an employee punched a manager who didn’t approve her day off, getting out of a training session, and more

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

1. An employee punched a manager who didn’t approve her day off

A incident of violence happened at my office. I manage several departments and one of the supervisors was assaulted by an employee. It happened near her office, the employee went there because she was denied a day off she had put in for. The denial had nothing to do with the supervisor. There were other people who had already booked that day off previously and the limit had been reached because the department still needs enough people for coverage. The employee was not happy and broke the supervisor’s cheek.

The supervisor is back to work part-time while she recovers (her choice, she was offered fully paid time off but wanted to come back). The employee was fired and she got arrested and charged by the police. No one else witnessed the assault or the aftermath but it was caught on a security camera in the hallway. All other employees were briefed on what happened. Beyond giving everyone information on our EAP and allowing anyone who was upset after the briefing to go home for the day with pay, what else can I do to make sure my staff is looked after? If anyone is affected by this I want them to be taken care of. I have never had to work through the aftermath of a violent incident at work before.

Whoa — that’s horrible.

I’d take a look at whether there were signs of problems with this employee before the incident, that someone should have caught and acted on. Was she known to have an anger problem or to deal with problems poorly? Were there other issues with her that hadn’t been addressed forthrightly? It’s hard to think that she was an upright, reasonable employee right up until this incident, so it would be worth seeing if you need better systems to address and deal with potential problems on your staff before they result in physical violence.

I’d also ask the manager who was hit whether she felt she had all the support she needed to deal with this employee before this happened, or with others. And you could talk to all your managers about whether there are additional things your organization could do to make them feel supported when they need to be the face of the company in delivering bad news. (I remember once being pretty scared to go out to my car alone at the end of the day after firing someone who had taken it really badly. Letting your managers know what kind of help they can get from you in situations like that — or asking them to brainstorm with you with kind of help the organization go provide — could go a long way.)

2. Can I get out of a training session on a software I already know how to use?

I work in an office, and while I’m not in the IT department, I have become the go-to person for tech issues from other staff members. Basically, I am good with technology and learn new programs very quickly.

Recently, another of our offices is going to be hosting a training session for a software that we use a lot. It’s a simple program and I’ve spent a lot of time learning it and am confident that I know everything I need to know for my job. Everyone attending this training session is fairly new to the program and will likely be learning the basics. My boss has mentioned that she thinks I should go.

With several huge deadlines approaching it seems like a waste of time to go to an all day training session and learn things that I already know. How do I refuse to go to this training session?

You can’t refuse, but you can make the case for why you shouldn’t go. Explain to your boss that you’ve looked over the materials for the training session, and it’s for people who need to learn the basics, while you’re already a proficient user. Say that you use the software regularly and have invested a lot of time in learning it. Then say this: “With the X and Y deadlines approaching and limited time to get everything done, I’d like to stay here and put the time into those projects. I don’t think there will be much payoff to me spending a whole day training on a software I already know so well. Does that sound okay to you?”

But if she says she wants you to go anyway, at that point you really do need to go. She might be off-base, or she might know there’s going to be benefit to having the whole team there — but either way, at that point it’s her call to make.

3. Can my resume borrow the wording from a published job description?

I’m redoing my resume to include a description of my current position, which I’ll refer to as Marketing Associate. I’ve been in this position for just over a year, and it’s my first job out of college. My firm is looking to expand my team and has a job description for Marketing Associate currently on our website. My question: would it be acceptable to pull sections of the posted job description verbatim and use them in my resume? I feel that the description communicates very well what I do in this position, especially for a reader who is unfamiliar with the firm and/or industry (which is finance, for what it’s worth). Is there any reason this could be looked down upon?

Sometimes I see resumes that clearly pulled their work descriptions from the person’s formal job description. It’s weird; it makes it seem like the person didn’t put any real thought into what’s most important to convey to an employer about that work, and didn’t realize that their own words will probably be more compelling than the horrible HR-speak that so many job descriptions are written in.

But if this job description is actually written the way a normal human talks, you could use a bit of it — if and only if you think the language captures your work better than what you’d come up with on your own. But use it sparingly. Your resume should focus on what you achieved, not just what you were responsible for, and a job posting is going to be much more about activities/responsibilities than achievements/outcomes.

4. The person who replaced me left after three days

I resigned as director of a golf club where I had secretarial and treasury duties (16 hour per week paid, for 15 months). I had no contract, just helping out for minor reward. I trained a lady up for five weeks ( she was on a three-month trial period) to do those duties working 30 hours per week. She left three days after me. Now there’s no one to do wages, etc. Who is responsible?

Not you! You no longer work there. Sometimes this kind of thing happens, and the organization just needs to find a way to muddle through. Sometimes that means someone else steps in to handle the work temporarily or the organization brings in outside temporary help. Sometimes the person who used to have the job is willing to help out until a new person is hired — but that’s 100% voluntary, and you’re not obligated to do it if you don’t want to. In your shoes, it can be easy to feel like “they’re in such a bind so I don’t have any choice but help them” — but you really don’t have to if you don’t want to. This is just a thing that sometimes happens as part of doing business, and they will find a way through it.

5. Will I get unemployment if I’m let go after refusing to move to a different state?

In December, I signed a contract to become a full-time salaried managerial level employee of a NYC-based company. The contract allowed for me to work remotely. Now the employer is pressuring me to sign a new contract that requires me to work from the NYC office full-time. I am having the distinct feeling that I was baited into the position by the remote arrangement and that they never intended to honor that arrangement long-term. Unfortunately, I did not demand a fixed employment or review period for the remote assignment when I signed the first contract. The move to the NYC office is not feasible: it would be multi-state (I live in Vermont), require selling my home, and I wouldn’t even receive retirement benefits because the employer says they can’t afford to pay the fees for an employee plan — they rely on the “we’re a small business” argument.

