how upset should I be about a re-hired employee’s quick resignation?

A reader writes:

An employee’s resignation has changed my opinion of her dramatically; I’m not sure if I’m being unfair, and opinions from immediate coworkers are probably affecting my judgment. Can you help me recalibrate my managerial instincts?

An employee on my team, “Ariel,” was originally hired for a different team, working under “Ursula.” Due to Ursula’s micromanagement and pessimistic outlook about the company–complaints everyone else working under Ursula shared–Ariel resigned. Shortly thereafter, Ursula left. At that point, my direct manager (“Eric”) reached out to re-hire Ariel for a vacant spot on my team. I agreed with Eric that Ariel would be a good fit, and encouraged him to go ahead and offer her the job, since they were already chatting about it.

Ariel returned about three months ago. Upon returning to the team, Ariel received a significant raise from her previous salary, while many people who had never left the company received no annual raise this year. (I got about half of Ariel’s raise.)

Last week, Ariel submitted her resignation, giving slightly less than two weeks’ notice. Ariel says she received an opportunity she couldn’t turn down, with a huge raise and a chance to build and lead a team. She hadn’t given me or my manager any indication she was unhappy, aside from one incident where she felt a teammate’s tone was inappropriate for the workplace during a disagreement and reported him to HR. (Ariel received an apology from the person involved. There was no foul language or insults, but he got too heated and understands he was out of line.)

If you don’t count the two months she was gone between resignation and re-hire, Ariel did work here for a year before leaving. If you only count from the re-hire, she job-hopped after 3 months, including two vacations (travel planned before she was re-hired) and a sick leave lasting the better part of two weeks. She is also leaving less than a month before the biggest tradeshow of the year for the chocolate teapot industry–she was spearheading the planning and execution for this show. We are a very small team and will have to spend an extra $20,000 on professional production help for the tradeshow due to Ariel’s departure, because we don’t have enough time to hire and train a replacement, and we are working against ambitious teapot sales goals for the show.

I want to be happy for Ariel’s great new opportunity — an opportunity that I’m sure her work here helped her prepare for. She really does great work and deserves to advance and grow.

But isn’t it awfully unprofessional to accept an offer — with a large raise — and leave not even a full quarter later, leaving your team in the lurch?

How should I feel about this? Should it affect my opinion of her if I’m ever asked for a reference for Ariel? Do you think I made a mistake supporting the re-hire of someone who resigned previously at all?

So, generally I tell people in Ariel’s shoes that they can/should go ahead and do what’s best for them, but they need to know that they’ll probably be burning the bridge in the process, and they need to be okay with that consequence.

You’re that bridge.

In other words, it’s understandable that Ariel would act in her own interests, especially when there’s a huge raise and increase in responsibilities with the new job.

And it’s also understandable that you’d feel like Ariel flaked out on you and left you hanging, and that you wouldn’t hire her again in the future or do more favors for her. That’s the burned bridge.

She might have made the absolute right call for herself, but it’s the kind of thing where I would tell Ariel (if she were the one writing to me), “Realize that this really sucks for them, and they’re understandably not going to be happy with you.”

However, I wouldn’t get hung up on the fact that she hadn’t given any indication that she was unhappy. It’s possible that she was unhappy and was job searching so soon after starting — but it’s also possible that this was something that had been set in motion before she came back to work for you, or that it otherwise fell in her lap in a way she couldn’t have anticipated when she accepted your offer.

I also wouldn’t get too hung up on the fact that it’s a month before the tradeshow and the costs of the extra production help you’ll have to hire. That stuff happens when people leave, and it could have happened even if she’d been there for years. It makes the situation extra difficult, so it’s easy to lump it all into “ways Ariel has wronged us,” but that’s more of an “eh, crap happens.” (But I can see why it makes her actions feel extra cavalier to you.)

Now, as for whether you made a mistake here … it’s hard to say without having more information. Was she a stellar employee during the year she was there in her first stint? Did her strengths warrant the significant raise you gave her to return? Did she give you the sense that she was enthusiastic about returning and committed to staying for at least a few years? If the answers to all those questions are “yes,” then I don’t see that you made a mistake here. But if the answers aren’t unqualified yeses, then yeah, there’s probably room for figuring out what you’d want to do differently next time. (And to be clear, that doesn’t mean “never hire back former employees.” It means things like “don’t take people back just because they’re former employees; really reflect on their talents and likely commitment level” and “if you’re using significant raises to attract people back, make sure they’re warranted within your overall salary structure and justified by the person’s work.” Sometimes people get so glad they’re hiring an already known quantity that they forget to assess things that way.)

And about future references, when it comes to talking about Ariel’s work, you should give her the same reference you would have given before this — but it’s fair game to say, “unfortunately when she came back to us the second time, she left after three months for a different job so most of what I can tell you is from her first stint with us.” You’re saying that not as a veiled “Ariel screwed us over” but as factual context for the rest of the reference.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 241 comments… read them below }

  1. Here we go again*

    As someone who has expressed disappointment at previous jobs and been brushed off, told to “get over it” or told things will change when they never did, I cannot blame her for not saying that she was unhappy.

    Sadly, I’ve realized that once I cross that line into unhappiness, I’m better off looking for opportunities elsewhere.

    1. Allypopx*

      But she wasn’t necessarily unhappy! If she was in a position to accept being rehired there’s a good chance she was job hunting. Hiring processes can take months, maybe one of those old opportunities came to fruition. Maybe she should’ve withdrawn herself from all hiring processes, maybe she forgot one, that’s a different conversation. But if Ariel says an opportunity came up that she couldn’t resist, there’s no reason to not take that at face value.

      To your point, however, yeah expressing unhappiness at a job can be a tricky line to walk, and it’s a risk/reward analysis. It depends on your workplace.

      1. Jaydee*

        It’s also possible that she wasn’t looking for work this time around and was approached by a recruiter or a friend or contact at NewEmployer. She may have been perfectly satisfied with her job at OP’s company now that Ursula is gone, but hen someone approached her with an opportunity that was too good to pass up.

        1. Amber T*

          I think this is most likely. It wasn’t that long ago that she was looking. It’s not super clear on the timeline, but it seems that only a short amount of time past between her leaving the first time and being rehired, and it isn’t clear whether or not she was working between stints, so it would make sense that a contact she had probably reached out to thought she might still be looking. The ability to build and lead a team from scratch is a huge opportunity (and more money is nothing to scoff at either).

      2. shep*

        I left a job (Job1) I enjoyed after three months for exactly this reason: I’d applied for another position (at Job2) around the same time (even earlier, if I remember correctly). Job2’s hiring process was much slower, so I didn’t even get an interview until I was a few weeks into Job1. I really liked Job1, but Job2 was twice the pay and had great benefits, so I couldn’t refuse. I felt really horrible giving my notice to Job1, though.

      3. Fortitude Jones*

        Maybe she should’ve withdrawn herself from all hiring processes, maybe she forgot one, that’s a different conversation. But if Ariel says an opportunity came up that she couldn’t resist, there’s no reason to not take that at face value.

        Yup. There’s no reason to think she’s lying when the reason she left in the first place is gone.

      4. myswtghst*

        All of this! It’s entirely possible she was perfectly happy, but had an opportunity come up she felt she needed to explore – either based on her job hunt 3+ months ago, or based on a recruiter contacting her.

        For reference, around this time last year I started job-hunting. I went through the interview process with 4 companies over the summer before starting my current job in October, but I’ve since received calls as far out as 7 months after my application was submitted from other companies I applied to, and I receive messages on LinkedIn probably once per month from recruiters. I’ve been fortunate, as I’m really happy at my current job and none of those calls/messages were at all tempting, but there were a few places I applied that I’d want to at least consider if they did call me.

        1. Kat M*

          Yeah, I’ve applied for a position with a company and never received a call back about the job (I was qualified, but only just), only to get a call several months later that they were expanding and there were now 15 positions identical to the one for which I’d originally been passed over to fill. Three interviews later and I had myself a job. Funny things like that happen sometimes.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      It’s possible she was unhappy, or perhaps that being out of work was stressful and she was trying to make ends meet when she rejoined… but it’s also ok to leave for a tremendous opportunity that wouldn’t come your way often or if you stayed in your current job waiting for promotion. It sucks that Ariel didn’t give full notice, but I think the other factors are upsetting but not worth dwelling over. As Alison noted, people leave before big events, and it’s part of the “stuff happens” bucket. Similarly, people sometimes leave semi-abruptly, and it sucks.

      But I don’t think leaving after 3 months back on the job (or her pre-planned vacation or sick leave) should be held against her as “job hopping.” Practically speaking she “jumped back” into a different job with the same employer. You can count the break, but focusing on “only 3 months back!” kind of sets you up to be more upset than might be warranted… which isn’t to say OP can’t be upset—they can!—but maybe it would help to cabin the things that are reasonable to be upset about (e.g. sick leave).

      You can be upfront that she left kind of quickly, OP, but don’t focus on her 3-months pre-leaving when providing a reference.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        If I were hiring Ariel in the future, I don’t think the short-hop rehire & leave 3 months later thing would too negative for me if she were a very strong candidate overall. If the reference (the OP) dwelled on that, I would take it with a grain of salt.

        The narrative from Ariel would presumably be that she worked at OP’s company, it was not a great fit with her manager so she left for the less than ideal position, but said manager left soon after & they offered her a new opportunity with better pay/fit, so she took it. Then Opportunity X fell in her lap and she couldn’t say no, or she could even spin it that she made a mistake going back there–they said things had changed and the work would be doing something else, but they hadn’t and it wasn’t. How concerned I would be that my job would be a stop-gap for her would depend on her history after leaving the OP’s company the second time. Did she have a solid number of years somewhere else? That would supersede the short history with the OP.

        1. Tiffin*

          “she could even spin it that she made a mistake going back there–they said things had changed and the work would be doing something else, but they hadn’t and it wasn’t.”

          Well, yeah, she could do that, but if it’s not true, it’s a crappy thing to do, and depending on who knows whom, it could come back to bite her. I’d advise her to stick with honest ways to spin it. (Now, if this happened to be true, it’s fine to say.)

          1. AnotherAlison*

            Agreed, I didn’t intend for Ariel to be dishonest, but there are always scenarios where the OP’s POV would be that the company is doing X and Ariel’s perception Y.

      2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Hmm. I think I disagree with you (and Alison) that leaving after three months shouldn’t “count against” her. For me, it “counts” as a negative in the same way it would if she were a new employee. She made and broke a commitment; we all know when we accept a new job (in most fields), we should be planning on staying at least a full year.

        That doesn’t mean she’s blacklisted, or the worst employee ever, but it is meaningful information that I would add to my databank of Things I Know About Ariel (and would share with future reference checkers, along with the other relevant things I know about her).

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Whether it counts against her or not in a hiring process, I think from an employee’s (Ariel’s) side, things ARE different when you rehire than when you’re starting fresh at a new place. You may barely know the ropes 3 months in at a new place. . .you’re learning the systems, getting to know coworkers, building a relationship with your manager. As a rehire, you are more likely to hit the ground running, so you may be able to see that you made a mistake in your decision to take the job sooner and may be less likely to want to “make it work” than you would as a new hire. I also think that Ariel may see it as 15 months there, not 3 months there, when deciding whether to stay or go.

          1. Loose Seal*

            Especially since the work she was doing since re-hired must have necessitated hiring another professional at $20K to finish! That’s not the kind of work you’d probably have a brand-new employee solely in charge of (sure, in some fields, I guess, but here the OP seems shocked by the expenditure so I’m assuming their employees don’t deal with ginormous figure accounts).

