I want to help my easily frustrated coworker roll with the punches

A reader writes:

I work in the care industry where actual lives are at stake in a very true way, and I’m a shift manager, but looking to move up in to higher roles and in the process of being trained to do so. One of the other shift managers in my position, “Jane,” is a long-time coworker. We worked in the past together at another place of business where she was my direct report, and she is absolutely wonderful at what she does. As her previous manager, I know she has a tendency to be hot tempered, and while she has made massive strides and improvements at our newer workplace, she’s gotten write-ups for her rough attitude, a lot of which happened before I started working there. Now she’s on her final write-up before she’s let go.

In all honesty, I don’t feel like her being on her final leg is fair, as she has a rhyme and reason to be the way she is. Considering the consequences of mistakes being made, I can’t say that I wouldn’t stress about it too. She also has not gotten any hands-on coaching on how to control her temper, or how she speaks to the staff. The last write-up was due to someone purposely targeting her, and it was an employee who was causing major problems across the board. I saw this firsthand and can absolutely attest to it.

However, I do notice moments when she can be seen as angry, domineering, and disrespectful. Since we have a more established relationship, I let it slide off my shoulders, as I know that she’s not intending harm. However, I do see how others would have problems with it.

She harbors a lot of stress from day to day, as it is a stressful position. Her bar is set very high for our staff (she’s very Type A, with high expectations of herself as well), while other shift managers set the bar low. This causes conflict in the way she is perceived. Our general manager also sets a poor example for her of how to handle conflict. The GM flies off the handle, throws stuff, airs everyone’s dirty laundry even when spoken in confidence, but then comes down on my coworker for her poor attitude without coaching her on it or setting an example of how to manage it. The other shift manager, “Bob,” is very type B, makes a good amount of significant mistakes, but is easygoing with people and is always very calm and controlled in how he approaches situations.

I am in the same position as them both, and I don’t want to overstep my boundaries by any means. I’m training for a higher management position at the moment (although not everyone knows) and I see where they could both make improvements. I would like Jane to take it down a notch and get to a point where she cools off before she handles conflict and rolls with the punches a bit more. When she’s stressed, she jumps straight to a “me vs them” sort of mentality, and I’d rather have her see it as a team effort, understand that people make mistakes, and that those mistakes are paramount to learning (so long as they are not a life vs death issue). I want her to think “teach” before she goes to “blame.”

At the same time, I’d like Bob to be more diligent in holding people accountable for their duties, be more detail oriented, give constructive criticism and help support his fellow managers in their goals with the staff, and formulate his own as well.

I don’t have the authority at the moment to really dish out formal coaching, but I’ve been thinking about individually speaking to them one-on-one about what I observe, and giving them tools to handle things. If I involve the GM, Jane will be fired. She does not deserve that, nor do I want that to happen. I also don’t want Bob to feel like he’s doing awfully at his job, or lash out at me. I was thinking about asking our assistant manager to help me out with this, as she is more level-headed than our GM, and if I explain the situation, she may be more confidential about it and take a better approach.

Do you have any suggestions about how to handle this, different ways to achieve these goals without being so obvious, how to evaluate what’s really happening? Should I just leave it alone and wait until I have the authority to do something? I’d really appreciate any advice you have to give. I feel like as a solid team, we all have potential to have a good system, support one another, and have everything flow well, and it’s just how to get there where I’m at a loss.

It doesn’t sound like this is yours to try to fix right now.

If you’re moved into a position where you manage Jane and Bob, at that point you’d have standing to coach them on these things. But right now you’re a peer (despite having managed Jane in a previous job), and it’s not your place to intervene in their performance issues.

Certainly if you have a mentor-type relationship with Jane from managing her previously, you might have some room to give her some friendly advice on what you’re observing and what you think would help … but I’d tread pretty carefully there, because if you don’t have a mentor-type relationship with her, it’ll likely be awfully annoying to Jane to have her former boss who’s now a peer trying to coach her, no matter how well-intentioned you are.

If you do end up becoming her manager, then at that point you’ll have all the standing in the world to give her feedback and guidance. Even then, though, I’d make sure that your sympathy for her doesn’t get in the way of you evaluating her objectively. You note that she has “a tendency to be hot-tempered” and can come across as “angry, domineering, and disrespectful.” Those are big, big deals, especially for people who work with her and don’t have any authority over her. Those characteristics pretty much aren’t okay at work. A one-time slip-up from someone who understands it’s unacceptable and doesn’t do it again? Fine. But someone who has a pattern of it is much different — and it’s not fair to the rest of your staff to keep that person around.

Right now, you sound like you’re downplaying the situation a bit, perhaps because of your perspective that she’s “not intending harm.” But your higher comfort level with her behavior won’t make it any easier for other people to have to work with her. Empathy is a good thing, but you can’t keep someone around who’s apparently been warned repeatedly to control her temper and is still crossing those lines.

{ 124 comments… read them below }

  1. Bend & Snap*

    I guarantee Jane’s team isn’t letting things slide off if she can’t control her temper. Working with angry and vocal bosses is a quick ticket to a toxic environment and negative, lasting effects on employees.

    But neither Jane nor Bob is your problem. It sounds like you need to lead by example and make sure your teams are performing well in a high-functioning, non-toxic environment.

    I’d keep your focus on your team; whatever happens to Jane and Bob is above your pay grade.

    1. KarenD*

      yes, yes, yes, this.

      I work in a demanding, no-room-for-mistakes environment. When a boss is hostile, angry, blunt, accusatory …. that has several impacts on the people working under that manager.

      First, of course, is incredibly high stress – which increases the potential for mistakes.

      Second is the fact that when employees know they will be put on full-heat blast for mistakes, they will be far less likely to come forward and say “I goofed up, and this situation needs fixing.” In a health care setting, that could translate into delays that do mean life or death.

      1. KarenD*

        Ugh, hit the button too fast. Yes, Bend & Snap is also right to say that OP would be best served to stay out of it, with one tiny exception … if Jane comes to her seeking advice, then by all means give it. Otherwise, stay out of a situation that has the potential to turn very nasty indeed.

    2. Newby*

      Giving advice to coworkers that is basically telling them that they are doing their job wrong is unlikely to go over well even if it is true. Bob is most likely going to feel attacked and defensive, especially since it sounds like your manager does not have a problem with Bob’s style. I think the only thing to do is wait until you actually have the authority to address these issues.

      1. Allison*

        Yup. Yupyupyup. Rightly or wrongly, I hate unsolicited peer feedback. At work, in dancing, or my everyday life, people are free to tell me if something I’m doing is annoying or hurting them somehow, but when someone who is not in charge of me takes it upon his or her self to correct how I do something, even if it comes from a place of helping, it usually comes across as “you’re doing this so poorly that I can’t stand idly by and watch you stink at it, I have to do something, that’s how bad you are at the thing” or “I’m not very good at this myself, but even I know you’re terrible.” It doesn’t feel good.

        1. Songbird*

          I want to be sympathetic but it seems like this is just another way of saying “you must pretend I am doing everything right because feelings.” Doing something wrong isn’t about feelings; it’s about doing something wrong. If you choose to take that as a personal attack and have an existential crisis over it, that’s on you (general you). You (general, again) get to choose how to react to (constructive!) feedback, solicited or unsolicited.