I guess my questions are: if I say “I’m happy to honor the terms of my original agreement but can’t agree to this new assignment at this time,” will they say I have “quit” the job? Will I be entitled to unemployment?

My intention is not to quit. I don’t mind the work and just want to keep things as they are and can’t see any reason for me to accept this new agreement, which is not favorable to me at all.

I can’t speak to Vermont’s unemployment laws since each state has their own, but generally you’re able to receive unemployment when a job moves so far away that you’d need to relocate to stay in it. So yes, if they say “the job is now based in NYC and if you don’t move, we can’t keep you on,” you’re almost certainly going to be eligible for unemployment benefits. That’s true even if your employer frames it as you “quitting” by not moving, since when you file for unemployment, you’ll explain that you were hired to work in Vermont but the company moved the job to New York.

{ 323 comments… read them below }

  1. Gaia*

    OP 1, Holy heck! Thank you for really looking for opinions on what you can do to make sure your staff feels cared for in the wake of an incident that must be very shocking, even though they didn’t witness it. I would suggest making sure everyone is aware of EAP options, make sure your managers feel like they can bring concerns to you about employees who are behaving in ways that may mean they will react in ways that are wildly inappropriate. But also, even if your managers didn’t notice, maybe the staff did? Can you let them know they can go to their managers or you with concerns if they ever worry someone cannot manage their temper?

    1. Gaia*

      Also, I once was terrified to go out to my car after firing someone because their husband had called me screaming … repeatedly. My company handled it great. They made sure I knew I could ask to be escorted out (but didn’t insist on it – they let me decide) without having to be ashamed for asking. They discussed whether or not I wanted to alert police and made it clear that these people were not allowed on the premises. Nothing ever came of it, but it made me feel in control and safe.

      1. Wintermute*

        I’m so glad your company handled that situation so well.

        I’d like to tag onto this to say that one huge thing you can do is do this EQUALLY for men and women. Too many companies try to do the right thing but send the message that “you poor frail women need a man to protect you to your car, but men should be able to handle themselves”, as if they matters if the disgruntled employee has a weapon (as the old quote goes, God made Man, Sam Colt made them equal).

      2. MI Dawn*

        Yeah, I worked for a great hospital once, who did things like that. It was in a very “rough” area, and our security guards (mostly retired police officers) carried guns. All staff were forbidden to go to their cars alone at night – didn’t matter if you were male or female, you didn’t walk alone to your car (yes, parking area was fenced, with razor wire at the top. Didn’t matter.) If you left in a group, it was fine, you didn’t need an escort. They implemented this after one of the staff was raped in a stairwell after her shift. So, if you had to work past shift end, you waited at the nurses’ station for your escort. It never was a long wait, so you weren’t tempted to risk it.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I find that the changes in our hospitals are totally depressing. In our local ER you go through a metal detector. What a world we have.

      3. la bella vita*

        I found out as I was leaving ExJob that the president of the company was even more unhinged than I thought. This is man who once screamed at me on the phone “are you f*cking stupid or just lazy?” because he didn’t like a footnote in a presentation… that he forgot he had actually written (my delightful manager, who reported to this guy, was also on the phone and said precisely nothing). Apparently a few years before I joined, he got into an argument with one of his direct reports and threw a stapler at his head. I heard the guy refused to be in the same room with his lunatic boss for the next few months until he left the firm. While I did feel bad for the people who lost their jobs as that place slowly imploded (although most of them saw the writing on the fall and quit on their own), I thought it was pretty funny when it finally went under.

    2. KarenT*

      Yes, glad to see OP1 taking her staff’s concerns so seriously. I had an altercation once with an unhinged co-worker; we were in a boardroom with two other people and she lost her temper and started screaming at us in a way I’ve never seen. She threw a 500 page textbook at a woman who was 8 months pregnant and punched through the wall. HR was very helpful in dealing with her at first–keeping her away from us (not firing her though!), offering us EAP assistance but after a few weeks they really didn’t seem to understand why we felt uncomfortable being along with her!

        1. Runner*

          It could be that this was a “star” employee or a rainmaker or considered key talent on the outside. That’s the only thing I’ve got.

    3. Anon Lawyer*

      Just wanted to add a thank you to the company for actually explaining what happened, even though no one witnessed it. At most places I’ve worked, they would have sent a bland e-mail stating “So and so’s last day was Friday. We wish her well in her future ventures” without acknowledging anything else. It goes a long way toward morale, etc. when you explain circumstances.

    4. halfmanhalfshark*

      Yes, I really appreciate the concern. Here’s what it looks like when management doesn’t handle this kind of thing well:

      In a very similar situation, a staff member at the government agency where I used to work laid in wait for his supervisor by the water cooler and when she walked past, he attacked her. Many people witnessed the attack (open floor plan) , and many more witnessed the aftermath, including watching other employees wrestle the staff member to the ground and restrain him until the police came and watching medical personnel take the supervisor to the hospital.

      Management did…. nothing. No emails. No indication that they were concerned with the safety of the agency employees. No reminding people about the EAP. Into the vacuum came conjecture and speculation and, worst of all, a loud contingent of people who believed the supervisor deserved to be attacked because she was “too hard on” the staff member. (She was not well liked, although I could never quite figure out why. Pettiness mostly.)