            So, yes it does sound like the company was benefitting from Ariel’s 15-month stint, not the 3-month one. So the reference should reflect that, I think.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I guess I don’t think coming back is the equivalent of being a new employee? I’m not saying Ariel has not burned a bridge or that that cannot upset OP—both things can (and probably are) true.

          But I don’t think it’s quite right to “reset” the clock when someone is recruited back after a relatively brief (< 6 mos.) pause and then ding them for doing things like getting sick and taking sick leave or going on a previously planned vacation. To be sure, Ariel left after a pretty brief turnaround under either metric—perhaps this isn't the case for OP's industry, but just around one year's employment is not a long time. That said, I think there's a material difference between a fully new employee quitting after the first 3 months and an employee who leaves within the first year with a break (related to having a toxic boss!) in between.

        3. Mike C.*

          we all know when we accept a new job (in most fields), we should be planning on staying at least a full year.

          Uh, I disagree here, especially in cases where someone comes along and offers a massive promotion elsewhere.

          1. Insert name here*

            Right, I know for me I plan on sticking around generally speaking, but your new employer won’t feel bad if they have to let you go because it’s been less than a year, so neither should the employee feel bad if they get an opportunity after less than a year. At will works both ways.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Can we get rid of the idea that employers “won’t feel bad” about this? For many managers, it’s gut-wrenching to have to fire or lay someone off. Doesn’t mean they won’t do it — they need to if they’re going to do their jobs — but it grates when I see people talking about it like the managers who do this are totally callous about it. Some are, of course, but plenty are incredibly upset about it.

              Your larger point — that employers do what’s best for them and so should employees — is one I cosign.

              1. Allypopx*

                Thank you, Alison. I for one find that super hard to see pop up here so often, but it doesn’t seem relevant to bring that up constantly. Your word from on high is appreciated.

              2. Taylor Swift*

                Your supervisor might feel awful about having to lay you off, but not the company itself. (And corporations are people these days.)

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I don’t really know what that means. When the leadership of the organization feels terrible about it, I don’t think there’s a meaningful difference between them and the “the company” in that regard.

                2. Taylor Swift*

                  It means that the feelings of guilt and responsibility are not going to be nearly as concentrated one way as they are the other.

                3. Insert name here*

                  Yeah, that’s exactly what I meant. I know my manager was bummed out about it when I got laid off last month. I could see it in his face. But my director (his boss) seemed pretty nonplussed about the whole thing, and the people at the top that made the decisions about who got cut (seemed pretty arbitrary as the people I spoke with have all consistently had good performance reviews and did their jobs well) don’t know any of us from adam and certainly don’t care about us. And that’s fine, it’s not their job to do so, but that also means if I have a better opportunity that comes up like in the OP I’m not going to feel bad about doing what’s right for me, even if it does mean I burned that bridge, because the company wouldn’t think twice about doing the same thing to me.

              3. Mike C.*

                It’s certainly gut wrenching for the managers on the ground, but for large owners and CEOs making this decision it never seems like a big deal. Worse are institutional/activist shareholders publicly calling for cuts in labor costs all the time and there’s absolutely no expression of sadness or regret. I see this in the Wall Street Journal and similar business publications on a regular basis.

                So while the idea that “employers don’t seem to care” is a too blunt of a statement to make, in larger companies there is a very real distance between the decision makers and those who have been decided upon.

          2. Anonymous Educator*

            Is that disagreement? You are still planning on staying, but plans change and unexpected things occur to interrupt plans. Very few people accept a job planning to leave within a few months (it happens, but it’s rare to plan for that).

        4. CatCat*

          Was she at-will or did she have a contract? I’m not clear on what “commitment” she broke? Definitely if she had a contract, this would be a lot more serious to me.

          Otherwise, if she was at-will… ehhhh… unless she is a chronic job hopper, I can’t say I’d be too concerned. By not offering an employment contract for a term of a year or at least through the big event, the employer took the gamble that the employee would not stay a year or for the big event (and the employee takes the gamble that they could be let go in less than a year). Usually these gambles pay off, but not always.

          1. Anonymous Educator*

            It’s not a legal commitment but a social one. Just as an employer can legally offer you a job, have you sign all the paperwork, and then rescind the job offer for no good reason (as long as it has nothing to do with you being in a protected class), but that’s still breaking a social commitment.

            1. CatCat*

              But why do I should I care about whether a potential employee breaks their social commitments?

              I mean, I just don’t care *unless* there is a pattern relevant to work (like if they had a string of three month stints, I would be concerned). Here, the employee has one short stint with a reasonable explanation for departure.

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                If you were asked to recommend an employer who had once offered you an internal promotion/transfer and rescinded at the last minute, would that be relevant?

                It isn’t illegal, but the burned employee is going to be irate about it.

                1. Dan*

                  And the response there is “that’s life”. It’s the same response here.

                  In OP’s case, decisions were made and some people are unhappy about it. That’s part of life.

                  I strongly believe that if a company wants you to truly commit to them for a period of time, they owe you the same in return… and that’s called an employment contract. In the US, I’m very aware that they are uncommon, but if a true commitment is desired, it’s then a two-way street in the form of a legally binding contract.

                2. Zombii*

                  @Dan >>In the US, I’m very aware that they are uncommon, but if a true commitment is desired, it’s then a two-way street in the form of a legally binding contract.

                  I agree with you in the same way I agree low-paying jobs need to commit to paying at least a living wage (not minimum wage) to their employees if they want more than minimum effort: it’s overall a good strategy, but that’s just not how employment works in the States.

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Well, you care because it’s data about how you might expect them to operate with you. (But I agree a single instance isn’t a big deal.)

              3. Anonymous Educator*

                I’m not saying you should care about a single incident. I agree that patterns are more concerning than single incidents. I was addressing what you said earlier:
                Was she at-will or did she have a contract? I’m not clear on what “commitment” she broke?

                If it were a pattern instead of a single incident, it would still have nothing to do with legality and everything to do with social commitments… just commitments plural instead of commitment singular.

            2. Dan*

              Yes, and that’s a social commitment that gets broken with no penalty when the employer does it.

              1. Anonymous Educator*

                I wouldn’t say that. I would say the employer suffers a penalty but usually not to the same degree. Sometimes word gets around that certain employers stink, and that turns off good candidates from applying or from accepting job offers.

                1. Taylor Swift*

                  There’s certainly a power imbalance between employers (companies and organizations, not individual supervisors and the like) and employees. It’s fair to point that out.

            3. Jean Jacques*

              I am extremely skeptical of “social commitments” when it comes to employer-employee relations. (Rousseau is great for political theorists; for teapots, not so much.) The social contract doesn’t get you promotions, and it doesn’t help you when the company does layoffs with little notice.

              1. Zombii*

                The social contract absolutely gets you promotions; god knows talent and skill aren’t enough.

        5. Suzannah*

          But .. she’s not a new employee. She came back, and they obviously wanted her back and value her, or they would not have given her a raise. OP seems upset that her raise was so big, that she took vacation and sick leave and then left before a big event… all of which would be understandable if, in fact, she had started at the company just a few months previous. This is like longer-term employment with a brief sabbatical (and OP agrees that her previous manager was unbearable). This sounds sort of jealous and resentful of the inconvenience – and look, that’s human and understandable! But not really fair. Was she supposed to turn down a great opportunity just because she had recently returned to a place where the manager was so awful she had to quit?

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I am seeing two human beings here.
            I think OP is allowed to feel whatever feelings but I think OP could chose to land on, “She did great work, but she left abruptly and we were stuck.” A mixed bag of an answer. Just as there are no perfect employers, no employee is perfect, either. Each employee offers something that is unique to them, so there is that.

            OTH, the employee could have had a once in a lifetime opportunity and was still up late nights with guilt/worry over leaving OP’s place. We don’t know. We can hope that Employee put a lot of thought into what she was doing and she has not been acting on impulses.

            This looks like one of those times in life where larger things are at play here and for the short run it looks like Employee made some terrible choices. I’d like to encourage you, OP, that this may look differently in a little bit.

    3. Curiosity Killed The Employee*

      I so agree! My most recent job I left has a policy of basically leaving the door open for a year for employees who left to return. Two people did that during the time I was there, we went on without filling the positions for a year and then they decided to come back. So when I left, people kept saying ‘We know you’ll be back!’

      But I definitely won’t. I left for a reason and even if the job I left for didn’t work out, I’d rather pick up the search again and live off my savings for a time than go back. I was so miserable there in the old job that I would have to be truly desperate to return.

      The hardest thing I know will be if I need to use them as references. I know they’ll be good references for me but I worry any request for them will come with ‘Why don’t you come back here? There’s always a place for you in the office!’

      1. Not So NewReader*

        If they get called for a reference for you, you will probably have some Great New Job on the line. So you can say, “Thanks for the offer, let me think about it. Right now though I am talking with someone else and I would like to follow that conversation through to a conclusion.”

        Overall idea: Thank them. Say you will think about it. Redirect to your current application and your obligations to following up with this other employer.

      2. CM*

        I have that situation and I handle it by saying, “Thanks, that’s nice to hear,” and leaving it there. Or if it’s less “you’re always welcome here” and more “you should come back” you could say, “I don’t think it’s the right thing for me at this point,” or, “I’m looking for something more like ___.”

  2. Roscoe*

    I don’t think you should be upset at her for doing what is in her best interest. It doesn’t even sound like she was unhappy, just something that she couldn’t pass up. It does sound like you are taking this a bit more personally than you should. She didn’t “screw you over” or anything, she put in notice (Granted a little less than you would have liked) and did what was better for her. You shouldn’t punish someone for wanting to advance her career, which is what you’d be doing by giving her a bad reference. I think some managers expect an unrealistic level of loyalty from their employees.

    1. Amber T*

      I think you hit the nail on the head here with the unrealistic level of loyalty. And I’m not saying OP had any control over this situation, but it seems acknowledged that Ursula was a poor manager. If there were multiple complaints about a manager, to the point where one good employee quit, why wasn’t upper management listening? (Assuming “Ursula left” means on her own accord, and wasn’t fired or asked to resign.) If that’s the case, it might be a fair assumption that Ariel didn’t have much faith or trust in upper management, in which case, why would/should she be loyal?

  3. Person of Interest*

    It sounds like Eric and the OP rehired Ariel without any kind of formal interview, which might have been a chance to dig into her motivation for returning, and possibly raise any red flags about whether she might flake.

    1. AMPG*

      In their defense, though, it sounds like they thought they had a good understanding of the problem – an ineffective manager – and that eliminating that problem would convince her to commit. I can understand thinking that they had the whole story.

      1. hbc*

        Given that the ineffective, toxic manager got to leave on her own schedule, I wonder if the problems are deeper and Ariel realized it wasn’t just about Ursula. She may have also taken the incident with the coworker as just one more instance of being treated badly at the company.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          True–if one person tap dances across the office wearing a flashing neon hat that says “I AM A PROBLEM” it can be easy to blame them for all unhappiness. When there are deeper problems that aren’t as flashy.

          1. Candi*

            I am laughing so hard at this image.

            But you’re right. Replacing various problem employees doesn’t do squat if the toxin is coming from up river.

            In the letter’s situation, I think the LW feels more put upon because they ‘took her back’, and then she left again -after all this cool stuff was ‘done for her’ and ‘leaving them in the lurch’ on this big event.

            In media, the Bad Person does that kind of thing just be a jerk.

            But life, especially when viewed through a more objective lens, is far more complex.

  4. AmyH*

    Employers can get rid of employees whenever they want and don’t particularly care about leaving individuals in a lurch. Always act in your own best interest.

    1. NJ Anon*

      So much this. I have seen too many people get screwed over by employers that, unfortunately I don’t have much sympathy.