          But that’s off-topic.

          1. Natalie*

            I think context matters too much to make a blanket rule.

            If I’m doing something so very wrong that I’m about the break the copier or flood the building? Anyone who notices should correct me.

            Am I doing something “wrong” according to a co-worker’s particular style, or the way Old Coworker used to do it, or another subjective measure? Absolutely do not say anything unsolicited – eyes on your own paper.

            In my experience, most non-manager correction ends up being the latter rather than the former.

            1. Gadfly*

              In many healthcare situations you are working under someone else’s license and everything you do or fail to do is legally their responsibility. And a lot of it is a judgement call. So IMO the one with the liability does get to make the style rules.

          2. Czhorat*

            I don’t see it that way. Workplaces don’t run very well if everyone is correcting each other. It can come across as hostile and as putting yourself in a position above them, when you really aren’t. Whatever God the correction does is likely outweighed by harm to the culture.

            1. SarahTheEntwife*

              I’d much rather have a culture where people can nonchalantly correct each other than one where I keep making possibly-serious mistakes but don’t learn about it until later because nobody with the proper authority to correct me is around at the time. My current workplace is pretty good about that — we have a lot of moving parts and policies that change pretty frequently, and it’s not a big deal for one of us to go “oh, the chocolate teapots need to be shipped in square boxes now” or whatever.

              1. designbot*

                I think there’s a difference between shipping chocolate teapots in square boxes vs. essentially telling someone that the whole way they approach people is counterproductive. One is an isolated item in the moment, which I agree any colleague should feel free to update you on (sometimes using language like “oh I usually use the square boxes for those to make sure the handle doesn’t break”) vs. an overall pattern of behavior or attitude, which I think it’s your boss’s responsibility to address. Additionally as others have pointed out, the boss may not have a problem with Bob’s way at all, so it’s best if when “correcting” someone you can be 100% sure you are right rather than it being a judgement call that someone else might make differently.
                On the other hand if you witness an individual incident that is problematic, feel free to speak up and say “hey Bob doesn’t usually yell at people about stuff like that so maybe you and he should align expectations” or, “you seem really upset right now. Let’s take five before picking this conversation back up.”

                1. designbot*

                  Thinking more about this I’m also seeing a distinction between offering information vs. offering judgement. When it looks like someone’s not operating with all the information (we’ve changed the way we do something recently) then offering the information is great. When they have all the information and they’re just choosing to do something in a way you don’t approve of, that’s judgement and less likely to be taken well.

                2. Newby*

                  That’s a great distinction. I think that is what it comes down to. You would hopefully always feel comfortable offering information but you might not have the standing to offer judgement.

            2. AcademiaNut*

              I think it comes down to tone and circumstances and the type of advice. It’s a lot easier to give simple, factual advice – “By the way, the policy manual says we need to do X” as a heads up to someone who may not realize it. Or advice based on personal experience – “I’ve found that when dealing with difficult customer Y it helps to be firm and assertive.” However, if you say “That’s wrong. You should do X” or “You need to be more assertive with customer Y” the exact same advice is likely to misfire. If you have good relations with a coworker as peers, and it’s clear you respect them and think they’re competent, it’s going to go over a lot better than if it’s clear you think they are incompetent or need fixing.

              Broad advice about someone’s working style or personality, though, is unlikely to go over well from a peer. It’s frequently not appreciated from a supervisor who has the power to do something about it.

          3. Newby*

            Correcting a peer’s managing style is not the same as pointing out when someone is doing something objectively wrong. Managing style is somewhat subjective so it is more of an overstep to correct them if you don’t have the standing to do so. It would be especially hard to talk to Bob since it seems like his manager is perfectly happy with him. The OP risks looking like a busy body.

            1. Gadfly*

              We know nothing about if Bob’s manager is happy with him–OP never says that. There is a LOT of room between happy and almost fired.

              1. Newby*

                That’s true, but if the manager has never addressed it, that might be how it looks to Bob.

          4. Zombii*

            > But that’s off-topic.

            If you recognize that your post is off-topic, you always have the option of clicking “Cancel reply to comment” instead of attempting to derail the thread by posting a needless attack on another commenter in the guise of (general you)-style general advice. :)

  2. Leatherwings*

    I think you’re really very kind (and will be a great and perceptive higher-up manager and probably already are a great and perceptive shift supervisor) for wanting to help your peers. But it sounds like this is at the point that Jane has already had multiple warnings and she hasn’t reached out for help. Offering tools when she’s already on her final warning probably won’t come across as supportive as it’s intended to be, and Jane had a responsibility to work to fix this regardless of how fair some of the previous warnings have been.

    1. AD*

      I agree, and I do feel as if OP is being more sympathetic than objective.

      Those qualities which AAM referenced in her response ARE big deals….and if Jane has been given numerous warnings to tone down on the lashing out, perhaps she should at some point just be let go.

      1. Leatherwings*

        Yes, and at some point someone who’s a shift supervisor shouldn’t necessarily need a bunch of training or coaching on how to tone down their temper. At a certain level, they just need to be told to do it and have it be done. That kind of intense work-style/life-style coaching can be A LOT of work for a more senior person.

      2. TootsNYC*

        In fact, OP, I suggest you do a bit of a “management training exercise” of your own here.

        Just for the sake of argument, entertain the possibility that you’re wrong, and Jane does need to be fired.

        Look at her behavior, at the stressors, at her responses, at the consistency of the pattern, of its effect on other people (do they work more poorly after she blows up at them? do people waste a lot of time and attention dealing with the aftermath of her rudeness?).

        Mostly: Look at it from the COMPANY’S point of view. Put the lives you’re in charge of first, and the company and its well-being a very close second, and Jane’s well-being last (or, “nowhere on the page”).
        Does Jane fit in?

        Also note: Is Jane actively working on this problem? It’s been brought to her attention–is she clearly trying to get better? That might be a reason to give her more time, or better feedback, or to work with her to create ways to lessen some of those stressors (if procedures or communication methods are exacerbating things).

        In other words, think like a manager, whose first loyalty is to the business goals. Not like someone who is prioritizing Jane.

        1. OP here :)*

          Thanks for posting! I actually just got off work!

          I did go out and buy a few books on different aspects of management I’d like to improve on personally, and I’ve been reading lots!

          I really think I have been approaching it with some rose tinted glasses with her. She has been working towards changing this and I really do want to see the positive in everything with her. At the same time though, it absolutely does affect the staff. It’s had a bit of a trickle down effect, and others are taking that same attitude she approaches things with towards one another. To the point where we’ve directly had to address staff members for the same thing she’s in hot water about.

          Afterwards, I ended up speaking one on one with Jane, privately as a concerned friend, and it was really productive. We worked out a system to help us relieve some of her stress, structure things that make it more manageable and even started sharing said books mentioned before. She has actively been working on improving her attitude, and I think it took her directly seeing her influence on another employee for it to really hit home.

          We’re now working as a team to coach this employee, and she’s really taken it to heart to lead by example. In the mean time, I’m keeping my goals with my team in mind, and things have evened out over the past few days with this new perspective and understanding.