      Finally, two (2) weeks later, management sent out an email acknowledging what had happened and providing for onsite counselors from the EAP. I accepted a counseling session and spent most of the time talking about how upsetting I found management’s response to be. A couple weeks after that, the whole staff was sent to a workplace violence prevention seminar, during which time the primary discussion point among the staff was when it was acceptable to respond with violence to coworkers (consensus: when disrespected), with one long-time employee standing up and informing the entire room that she would “choke the sh!t” out of anybody who disrespected her. The person conducting the seminar just… let that go.

      So… yeah, OP 1, don’t do any of that.

      (I don’t work there anymore.)

  2. Ramona Flowers*

    #1 What a horrible thing to happen – I am so sorry. I think this would be worth discussing with your EAP. Lots of them can advise employers and managers on helping staff cope in the aftermath of a violent or traumatic incident. They may have specific resources for this, so it’s worth asking.

    1. Jesca*

      Yeah, I think this is a great idea! I have worked in some really awful places. The one place had to hire ex FBI agents to patrol our office and plant for months (yeah, I am not joking) because of seriously crazy incidents. Basically, the company was really mismanaged for years and was bought out by an even larger international company who wanted a lot of change. But, the crazy was so systemic. It was awful! It probably would have been helpful for that company to do more in the way of emotional support as well!

    2. kittymommy*

      I think it’s great the LW is taking care of her staff, kudos. I’d encourage her also to make sure she’s taking care of herself as well. It sounds like she’s having to deal with much of the after effects of this and it might be of benefit for her to look at eap in addition to any staff.

    3. KR*

      Also, I think if a staff member was feeling uncontrollable and on edge enough that they might punch someone over not getting time off, knowing about an EAP might prevent this kind of thing happening in the future. If they know that there are people willing to listen they might talk first and never reach the cheek breaking stage.

  3. Ramona Flowers*

    #2 I’d be tempted to go. It’s great that you’ve learned it yourself, but you don’t know what you don’t know.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      This. My experience is that there are a whole lot of shortcuts and features you never knew about until you took the class. It’s in the documentation but buried.

      1. Chinook*

        Yup. I always take any software course offered. I don’t care if I am the Word Queen – there is so much about the program that I don’t know that odds are good that I will walk away with one trick that will save me keystrokes. Heck, I have seen threads here on AAM where someone casually mentions one shortcut like it is obvious that I never heard of and immediately implement into what I do to make my life easier.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          Someone told me I had changed their working life when I made a passing reference to full page screenshots in Firefox.

    2. Mephyle*

      And even if you end up finding that you do know pretty much everything that they cover in the course, it will be useful for you to know to what level other employees are expected to know the software, and what types of things they have problems with in the training.

      1. Mookie*

        If work needs doing, and it generally does, and the LW is right that they’ll gain nothing from this, offering to stay behind and continue on-going work is laudable and helpful, not being a know-it-all.

        1. MashaKasha*

          I second this. If there were no huge deadlines looming, I would say go. But for OP to sit in a class all day twiddling her thumbs when there’s urgent work that needs to be done, does not sound practical at all. Especially if there’s a possibility of a deadline being missed because of losing a day in the class.

      2. Czhorat*

        I don’t see this as being a “know it all”. I view it at least partially as managing your time to get the best value for yourself and your employer. I’ve had invitations to training which wouldn’t benefit me, and have been able to ask out. If you already know the material then it’s unlikely your boss wants you to spend time re-learning it or watching others learn; they almost certainly have something of greater use for you to be doing.

      3. Triplestep*

        Well, years ago when my office was transitioning to the programs which would later be packaged as MS Office, people liked “a know-it-all” enough to come to me with questions throughout the work day. As a Mac user in an office of people connected via CRT to a mainframe (yes, it was this long ago) I was already an intermediate user of Word and Excel when HR mandated training after the roll-out of desktop PCs.

        I asked to skip the training and was told I could “test out” by a dubious training manager. I took the test in front of her and got a perfect score. Like some commenters here, she suggested I take the training “to hear the questions people ask”. I told her “I hear the questions people ask every day when they come to my desk for help.” Seriously.

        I think I remember this incident so well (clearly its ancient history) because I was young and it was my first experience with how tunnel-vision people can become about their responsibilities and work output. I’m sure that the development of this training had been the focus of the her department’s work for many months, but that did not mean it had equal value for everyone.

        1. Jesca*

          I hear you. But not could I also point out that not all of training involves just program uses? It also goes into specific personal responsibilities, process flows, and troubleshooting resources. I would go just to hear how management is handling this transition moving forward. That way, when my work continues to be interrupted on basic questions, I know where I can refer them to for help citing the training. I would also go to have a better idea of who is responsible for what and if any of that changes during the course of the meeting. There have been many times where I have attended a training where very important and specific process flows and strategies were changed.

          1. Czhorat*

            That’;s why you need to ask. In my experience in-house training is more likely to deal with specific procedures like that, while outsourced training is mostly on the operational details of the software.

            If an outside trainer is being hired then there’s also a matter of the firm wanting to get the appearance of a better return on investment by having more people attend; this can be a false savings if some of the people won’t benefit because they already know the material.

          2. Triplestep*

            I had just taken the test and aced it without taking the training, soI knew it was not about “specific personal responsibilities, process flows, and troubleshooting resources.” It was simply a software training (Word and Excel) for people who had only recently touched a PC for the first time. Even if it had been something more, I was a junior employee with unique responsibilities to the group; I am sure referring my co-workers to resources that would help them with THEIR responsibilities would have gone over great!