    2. AnonEMoose*

      This is where I land, too. While I empathize with OP on this – the part about the show is, I’m sure, making the whole thing way more stressful than it might have otherwise been – it’s still true that if it were in the company’s best interest, Ariel could have been out of a job with even less notice than she gave.

      Maybe she was unhappy, but I don’t think that can be assumed. It could be that this opportunity really did just drop into her lap, and was too good to pass up. I think I’d try to give Ariel the benefit of the doubt on that one, although, again, the OP’s feelings are entirely understandable.

      (And, maybe it’s just me, but I’m reading a bit of resentment about Ariel even before the leaving – the comment about her getting a big raise and OP getting about half Ariel’s raise, in particular. Like I said, might just be me, though.)

      But again, companies (in the aggregate) don’t really get to treat employees like they’re disposable, and then turn around and indulge in hand-wringing because “there’s no loyalty anymore.” Unfortunately, this means that some companies that treat their employees well do get lumped in, but how do employees really know?

      Ariel acted in her own best interest, and went with sounds like an amazing opportunity.

      1. Roscoe*

        Yeah, I got a sense of resentment from it as well. Even bringing up the fact that she was on leave twice, although one was approved and one was due to health reasons.

        1. k*

          I was wondering about these as well. Ariel left before because of a bad boss. I wonder if she was feeling some of this resentment and bad vibes from the team when she was rehired? If that’s the case, it’s one more reason she wouldn’t have a lot of loyalty to the company.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Eh, I got resentment, but in the sense that little things you would shrug at for an average relationship and not even notice in a good one suddenly become One More Example once the relationship goes south.

        I don’t think they should matter–sick leave is there to be used; pay and vacation time were negotiated when she agreed to come back–but I can empathize with OP currently putting them in the ‘we bent over to accommodate her’ bucket of emotions.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          And this happens, too. Employers throw everything they got to a good candidate in the hopes of retaining this person for a period of time. And then Good Candidate moves on shortly after starting.

          Retaining employees is a competitive thing. Not everyone likes to think about the competitor offering their Best Employee more money/bigger title/whatever. In some companies this is just a fact of life, smaller companies who cannot pay premium salaries are going to have people move on. It’s disappointing to see that happening in one’s own company. OP, you could move on also. You don’t have to stay at this company. From what I have seen it’s situations like this that often remind people they could move on, also, if they chose. Matter of fact, some of the UNhappiest employees I have met are ones who sincerely believe there is nothing else out there for them.

      3. Jadelyn*

        But again, companies (in the aggregate) don’t really get to treat employees like they’re disposable, and then turn around and indulge in hand-wringing because “there’s no loyalty anymore.”

        Can I freaking tattoo this on the insides of the eyelids of every jerk who writes a thinkpiece in a business magazine or business blog about how Millennials are frivolous job-hoppers who will flit away from you at the merest promise of greener pastures elsewhere? Like, maybe the fact that we grew up with major business scandals that got thousands of people laid off at once, came of age in the great recession, and have watched employers get more and more callous about how they treat their employees has had an effect on our sense of attachment to a given employer! Why should your employees be loyal to you when they have no assurance that you’d reward that loyalty with reciprocal consideration?

        1. AwkwardKaterpillar*

          Exactly. If I get a promise from you that you will do A, B, C, and D and I will have job security for X amount of time – maybe an look at committing to a certain about of time in a job. Otherwise – I am not going to extend more ‘loyalty’ to a company than they will extend to me.

        2. Dan*

          If you want commitment, you owe it to me in return… in the form of an employment contract. Now *that* is commitment.

        3. Bait and Switchee*

          Very, very well said.

          Fresh out of law school, I was hired by a Really Big Name law firm to work in a specific city — call it Office X. I didn’t participate in on-campus recruiting with other employers because of that offer. Immediately after recruiting season ended, they informed me that being based in Office X “would not be possible,” but I could chose between Offices Y and Z instead (neither of which interested me). Just over two years later, I left for a competitor that offered me a position in my desired location. To this day, I’m lukewarm on throwing business to or recommending Really Big Name firm.

          (And as an aside – I acknowledge I didn’t handle that situation well. In retrospect, I should have made more noise about this bait-and-switch tactic and gotten the dean’s office involved. I was I had AAM to ask for advice back then!)

        4. DArcy*

          It’s not just “no assurance”. Millennials are constantly told — in the most sneering, condescending, and belittling manner possible — that loyalty from our employers is an ‘entitlement’ which we have no right to expect.

          1. Insert name here*

            But then we are derided for being job hoppers, so it becomes a catch-22, which is why I look out for myself.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            And yet just a few generations ago it was a norm. You got one job and kept it for your whole life. I guess some employers forgot this.

            1. Zombii*

              No, they remember. They remember how loyal employees used to be, staying at one job forever and being so reliable and doing quality work, not hopping from company to company without giving notice (of course that had nothing to do with qualifying for retirement, other benefits, a reasonable salary—it was just SHEER LOYALTY because that’s how humans work, right?).

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I didn’t read it as resentment, but more like an implied fairness argument. That is: “If you came back and took a large raise at a place where you know people don’t get large raises, shouldn’t you know you’re expected to commit to [unspecified length of time] before leaving?” I read it as OP explaining why they feel Ariel’s actions were unfair to the Old Employer.

        I will say that I don’t agree with that line of argumentation. You pay people the amount at which you value their labor for your company. If Eric thought a raise was necessary to recruiting Ariel back, then that’s part of that negotiation and should not bear on any future commitments or obligations with respect to length of tenure. Ariel doesn’t have any special responsibility in exchange for that raise, other than to do her job competently and well (i.e., she doesn’t owe Old Employer a debt of gratitude for rehiring her after an extremely toxic boss led her to quit). But I can see how a person who is already feeling burned would feel like this is another stone in the “unfairness” and “ungratefulness” bucket.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Money has strings.
          You know how they say never borrow money from a friend or relative? There always seems to be those unspoken strings. My aunt wanted to loan me money for good tires when I was 19. I knew that meant I would be cleaning her house from ceiling to floor every Saturday. She never said that part about cleaning out loud, but I knew her well enough to know that was where she was going with the deal.
          I said no thanks.

          IF the employer expected a long(ish) term commitment in exchange for a higher pay rate then that should have been mentioned and put in writing.

          I can agree that Ariel should not be expected to know by ESP that more was expected from her.
          I can also see any employee who was aware of the amount of money being tossed Ariel’s way would say, “What am I, chopped liver?” That is a pretty normal human thought to have. To me it is cue for that employee to start looking around also. Sometimes people remind us of what we ourselves should be doing. This can be annoying at first.

        2. CM*

          I agree about the raise part. I don’t think it’s a good practice for companies to hire new people at salaries above current employees who are doing the same work. But that’s the company’s problem, not Ariel’s.

        3. Zombii*

          I question whether it was really a raise. The OP said it was a raise over Ariel’s previous salary, and some employees didn’t get raises at all—but she also said Ariel was hired into a new role, and doesn’t say whether the salary for the new role was typical of that role or more than they were paying other people in that role.

          (Questioning how the OP is framing this because there is some context missing here.)

    3. Anon Accountant*

      This is always what I think too. Sorry OP. I always believe in wrapping up projects, resign with as much notice as possible but act in your best interests.

      Best wishes for an awesome new hire!

    4. Collie*

      This is such an important reminder that I still need to integrate into my world view.

    5. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Yes, employers can do that and suffer the consequences (top talent doesn’t want to work there; current employees are always on the lookout for something else because they know their role isn’t secure). Likewise, employees can do this and suffer the consequences (burned bridges, less-than-glowing references, etc.).

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        The power dynamic isn’t really equivalent, though. (Although I agree with you re: the consequences, although I think those consequences are often less dire and less frequent for employers in industries and regions where there is a lack of employment opportunities and choice among workers.)

      2. H.C.*

        Agree here that it’s not an exactly consequent-free when employers do layoffs too; my friend enjoyed working at Yahoo! during its heyday a while ago and is definitely a top performer, but saw the writing on the wall and resigned well before the layoffs came for his department.

    6. K.*

      Co-sign. No one is going to look out for your best interests but you. It sounds to me like this may have been in the works after she left the first time and just came to fruition at the 3-month mark – but even if she was looking, it’s good to do things that benefit you and this sounds like a great opportunity for her. If she were my friend I’d have told her to take the job.

    7. LoiraSafada*

      Yep. I was laid off without cause with no advanced notice immediately after winning over a million dollars in new business. My interests and livelihood come first after that. Always. I honestly think that employers that are surprised by this kind of thing are sort of clueless and naive.

      1. Dan*

        My last employer had three rounds of layoffs in 2013. They came without warning, and with little rhyme or reason as to who was picked. Severance sucked — two weeks pay. I got mine right after sequestration, where they were forcing everybody to use some PTO. So yeah, I was forced to burn two days to help make the books balance, and then wham, my layoff notice.

        People started quitting in droves, and my friends that were still left said management seemed very surprised that the people they wanted to keep kept quitting.

        Folks, there are ways to do layoffs in a dignified manner. How you do them sends messages back to your remaining staff, and if you intend on keeping them, how you treat the departing employees matter. For one thing, my current employer will give you one month of notice OR one month of pay, *and then* give you at least one month of severance on top of that.

        1. Insert name here*

          Yeah my former employer actually has a really generous severance policy. I can’t at all complain about that.

    8. Anonymous 40*

      As someone who was once laid off seven weeks into a job and a week shy of being eligible for health insurance, I agree completely.

  5. Kimberly R*

    I don’t think Ariel did much wrong except that she left after 3 months (with significant time off during those 3 months) after being hired the second time. For that alone, I do think she deserves some of what OP is feeling. I like the script that Alison gave for the reference. You don’t want to screw Ariel over but you can give factual information that the new hiring managers can use as they wish. It may or may not stop her from getting a job but it lets them know that she does have this work history.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I don’t think it’s fair to blame her for having “significant time off,” though. lart of that was sick leave (theoretically unforeseeable), and the rest was a pre-planned vacation that required travel and that OP knew about during rehiring.

      It’s ok to be miffed, but I worry That I that OP is bootstrapping unrelated issues together to justify the magnitude of their frustration/upset.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        Agreed, but it’s good to know about that to help understand why OP is upset. There’s always so much speculation, it is good to get more details.

        And, to be fair, I’d have a hard time NOT putting everything together to equal “why I’m upset with Ariel” too.

        I just hope Ariel was extra kind turning in her resignation (appreciative of the second opportunity and getting to keep her vacations after returning). That can really make or break the OP’s opinion.

      2. CM*

        It sounds like Ariel was gone for 1 out of 3 months and then quit with less than 2 weeks’ notice. I can see how in the OP’s mind it adds up to “not committed to this job” and I think that’s a reasonable interpretation. Of course, it’s equally possible that Ariel didn’t intend to leave the company in the lurch.

    2. BeautifulVoid*

      As has been said many times, here and elsewhere, everyone’s entitled to how they feel about things – it’s what they DO with those feelings that matters. So yeah, I can understand why OP isn’t filled with warm fuzzies regarding Ariel at this moment, but I also don’t think Ariel really did anything wrong. (Assuming, of course, that she understands this bridge is pretty much burned, as Alison says.) If she was an otherwise good employee, I don’t think it’s right to give a less positive reference for her.

      That said…if Ariel turns around and applies for a job with OP’s company AGAIN, I wouldn’t really hold it against the OP if he responded with the professional equivalent of “lolnope”.

  6. AnotherAlison*

    I agree with Alison’s assessment. Bridge burned, but probably the best move for Ariel, and maybe not enough due diligence by the OP and Eric on the rehire.