          1. zora*

            Wow, this is a great update, OP!!
            That was what I was going to suggest, that if you were really careful, you could approach her as a peer as group problem solving, like “what could we do together to help ourselves work better as a team?” and it could be more of a peer support thing. And it sounds like that is kind of helping! That’s awesome!

            But also great that you are focusing on what is important for you to manage your team. Good luck with everything!

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Very much agreed. And it would be wildly inappropriate to target Bob, as well.

      This will sound harsh, but your opportunity to coach Jane passed when you stopped being her manager. And I truly wish you’d intervened, then, because the behavior you’re describing is extremely concerning. Being able to see the good in Jane is helpful when determining whether she needs to be coached or fired. But this has gone on so long, and she has so many infractions, that I don’t think you’re at a “coaching and salvaging” place anymore, OP.

  3. fposte*

    OP, I think you may be suffering a little from the itch when somebody is fiddling with a computer and you just want to move them aside and say “You’re doing it wrong; let me.” But even if you’re right, even though you used to own the computer/manage Jane, it’s not your place to take it over.

    And I’m not sure you’re right. You’re not on your final warning, and you have the same stress; I bet you haven’t had coaching to handle your anger or not to speak to the staff badly either. The fact that Jane has shown some improvement is good, but the fact that she still hasn’t managed to improve enough to avoid blaming and adversariality
    is pretty significant.

    It’s up to Jane, not you, to pull it together here. It’s hard when you feel you could fix it, but it’s really not yours to fix.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      fposte, is right, OP.

      There is a point where the situation is not salvageable by anyone except the person immediately involved.
      If she had wanted your help and intended to listen to your advice she would have done so by now.
      All due respect, OP, you say she has come a long way but she is on her last write up. My thought is that this is not her gig. She needs go find what she is more suited for. Your intervention may actually prevent her from finding where she would excel quicker.

      I have tried to rescue people, too, OP. So I think I know a little about the topic. The first thing to check for is to figure out if they WANT to be rescued. The next thing is to make your mantra, “I can’t help those who do not want help.”

      In an extreme scenario, OP, a person like this might cost you your career also. Please be careful. Please use the big picture view of things before making any final decisions how you will handle this.
      My heart goes out to you because I have seen some good people get fired and it could have been prevented IF ONLY [fill in here with some rationale]. BTDT.

    2. J.B.*

      Yes. And if you know and like Jane, it may very well cloud your judgement of how she treats other people. Bullies can be awful to those they have power over and nice to others. Working for a bully is awful and her team may well be getting worse results than all the others because of it.

  4. TootsNYC*

    I think that there are certain things an employer is not responsible for coaching people on.

    Losing their temper and handling frustration is actually one of them.

    Those are things you’re supposed to learn in kindergarten. And that’s not just a cheesy essay title.

    Each of us has a big responsibility to come with the basics–and an ability to control our temper is one of them.
    That’s just part of being a grown-up.

    Now, some of us get to “grown-up” status with some deficiencies; happens to all of us somehow. But the responsibility for dealing with them is ours. Not our employers’.

    Your boss is not your grade-school teacher (who does have a responsibility for modeling proper behavior and somewhat of a responsibility for coaching their pupils emotionally). Your boss is not your guidance counselor or your therapist. Or your life coach.

    There are times when a small amount of coaching is appropriate–but there is also a limit.
    If a boss had time or energy, and the problem was somewhat small, an offer to be a support to the employee’s own plan to modify her behavior would be OK. But I don’t think the boss is responsible for (nor maybe even appropriate for) saying, “Why don’t you wait before you speak? That might help.”

    As a boss, thinking of the people I’ve known and my own life experiences, were I in your shoes (as a boss or even a colleague), I might suggest that an employee seek out some outside help, perhaps cognitive behavioral therapy to learn tactics to deal with frustration and anger. I might point them to our EAP program.
    But this is actually something that ONLY Jane can fix, so she needs to step up, and everybody else needs to be hands-off.

    (These are the moments when I feel most like an old-school conservative.)

    1. Not So NewReader*

      In human services teaching how to deal with difficult consumers is fairly normal. This is because we don’t learn about these types of situations in kindergarten. And there are strategies to use that can be very helpful. So OP is justified in saying that the company could do more. For example what do you do if a person decides to pee all over the place. In kindergarten you would call the teacher and the teacher would handle it. As an employee you are expected to know how to handle it. No. It’s not intuitive. And there are rules that must be followed. Those rules change constantly and many of the rules are not intuitive either.

      The company is not proactively teaching the employees so therefore it would be up to the employee to figure that out on their own or talk with others. For some people this expecting too much. For any number of reasons they do not have the time once they get home to read/study in order to become a better employee.

      I do agree in this case that Jane is too far deep into her problems she may not dig out. OP has thrown Jane a life preserver before and I am not seeing where it helped that much.

          1. OP here :)*

            They’re not currently, but I’m working hands on with the GM currently to hopefully add them across the board with our staff. I feel like there’s a real need for developing soft skills alongside technical skills and we’re lacking heavily in the soft/interpersonal skills department. It’s just up to our GM to see the value in it (which she says she does), and take action on what we’ve discussed. Otherwise, I’m just waiting for the opportunity to move up one day and take it upon myself to do.

            1. J.B.*

              I think that’s a great thing to offer and focus on, but Jane may not be ready for fixing. This could be helpful for the future to head off personal conflicts. Once someone is dug in as a bully then they are unlikely to change.

      1. Dizzy Steinway*

        “In human services teaching how to deal with difficult consumers is fairly normal.”

        Indeed. In some roles/fields it is relevant to coach people on things like this e.g. if someone panics and goes blank, or gets defensive, or overreacts – or to direct them to work on it themselves. But the recipient of the coaching needs to be self-reflective, receptive to feedback and willing to work on it.

  5. Aunt Margie at Work*

    When her unprofessional behavior is directed at you, you let it slide off because you do not work for her. You are peers. You see her through the eyes of a peer. “Oh, it would make me mad, too if that happened.” Well, I’m sure it does happen to you and yet you don’t attack the person. And you write that she has an “me v. them” mentality. But continue on to justify it. Bob is a slacker. Jane’s boss is a spazz. All may be true. You think you can make square Jane fit in this round hole, but is that even what is best for her?

    1. Amber T*

      I think that’s the main point here – does Jane have the capacity to do the job well? At a high stress job like it sounds OP and Jane have, maybe not. Maybe she once did and is just burnt out. There’s nothing wrong with that, it is what it is. I know I could never be in a job where life-or-death emergencies happened frequently – I can handle one emergency fairly well, then I’m mush. The me-v.-them mentality is never going to fly well anywhere though. No matter what you do, you’re going to end up making mistakes, and so are the people around you. Stuff happens. Maybe Jane will thrive better in a less-emergency type work environment.

    2. OP here :)*

      I completely see where you’re coming from. We finally had a breaking point after this where she pushed me buttons a bit much and I told her clearly and directly “Stop. That’s not appropriate.”, and just left it at that. She left for the day shortly after, and I think maybe went home thought about why I said that. The next day she came to me, and apologized profusely, and we had a really good conversation about everything, why she’s so stressed out, and how we can work on improving our environment. It’s already changing things!