            1. Chinook*

              “I had just taken the test and aced it without taking the training, so I knew it was not about “specific personal responsibilities, process flows, and troubleshooting resources.””

              Maybe the OP can ask for something like this. I have implemented training sessions for new programs and processes and always gave the beta testers for these the option to opt-out because they helped me write the manual. Some wanted to take it to hear what the final version was like, but others appreciated not having to take training on something they knew inside and out.

              But, there needs to be a way to ensure that those opting out truly know the program instead of merely not wanting the training. Some people will make any excuse to opt out and, if the company believes the training to be valuable and required, they need a metric to show when it would irrelevant. For me, it was the “assignment” I gave at the end of training (which people had as much time to complete as they wanted). If the OP could complete the assignment without attending the training, I would consider them “trained,” sign off on the paperwork and let them miss the actual session. This also gave me an option for those who learn better by reading the training by themselves and/or are to busy to attend – I would give them the complete package and only sign off on it once they completed the assignment.

              Then again, I was able to make an argument for the latter by pointing out to the company that I was the only one there with a B.Ed. and that we needed to be able to account for different learning styles, levels of ESL and other learning disabilities. I don’t know if my argument would have been as effective if I didn’t have the credentials to back me up.

        2. Turquoise Cow*

          I became Excel “wizard” by using it. Literally knew next to nothing when I started and three or four years later was the person answering questions and showing others how to do complex nested If statements.

          After a few years – I think I’d been at the job maybe 6 years by then, the company offered Excel training. Thinking that there was ALWAYS something I could learn, I went to the intermediate classes. And was bored and frustrated. Not only was hardly anything covered that I didn’t know already, but many of my coworkers were so clueless about what was being taught (even having been through the basic classes) that I had violent thoughts. In the advanced class, we learned Pivot Tables, which was neat, but I think I was one of the few who really understood it. And afterwards, I didn’t have much of a reason to use them.

          Meanwhile, almost none of the information sunk in. My coworkers still asked me for help, only now it was prefaced by “I remember we went over this in the class…we start with (insert wrong task here)?”

          Anyway, if you’re able to use the program being trained well enough to do your job, then great. A lot of my coworkers didn’t need to know pivot tables or v-lookups for their jobs, and they didn’t absorb the lessons because they didn’t use them. Certain aspects of the class certainly helped them, but Excel wasn’t the main function of their job so not knowing it wasn’t a huge disability.

          However, you don’t know what you don’t know. Some of the things I learned were shortcuts or different ways of doing things that I already knew how to do, like going through different menus. I guess a good manager would know whether her team needed training on a program because it was needed or because it was a thing they wanted to teach. In my example, my bosses used excel a lot. Their data entry clerks? Not nearly as much.

          1. Angelinha*

            I hope this doesn’t violate the commenting rules, but I just want to say that I hope that your mention of violence is an exaggeration intended for comedic effect (though I am not someone who thinks it’s funny). And that if after six years of using Excel you didn’t know how to use pivot tables, it sounds like you did need training after all.

            1. MsChanandlerBong*

              I don’t really think that’s a fair statement. If the OP didn’t use pivot tables in her everyday tasks, then she had no need to learn them previously. You can be the “advanced” person on your team without knowing everything there is to know about a program.

            2. Ego Chamber*

              Why do you think it would be helpful to tell someone they needed more training in a program because they weren’t aware of a function of the program that they never used or had use for?

              Your comment reads like you’re upset about Turquoise Cow’s flippant mention of violence, and you’re looking to get a shot in without being obvious (but it was still pretty obvious, fyi).

            3. turquoisecow*

              Your comment is unnecessarily hostile. I’m pretty sure plenty of people use violent hyperbole here.

      4. Mike C.*

        No likes having to waste their day doing something they don’t need to. Time is a finite resource.

          1. CMart*

            I can’t stop giggling at your comment. There’s something so scientifically menacing about the “YOU are finite”.

          2. AnonEMoose*

            And THIS… is wrong tool.

            Which is actually, I think, relevant to the situation for the OP. The training might be great – but it might be the wrong tool for the OP. Maybe, OP, if you talk to your boss about what the training is intended to accomplish, it will give you a better idea of whether or not it would be helpful. Also talk about the deadlines – if it’s important to your boss that you attend this training, can one deadline or another be flexed a bit? Can someone else help in some way?

            Best of luck – I personally hate workplace software training in particular and prefer self-paced training. Because I tend to pick things up quickly, and always seem to get stuck in a class with either the person who Does. Not. Get. It. and slows the entire class to a crawl, and/or the person who insists on blathering on in some bid to show off how much they already know. And by lunchtime, I end up wondering where to hide the bodies.

          3. General Ginger*

            Everyone always coming to Zathras with problems. Big responsibility, but Zathras does not mind.

          4. Phil*

            There’s a lovely anecdote John Cage tells about Schoenberg on this subject: “He asked one of his students who did very little work—he asked her how many hours there were in the day. And she looked at him as though he were an idiot, and said, ‘Twenty-four hours.’ And he said: ‘Nonsense—there are as many hours in the day as you put in it!’ ”

            But I think that that applies more to art than to officework.

        1. Koko*

          Yes, I’m not comfortable with this idea that a person is supposed to sit through remedial training, what, to be humble?

          Every time I want to accomplish something that seems like it’s too complicated or too many steps or it’s going to take too much time, I google “Word remove all hyperlinks” or “Excel check if cell contains text” to see if there’s a fast way to automate it. I find classroom instruction to be painfully tedious compared to learning on-the-job by problem-solving and seeking solutions to a real challenge I’m working through, and I’m the most advanced user of all the software we work with on my team. (Like someone above, I’m the person everyone else comes to when they need help.) Classroom instruction in any of them would have no benefit to me. Other work I do that has real value to the business should go undone because someone doesn’t want me to look like a know-it-all?