    One thing that bothered me was that the OP said there was no indication that Ariel was unhappy, but there was just the one minor incident with a coworker’s inappropriate “tone.” This happened within 3 months back on the job where she previously worked for a crappy manager. Everyone under Ursula was unhappy, but Ursula left, so it sounds like the company didn’t do anything about Ursula’s poor performance. If I was Ariel, I think the mouthy coworker would have been a red flag that this place hasn’t really changed. Sure, HR did something in that case, but the culture still existed where coworkers do not treat each other well. My frame of reference is that in 17 years of my professional career I have never had to go to HR about anyone’s behavior. She had to do it in 3 months! I would be running for the hills.

    1. Parenthetically*

      “If I was Ariel, I think the mouthy coworker would have been a red flag that this place hasn’t really changed.”

      I’m curious about this too — OP, what was done about Ursula?

    2. EddieSherbert*

      So I actually took that as Ariel overreacting, and a sign that she might be not really be a great candidate (for the callback without interviewing and a big raise). In my mind, a one time confrontation with a coworker (that didn’t involve swearing or insults) to me sounds like something you might address with them briefly afterwards, but not a big enough deal for HR.

      Obviously we don’t have the details of what happened, so it’s likely you assumed something major and I assumed something minor :)

      1. Parenthetically*

        Oh interesting! I love how people have totally different takes on things! :)

      2. Dinosaur*

        I read it this way too, but I think AnotherAlison makes a good point. Whether or not it’s hypervilgance on Ariel’s part, something was causing friction right out of the gate after the rehire. I’d possibly look at whether or not the company effectively dealt with Ursula’s impact on cultural norms.

      3. AnotherAlison*

        I agree that Ariel might be overreacting compared to how I would have handled the coworker incident, but I think that even if she was overreacting, it still indicates it is not the right work environment for Ariel.

      4. Roscoe*

        Yeah, that was my thought too. Maybe since she was conditioned with the bad boss before, she took a kind of small thing and went to HR about it. A bit of an overreaction considering there was no swearing or insults, just a “tone”she didn’t like

      5. Kate*

        It sounds like OP feels Ariel was justified in going to HR though, and since OP is a little miffed with Ariel right now, if there were even the slightest chance she wasn’t justified in going to HR, I would think OP would be adding that to the problems Ariel has caused for OP and her company. So for OP to side with Ariel on this one tells me that it was a big deal.

        For me, no swearing or insults means the coworker didn’t call Ariel an “idiot” or say to her “f u”, but does that mean that they didn’t also say “anyone who thinks this is a good idea is an idiot” or “that suggestion is f ing stupid”?

        Even if coworker didn’t say anything, I am picturing this “heated” discussion involving coworker screaming at Ariel, maybe standing too close to her, maybe refusing to stop arguing and cool down.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think there are a lot of assumptions there though, and there’s a wide range of things it could be (but ultimately it doesn’t matter to the answer).

      6. AnonEMoose*

        A question that might be worth asking yourself: If “Ariel” were “Alan,” would “she was overreacting” have been your first thought?

        Because, having re-read that paragraph in the OP, it doesn’t sound like the OP, the company’s HR, or even the coworker involved, necessarily think that Ariel overreacted in that situation. The OP doesn’t sound like it, and the OP says that the coworker agreed that he got “too heated.” So, to me, it sounds like, if anyone overreacted, it was the coworker, not Ariel.

      7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I took it the opposite way? Based on the discipline and OP’s assessment of the incident, it sounds like escalation could have been reasonable, not a sign of “overreacting.”

      8. WritingItAllDown*

        a one time confrontation with a coworker (that didn’t involve swearing or insults) to me sounds like something you might address with them briefly afterwards

        That *really* depends on what was actually said… says the person who was going to ask at the next “ask the commentariat” how long one documents speech before going to HR. Especially as the definition of insult is subjective.

        For an illustration (not real, but extremely close):
        “Oh, these scratches are from catching a wild kitten. I’m going to take it to the vet.”
        “Just kill it!”
        “I hate cats.”
        “I can’t believe you said that to me knowing I just spent time trying to help a kitten. I feel strongly about helping cats.”
        “I’m allowed feelings too! Wild cats carry diseases and they kill birds!”

        No swearing. No insults. Yet very upsetting for the kitten-catcher, whose attempt to address the issue was shut down in a manner equally as upsetting as the original outburst.

        In the case above, HR seems to have sided with Ariel, which suggests to me that simply saying “well, the coworker didn’t swear!” underplays something serious.

        1. Manders*

          This reminds me of the discussion in the thread about 20-somethings and complaints. Sometimes it’s not easy to figure out when an awkward interaction crosses the line from “weird but not worth addressing” to “needs to be reported to HR.”

          Given Ariel’s previous experience with a lousy manager at this company, it’s also possible that she got into the mindset of reporting every little thing to HR because she’s seen what happens when employees don’t complain repeatedly about a problem.

        2. Candi*

          We’re also missing the context of the event as well as the specific words and body language used. Those mean a lot. You do not need to swear to scare or infuriate someone.

      9. Sally Sue*

        I think if that had been the only incident that Ariel had faced during her time at the company, I’d agree that she overreacted.

        However, she had worked there previously for a horrible manager who had multiple complaints about her and still the company did nothing to Ursula. If I had been in Ariel’s shoes, I’d go to HR about the incident with the coworker because in my mind, it would appear the toxic workplace hadn’t changed despite Ursula leaving of her own accord.

        1. Anna*

          I think you may have nailed it. Ursula left of her own accord, which means the culture that allowed Ursula to flourish hasn’t changed, only that one person left.

      10. JamieS*

        I didn’t read it as being a minor confrontation because OP didn’t seem to disagree with Ariel going to HR. I also don’t consider the presence, or lack thereof, of curse words and insults to be indicative of how heated a confrontation was although I think a lot of people do.

    3. neverjaunty*

      This. OP, consider that you are looking in the wrong place – why did Ariel leave the first time? Because of a toxic manager about whom nothing was done. That generally does not happen in an otherwise great workplace, and throwing money at people doesn’t paper that over.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        This is so true. Before I quit ToxicJob, I received a stupidly large raise (above average for the company, and valued at around 25% of my pre-raise salary), and I’m pretty sure it was to try to retain me. I quit two months later, and I had no regrets.

      2. Manders*

        Good point. It also sounds like there may be an issue here with employees falling behind market rate due to the weird raise structure. It’s true that otherwise good workplaces sometimes struggle to give employees the raises they deserve, but it sounds like Ariel weighed her options and decided that there were good reasons to burn this particular bridge.

    4. Liz T*

      Agreed! Ariel’s still working someplace where pessimistic micromanagers alienate emplyees unchecked, and raises are hard to come by.

  7. Persephone Mulberry*

    Upon returning to the team, Ariel received a significant raise from her previous salary, while many people who had never left the company received no annual raise this year. (I got about half of Ariel’s raise.)

    Was the salary she was offered in line with market rates for the new position? If so, then the size of the raise or whether anyone else in the company received a raise is irrelevant.

    1. Allypopx*

      And if the company was able to rehire at that salary, and if she’s doing similar work, maybe the raises of her teammates should have been given more thought.

      1. CatCat*

        Yeah… anyone at the company who catches wind of this and sees that you can quit and then be rehired at a much higher pay may be looking to do exactly the same thing.

    2. motherofdragons*

      Right. And it’s technically not a “raise” for her if she was coming into a new position. It’s unfair to compare a starting salary for a position (assuming it’s aligned with market rates, as you said) with raises for existing employees. And if Ariel’s new salary is NOT in line with the market, then that’s not Ariel’s problem!

    3. Mike C.*

      I’d also like to point out that if this employer handed out raises more often they wouldn’t have to worry about people leaving for more money as often.

  8. CBH*

    It sounds like Ariel already had something in the works (or at least thinking about it) when she was rehired. I don’t think technically she screwed you over, but she definitely burned a bridge. I would think that if she was being hired without a formal interview, she was friendly enough with the hiring manager to explain the situation before she resigned employment paperwork. I would be cautious with Ariel for future business dealings; just give factual info if ever asked for a reference/ opinion.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      But she also could have been head-hunted, or it could have been a prior application that went through way after she’d forgotten about it. I only raise this because I’ve been head-hunted out of the blue, and although I have not yet quit a job to jump, there are lots of non-sinister, non-sneaky explanations for dream jobs crossing a person’s desk.

      1. CBH*

        PCBH I agree with what you are saying 100%. However I believe that since she accepted the rehired position she made a commitment to the company, she needed to think about how it would look career wise with that commitment already in place.

        Ariel’s new position might be an exciting opportunity for her (and I’m not saying she shouldn’t take it) but I feel like she needs to consider outside factors/ the whole picture – for example will she be looked at as a job hopper? will she be viewed as someone not committed after the company brought her back on at a great expense? Is she ever going to need need something from the rehire company in the future (if not a job reference, maybe a grad school reference? someone to bounce ideas off of?) ? Is there a chance she/ new opportunity will be doing business with the rehire company?

        I just feel like what looked good opportunity for her, she may have jumped before looking. With all the trouble that rehire company went through to bring her back, I feel like she should have discussed with her manager the situation. So PCBH I do agree with you 100+%; head hunters and old applications can open a lot of previously locked doors; I am just trying to look at things from a different angle. To be honest I would have considered the new opportunity (not sure if I would have taken it) but I think I would have handled it a little different.

        1. Mike C.*

          I completely disagree with this unspoken “commitment” stuff. The company certainly didn’t make a commitment to her, and could have laid her off at any time.

          If an employer wants a real commitment, they can present a contract.

          1. CBH*

            Agree, point taken. I was looking at things as to how I would view the situation if it happened to me. You are right, if the company wanted a commitment they could have had a contract. In my current field unless you are president or some very high up position, it would be unheard of to offer a contract (I am in the US). I have a great mentoree position with my boss who recently went to bat for me on some professional career goals. I value my position and would do what I can to build the trust and reputation needed to advance within the company. But I do agree with you that if the employer wants a real commitment they can present a contract

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I think it’s totally fair that an employer might feel burned (or like a bridge was burned), but I’m mostly pushing back at people insinuating or implying that Ariel had evil or duplicitous intent when she said “yes” to the rehire package.

              1. Mira*

                Thank you. I’m wondering just how many of the people who are implying Ariel did something dishonourable by taking up what sounds like a dream job, would pass up such an opportunity themselves, if it came their way, just in the name of loyalty to your employer!

                A huge bump in salary, a promotion, AND lots more control over your work is NOT something any sane person would say no to, and they shouldn’t be expected to say no to it either!

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I haven’t submitted a job application in 9 months and I got an email last week from someone I did submit to when I was searching last summer asking me to set up an interview. I declined because I’m happy where I am, but if Ariel was looking when she was re-hired, it’s entirely possible something similar happened to her.

  9. Sassy AE*

    From Ariel’s point of view she had just left a terrible boss, got coaxed back under the assurances Ursula was gone, then almost immediately had to report someone to HR for “getting out of line.” I think Ariel probably decided to take this opportunity as a sign from above to just wash her hands from your organization.

    1. Anna*

      Excellent point. I wouldn’t even go so far as Alison’s suggestion that Ariel left the OP in the lurch. How about it just wasn’t a good match the second time around, lesson learned on both sides, no hard feelings?

    2. medium of ballpoint*

      Agreed. It sounds like maybe Ursula wasn’t a one-off and that may have soured Ariel’s opinion of the company and made it easier to jump ship.