      1. J.B.*

        Are her employees empowered to also tell her stop? I think that would be an important piece of it.

        1. Observer*

          Probably not. Which helps to explain why it took so long for the shoe to drop. It’s not just her GM (who is a piece of work herself) who is telling her that she’s out of line.

          But of course, it also make a huge difference in how it affects people. OP, I’m glad you were able to help Jane to have an epiphany of sorts. Just keep in mind, that if she pushed your buttons too hard, it must exponentially worse for her reports. Partly because she’s likely to behave better towards you because you are peers. And partly because it affects you less – you are her peer, not subject to her outbursts throughout your whole shift and totally able to tell her to back off, which by itself reduces the stress of the situation.

  6. Kaitlyn*

    The GM and Jane sound like they have a lot in common. I guess I’d try to be as supportive as possible to Jane – saying something like, “Hey, if you ever want a safe place to blow off steam when it comes to work stuff, come find me and I’ll be an ear,” might be a peer-appropriate thing to do.

  7. AMG*

    It does seem like the company might be setting themselves up for problems if other people can behave like Jane, or worse. Especially if Jane can prove that she was targeted and no action was taken against the bully. That’s not to say that Jane shouldn’t have consequences for her actions, but if nobody else is given consequences, you have to wonder why Jane is the only one receiving reprimands.

    1. Stranger than fiction*

      Yeah, it does kind of sound like the GM is a “do as I say not as I do” type.

      1. Fiennes*

        This is true – while Jane’s behavior is a problem, so is the manager’s, and from the sound of things that of a couple other people as well. Sometimes a toxic workplace where many contribute to the toxicity nonetheless chooses a “goat” to blame it on. Jane may be in this position. Regardless, that doesn’t make it okay.

        The only point where my advice would vary from Alison’s at all is to say that if OP is very good at handling Jane’s moods (and it sounds like she is), she might offer to speak with her about it and offer help as a friend. If she’s able to get Jane to listen, then it’s a win-win for Jane & everyone who works for her. If Jane won’t listen–then the OP lets any bad reaction roll off her back as usual, and can let the chips fall where they may, knowing she did all she could to help.

  8. animaniactoo*

    I think that you can *ask* Jane if she’d like some advice about techniques that help you keep your temper, and see if she’s open to that. But other than that, yeah, you need to leave this alone.

    I would also like to note that you really need to reframe your perspective around “intent” vs “result” vs “acceptability”.

    In the end, given the position that she’s in, it doesn’t matter that she doesn’t *intend* these things. What matters is that they are happening. And that means that it is not a good thing for her to be in this position at this time. Whether it will ever be a good thing is a different question – but right now, it’s not. So yes, she does “deserve” to be fired for it.

    You seem not to understand how much agency she has here, and it’s leading you to doing some excuse-making for her. She actually has resources she can look at for help, she doesn’t need to rely on waiting to be coached. She has co-workers, former bosses, therapy, management classes, and so many things that she can reach out and say “Hey, can I get some help here?”. If she can’t do that because of whatever “rhyme and reason” that’s an intrinsic flaw in her, and it’s hers to struggle to overcome when it’s creating bigger issues for her. But your framing here is basically that she’s helpless because of who she is and what training she’s not been given, and that’s not correct at all. I really want to note that because it seems to be a strong core of your view on whether or not she deserves the final warning status that she’s on.

    On an entirely separate note, Bob might also deserve to be fired, but it really depends on how much work it is to clean up his mistakes and how bad the results of the mistakes are. It may be frustrating to have to keep cleaning them up, but if he’s taking responsibility and handling it in a calm and professional manner and it’s more like temporary hassle than major bad results most of the time, that’s really head and shoulders above the stress of dealing with somebody who loses their temper on a regular basis. Particularly somebody who has authority over you in some form or another.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      +100. Intent doesn’t matter when determining whether behavior is unacceptable—it informs how you deal with it afterward. But it doesn’t render bad behavior good or acceptable.

      1. Dizzy Steinway*

        I’m also reminded of Lundy Bancroft’s argument that some people use their tempers rather than losing them because it gets them the results they want. And I’m aware that Bancroft was talking about domestic abuse but this isn’t so different. Jane doesn’t mean it. Someone provoked her. She just cares and gets wound up.

        Some people have mentioned enabling. I’ll go one step further and say this can turn into victim blaming. Just don’t push their buttons / you could see you were winding them up / it’s hard being Jane and nobody understands.

        OP, I don’t mean to attack you, just to give advice. But I do think it’s worth noticing that you’re empathising so very hard with the aggressor here that you’re filtering information through that lens. What would you think of the situation if you didn’t know her? If a friend told you about working with someone who behaved like that? Do you think you’re very invested in your friend not being in the wrong? (When in reality nobody is all good and all bad. She can be in the wrong here and also be someone you like and found good at her job.)

        Jane needs training in coping with conflict and managing her reactions. Whether this is within her employer’s remit depends entirely on the type of care work you do.

      1. OP here :)*

        Absolutely. Great perspective. I hope you don’t mind if I steal that analogy animaniactoo!!!!

    2. Aunt Margie at Work*

      Exactly. In the end, Jane’s behavior cannot be justified, by any metric. It is Just Not OK.

    3. Antilles*

      Yeah, the intent isn’t really relevant here. After all, OP may know that she doesn’t really intend it and it’s just kind of the way Jane is…but other co-workers, other departments, and especially clients *don’t* know that and are definitely going to take it at face value (i.e., negatively).

      1. Code Monkey, the SQL*

        Yes, this. “That’s just how she is, and she’s been working really hard to not do so badly!” is all well and good. As is “but people were picking on her,” and “well, if you just know what sets her off, you can avoid it or ignore it.” But, the intent and the reasons are not as important as the fact that she’s mismanaged her temper to the point that she is on a final warning.

        I don’t know that this is a place where the OP can help, unfortunately.

    4. NW Mossy*

      I was just going to say the same thing. Jane doesn’t need to change her intent; she needs to change her behavior. Vanishingly few people set out to do their jobs poorly or hurt others, but substantially more end up doing so inadvertently through poor behavioral choices.

    5. Gadfly*

      Based on an incident with both a Bob and a Jane as my husband’s co-workers at a hospital (which was toxic for many, many reasons…), I hope everyone isn’t dismissing the possibility Bob isn’t a problem. A Bob can
      (long term especially) definitely be as big or bigger a problem as a Jane. Especially when it is lives at stake.

      Think Jane yelling because meds were not distributed or charted correctly/at all versus Bob letting it slide.

      The Jane style mistakes tend to be showy displays. But Bob ones can add a LOT to medical error issues.

      1. Observer*

        I don’t think anyone is dismissing that possibility. It’s just that the OP doesn’t have any blinkers on, and doesn’t need to be convinced of the problem his behavior presents.

  9. Mena*

    “Since we have a more established relationship, I let it slide off my shoulders, as I know that she’s not intending harm. However, I do see how others would have problems with it.”
    This isn’t doing Jane a favor … if you want to help, discreetly point out when her ‘rough attitude’ is showing, and explain how it makes you feel and the impact it has on the situation at hand. As a co-worker, this is all you can really do.