          1. Triplestep*

            Yup, this describes me. I suspect some of the people giving advice here to “attend the training anyway” think you have to be a straight up propeller-head to be able to learn tips and tricks on your own. Or that it’s terribly time consuming to figure some of this stuff out. That may have been true at one time, but not anymore.

            There’s nothing wrong with being the person who goes to trainings to learn tips and tricks, or being the person who asks your co-worker “how do you do this thing in PowerPoint again?” But that person should consider his/her audience before advising “Go to the training anyway!”

            1. Sarah*

              I agree, I think there’s nothing WRONG with wanting to go to a training for something you already feel pretty comfortable with, just to see if there’s something you missed or learn some extra tips. But it’s definitely not for everyone, ESPECIALLY if there’s a big time-sensitive deadline coming up.

          2. Myrin*

            My goodness, removing all hyperlinks – I need to do that often enough that I’ve had to google it about two dozen times but not often (or regularly) enough to actually remember the keystrokes; it’s a frustrating battle with myself!

            1. Koko*

              I have a draft email that I have actually pasted a bunch of complicated Excel formulas that I use frequently enough, but not enough to actually remember off the top of my head! It’s my little private cheat-sheet.

              1. Alli525*

                I have a collection of Post-it Notes taped to the inside of my notebook! I usually hit google first, but it’s awfully handy when I need it for things like removing all hyperlinks at once.

              2. Cercis*

                One of my past coworkers created a spreadsheet of formulas that we’d use, but not that often. Things like separating first and last names into separate cells, etc. Some of them have become obsolete as excel adds functions (or maybe we just learn new things about what already exists) but it was an extremely useful spreadsheet. We all started adding to it.

                Now I just wish google sheets would get half the functionality of excel. I learned to create a gantt chart in excel that would update when the data changed, but google refuses to play nicely (I mean, if you don’t need the dates or anything, it’s there, but the dates are all in “general” number format so hard to know if that’s October or November).

        2. Not Today Satan*

          Yeah. Granted my office is particularly bad about scheduling superfluous meetings and trainings (and hence my available time is very limited), but I can’t relate to this concept that it’s better to err on the side of an *all day* training in case you learn something new.

        3. Happy Lurker*

          Second the waste of a day…especially when OP mentioned having other pressing deadlines. It would drive me crazy to attend an all day training session and then put in OT to finish my other work.

          1. Decima Dewey*

            I have a more pragmatic reason to take the training. It gets the box checked off, so people looking at the list of trainings OP has had won’t send OP notification that they need to take the training.

            1. Decima Dewey*

              Replying to myself. I remember when I had “mouse training”. Basically, in the name of such training, my library system paid me to play solitaire all afternoon one day.

                1. Floundering Mander*

                  My first office job (circa 1997) was so frustrating because of my colleagues who just didn’t get how to use the mouse. I should have been more sympathetic, since they were middle-aged people who didn’t have computers at home, but man it drove me nuts to have to show people over and over how to use it instead of getting on with the actual training bits.

    3. AcademiaNut*

      I think it matters if it’s the first training event of this type the LW has been asked to attend. If they’ve attended similar events for for their employer in the past, and found them to not be useful, it’s quite reasonable to ask to be excused given that knowledge. But if it’s the first training session, it’s worth going just to calibrate the level of the instruction, for future reference.

    4. Ann Furthermore*

      Agreed. You may know the software and, but often you can learn tips, tricks, and shortcuts that help you do things quicker and more efficiently.

      I’ve been an Oracle EBS nerd for almost 20 years, and I still learn new things about it all the time.

      1. Triplestep*

        Curious … do you learn tips, tricks and shortcuts at classes aimed at beginners? I’m a 20+ year user of AutoCAD and I learn those kinds of things from online sources, blogs, newsletters, etc. And I learn all the ins and outs of MS Office programs by right-clicking and digging into the menus (which is what I tell people who consider me the g0-to person for questions even though I am a designer.) I don’t think you learn those things in trainings.

        1. Mike C.*

          This has been my experience as well. Most of the trainings I’ve seen could be accomplished by pressing F1 and searching.

          1. Triplestep*

            Yep. I think that some people assume that delving into the program is time consuming not worth it unless you’re in a support role, and maybe not even then. I find that a small amount of time spent figuring out how to automate some repetitive task is time well spent. I can quickly tell if it’s going to be too time-consuming to be worth it.

          2. MashaKasha*

            Mine as well. Isn’t the purpose of this training to get the people who are not at all familiar with the product, to the point where they are able to use the product? Not to impart some secret knowledge which will only be shared in that training and cannot be found anywhere online, and the trainees have to all sign a form promising to never tell anyone about it outside of the class. It’s just basic training in a fairly easy product. It’s not a Shaolin monk training course or something.

        2. CrazyEngineerGirl*

          And don’t forget all the super helpful people out there that have made their own YouTube mini lessons! I’m a SolidWorks user myself, and I’ve probably watched hundreds of 1-5 minute tutorials that are literally just some person out there showing how to do the exact, obscure, crazy thing I’m trying to do. Not to mention the user forums that most complex/niche software have these days. The ones for 3D modeling (SolidWorks, AutoCAD, etc.) are AMAZING!

        3. Specialk9*

          “I learn all the ins and outs of MS Office programs by right-clicking and digging into the menu”

          I’ve never heard of this. (And I’m someone who will spend 3 hours finding a specific obscure formula in Excel; advanced user not developer.)