    3. Tiffin*

      It’s possible that my viewpoint is skewed because of a previous toxic environment and some known problems in my current one, but one conversation in which someone had a bad “tone” /heated but not insulting or vulgar wording doesn’t seem like an indicator that things were that bad. That doesn’t mean Ariel shouldn’t have done what was best for her; I just feel like people are making it out to be a bigger deal than it seems to be to me.

      1. Tiffin*

        To clarify, I’m not saying that things weren’t crappy when Ursula was there. It is also possible that things were still crappy. We just don’t know for sure.

    4. mf*

      On top of that, this is an organization that apparently gives crappy raises. Even though Ariel got a big raise this year, chances are she might not get a decent raise next year. If I were her, I’d definitely take that into consideration while deciding how long I’d stay at this company.

    5. CM*

      Good point; my initial quick read was that the HR incident had happened during her first stint with the company. But you’re right, she left because of issues with a toxic coworker, and in the short time she was there, there was another issue. That could explain why she wasn’t apologetic about leaving and didn’t give much notice.

      1. Wheezy Weasel*

        I’d feel the same. It’s like a relationship where the other person asks you to come back: your tolerance for foolishness following the take-back is pretty low :) Of course, work is different, but if I was being courted by another company, I could see framing the HR incident in my mind as ‘these people haven’t changed’, rightly or wrongly.

  10. Jay R*

    I am on the side of “do what’s best for you” in general, but wanted to add some context for OP or anyone else to consider. In a lot of cases, it’s getting really hard to move up in a company. Some times there’s little/no option if you’ve got a company that’s flattened out management a bit. Other times it’s just a numbers game based on the number of people on a team and where you fit in the pecking order. Regardless, more and more people are finding it’s much faster and easier to move up by moving out (or make a lateral move with better pay/benefits/etc). This varies a lot by industry, but seems to be less and less varied as time goes on. So if someone is ambitious to grow their career or they are just in a situation where they need more money, these are the kinds of moves that are often necessary.

    1. Jadelyn*

      That’s a really good point. I’m actually pretty well-positioned since the Sr. Generalist is about 8 years from retirement and the HR Manager is about 5 years, and we’ve talked about me as part of an informal HR succession planning, but I run our exit survey and I’ve seen a LOT of times where people leaving cited lack of opportunity to move up as a big motivator for their decision to go. If you’ve got a Branch Manager, an Asst Branch Mgr, and 6 MSRs, and the BM/ABM are both in their 30s or 40s, unless the BM or ABM leaves the organization those MSRs would have to wait 20+ years for an opportunity to move straight upward, and then would be competing against 5 other people over it. Easier to search for management jobs that are already open and try to move up that way.

    2. Former Retail Manager*

      100% Agreed. The folks I’ve known that work in private enterprise (I am Govt) or for smaller organizations are faced with this dilemma all the time. No matter how much they may love their current employer, there is oftentimes simply nowhere to go for all of the reasons you’ve mentioned.

    3. Mike C.*

      It’s mostly difficult because so many companies aren’t willing to put in the work to make it happen. That mean training, mentoring, setting up standards and so on.

      Even if you don’t have the position available, you can always take a position and increase the grade – Engineer 1 to Engineer 2 for instance.

    4. Jubilance*

      Totally agreed. I’ve worked for two companies where it was an open secret that the only way to move up was to leave and come back.

    5. Statler von Waldorf*

      My entire industry is famous for it. Going somewhere else to get a raise is How It’s Done. ™

  11. MarketingGirl*

    It doesn’t sound like Ariel had a great experience with this company, so I can imagine why she left if she did indeed get a better offer elsewhere. First she’s hired under a manger that already had multiple complaints. Then she comes back, and yes, she received a raise which is great, but then she has issues with a coworker where HR was involved. Money will make some people stay, but others may not think money is worth it to deal with coworkers and an organization who have shown flaws. I don’t blame her. She had to make the decision that was right for her, not the company. Honestly I feel like Ursula was the main issue here for setting the negative precedent, not Ariel’s actions.

  12. AD*

    Not to critique the OP, but I want to point out that multiple references to Ariel being “re-hired” and receiving a “raise” don’t seem accurate.
    Ariel resigned from her original position, and then was hired a month later on to the OP’s team in what sounds like a different role. From the perspective of the organization this may be classified as a re-hire, but I think there are some caveats there. She wasn’t in the same department/team, and if the role was substantially different then this wasn’t a “raise”.
    I’m wondering if OP’s lens here is contributing to her feeling that Ariel showed ingratitude.

  13. Kyrielle*

    What Alison and others commenting here have said covers most of this well. But I want to add one thought.

    “How should I feel about this?”

    You should feel *however you actually feel*. Even if it’s not fair to Ariel. Certainly, calibrate your actions (reference, messaging to other workers, etc.) based on what is right to do. But if you feel badly about what happened, if you’re annoyed, you’re still allowed to feel that way. Don’t jump all over yourself for feeling some way you “shouldn’t” – that’s never productive.

    The reality is this *is* a seriously annoying situation. Does it make Ariel a bad actor? Not necessarily. But you’re still allowed to feel how you feel (but not necessarily to share it, in many work-related circumstances – vent here or to friends who don’t work in your industry or know the key players at all, if you want to vent).

    1. MegaMoose, Esq*

      I’m with you 100% (as someone who has and is doing work to appropriately respond to my emotions). I firmly believe that there is no such thing as a wrong “feeling” – feelings are internal responses that can give you a lot of insight into yourself and your situation if you are able to examine where they’re coming from.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Agreed and this thread is valuable insight for OP.

        I have had some of this in work places, John got x, Sally got y, I got nothing or half of what they got, etc. And I would get those pangs.

        Those pangs happen for a reason. I need to look at something I have been refusing to acknowledge or it could be that I have been ignoring something entirely even though I am aware of it.
        I can see myself saying, “I cannot jump around the way Ariel does, but I need to do better than what I am doing. I feel conflicted as to what I should do next. I want my slice of the pie.”

    2. Manders*

      Well said. I think this is the flip side of the coin of companies that insist on their employees feeling and expressing “passion.” It’s ok to be privately peeved that you had to clean up a mess, just as it’s ok to come in and do your work and leave at the end of the day without burning with desire for TPS reports.

      It’s only a problem if you decide that your peevishness gives you the right to sabotage Ariel’s new position or take your anger out on your colleagues. And it sounds like OP has the good sense not to do those things anyway.

  14. Luke*

    At-will employment means just that. Had Ariel needed to be laid off she’d be gone like yesterday’s newspaper. From the sound of matters ,the OP works for a dodgy company that tolerates abusive managers and lowballs its staff.

    Yes Ariel burned a bridge-but so do employers when they callously lay off staff. Little is said about the bridges companies burn when it’s in their best interests. I have as much to say about Ariel for doing what’s in her best interest.

    1. RVA Cat*

      This. It sounds to me like the OP is trapped in a sick system. This can warp people’s thinking so that they blame Ariel for getting out, versus the company for allowing Ursula to abuse her staff and demoralize everybody.

      1. Decima Dewey*

        And that her coworkers who got lousy raises told her that they’d have gotten better raises if she hadn’t been rehired.

  15. MuseumChick*

    There are so many factors in this situation that could affect how I see it. From the information given the other thing I think Ariel should have done differently is go to the OP and say, “I recently received a really amazing offer from another company. They are offering me X, Y, and Z. My plan was to remain here for the foreseeable future, would the company be willing to match this offer?”

    Other than that, I agree with the others about how both employers and employees should act in their own best interest.

    1. Roscoe*

      It was also a promotion though, since it said she would be leading her own team. So even if they matched the salary, if its not also a step up, its not exactly the same

    2. Kyrielle*

      Even ignoring the step up, I think that would actually be worse. She’s three months into the new position, and already making more money than she was in the past, when raises weren’t possible for most of the team.

      It’s unlikely the company can match it, and it’s also really…pushy? Really something to ask for it after just three months, even in the context.

      Plus all the usual advice applies – if I were Ariel, I’d worry they’d say “yes” and pay me the higher rate for a month, then let me go after the trade show. (Again, not knowing much about the company. With an employer I knew more about, I might be more trusting!)

      I think what she did was fine and reasonable under the circumstances – assuming she’s willing to live with the possible, and predictable, consequence of a burned bridge.

      1. Malibu Stacey*

        Plus, if the LW could/wanted to match the offer she’s still left with a lot of the same feelings about her employee that she is now (she was already job-searching after 3 months, she never said she was unhappy) which could make the boss/employee relationship sour.

    3. Mike C.*

      That’s risky as all heck though. They could easily match that offer, hire your replacement behind your back (for “disloyalty”) and you’d be gone in a month or two.

  16. Naruto*

    I don’t view this as a new job that she accepted. I understand why the organization does, but I also understand why, from her perspective, it could easily feel like she worked there for a year before leaving — not three months after getting hired.

    I wouldn’t hire her again if I were the employer, but I also wouldn’t be upset about this or view her as leaving after only three months on the job.

  17. Lauren*

    My company let Kate go after a client left, which she was 100% time on. A few months later, we got more clients and fought the company to let her come back. She accepted, but then left 1 month later for more money and a better title. She told me that the company had already proved to her that she won’t ever get that title or raise there by laying her off once, and that she was a ticking time bomb, and prob to be laid off again.

    It is a diff situation, but Ariel likely left because of a 3rd reason similar to Kate – the company proving that they don’t handle the Ursulas’ of the company well. Ariel may not have been unhappy with the job / company, but given this opportunity – is she really going to stick around and face another instance where the company doesn’t act – I wouldn’t, and you shouldn’t blame her for that.

    1. Taylor Swift*

      Yeah, just like OP got more information about Ariel out of this situation, Ariel got more information about the company.

  18. Rachael*

    I agree with Alison’s advice. While Ariel should always chose her best interests there is also the fine line of not burning bridges. It just depends on the industy. In banking you would never burn bridges because you will encounter that person again either at the same company or at another.

    On another note, as other commentators mentioned: OP, remember that companies will layoff at a moment’s notice and they do not take into account how hard or long someone worked for them. Sometimes job hunting is a business transaction and just that. I understand how you feel because you invested a lot in her, but remember that it is not personal. She most likely wrestled with the decision. I know I would feel guilty. But, my family needs to eat and I would do what is best for my career and family.

    1. AMPG*

      Question about this – now that we can collapse replies at any point in a thread, is it as essential to remove off-topic threads? I definitely appreciate the larger goal of having on-topic discussions dominate the comments, but I personally find these tangents to be pretty harmless and (now) easily ignored, thanks to the improved collapse functionality, so it seems like this is a moderating task you could stop if you wanted.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes, I’m continuing to enforce that rule, largely because people keep telling me they’re less likely to read when they see 500 comments on a post. And I don’t want people’s interest in off-topic conversations to trump people getting the info the site is actually here for.

        1. Hedgehog*

          Thanks for enforcing your commenting policies. It makes your comments section (and thus your whole website) so much more worthwhile than a lot of other advice columns.

        2. Mira*

          Thank you so, so, so much for continuing to enforce this! I used to love reading the comments on the Dear Prudence column over at Slate – until it got overrun by thousands of off-topic comments. It didn’t help that the participants grew to have a very clique-y vibe, and there was a LOT of derailing of threads pertaining to the actual advice given, as well. In fact, I’ve stopped reading Dear Prudence completely, because the comments used to be the biggest draw for me, and now they’re a complete mess where it’s a miracle if you can find a single on-topic thread that’s actually fun to read!

        3. Candi*

          I kind of see the point, even the tangentially related stuff can be fun.

          Since Alison has work and non-work open threads, those can be used for such discussions as well. So they’re not lost, just deferred. :p

    1. Whats In A Name*

      I really agree here. It’s a bummer maybe but ultimately the cost of doing business.