    1. motherofdragons*

      This is exactly what I was going to suggest. OP, I agree with AAM and others that it’s not your place to mentor or coach Jane, and co-sign the comments around recognizing Jane’s agency and the decisions she is actively making NOT to get help for these behaviors. But, I think you can totally do things differently in you interactions with Jane. Like if Jane flies off the handle at or around you, or is gruff, you can say “You know Jane, because of our friendship and the long amount of time we’ve worked together, I don’t take that remark/tone personally, but it’s the kind of thing others might perceive as hostile or disrespectful.”

    2. PollyQ*

      OP, you don’t just have an established relationship with Jane, you have a peer relationship. It’s going to be much harder for the people Jane’s supervising just to let her rants roll off their back. Pehaps you could spare some sympathy/empathy for them.

      I suspect Jane is burned out from the “caring” job, and needs a break, if not an outright change of career. I also suspect that once someone’s on their final write-up for a temperament issue, she’s likely not to be around much longer.

    3. Em too*

      Agreed. It may be too late for this role, but the way she treats you is the one thing you do have standing to address. An immediate ‘it’s really not helpful/upsetting/inappropriate to talk to me like that, can we do this calmly’, said quietly?

      1. OP here :)*

        That exact sort of situation actually played out shortly after this! Mentioned it earlier, but I did address it with her quietly, and she ended up apologizing to me which also opened up a really productive conversation about everything.

        There are some really wonderful points here about peer to peer and supervisor to staff relationships. I honestly didn’t even think about it from that perspective. Thanks!

  10. Stellaaaaa*

    The only way Jane’s behavior is defensible is if other people’s laid-back attitudes are causing real problems for the people in your company’s care. I can totally see how a type A person could catch a misplaced decimal point in a medication request, understand that a wrong dose could harm or kill a patient, and then become frustrated when she’s perceived as fussy instead of seeing the “laid-back” people get reprimanded for doing their jobs poorly. There’s definitely a subset of office cultures where “cool” people who are mediocre at their jobs are valued and promoted over the more meticulous people who actually get the work done, and it’s a huge problem if this is the type of culture being nurtured in a medical office.

    In any case, I could understand it if OP is reluctant to lose the most detail-oriented person in an office full of people who let things slip through the cracks. This isn’t about Jane’s attitude, really. It’s about the fact that this is an office where lots of potentially life-and-death mistakes are being made, and they can’t be corrected unless you’re either willing to deal with a few Janes or you’re able to do a complete overhaul of staffers who think it’s better to be hands-off in a freaking medical office.

    1. Gadfly*

      I’m picturing the last hospital my husband worked in. A lot of ‘laid back’ Bob type RNs were copy and pasting status reports in charting and not charting meds right and the CNAs were not doing all of their job (the RNs supervised the CNAs) and the Bob types would let it slide. And then the Jane types were trying to figure out what was accurate for their patient and if things had been done or not and were losing their minds and strictly monitoring CNAs who were adopting the cutting corners is fine by Bob mentality. With everyone more than overworked and these being their adaptations to it.

      My husband was in the do everything right/get in trouble because it takes too long to actually do it all camp.

    2. Evergreen*

      Yes! This! Couldn’t quite put my finger on it until I saw your comment!

      It’s still not the OPs place to be raising this with Jane and Bob but I hope they’re raising it with their boss (even if he’s a bully and even if he doesn’t keep things confidential)

  11. AnonAcademic*

    So Jane’s manager throws things when upset, her coworker wants to be liked more than respected or effective, and she probably sees herself as the only person trying to maintain any standard of care in the environment. Honestly that sounds dysfunctional on so many levels and I think Jane is probably better off elsewhere. Being the Only Person Who Cares (TM) is not a good role to be in. OP might not be doing Jane a favor by helping retain her, in the long run.

    1. Spoonie*

      That was sort of the vibe I was getting when I read this also. Jane might be frustrated because there’s so much dysfunction, hence the reacting (overreacting?). If she were in an environment with well maintained standards of care, she may not feel so inclined to act in that way.

  12. Decima Dewey*

    Yes, OP’s sympathy for Jane isn’t doing Jane any favors. Either the workplace or the job is a bad fit, and it would be better for Jane to find a job with an organization that’s a better fit.

  13. Bonky*

    You’re being sympathetic to someone and excusing their behaviours because you have insight into their personal situation: in your personal life this would be laudable, responsible and kind. One thing I found pretty hard to learn and internalise as a manager is that professionally, this isn’t always the right way to go. One person’s unkindness, anger and unprofessionalism can have a huge impact on the rest of a team – even if you can see dimensions in which that behaviour is justified.

    I made the same mistake once with an employee who never directed the bad behaviour at me – after all, there was a hierarchy in place. As with you and Jane, this meant I was able to compartmentalise her behaviour; I felt I understood what was going on with her. I also observed her being mean, angry and blamestorming with co-workers over a long period. I addressed it with her each time she did it, she took the feedback well, and the behaviour would calm down for a bit, then surge up again. I knew that there were extenuating circumstances: problems in her home life and enormous difficulty dealing with stress. I felt sorry for her.

    I did not feel sorry enough for the people who were having to bear the brunt of it. I was younger and less experienced: now, I’d fire someone for being so uncollegiate and disruptive. It wasn’t until she quit (suddenly, with a ton of drama and over something so piffling I worried I’d gone mad) and I saw what a difference her absence made to the rest of the team that everything clicked into place. I wish I’d handled it differently and saved a lot of good people a lot of difficulty and stress rather than trying to be kind to one person.

    1. fposte*

      Bonky, this is a really insightful been-there-done-that comment. I especially like your point that you did not feel sorry enough for the people who were bearing the brunt of your Jane.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Agreed—that same line stood out for me. Thank you for sharing it with is, Bonky.

      2. PB*

        Yes, that line resonated with me, too.

        I was one of the people bearing the brunt of a Jane at a prior job. It was terrible. Management knew she was a problem, but didn’t want to address it. I was at least the fourth person to leave the company as a result of her actions. (Not that Jane was 100% of the reason for leaving, but she was a big part of the decision. As reflected in management’s treatment of her, there were problems all the way up to the top.)

        1. KarenD*

          I worked for a Jane too. And I know the sick feeling of discovering a mistake and realizing that I was going to get reamed out for bringing it up so it could be fixed (it never mattered whether it was my mistake or someone else’s). A few times I figured out a way to get the fix accomplished without involving “Jane,” which was actually a pretty serious violation, and I can’t tell you how many times I was tempted to just … not say anything, and hope nobody noticed. I never dared do that, because I knew if I succeeded once it’d be so much harder to resist the next time.

          Nowadays when something is going wrong my first impulse is, “Let me pull GreatBoss in on this one to get his take on the best fix.” I am not sure I’d be able to appreciate GreatBoss quite as much if not for ToxicExBoss, so I guess I have TEB to thank for that.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I got reamed for a mistake I made by my Boss Jane, after I told her about it.
            Since this had happened a few times to me and to others, when she threatened a write up I said,”All that will happen next is that everyone will hide their mistakes from you, because they see what happens when they tell the truth.”