          Do you mean, from the computer start button, all programs, Word, right click? Cuz I’m just seeing open, run as admin, troubleshoot, open file, scan for viruses, properties, etc.

          Or from inside Word, right click on what?

          1. Floundering Mander*

            It might be different with the newer annoying ribbon versions (I switched to LibreOffice years ago because I normally use Linux and the ribbon annoys me), but yeah, I basically learned how to be an advanced Word user by just exploring the menus and finding out what different things do. I presume by right click they mean seeing what comes up on the context menu and finding out what it does.

    5. Mookie*

      I agree. It’d be another kettle of fish if the LW had been certified or formally trained to use the software, but the knowledge they possess appears to be self-directed, and they also acknowledge that they know enough to do their job, suggesting that there are gaps in their knowledge that could well be filled for a variety of reasons and functions down the road. Also–

      Everyone attending this training session is fairly new to the program and will likely be learning the basics

      — this indicates that the LW is guessing about what is likely to be covered. So if they haven’t done so already, they need to seek out the specifics of the course in order to make the most persuasive case possible for their exemption from attending.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Good point. It may well be, as the OP and many commenters assume, that this would not be a good use of her time. But she should check that first.

    6. The Other Dawn*

      That’s how I feel, too. Unless there’s truly a pressing need for OP to not go, I think she should go. It’s great to be able to learn a program on your own, but there’s always more to learn. And when you learn on your own, you’re not necessarily learning everything someone in the basic class would learn, like little tips and tricks, caveats, known issues, etc.

      1. Koko*

        As an auto-didact, I’ve typically found that I know way more shortcuts and tricks than people who received formal training, because they only do the tricks and shortcuts that they were taught, in exactly the way they were taught it, whereas I am constantly Googling to see if there’s a more efficient way to accomplish my end goal.

        I have had to sit through classroom trainings for software before and it’s painful for me and has never taught me anything I hadn’t figured out on my own. I taught myself the shorthand syntax of the proprietary programming language used by our eCRM, which they actually won’t even teach in a classroom because they’re so afraid that casual users will mess things trying to use it, just by reading the documentation in response to unique problems that arose on the job.

        The pressing need for me not to go is that my employer pays me too much money to take me away from revenue-producing products to sit through training that won’t make me any more effective in my role than I already am. It’s not arrogance that makes me say that, any more than it would be arrogance for me to say I don’t need to take high school algebra. I know that I know algebra, and that I know it well enough that if I did come across a gap in my knowledge I would be more than capable of finding the answer myself to fill it in.

        1. CMart*

          I really think “knowing thyself” and making sure your manager also knows/trusts you in this realm is really important.

          I’m someone who unthinkingly would advocate for “just go, what can it hurt? You might actually learn something small but helpful” because I am NOT an auto-didact and have always found formal training to be useful in some way. It’s completely alien to my experience that other people are more naturally curious and will have gone out searching for those little tips and tricks that I simply sit at my desk and think “gosh, wouldn’t it be great if…”.

          I know several people like yourself and can vouch for the uselessness of “formal training” at anything less than an advanced level for things they’ve developed an interest in. You guys are absolutely more valuable doing value-added work instead of sitting in a class hoping that maybe someone might say something novel.

          1. many bells down*

            I’m an autodidact who is generally very good at learning new software. I have been sent to trainings where I didn’t learn a thing I didn’t already know. And I’d probably still go, because I am a very rule-oriented person and I’d want to SEE that I knew what I was doing.

      2. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

        As someone who just sat through formal software training for a software I had never touched (we just got a new ERP here), you are soooo not likely to learn tips and shortcuts in the training. Training for a new software covers the very basics of how to navigate just well enough to do your job. We had someone onsite for months and months working with various small groups. Our group met with him several times and every time we tried to get them to go into depth beyond the very basic functions, the trainer would side step the questions. All the shortcuts and best practices for actually using it to perform our daily tasks we’ve taught ourselves.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          It depends, though, doesn’t it? I’ve had to sit through training on software I knew pretty well and on software that was brand new to me, and in all the training, they taught tips and shortcuts. Some of it I already knew, but some of it I didn’t (for some, it was because it was in part of the software I don’t use, so those tips weren’t going to be particularly helpful to me anyway, but they were helpful for others in the training). I don’t think you can generalize that way.

          1. many bells down*

            Sometimes it’s not even a shortcut necessarily. Sometimes you just miss one simple, obvious thing when you learn a new program by yourself. At least I know I have – I was using this fine for months but … oh, there was a really easy way to do this thing that I just never noticed.

        2. Chinook*

          “Our group met with him several times and every time we tried to get them to go into depth beyond the very basic functions, the trainer would side step the questions. All the shortcuts and best practices for actually using it to perform our daily tasks we’ve taught ourselves.”

          That is just the sign of a bad trainer, not that training is bad. a good trainer would see what you guys want and need and pivot accordingly, especially if they are doing multiple sessions – none of those sessions should be identical in content, just similar with tweaks to focus on questions raised.

    7. Lady Blerd*

      Agreed. As proficient as I am with MS office, I always walk away from a training session having learned someting, even as basic as navigating through the software. So I’d tell OP to go, worst case, they’d have something to pad their year end evaluation.

      1. Kelly L.*

        It depends on the training. If this is being given specifically by the other office–i.e. not just being hosted there–then it’s probably legit, but I once sat through an half-day Word training that was really just an infomercial for the company’s longer, more expensive Word training that supposedly would reveal the real secrets. Still a little salty about that one.