  19. CBH*

    Just throwing this out there…. Personally I do believe that Ariel burned a bridge, but as was stated in other comments there is nothing preventing a company from doing the same. Everyone is entitled to their feelings.

    We all make choices and have to live with the pros and cons of the decision. I’m sure Ariel can see a new and exciting opportunity (the pro) but she must realize there are probably not that many fans left at her old office (cons). She made a choice.

    1. AnonEMoose*

      How do you know she didn’t consider those things…and decide it was worth it to her? The other offer might have been that attractive; the other company might be a better environment for Ariel, or a lot of other things we just don’t know.

      For context, your posts are reading a bit like something I run into with the convention I volunteer for, which is why I mention it. Basically, people look at a decision made by leadership, and disagree with it (which is fine), but then decide that we must not have considered X, Y, or Z. Because, in their minds, if we had, we “obviously” would have made the decision they believe they would have preferred. When the reality is that we probably did consider those things…but quite possibly either had information the people being critical didn’t have, or decided that while factors X, Y, and Z mattered – other factors were more urgent priorities, or better fits for the budget, or whatever.

      Ariel likely did consider the things you’re mentioning…she doesn’t sound either naive or inexperienced…and decided that the benefits outweighed the drawbacks.

      1. CBH*

        I never thought of things from the angle you described. Thank you for helping me see things in a different light.

        1. AnonEMoose*

          I’m glad it was helpful! For what it’s worth, I think it’s something most people don’t think of, until/unless they have experience(s) that lead them to it. That was certainly true for me.

          There’s definitely (or at least there was for me) a perspective shift that comes with that kind of position. I think most people have some awareness that others think differently than they do, but it’s kind of hard to conceptualize what that’s really like until you run into it, if that makes sense.

          For me, it’s been incredibly valuable, and is probably one of the most important things I’ll take with me when I leave that position.

          Hey, Alison – I think you’ve done something like this in the past, but maybe a column on “valuable workplace lessons I learned the hard way” would be good? It might make interesting reading, at least!

      2. Manders*

        I think you’re right about what Ariel was thinking here. Sometimes you do know you’re burning a bridge, but you do it anyway because the benefits outweigh the costs. Life would be rough if we were never allowed to make choices without the approval of every single person who might possibly be inconvenienced by those choices.

  20. AnInternSupervisor*

    I think you can feel however you want about her, but try to keep your disappointment/resentment in check. When I’m called for references about someone who left not on the best of terms (but also not the worst – usually leaving before their commitment was up), I stick to neutral commentary on what their responsibilities were or just confirm their employment. If asked questions I don’t feel like answering, I usually just say I can’t speak to that. I think it’s important to remember too that Ariel could be a bridge/contact for you somewhere down the road so not burning that relationship from your end could be mutually beneficial.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      You also become more of a credible reference if you sound objective and are able to talk positively even about an employee who burned you and talk about the burn itself matter-of-factly (without sounding angry).

  21. Former Employee*

    “Ariel returned about three months ago. Upon returning to the team, Ariel received a significant raise from her previous salary, while many people who had never left the company received no annual raise this year.”

    The management gave Ariel a “significant raise” to come back, while “many people” there did not get a raise at all. To me, the fact that Ariel turned around and left is karma.

  22. Stellaaaaa*

    She burned you as a bridge so you don’t have to be particularly kind (though not dishonest ether) with any future reference. “She only stayed for three months the second time around and she gave less than two weeks notice.”

    IMO this is the kind of thing you risk when you cut corners by using former employees as an applicant pool. When you consider that you saved a lot by hiring someone without a proper interview process and then put her back to work without needing to train her, you benefited a whole lot without having asked her if she actively wanted to be there. I would look at the way you’re framing these circumstances because it may be part of a vibe that made her not want to stay. Ariel doesn’t owe you anything in terms of the trade show (you certainly shouldn’t be mentally sending her a bill for $20k), and her pre-planned vacations shouldn’t even be brought up in a list of grievances. This kind of score-keeping drives good employees away.

  23. heismanpat*

    You pursued her to come back to work for your company after she left because of poor management. She gave you a chance and decided it wasn’t the right decision. Presumably, you two live in an at-will state and there’s no contract in place. She gave you the courtesy of a notice period too. This crap happens all the time – it’s business. Anyone would be nuts to stay in a lower position if something truly better came along.

    The other things you mentioned are failings of management at the company:

    “We are a very small team and will have to spend an extra $20,000 on professional production help for the tradeshow due to Ariel’s departure” -> Have more redundancy in your staff or plan on paying the extra money for coverage when this happens. You should presume that anyone in your department could resign/get sick/get hit by a bus at any moment in time. If you can’t handle one person’s absence, then your company has staffing issues.

    “Ariel received a significant raise from her previous salary, while many people who had never left the company received no annual raise this year”

    Then you should ask management why they aren’t rewarding your workers with retention/merit raises. Your company has demonstrated that the only way to get a raise is to play hardball. Ariel figured that out. Don’t be shocked if others follow her lead.

    1. Taylor Swift*

      I think that’s a good point that OP is assigning blame to Ariel for some of these problems which really aren’t her fault.

    2. jo*

      Yes to staffing issues being the probable reason Ariel’s departure will be so expensive for the company. It’s not actually on Ariel to worry about who will handle her work when she leaves. If a company is so aggressively efficient about distributing workload that they only keep on the bare minimum of permanent employees needed to handle it, they have to take the consequences if they lose someone unexpectedly.

      My own experience is a good example: I was increasingly unhappy in my old job, and while I searched for a new one, my manager became pregnant. We were a two-person department. I was her only direct report and had a tremendous workload, AND my work was absolutely essential to the company’s daily functioning. After several months of searching unsuccessfully for a new full-time position that was worth jumping ship for, I broadened my search by asking friends if they knew of opportunities outside my industry. By this point my manager had already gone on what I’ll call “maternity leave lite” (she was still working from home and supervising me as closely as possible). A friend in a totally different kind of organization was in a position to offer me part-time work that paid a really nice hourly wage, which would allow me to spend more time on my personal and freelance projects, at last! Of course I took the offer. Top management at my old company was irritated with me for leaving during my manager’s maternity leave. My manager, who was always super professional, took my resignation in stride, but *her* boss chastised me about the timing. But it wasn’t up to me to spare them inconvenience. If the company had built in another role to share my duties, even part-time (an option we had discussed long before, when they saw I was struggling to handle my giant and growing workload) they wouldn’t have felt my loss so acutely. I ended up giving three weeks’ notice (our standard is two) AND staying on part-time for another month afterward to train my replacement.

      Quitting when I did was guilt- and anxiety-inducing for me at the time, but I don’t feel bad about it anymore.

  24. Jessica*

    Let’s think about this a different way.

    OP, it appears that you work for a company that has problematic managers, who drive valued employees away while allowed to perpetuate toxic environments, and which also appears to be not terribly interested in rewarding their employees for their work either. Despite the fact that you bust your butts for this annual trade show that you have to complete with a shoestring staff.

    And now you know somebody personally, who works *somewhere else* where she got a “huge raise” and where she’ll be leading and BUILDING A TEAM.

    Not only should you not be mad, you should be polishing your resume, adding her to your LinkedIn, and telling her that you think that her new role sounds super interesting and you’d like her to keep you in mind.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      While I agree with you that the current workplace isn’t ideal, we don’t know that Ariel’s new workplace will be a better environment or that Ariel herself would be a good manager.

  25. Student*

    OP, you come out of this letter sounding more jealous of Ariel than angry at her. Are you sure you’re not conflating the two emotions? You point out that she got a bigger raise than you, and that she gets to go do cool things for more money, while you’re stuck shouldering extra work with no expectation of a raise any time soon. It’s understandable if you are – sounds like she got a good deal to jump ship, and that you are unhappy with your workplace. If that’s the case, though, it’s not right to hold it against her. It’s a sign you ought to polish your resume and jump ship for more money, too.

  26. MommyMD*

    Why did she burn a bridge if she’s been a good employee? Yes, resigning on 10 or 12 days notice ( which is seems to be) is a bit abrupt but it’s not the end of the world. She does not have to be eternally indebted because she was rehired after a bad manager left. She has a new opportunity and wants to take advantage of it. That does not make her a bad person or bad employee.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      She does not have to be eternally indebted because she was rehired after a bad manager left.

      She’s not eternally indebted, but there’s usually an understanding that if you take a job (unless it’s maternity coverage or an explicitly short-term contract) that you’ll stay that at least a year, if not several years. She didn’t break any laws, but she definitely burnt a bridge. And as long as she’s willing to accept the consequences of that burnt bridge, good for her.

      1. Insert name here*

        This was said elsewhere and I’m very confused about where this understanding is from, because it seems to be unilateral. There’s no “understanding” that your employer (not immediate supervisor but company as a whole) will keep you for a year if not several years, so to me, that goes both ways.

  27. Chocolate Teapot*

    Reading the question, there seems to be a period of approximately 5 months between both of Ariel’s departures. Knowing how long the job hunting process can be, I was wondering if Ariel’s application for the new job had been dragging along and returning to the old company was a buffer? Sometimes you just need a job because it’s a job and there are bills to pay.

    It is common here to have a 3 month probation period during which either employer or employee can terminate the contract. Had Ariel been a new (to the company) employee and handed in her notice during this period, I think the OP might feel a bit different.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      That was my thought too. New job could have been in the pipeline before Ariel even came back, but lacking confirmation she chose OP’s company again. I would be very surprised if Ariel did NOT know about New Job when she restarted at this company.

  28. NW Mossy*

    I have a friend who left my employer on Friday in a somewhat similar situation. While she was here longer in her second stint (about 2 years), ultimately, many of the reasons she left again were the same reasons that drove her to leave the first time. While I think she’s great at her job and it’s a loss for us, I wouldn’t counsel her to return here a third time.

    Rehiring is a tricky thing, both for the employer and the employee. It can work out well, but it requires more work than either side expects sometimes. I have a recent rehire (by my predecessor) on my team, and I make a particular effort to make sure I’m checking in with him regularly about how he’s feeling about being back. He’s great and I want very much to keep him, and I know that being attentive to issues that were a pain point for him in the past is crucial to making that happen. On the flip side, I’m asking him to be forthright with me so that the conversation’s truly two-way and we can solve issues before they harden into resentment.

  29. Lissa*

    I loved the response to this one. Yes, Ariel did nothing wrong. However her leaving has contributed to a situation that causes frustration Both these things can be true – I think we often look for somebody to be “wrong” in a situation like this. We see Ariel’s leaving and think “oh, well, she had her reasons and she didn’t do anything wrong” and that can be true but that doesn’t mean other people aren’t going to be impacted by it negatively

    I personally have a lot of difficulty when somebody does something that they know will negatively impact another person/people but expect no negative consequences because they had good reasons. We have no evidence that Ariel is doing this, and she likely did make her choice with awareness that the company wouldn’t be thrilled, *and that’s fine*. I’d probably have made the same choice she did! But there can be a tendency for the person who did the inconveniencing to *also* want the inconvenienced to not express that in any way, and if they do it’s unfair. Again, not saying this is at all the situation here. Just that I really appreciated seeing both sides of this acknowledged in the response, not just “Ariel did nothing wrong and therefore should never feel any consequences at all”.

