just doesn’t want to. In the beginning, I would talk to her calmly and reasonably about the problems, and her reaction was always either met with silence, lies and excuses, or a full on tantrum. She would bad mouth me and anyone else who crossed her to higher ups, telling buckets of lies that I then had to damage control. The three managers we’ve had in the time I’ve worked here shrug and say ‘That’s what she’s like’ and nothing changes and she appears to be untouchable.

      So now when she ignored messages and things get messed up, we either let them slide and refuse to cover for her, hoping she’ll have to face the consequences, or go directly to our manager with our complaints. Nothing changes, but at least he has to note down what we’re saying, whereas she just brushes us off.

      It’s great to say ‘I’d say this’ but sometimes that’s a pointless endeavour for the person having to deal with the problem coworker. And trying to say Millennials don’t talk to people about problems is incredibly untrue and an unhelpful stereotype.


    Definitely do screen shots of these calendar postings, in showing fully that it’s linked to his Outlook account. Or can you send the link to your manager?

    1. MuseumChick*

      Maybe take a screen shot of something send it to the boss with “Fergus has this on his calendar. No one here knows how to read Arabic and his blocked (list of names) from messenger so they cannot contact him to find out what this is. This is really slowing down our productivity when we don’t know what is on the calendar and cannot get in contact with him to find out.”

  29. IvyGirl*

    The amount of energy that he is devoting to this is astounding. Just think of what he could actually accomplish if he wasn’t so combatitve.

    So, reply in kind. Document it all to your VP and your grandboss. Phrase it as ” asking for guidance/prioritization”.

  30. SusanIvanova*

    “She is okay with him coming in late, leaving early, “working” from home, etc. because she knows at the end of the day what work he doesn’t get done will simply be passed off to someone else”

    I was lucky enough to work in a place where picking up other people’s tasks was up to our discretion. We often did, because we had non-overlapping busy cycles and we knew whoever we helped would reciprocate later – with one exception. When it became obvious that Coworker Coffeecup was doing less work in a day than I could do by drinking an extra cup of coffee, we stopped doing anything for him. I wanted my manager to have as much evidence as possible that things assigned to him did not get done. It also helped that he was no longer being assigned anything critical.

    That’s probably not true of a manager, but I’d still see how much pushback of the “well, I’ve got too much of my own work to get to that” sort would work.

  31. AnotherAnony*

    Ugh… flashbacks to toxic workplace when I would be literally standing in front of a co-worker or my boss asking for help and they would do nothing. Or ignore me. Then make passive-aggressive comments about how when they were in my position no one helped them. The kicker? This is when I first started and was still training! I didn’t even have a computer yet! Should have seen this as a flashing GET OUT NOW exit sign, but I didn’t want to let them bully me out of a paycheck and benefits. Part of going to work is being around people that you may not like or wouldn’t be friends with outside of work, but being an adult, you make do and act professional towards them.

    But then you have jerks who either don’t care and/or get away with acting like immature bafoons and it sucks. It’s not worth it.

  32. NicoleK*

    If you’ve gone to the Boss and nothing happened, it’s time to let it go. Don’t cover for the coworker and don’t bother with the boss. Focus your energy on your job search. I dealt with a similar situation once. Coworker did very little work and I too went to the Boss. Nothing happened and I grew more and more frustrated.

  33. ilikeaskamanager*

    this is beyond Passive aggressive, it is insubordinate. DO NOT COVER for this guy. I would forward every single phone call, email, etc for him to your boss and tell the caller/emailer that you are forwarding them to someone who should be able to assist them.

  34. Erin*

    All I know is that if one of my coworkers heard about the Arabic thing on the calendar, he would immediately start doing it……

  35. RUKiddingMe*

    There is no “passive” about it, this is straight up “aggressive.”

    Whenever someone comes to you with Fergus issues I think the best response would be something like:

    “As you know Fergus and I are equally managers ergo I have no authority to address it if he drops the ball. Your best bet is to go and speak with [VP]…maybe even put it in writing (i.e. email) with a cc to Fergus. I don’t have the authority to make him turn back on his IM/answer questions/show up for scheduled events/put calendar events in English, however [VP] is his direct supervising manager and [Other VP] is her direct supervising manager.”

    As to the VP ignoring the Fergus not doing his job issues…stop doing his job(s).

    If questioned you can just say that you thought that since Fergus is a responsible professional, and as you are not responsible to make sure he does his job correctly (i.e. not his supervisor), you assumed he would/have take(n) care of “XYZ.”
    *Can I jus say that I love that we use “Fergus” as the default pseudonym for pretty much all unknown male subjects? <3 <– Unprofessional emoji.

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