    8. TootsNYC*

      I came to say this.

      I am the power user that everyone else turns to. That googles when I don’t know how to do something. That reads through all the shortcuts on the chart.

      I still learn things at trainings.

      One thing I learn is about how my colleagues interact with our software, and that helps me in my unofficial role of “software resource.” I see what features people don’t seek out , or which ones they react to as helpful. Then I can teach those to new employees right away.

      It can be excruciating to sit there through the basics, so get your Zen on.
      But you can help with translating things into your company’s processes (just don’t interfere with the training). And maybe you can keep your brain occupied by planning your own support materials.

      1. Teapot Librarian*

        I’m the power user too in my office, but as the manager also, I’d want to go to the training so that if someone came to me with a question, I would be able to say “that was covered in the training, go see if you can figure out the answer yourself” and be confident that it actually *was* covered in the training.

        1. Lala*

          This. I don’t love going to trainings, but they’re invaluable as a time saver later when you’re trying to work on something and a coworker wants you to handhold them through something else they should already know (or be able to figure out because they did it before).

    9. cataloger*

      I usually go to such things, even if I’m pretty comfortable with the topic, but especially if I’ve not been through formal training, and especially if a large group of co-workers is going. You can learn faster and better ways to do things, but also get a fuller picture, including: what does training for this look like? what sorts of things do people have trouble with, and what is an effective way of addressing those? This will be good info to have in your pocket for when people come to you with follow-up questions after the formal training.

      A full day of training is a big commitment though, so with deadlines looming I get why you’re pushing back.

    10. LQ*

      I’m also on the Go train. In addition even if you do know everything they teach in class, you’ll now know what your coworkers are supposed to know (so what you can push back to them if that’s appropriate), how they talked about it in training. You also have an expert (hopefully) to take the ear of and ask the complex questions you don’t have the opportunity to ask anyone else. I’ve never run into a trainer who isn’t willing to answer my WAY more advanced the the class questions on break, sometimes they can’t, but almost all of them have followed up with me later during or after class.

      I’ve also found going to trainings like this has opened up the door to, I’d really like to become more proficient in x and the class was stuff I already knew, can I go to an advanced/certificated training for x. (Unless your org has a limited training budget per staff and this will eat away at that.)

      1. cataloger*

        This is a great point!

        Also, if the trainer is local to your company, you now have a person you can contact with any future questions; this works better if you actually went to their standard training, and they remember you as being a pleasant and interested attendee.

      2. Wheezy Weasel*

        The (good) trainers also want to hear from advanced users to improve their own teaching skills and better frame scenarios surrounding the most appropriate uses of the tool. I would often ask for business process context from advanced users to pull out *why* they might use a certain shortcut or find that our tool was not useful. Sometimes they were just really married to a business process that wouldn’t be accommodated by anything other than custom software, but I frequently got a lot of ideas about how to frame the training in ways that made it more effective.

    11. Mike C.*

      I just realized something – the OP could ask to see a syllabus and ensure they know all the topics. That would solve a lot of the issues being mentioned.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        This is a great idea.

        I would cry if I had to waste a day sitting through a beginners Excel class.

      2. Paige Turner*

        Yes, for sure. And if the training is being recorded, OP could offer to review it later when she’s not as busy.

    12. KR*

      Also, at the questions segment OP could use this opportunity to go, “I hear this question a lot, trainer would you mind going over it so everyone knows?” You could even make a list of things people usually come to you with questions about and ask the trainer to cover them.

    13. Have Towel Will Travel*

      I might check with the trainer about this as well. Years ago, as a new employee, I was required to attend a two day mandatory Word and Excel training. I thought I’d learn things, but it was all really basic. Even though I tried my very best to be engaged, it was pretty painful, including the sessions of “try this on your own for 15 minutes!” At the end of the first day, the trainer told me not to come back the next day. I was worried that I’d be in trouble, but she could tell that I knew my stuff, and it was difficult for her, knowing that I wasn’t getting anything out of the training.

      After I became a trainer myself, I concurred. It’s painful to be teaching a class to people who already know the things you’re teaching. It can really suck the energy out of the trainer, and the class.

    14. OP 2*

      Hi! I’m OP 2.

      Thanks for everyone that commented!

      Firstly, I talked to my boss and she actually totally forgot that she had asked me to go. She was apparently been trying to be nice by giving me a break from normal work so I could go to this training.

      For everyone that suggested that I should go, I can give you a little bit of background that would probably change your mind: I am one of the three people at my organization that regularly uses this program. The training was for people that have never used it before. It is a student scheduling program and I was formally trained by our IT manager when I started a few years ago and then have since learned all the more advanced features on my own. With the start of school in a couple of days, there are certain things that have to be done before students arrive so the deadlines are extremely important.

      I LOVE going to training sessions though and have even suggested several that would be helpful for staff members. The IT manager and I have even discussed hosting our own training for staff members. Unfortunately, this one would not be helpful to me.

      Thanks everyone :)

    15. Red 5*

      I would probably go, depending on the severity of the other deadlines. I actually am actively looking for extra training in a piece of software that I use nearly every work day and have been working in for years because my training was mostly my figuring it out on my own when I needed to do something and I really would like to know how the software designers really want it to be implemented and really learn the best practices.

      If it was something like Word, I’d say it’s no big deal, there’s plenty of tutorials, but a lot of the more niche software we use at my job, I’d love to have more training in even though I’m pretty confident in it.

  4. Ramona Flowers*

    #4 In case it’s not clear, it’s voluntary to assist them in that you have a choice about whether to do it. It’s not voluntary in terms of pay – you should be paid if you do help out.