  30. Workfromhome*

    What I read into all this is that maybe there are a lot more problems at this company than a toxic manager that was let go. The culture that supported this toxic manager may still be there even though he is not.
    The salary thing is one thing that makes me think that. Most of Ariel’s “team” received no raise this year. So that means had she stayed she would have received no raise. Ariel received a significant rise coming back indicating she had been “underpaid” before. Now she knows that her team members are underpaid and have no raise. Then she receives a new job offer I assume in the same industry that gives a huge raise (admittedly with some more responsibility). That would indicate that even with her new raise that she’s still underpaid and all the poor suckers who stayed at the company are REALLY underpaid.
    Basically the “culture” appears to be that people are massively underpaid. If you leave and come back you can be “less” underpaid but still underpaid.
    Yes its not ideal for her to leave after 3 months but the OP might want to look at his company culture and it presented as having massively changed in order to lure Ariel back when in fact it hasn’t.

  31. TodaysOP*

    Hi All!

    Sorry I’m late to the thread, I just got Alison’s email saying my question was posted – I only emailed yesterday, so the rapid response was a pleasant surprise!

    Alison, thanks for the great response – I totally agree with your assessment after looking at it from both perspectives as you suggested. Ariel acted in her own interest, which is reasonable, but if I don’t want to work with her again and would mention this as one part of a future reference (alongside mentioning her excellent work) I’m also being reasonable. I hadn’t thought of the perspective where I’m the “burned bridge” she has to accept as a consequence of making a decision that is good for her. Of course, I won’t make her feel awful about leaving–I’ll wish her luck on her last day and give her the usual parting gift (we usually give departing employees a copy of a book that’s a favorite around the office, signed by everyone).

    I haven’t read all the comments yet but wanted to answer a couple of common questions.

    Why Did Ursula Get to Leave Instead of Being Fired: Great question, in my opinion it was a major failure of our former CEO. She melted down during the process of selling the company and ex-CEO was afraid of her significant connections in the industry media being enough to tank the sale if she were fired. She left immediately after the sale of the company closed, being well aware that now that nobody was afraid of her media contacts she would soon be fired. In my opinion, there were ample warning signs long before the sale process started and she should have been fired very early–however, that didn’t happen. The company is now under new management & the new owners are much more performance-oriented for leadership roles like Ursula’s.

    Was the HR Report Warranted: Any employee has the right to report anything to HR that makes them feel uncomfortable, intimidated, or discriminated against. I would not say Ariel overreacted, because she genuinely felt attacked enough she needed outside support. However, it wasn’t a physical conversation – it was a chat on a work-related messaging app, in which the other person was overly aggressive in scolding Ariel for missing deadline. He is her junior in the company, and spoke to her like a disappointed manager. I saw the whole interaction (since it was in writing in a group chat) and if I had been in Ariel’s position I would have spoken to his manager rather than to HR. However, the desired result was achieved–the other person apologized and has behaved professionally since the apology–and Ariel accepted the apology.

    Rehiring Process: I think Alison’s instincts were right on here again–Eric was gung-ho about getting Ariel back (we all had thought she was better qualified than Ursula and were devastated to lose her instead of losing the awful Ursula) and didn’t thoroughly interview her as we would a new candidate. I think the lesson I’ll take away from this is that rehires should go through the full hiring process again. Eric just took Ariel to lunch and asked her to come back & offered the large raise – he wasn’t thorough in interviewing.

    “The Company Isn’t Loyal So You Don’t Have to Be” take: I hate this common statement, honestly. I had to fire someone in her first year last year and I spent at least 20% of my day every single day for weeks on trying to get her to improve enough that we could keep her. I gave her a detailed performance improvement plan and had weekly 1:1s as well as daily informal check-ins, and reviewed all her work every day to give her as much helpful feedback as I could. Unfortunately, the major issues with her work and with how she interacted with coworkers didn’t change at all, and I was forced to recognize that, for this individual, genuinely “doing her best” was not enough to meet the minimum requirements for her position. I felt awful letting her go, especially after she had relocated for the job–and I feel awful to this day, because she remains unemployed last I heard. Yes, companies can be disloyal, managers can be disloyal, but they don’t HAVE to be.

    1. AnonEMoose*

      Thanks for responding, OP!

      On the loyalty issue, maybe try reframing it as “The company will do what they believe is best for them, and so should you.” If the company sees layoffs as necessary, there will be layoffs, and it won’t matter how loyal the employees have been. That doesn’t mean leadership or individual managers won’t feel terrible about it, but it will happen.

      Conversely, if an employee is offered a significant promotion and raise, they’re likely going to accept. Even if they really like their current boss/company/duties. Not always, because there can be other factors involved (one example could be that the employee feels that flexibility their current job offers is worth making less, or maybe the current company has better health insurance, and the employee has a health condition – or a dependent with one). But most of the time, that’s the likely outcome.

      1. Brogrammer*

        You make a great point about the loyalty issue.

        OP, I want to specifically point out that you did right by your under-performing employee. You gave her detailed, actionable feedback and spent a ton of time and effort trying to bring her up to speed. But she couldn’t do the job, so firing her was the right choice.

        1. TodaysOP*

          Thank you, honestly it really helps to hear that from someone. We share mutual friends and I get anxious every time I hear that she’s still job-searching :(

    2. Roscoe*

      I still think the answer to not wanting to work with her again is a bit too personal. From what it seems, the only reason you wouldn’t want to is because she did what was best for her, not because she was bad to work with. I get what you are trying to say, but it still seems more of personal hurt feelings thing than a professional she couldn’t do her job thing.

      And I don’t think anyone is saying any ONE particular manager is bad when letting people go. But when you made the decision to let someone go, you made a business decision. You say she was doing her best, but it wasn’t good enough for what you needed. Yet somehow you seem to not be looking at what Ariel did as a business decision. Most people who leave jobs for greener pastures are doing it as a business transaction, not a personal indictment. Now bad management may lead to looking, but you are going to do what is best for you professionally.

      1. TodaysOP*

        I mean, I wouldn’t refuse to work at a company because she’s there, but I certainly won’t hire her again. It’s not just the leaving after only 3 months, it’s that she communicated her resignation via chat rather than in-person, giving less than two weeks notice. The lack of commitment is also showing in that she’s been late to work the last two days (this is her last week) – she seems to have checked out rather than trying to thoughtfully hand off. It’s all really unfortunate, as before she was offered this other opportunity she was doing a great job here.

        1. CG*

          That’s the thing I’d focus on. The hiring/departing/rehiring is just a red herring. If she was a great employee who left in a less-than-professional manner at the end, then think of her as a great employee who left in a less-than-professional manner at the end.

          As others say above, she probably didn’t come into this role or back to the firm intending to leave it immediately. There doesn’t seem to be any reason from the letter to take her statement – that she received an offer that she couldn’t turn down – at less than face value. That happens all the time, even to good employees, even when the timing is bad. To me, Allison’s advice is spot-on. (Also: there are some notes of loyalty/disloyalty in your letter. Whenever I start to think in those terms, it’s a check for me that I’m probably thinking with my emotions. That may be important to consider here.)

          You sound like a good manager – good on you for writing in!

        2. Roscoe*

          With those additional items, I think it makes more sense (although I don’t know that the less than 2 weeks things is really fair, but thats just me). Everything else though, I get. But her lack of committment may be based on how she has been treated. You are definitely not happy with her now, which may be showing. You also say “opinions from immediate coworkers are probably affecting my judgment” which means others aren’t happy too. Its easy to be motivated to go somewhere everyday if you feel like those around you aren’t treating you well. But as CG below writes, focus on how she left, because it seems up to this point, she was good, and you may be letting a very small, less than 2 week period, cloud your overall judgement of a good employee

    3. AdAgencyChick*

      I sympathize, OP (although I don’t think the $20K your organization has to spend because of the timing of her resignation is something to be personally upset about).

      I don’t think that “but they’d lay you off if they needed to” is a good analogy. If a company is hiring and there’s the possibility of layoffs three months after the hire, that is a messed up company! I think a better analogy is: Once a company hires someone for a slot, do they keep looking for someone even better? Even if they’re not looking for someone better, let’s say the new hire’s manager gets a phone call from a rockstar former employee saying she’s job hunting and does the manager have any openings? Hiring manager would be THRILLED to work with this person again, so she tells the new hire after only three months, “So sorry, but Judy Rockstar wants to come work for me again. We’re letting you go so she can have your spot.” That IS a crappy thing to do, no?

      So I’m with you, I don’t think “the company isn’t loyal, so you shouldn’t be either” is always a valid argument.

      1. Insert name here*

        My former employer just laid off a LOT of people, but they are also hiring (for different positions) for internal and external positions (the external jobs are listed on their website and are full time direct hire positions). Funny enough I was contacted by a recruiter to come work as a contractor in my old group when I’d been laid off from that group 2 weeks prior…awkward to say the least.

        1. Insert name here*

          Oh, and so the point I was trying to make with my anecdote is that I do feel “the company isn’t loyal so you shouldn’t be either” is a perfectly valid argument to make. That doesn’t mean I’m out to screw over my employer or I’ll jump ship at the first opportunity, I was with them for several years, but my first priority is what’s best for me, and not them. That’s really all that means.

      2. JamieS*

        I’m not sure your statement that a good company won’t do lay-offs shortly after hiring someone stands. For example, let’s say John leaves ABC Inc. creating an open position, Judy is hired to fill John’s former position, and 3 months later that position is eliminated along with the rest of the department.

        In that scenario is it more likely Judy will also be out of a job along with her coworkers or that ABC Inc. will keep Judy on since she was only hired 3 months ago? My money’s on Judy being out of a job.

        Also I’m hesitant to frame it as Ariel departing after only 3 months since it sounds like the company was at-fault for that more than Ariel. I don’t mean they caused her to leave 3 months after rehire but that the work environment caused her to leave in the first place. If Ariel left only due to the hostile work environment (colloquially not necessarily legally) I’d frame it as Ariel worked for the company for 1 year 3 months with a slight break since the break wouldn’t exist had it not been for poor company practices.

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      OP, thank you so much for responding. You sound so thoughtful, introspective and considerate, and you sound like a dedicated and level-headed manager, as well. Based on the additional information you provided, I don’t blame you for being frustrated with Ariel or not wanting to rehire her. Leaving early certainly risks burning a bridge (you/the company), but the way she gave notice and has let things slip would make me lose confidence, too. Especially when you’re leaving something on short notice, it’s important to try to finish strongly and on a good note, and I’m sorry that Ariel hasn’t been able to meet standards. But perhaps this is also a great opportunity to identify a better fit? It sounds like there are some lessons learned for Eric, and hopefully he’ll get to apply them posthaste! You’re handling this extremely well and with clear eyes, which is all anyone can ask for.

      1. TodaysOP*

        Thanks so much for the kind words! It really helps to have a few hundred people to talk an issue through with me. In the light of another new day I’m beginning to feel that some of my frustration at Ariel is redirected frustration with myself for not having been able to provide an environment that would retain her – which is silly because I shouldn’t expect myself to be singlehandedly able to transform the company sufficiently to provide her the opportunity to lead and grow a large PR team, which is her goal. We’re just not that size of a company.

        I talked with Eric last night about the lessons-learned from this and he agreed that we were maybe eager to have Ariel back because she had been wronged by Ursula, and didn’t examine her reasons for returning. Another exec joined in the conversation and agreed and stated that he generally vets re-hires MORE thoroughly, not less, because he wants to be certain that the reasons they left are no longer an issue before re-hiring them, since in his experience nine out of ten times a re-hire or even someone accepting a counter-offer will end up leaving anyway for the same reasons they originally started looking. It seems like Eric and I may have assumed too much in thinking Ursula was the ONLY thing unsatisfying to Ariel–we definitely can’t match the opportunity she’ll have in the new place, even if we could match the raise.