            She backed down.

            Every hour of every day was like this. There was always some unnecessary war going on. Most of my coworkers and I had some underlying health issue that never would clear up because of our Jane’s non-stop anatagonizing.

            She was a protected person like this Jane here, she had advocates all over the place. They retained her but had to replace her entire staff over and over. Upper management STILL could not see the source of the problem.

    2. seejay*

      So much this. We finally had an extremely toxic coworker leave and the weight that’s left our department has been immense. Our manager still doesn’t understand why it was so bad, and the one person this toxic person was friends with doesn’t understand why the rest of us disliked them so much. That person was never on the receiving end of anything this person did. We all heard excuses of why said toxic person might be toxic… from “home life” to “grew up as a single child” and other bupkiss that kind of loses weight when that person is a grown adult in their 30s.

      Our department is seriously so much better without it.

      1. Code Monkey, the SQL*

        That sounds like such a relief!

        Empathy is a great thing. But you have to spread it around to everyone, or you wind up enabling instead of empathizing. And the “why the are the way they are” of toxicity is an interesting intellectual exercise, but certainly not one you’d want to spend time parsing instead of doing actual work like getting the chocolate teapots poured and ready.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Yep. We all have problems and most of us don’t use that as an excuse to verbally abuse each other or abuse our subordinates. I have all the compassion in the world for someone who is struggling. The minute they start making others’ lives difficult it is where I have to draw the line.

    3. paul*

      Mercy to the guilty may become cruelty to the innocent (paraphrased from a fantasy series I like).

      It’s good to not fire at the drop of a hat but like your past situation demonstrates, empathy needs to be spread around and not limited to one person

    4. TootsNYC*

      “I did not feel sorry enough for the people who were having to bear the brunt of it.”

      In fact, the people who DON’T cause drama, who just basically get their job done, who are easy to manage—THOSE are the people you should advocate for the most.

  14. Observer*

    I’m going to sign on with all of the people who say that whatever anyone else is doing, it is *Jane’s* job to get her temper under control. And, without any defense of your manager (whose behavior is ridiculous, at best), it simply is NOT his job to coach her on how to behave.

    Beyond that, ask yourself this: Why did someone target her? And why did your company agree that her response to targeting should land her on a Final Chance PIP? That decision generally doesn’t come just from the manager – it generally needs to be run by HR and / or the next level up.

    Also, I don’t entirely buy the “doesn’t mean any harm” bit. She KNOWS that this *is* causing harm, and yet she continues this behavior. There is a meme that was floating around a while ago about “if you are stepping on my toe, you need to get off it. It doesn’t matter if you meant it, you need to get off my toe.” She’s stepping on toes, and despite being told this, she hasn’t gotten off. That doesn’t sound all that innocent to me.

    1. fposte*

      I would also say that in general it’s not enough to avoid meaning harm; you have to actively promote harmlessness. Doing good isn’t just not meaning to do bad.

    2. paul*

      Also; if someone doesn’t really *mean* harm, they can still cause it. And that can still warrant corrective action up to and including termination depending on the circumstances.

  15. seejay*

    [i]The last write-up was due to someone purposely targeting her, and it was an employee who was causing major problems across the board.[/i]

    Something about this jumped out at me here.

    Jane knows she’s in trouble already for her actions and her temper. Someone went out of their way to poke her into blowing up and triggering her into getting another write up, the last one that’s essentially a “screw up again and you’re fired” write up. While the behaviour of the person that antagonized her into doing this is a wiffle for doing this, what I don’t see is who’s actually responsible for getting the write up.

    Jane’s responsible for getting the write up.

    Jane’s an adult. No one forced her into losing her temper or having to respond harshly or however she responded. Yes, someone poked her, but she’s still a grown adult and she has to take responsibility for how she responds to things, even if someone is being a childish brat and poking her with a stick. Jane didn’t act appropriately, and she’s paying the consequences of it, regardless of how you think the blame should go for this OP, I’m sorry to say. Yes, Jane needs coaching and anger management probably, but from the sounds of it, the bridge is burning and hanging by a thread at this point.

    You’re kind to want to help her, but please stop making excuses for her behaviour and let her own up to it, it might be the harsh news she needs to hear. You might be able to let it roll off you but the rest of her coworkers shouldn’t have to be dealing with this. The entire department sounds like it needs a good do-over at this point, if her coworkers are trying to antagonize her too, that’s certainly unhealthy. :/

    1. paul*

      And, and I hate to condone this because it’s also unprofessional…if she’s been given slack time and time again and is making people miserable I can pretty easily see someone getting fed up and trying to goad her into doing something to get canned.

      In a toxic environment, expect toxic behavior.

      1. seejay*

        That’s what I wondered too… having been on the receiving end of an abusive/bullying coworker, I could see if the right circumstances laid themselves out and I wasn’t trying to be a better person, lowering myself to the level where if there was a way of entrapping that person in a way that would get them out of workplace because I felt it would make it better, I’d take it.

        Now, I’d likely *never* do it, but I can imagine myself doing it and feeling pretty warm and fuzzy about it because the end result definitely feels like it justifies it in a really bad environment (if I didn’t have any options for just finding another job). Based on the description the OP has given of the workplace and that there’s several levels of dysfunction going on, it’s really not hard to imagine that someone went beyond imaging and hit the end of their rope and pushed the button on making Jane trip over her own temper just to get her out of there because they were tired of dealing with her. :(

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Very seldom do bosses get targeted when they are totally innocent. And it sounds like Jane is causing major problems across the board, also. Maybe TPTB will deal with this other person separately.

  16. The IT Manager*

    I think there’s a disconnect between the post title and the letter.

    Jane’s frustration could be dealt with in so many different ways than anger, lashing out and being hot tempered. All those are pretty major problems, and it strikes me the LW is heavily biased toward Jane.

    Frustration is emotion that doesn’t have to expressed at all or could be expressed in more constructive ways. Anger is an entirely different emotion and rarely belongs to be expressed as freely in the workplace as the LW described.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      To me anger is a way of saying, “I don’t know how to deal with this situation”. If this is the case then Jane does not know how to deal with a whole BUNCH of situations.

  17. Cobol*

    Somebody addressed it upstream how Jane’s reaction actually makes performance worse, but I sympathize with extreme reactions here. A mistake can cost a life here. Literally somebody dies. I think a lot of traditional business norms aren’t in play.

    1. Observer*

      Traditional business norms are not the issue here. Others have explained why this type of reaction actually makes people LESS safe.

      It’s possible to keep people accountable and to take this stuff VERY seriously – as seriously as it warrants, in fact, without resorting to this kind of behavior. And, in general, letting your emotions get the better of you is the worst thing you can do when you are dealing with people’s lives.

      Have you ever actually had to take charge in a genuine emergency? I mean someone is hurt and you need to get an ambulance, or someone is hurt and there is blood all over the place kind of emergency? The very last thing you can afford is this kind of reaction. You need to keep it cool, collected and in charge of the situation and yourself. That’s what Jane needs to do, as well.

      Does she need help bleeding the stress off so it doesn’t overwhelm her? Probably. But that’s something she needs to figure out. She can’t let it out on her staff.