    5. GermanGirl*

      Ok so you all thought Alice was better qualified than her manager Ursula and then you wonder why Alice jumps at an opportunity to manage her own team when it’s offered to her?
      With such an employee, you can give them a career perspective (here is how we are going to give you your own team in this timeframe) or you can expect that they’ll go somewhere else to make that next step.

      However, I totally get that you were disappointed by how she handled the notice and handover.

      So I think when giving a reference you should say exactly that: She was qualified and did great work and you thought very well of her but you probably wouldn’t hire her back because you were disappointed by how she handled the notice and handover.

      1. TodaysOP*

        Great way of putting it, thank you, and I think you’re right.

        We were able to give Ariel a new level of responsibility after her re-hire (running this tradeshow was Ursula’s job last year, this year Ariel was point person for the project) but unfortunately the opportunities to hire and lead teams here are not in Ariel’s area of passion, PR and corporate communications – I think Eric and I were too quick to take a “Yes, I’ll come back, I miss you guys!” for genuine interest in shifting into a role outside of her passion for PR.

  32. TodaysOP*

    :3 I don’t watch Game of Thrones so I had to come up with something else – I’m glad you appreciated it!

    1. Candi*

      Hey, on a couple comments I’ve used MythAdventures and Girl Genius stuff.

      (Not a GoT fan either. Just the work page on TV Tropes is too depressing for me.)

  33. The data don't lie*

    I think the OP is expecting way too much loyalty from Ariel here. Think about it. Do you REALLY expect your employee to turn down an offer for a great opportunity that pays more, has more responsibility, and more potential for growth out of some sense of loyalty or the apparently unspoken “rule” that once you accept a job you have to stay there for at least a year? Is that really a reasonable expectation? Can you picture Ariel in a year saying “man I wish I could buy a house but I can’t afford to save up for the downpayment because I turned down a great job that paid more due to loyalty to my current job!”? Do you honestly think it’s reasonable to expect an employee to sacrifice their career growth and turn down amazing opportunities because your feelings will get hurt if they quit too soon? This is a person’s life and future we are talking about here. Try to see it from her point of view please.

    It’s just… weird.

    1. AdAgencyChick*

      I don’t think it’s weird. It’s no different than the employee herself expecting that, three months into her employment, I as her manager will not come to her and say, “Bad news, my old direct report who’s a rockstar says she’s job hunting. I’m going to have to let you go to make room for her.”

      I do think that when a candidate accepts a job offer, she should be prepared to close other doors for a while (at least a year, IMO). That means not continuing to job hunt, and ALSO politely saying no to people who knock on her door with other opportunities. Of course, if a persistent friend or recruiter is able to offer my new employee a life-changing amount of money and/or a major change in responsibilities that’s more in line with her future goals, I cannot blame her for taking it. But I personally won’t hire that person again.

      1. Statler von Waldorf*

        Yeah, I actually had that one happen to me. I was about five months in, and it was his daughter, so it was slightly understandable, but I was still left with two weeks notice before I was out a job. He actually seemed surprised that I wasn’t happy about the situation. He certainly didn’t seem to think he was doing anything wrong by firing me to hire his daughter.

        Then the situation got flipped, when I was offered a great opportunity the following weekend that required me to start monday, only one week into the notice I was given. I took it, obviously. When I went to talk to my soon-to-be-ex boss about hit, he totally lost his shit. Who was going to train his daughter? He totally expected me to decline a job so I could work for him for one more week before I was let go, and then he bad-mouthed me around town for declining.

        Saying no to life when it knocks on your door to offer you an opportunity is usually a foolish move. Expecting a company these days to have even an ounce of loyalty is even more foolish.

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          I would call that a shitty employer who should have offered you severance, though, and not evidence that you shouldn’t ever trust a company to treat you decently.

          In your shoes, I’d have done exactly what you did.

  34. Middle Name Jane*

    A similar thing happened a few years ago where I work. “Lucy” had been working at our office several years and decided to quit before she had another job lined up (I’m not sure why). Her job was posted 3 months later, and we were informed Lucy was coming back. Because she had been gone such a short time, she was reinstated with everything intact (i.e. no waiting period for the retirement plan, her PTO was in place, etc.). It raised some eyebrows in the office. She then stayed less than a year before she left for another job. The new manager was livid, and Lucy definitely burned all her bridges with us. It’s been said (unofficially, of course) that because of Lucy, managers in our office will never again hire someone who worked for us in the past.

    On the other hand, I know of several other people (different organizations) who have successfully returned after having left a job. But they stayed put once they got back. I don’t think it’s fair to the employer to flake out after less than 1-2 years back.

    1. Middle Name Jane*

      Just wanted to clarify that when Lucy left the second time and took another job, it was a lateral move. She may have been paid a bit more, but the title and responsibilities were very similar to the job she had with us. I think that’s what rubbed people the wrong way. If it had been a big step up, I would feel differently about it.

  35. Brett*

    As for timing and the possibility a job came through that Ariel applied for before, the significant raise and big bump in responsibility sounds like an opportunity where people are often recruited rather than something they actively pursued. I wonder if Ariel was a bit underemployed in the return role, and that left you with an employee vulnerable to poaching.

  36. BadFit*

    Just wanted to comment here as I’m experiencing the exact same situation as “Ariel”.

    I was rehired by my first employer after being let go from my last employer of five years, which came as a completely surprise. After that event, I figured it would be safe to return to my first employer.

    However, I’m realizing now it just isn’t a good fit at all (boring work, lazy culture where people don’t care for their work). However, the team is nice and I have a nice manager. But I just can’t get excited for the work and also add in that the company is struggling financially, in which case I don’t want to be let go again.

    I’ve only been here for 4 weeks, but I’m already looking for new opportunities to better suit my skill sets. Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks!

    1. TodaysOP*

      If there was a 5-year gap in between being employed there and the culture has changed significantly since you worked there before, I think that’s more understandable reason to keep looking – but if I were your manager I would want to know. If you have a good team and good manager, you might be able to just tell them that you have some concerns about the work ethic in the company, without explicitly saying you’re looking. It’s no fun to be blindsided by a brand new hire boomeranging out of the company, it’s easier to swallow if you had some idea of what wasn’t working.

      1. BadFit*

        Thanks, I really appreciated this.

        One thing I should have added is my manager recently announced this past Monday she will no longer be our manager after this upcoming July (maternity leave) and a new manager will be onboarding. I hadn’t expected this, which just adds to the list of concerns in addition to the role being a bad fit.

        To add context to the role, my last job where I was laid off from was a high-growth, high tech company where I had worked in a variety of roles to help the company grow. My former employer, where I’m back with, is no growth and in cost cutting mode.

        I realized on my first day this was a bad fit and a mistake as I turned down other offers. Oh how I could turn back the clocks. Painful lesson to be learned.

      2. European*

        “It’s no fun to be blindsided by a brand new hire boomeranging out of the company, it’s easier to swallow if you had some idea of what wasn’t working.”

        Actually my experience is that if you signal problems you are branded a trouble maker, which has negative implications for your performance review (if you stay for example since you don’t find anything else immediately) and can even get you fired. When I signalled problems at my last employer I was told I was arrogant to think I can express my feelings about the functioning of the office after I had just joined it.

        That’s my experience from a startup and one huge international company.

        Personally, I learnt from that experience and I won’t signal such problems ever again in my life, unless it’s a part of my “why-did-you-decide-to-leave” conversation.

        1. TodaysOP*

          I’ve been in startups & Fortune 500 companies and have been lucky that with MY personal managers, I’ve never had this problem when I pointed out issues – I’ve usually been thanked and asked for help in resolving the problem. That being said, if I wasn’t sure my direct manager was that type, I wouldn’t say anything. Fortunately almost all of the managers I’ve had in 10 years in the tech industry have been the type who want to optimize everything including corporate culture, and want to hear about issues. (UNFORTUNATELY, many of those great managers have turned out not to have the power to optimize cultural factors!)

  37. Critter*

    If there are coworkers who are sharing opinions with you (as you mention in the beginning of your letter) that are less than stellar (and if they are, I suspect it’s related to the trade show), I’d put up a wall around them, or ask them to knock it off if you’re their manager. It’s normal to feel what you’re feeling, but this is one of those situations where things didn’t work out ideally. She might feel bad about it. I had to do it before as well, and I felt horrible, but I was trying to make the decision for myself and my family. It won’t serve you to hold onto this. I would try to put it behind me and focus on getting your team through the projects you’re working on, and finding a great employee to replace her. It’s all you *can* do. Best of luck!

  38. Hoorah*

    I feel your pain. We had a new hire quit after 2 weeks into the job. She was obviously continuing to job search even after accepting our role. Really, really crappy thing to do.

    You don’t have to be happy for Ariel’s new opportunity. Her great opportunity equals inconvenience, additional work and financial costs for you and your team. I would feel annoyed and resentful about all of this too. Of course this doesn’t mean you should cold shoulder her and steal all her staples, but you also don’t need to be faking vicarious happiness you don’t feel.

    It’s also reasonable to mention Ariel’s quick departure to any future work reference. As a recruiter that’s something I’d want to weigh up against all the other data I have on an applicant.

    I understand most people will put their own interests ahead of company needs. However, there’s a cost to almost everything we do in adult life. When people flake out like this – no matter how understandable their decision – the cost is a mark on their professional reputation and probably a work reference. That’s why we put so much thought into any career choice. It’s not like swapping ice cream flavour of the month.

  39. Not So NewReader*

    OP, stuff at work comes at us fast. One minute it’s problem A and the next minute it’s unrelated problem B and so on.

    The quicker we get to a peaceful resolve for a matter the better off we are because here comes Next Thing. If you get asked for a reference for her I see nothing wrong with just stating the facts. Really, the facts speak for themselves. People at work want to talk about the situation you can shrug and say, “I guess it’s over now because she’s gone.” I don’t think the office chatter is helping you to bring the matter to rest. It might be a good idea to encourage people that the story is over and they all can refocus on the work.

    When I worked in a very fast paced environment, I learned that I lost time on stuff like this that I could have used better on something else. It was a benefit to me to find a way of viewing the situation that helped me to move on. So while my initial reaction might be UGH! NOOO! I knew that I had to adopt a perspective that would allow me to move forward. For some reasons, I might file this story under, “I can’t fix this.” And that is a tough pill to swallow, but in some ways it’s a relief too. Because it’s beyond your control you don’t have to fix it, one less thing to have to fix, right?

  40. DG*

    It seems to me that Ursula is the person to be upset at, not Ariel. If Ursula hadn’t done all the things she did, then, at worst, Ariel would have stayed at the company continuously and then left for the new opportunity after a year, which is perfectly reasonable behaviour. At best, she wouldn’t have left at all. Ariel acted perfectly reasonably in the circumstances that were presented to her. Ursula, and the company’s tolerance of her, is the source of inappropriate action.

  41. Noah*

    I think this is really different from somebody who quits then reapplies. She was sought out by the company to come back. This isn’t like the other recent letter where the person re-applied for a job AND promised to stay for 18 months. I think OP is just wrong here and is being influenced by the (justifiable) frustration that Ariel’s leaving is causing.

    I also think this is out of line: “but it’s fair game to say, ‘unfortunately when she came back to us the second time, she left after three months for a different job so most of what I can tell you is from her first stint with us.'”

    How is that true? She worked at the job for approximately 10 months. If she had worked for the job for 10 consecutive months, would it be appropriate to say: “Well, she worked here for ten months, but she left after the last three months ended, so I can only comment on the first 7 months”? Of course not. But that’s essentially what’s proposed here. If OP wants to call out Ariel to her references for leaving quickly, he should be honest: “After she left the first time, we asked her to come back and she came back, but then she left after three months for another job.”

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