      1. Cobol*

        I’m agreeing with you. It was my first sentence. It makes things less safe.

        I’m looking at it also from a I understand the reaction. It’s not the right reaction, but it makes sense as to why. As opposed to an office environment where it’s not the right reaction and it doesn’t make sense given the consequences. There are slackers in every profession. I can see how somebody would get upset at slackers when it can cost lives.

        1. Gadfly*

          There are two kinds of safer . There is the people screwing up in the ER because they were yelled at problems. And there are the low pressure possible high consequence screw ups. Complications from things like being in the hospital a week and the CNAs or RN never change your sheets (because if the CNAs don’t the RN is supposed to)? That happens, and is a Bob issue. Complications from poorly managed conditions due to RNs not getting the meds out on time or even by end of shift because they are busy changing sheets because the CNAs think it is okay to let slide/isn’t important? That happens. Consequences from proticals not being followed and something sterile gets contaminated? That happens a LOT. A lot of medical errors happen in the least emergency of situations where instead of doing everything right for a few hours it is about doing enough right for days or weeks or months. The stories of what sometimes happens because low level work didn’t happen right are scary. I am not sure which type is more dangerous–a Jane or a Bob. Might just depend on the situation.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I am not sure which norms you mean.
      But it’s not okay to abuse your employees no matter what setting.
      And the LAST person on earth I’d want working with me on an emergency is a screamer. The emergency is enough of a problem and I would ask the screamer to leave. I don’t need a negative contribution, a contribution that takes resources away from the situation. If you can’t make a positive contribution in an emergency, then you need to get out of the way so others can make a positive contribution.

      1. Cobol*

        I think screamer was big boss. OP describes Jane as more confrontational/not letting things slide. What you ask somebody to do as a logger is much different than what you would ask a logger. The norms I was referencing wasn’t referring to Allison’s response, but more some of our comments.

  18. Dust Bunny*

    You know what else is really frustrating? Working for somebody who reacts inappropriately.

    Also, while I believe that it’s important to set the bar high and be detail-oriented in whatever you do, there are high-bar people who get results and lift their teams, and there are high-bar people who are nitpickers and treat minor problems as though they were disasters, and everyone gets burned out. Which is she?

    It’s one thing to let it slide because you don’t answer to her, but it’s another ot be trapped in a job with an angry supervisor. If coaching hasn’t been offered, has she ASKED? Has she sought it out for herself?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      If Jane’s bar is so high, why doesn’t that high standard include controlling her habitually explosive temper?

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Everyone I know who is like this doesn’t think it’s a big enough problem, or doesn’t actually think it’s his or her fault. They try to tone it down to keep their superiors off their backs, but they still believe it’s because their team won’t shape up. Even if the team is fine.

    2. OP here :)*

      Totally understand. She has sought it out on her own accord, but hasn’t directly asked for assistance in developing this aspect from the company. I totally think she should though! I may suggest it to her actually. It definitely can’t hurt to ask for help. So long as she asks nicely. ;)

  19. Dizzy Steinway*

    Do you have a culture of reflective practice there? If not, it might be worth looking into – using reflective cycles can be super helpful for everyone but particularly people who need to work on their reactions.

    What I’m not clear on is what she’s wonderful at. I’m hearing a lot in your post about the ways in which she’s not wonderful as a supervisor and temper isn’t a desirable quality if you work with sick or vulnerable people.

    I hear that you want to excuse her behaviour but I think you may be being overly forgiving. We don’t choose our feelings. We do need to choose how we act on them. And Jane isn’t making the right choices currently. I really get that you want to believe her behaviour is justifiable but it really isn’t. Sorry OP, this is tough.

      1. Dizzy Steinway*

        I disagree. We can choose which feelings we acknowledge and act on and how we frame and think about them but we don’t choose which emotions we feel in the first place.

  20. New Window*

    In all honesty, I don’t feel like her being on her final leg is fair

    I get that. I completely, totally get that. I’m in a parallel situation (minus a workplace with life-or-death consequences), and I’m the coworker who is watching things unfold. It’s not fun. I’ve come to the conclusion that there is nothing constructive I can do to help the people involved untangle a dysfunctional pattern of interactions.

    I think it’s common for us to want to pick out a good guy and a bad guy, to try to put as much blame as possible on one side to leave the other side guiltless. In the process, we slip into framing things in the way we think it ought to be and overlook the complicating factors.

    So, for example, Jane has some serious problems in how she works. You have a longer view and know her history, know how to handle her, and you aren’t really directly impacted by the parts of her behavior that need improvement. In an ideal world, her manager would be competent enough to bring this up with her in a reasonable and constructive manner so that she could continue to improve. Sadly, this is not an ideal world. The GM is not reasonable person, and that’s the reality that you, Jane, and Bob need to respond to in order to keep your jobs. Fairness doesn’t get to enter the equation if the person with almost all the power (the GM) doesn’t give a flying fig about it.

    The only person who can get Jane out of this problem is Jane. You cannot. You cannot make Jane, Bob, or GM to change and be reasonable/even-tempered. Any attempts to give unsolicited advice run the risk of being poorly received or ignored. If she comes to you asking for advice on how to improve her working relationship with whoever, then great, but it’s probably too late at this point.

  21. paul*

    OP: you seem to feel Jane does a better job managing her unit/team/whatever.

    What are you basing that on? Are they getting measurably better outcomes for patients? Are they providing better service? Is there anything concrete there?

    It’s entirely possible the other, more laid back managers, are getting functionally identical results with less hassle.

  22. Maude*

    This letter takes me back to an extremely toxic workplace that I was fortunate enough to escape after six months. The Jane in my situation was very similar in temperament. She would routinely fly off the handle at her direct reports, but for some reason she was perceived by management as getting results. As the HR Manager, I was tasked with “training” her. It was all on me to control this woman. No amount of training was going to fix this problem. Nothing applied to her as she was allowed to get by with her terrible behavior by management. Turnover was sky high as employees left as soon as they could find another job. The people that were left became clones of her to survive. I applaud the management at your facility for addressing this. It seems that it may be best for all involved if she is removed from her position. Hopefully once she is terminated, she will be able to self-reflect about how her termination came about. Unfortunately, I doubt she will and will shift the blame to “instigators” and “poor management”.

  23. Clever Name*

    Reading this letter I got the sense that there is a bit of, I don’t know, enmeshment or emotional entanglement between you and Jane. She behaves badly. You excuse her behavior because you know her *reasons*. Not only is it not fair to the other employees for your company to allow her to behave in this matter, it’s also really really not your responsibility to manage everyone else’s expectations of her. That’s a lot of emotional labor to take on at the workplace.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      What if someone you did not know, OP, had the same behavior? Would you cut that person the same slack? How many more chances should she get in order for this to be fair? Since question.
      I have your soft heart, OP. I can see if a person just did X then problem Y would go away.
      That’s not how people tick though. And it’s not how workplaces remain functional.

      You are going into management? Part of your job will be thinking about what is good for the group and what is good for the company. As a manager you cannot place ONE individual above the needs of the group or the needs of the company.

  24. RVA Cat*

    Honestly, it sounds to me like a mismatch between Jane’s job and her personality. Sounds like the stress is burning her out and the best thing for her might be to move on into something less life-or-death.

  25. Mishsmom*

    “a tendency to be hot-tempered” and can come across as “angry, domineering, and disrespectful.” – working for someone like this is demoralizing, and can border on mental torture, i kid you not. what seems ok from someone who feels comfortable enough to tell the other person to back off – is not the same when you’re working FOR that person. even if it “only” happens 4 times a year let’s say, that’s too much. just like any abusive relationship, those “few” times go a long way.

  26. Gadfly*

    So, given this is in the care industry, there may be some industry specific things we are not considering that could be adding to this. I’m basing this on mostly on what I know from when my husband was an RN (is still, technically, but is waiting on licensing since moving so isn’t working as one right now), from what I’ve heard from his nurse friends (now mutual friends), and what I can remember from being a CNA.

    While Jane yelling is NOT okay, just to be totally clear, I have to wonder if the people who she is supervising are not doing their jobs? Because if it is like the RN to CNA sort of situation of supervising that would mean they are working under Jane’s licence and she is responsible for anything they do or do not do. If their work does not get done, it is her responsibility. An RN can lose their licence because of the CNAs. But in most places they don’t get to hire them, they don’t have the ability to fire them, have limited ability to actually supervise them. Often the CNAs are assigned a bunch of patients, the nurses are assigned patients and the CNAs are dealing with a few nurses that shift, and the nurses with a few CNAs. All with competing must be done work. And while many CNAs are great, many are not (there generally isn’t much required to be a CNA–I was one at 18 as was a sister and we had no real qualifications to be one, and they are always shorthanded to where any qualifying breathing body is sometimes better than none. I was not great. And I was far from the worst I saw.)

    When a Bob lets things slide, that often sets a dangerous sense of what is expected work. And when CNAs don’t do their jobs, it is on the RN. And if the RN is changing sheets and toileting patients and doesn’t get the meds out appropriately… Or if the RN doesn’t change the soiled sheets or leaves the patient to crap the bed…

    All of which doesn’t excuse Jane yelling. And I don’t know if she is an RN or in a similar situation (it happens for a few roles in healthcare.) But I do wonder what she is able/allowed to do to actually manage the people she is supervising? It has been pointed out before that yelly supervisors are often the ones that feel powerless. Is Jane in that spot? Is she responsible for managing but not having any real power to manage and so is falling back on yelling?

    If that is the case, maybe the answer is seeing if there are options that would give her the power needed to do the job without the yelling or without pulling a Bob. OP seems to be doing it–is there anything official that would help Jane or is it all managing by personality or letting things slide?

    It may just be Jane needs somewhere less toxic than is commonplace in the care industry. It may be she is not suited for this sort of role. Or it may be that she needs the actual tools to do her job.

    1. Gadfly*

      And another point to consider regarding the Bob types in this sort of thing (which I find reasonable for OP to worry about as much as the Jane type) are usually are never quite a huge problem as long as the next shift isn’t also a Bob. It is almost a herd immunity sort of thing–it isn’t a problem until no one dealing with a particular patient is doing their job well enough to counter the slack from Bob. And then one day you suddenly have a very sick/dead patient and/or lawsuit and/or a doctor yelling because their orders were not followed and the charting is all crap…

      Bob problems are sleeper problems, bombs just waiting to go off. They are minor until they aren’t.

    2. LCL*

      I refrained from posting on this because my source on health care in facilities is no longer with us. Your information echoes exactly what she told me about what it’s like to work in a facility, and the roles of the CNAs and how everything is supposed to run.

  27. Tweet*

    I have a Jane for a supervisor. Shevgas feuds, tantrums, throws things… Management expects me, the only one still in the deparment to put up with it, and not take it personally. Screw that, I’m job hunting instead. Fingers crossed that tomorrows interview goes well and I can escape the madness.

  28. Maya Elena*

    I’m glad that at least some comments see this situation as midway between “abrasive manager” and “slacker employees”, rather than just “terrible toxic tantrum Jane” and her martyred underlings.

    I doubt if OP should anything him- or herself to precipitate it, but it seems like Jane should leave this place, and OP, being in a position to give her a better reference than Jane’s manager would, may wish to offer this service if Jane does leave.

  29. OP here :)*

    I just wanted to say thank you all for your thoughts on this. It’s really given me a great new perspective on things!

    Things played out after this post where Jane went a bit to far with me and I couldn’t “take it in stride”. I told her that I felt it wasn’t appropriate. After going home and doing some thinking, Jane apologized the next day and opened a door for us to talk about everything at hand.

    We did and came up with a new system between us to support each other better and help with the stressors of our job. We spoke about the way she speaks to employees and both can see the trickle down effect at hand. GM yells at her and flies off the handle > she gets angry and stressed then flies off the handle > and now employees are having issues with one another to the same degree.

    I think this coming to light with her about how it influences and directly effects how our employees interact gave her more reason to rise above it all and be in control of her emotions more. She’s been really wonderful with everyone over the past few days and we’ve even started reading up in different management techniques and fundamentally improving on how we both approach the situations at hand. We’re now coaching an employee ourselves for this same thing, and it’s giving her a whole new approach. I really hope she keeps down this path and doesn’t go back to old ways.

    We can only do what we’re able to, so our GM flying off the handle is obviously something we don’t have control over. I have a good relationship with our GM so we’ve spoken about developing soft skills and coaching people more. I’m just waiting for action to be done to work towards that goal.

    As for Bob, we’ll see what happens there. He made a pretty big mistake today which may influence his future with the company.

    Thanks again everyone!

    1. Observer*

      Good for you. I’m glad you are doing this. As you say, there is only so much you can control, but even if Jane doesn’t keep it up, you’ll know you’ve done your best. Also, this work will surely improve your own management, as well, so no matter what else happens, it won’t be time wasted.

      I hope Jane knows that Bob is facing consequences for his mistake, as well. It might help her to realize that when she’s being told to cut the yelling, etc. it’s not about allowing mistakes and carelessness, but finding a better way to get the necessary results.

  30. j-nonymous*

    OP – how have you learned of Jane’s (final) written warning? If she’s confided in you about this – that gives you a very different opportunity to offer advice (although you should still tread very, very lightly and maybe just ask if she’d like to hear more about how you handle stressful, angering situations and if she says yes, then tell her your strategies).

    To be honest, though – it sounds like there is a fair bit of dysfunction in your organization if significant mistakes are treated lightly for one person, another person flies off the handle and throws things (!), and a third person is on a final written warning for losing her temper. Are you sure this is an environment in which you want to accept additional responsibility in mid-to-senior management positions?

  31. Mananana*

    OP, just a quick note to compliment you on your graciousness. It can be difficult getting feedback when not all (or much) is positive. But you have been so open to the suggestions and so sincere in your thanks. I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors, and sense that you will be a marvelous performer whatever your position.

    1. The Supreme Troll*

      And OP, I want to second what Mananana said 100%. I do not really have much advice to give in this very delicate situation, but I want to commend you on your very deep thoughtfulness. It shows clearly that you are a very caring person. Wishing you all the best.

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