    1. agatha31*

      And also, if the job is trying to ‘guilt’ you into trying to spend *more* time on training someone (who is no more guaranteed to outlast you than this last woman, thus potentially wasting even more of your time in a job you clearly didn’t want to do anymore), then they are being lazy at your expense. Think of it this way: if you were DEAD, what’s the odds the business is going to fall apart and be destroyed, simply because you weren’t there anymore? It’s a bit morbid but what I’m trying to say is, if that’s what they’re pulling, it’s pretty much classic abusive codependent spousal behavior but in a job, which makes it (sort of?) even more creepy, off-putting, wrong, and … creepy. Because dude. It’s a business. Getting and training and retaining employees IS PART OF WHAT BUSINESS IS. The codependency “but we neeeeeeeed you!” guilt trip is just… ugh. I say this from personal experience, btw. I’ve had it happen, I’ve allowed it to happen, I really REALLY regret having allowed it to happen, because it wasted my time and taught them that their horrible tactics actually work – meaning, btw, that they tried it again and again and again and again so, if this is what’s happening to you #4, I suggest you pull a Monty Python and RUN AWAYYYYYYYY!

      1. Mookie*

        I’m a bit confused by this thread because the LW didn’t directly say she was being blamed for anything, right? I know she asked about whose responsibility it is for this situation, but I don’t know that that question is being posed because she’s been asked for additional, unpaid assistance here.

        1. agatha31*

          I’m not suggesting they are blaming her – though it’s a possibility. I’m suggesting they *might* be emotionally blackmailing her out of laziness, because I’ve experienced that myself. Like you can almost see the dark black cloud of saaaaaaaaaadness gather over their head – a cloud unsubtly labelled “this cloud was totally created by you and your mean and selfish behavior” when you suggest that possibly they’re capable of running their business for themselves instead of you dropping everything in your life to return to a business that you’d already made a clear, clean, and forewarned break from. It’s irritating and annoying and obnoxious and unfortunately, if you’re already used to working in at least one crappy atmosphere like that, can easily be accepted as ‘normal’ behavior that you just put up with to stop constant phone calls/emails/whinging through common acquaintances about how selfish you are, instead of something to convince you that you definitely absolutely positively made the right choice to not be there anymore and behavior like that is if anything just one more sign pointing to the road labelled “and never look back”.

          1. agatha31*

            No problem! Thanks for letting me know that cleared it up, too. I seem to have a real struggle in that area: I wall of text the shit out of my thoughts, yet *still* seem to frequently fail at getting across what I’m saying. One of these days I really have to figure out how to fix that. (Plus side, I have, at least, really, really improved on doing that thing, like now, where I absolutely, positively, never seem to notice that I’ve used, approximately, six million or so commas, to the point where my wall of text is also one sentence, and like, at the point where I finally stop, who even remembers where the hell this sentence started, right?)

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Although I have to admit, if I were the one who also reviewed resumes, and interviewed and hired this person, I’d feel a little more personally responsible about their leaving so quickly. Not that that obligates the OP in any way, but I wondered about that when reading the letter and imagining myself in that position.

        I also wondered if “director” is just another overinflated title, or if there is really no one above them, which might mean there is no one left there to hire a replacement.

        I agree with Alison, I just felt like there were some information gaps that I would have liked to have filled to feel more comfortable with that.

        1. RVA Cat*

          It’s making me think maybe they pay crap and the new person was continuing to search during her training and a better offer came through.

        2. many bells down*

          Yeah I’m confused by this person going through 5 weeks of training with apparently no issues and then quitting 3 days into the actual job. That sounds like a THEM problem.

        3. agatha31*

          But you’re not personally responsible. You did your best to make the transition as smooth as possible. Your last day has come and gone. “Oops, that didn’t work so well” isn’t exactly the end of the world. It is, to borrow a concept from many past AMA, “part of the cost of doing business.” Heck even if replacement employee had taken all the money or keyed everyone’s car or whatever – you did your best for the time in which you were employed. IF you really REALLY want to you certainly are allowed to go back and lend a hand to try again, but as I mentioned elsewhere – short of finding a new employee with no friends or relatives who’d miss them and then chaining them to their desk, what’s to stop things from not working out just as fast the second time as the first?

    2. Chloe Silverado*

      This. I’m currently training a new employee at a company I left a few months ago. They’re paying me well, working around my schedule and also paying me for time spent additional creating documentation. To me, that arrangement is great and I’m happy to help. If they asked me to do it for free or were making unreasonable demands of my time, as much as I like them the answer would be no.

    3. aebhel*


      We actually had our former account clerk come in yesterday to help out–we’re short-staffed, her replacement doesn’t start for another two weeks, and there’s nobody on the staff who knows how to do a particular time-sensitive task–but she’s definitely getting paid for it, as well as a ton of gratitude! She also left on really good terms; we never would have even asked otherwise.

  5. Wintermute*

    #1– Tying onto what Alison said, if the associate DIDN’T have warning signs then you need to look at a few things. An incident like this is horrible, of course, but I think it points out a real issue many managers are unaware of. Because manager time off doesn’t work like employees, it’s easy to get wildly out of sync. If you want to support your employees ensure this associate (whose actions were unacceptable under any circumstances, lets be clear that I’m not saying she was justified) wasn’t a good person pushed too far by inability to actually use their benefit time and suffering from unacceptable stress that made her react in an antisocial manner. Someone behaving criminally wildly out of sync with normal work norms is often an indication of a sick work culture, because either there were no warning signs and someone snapped, or there WERE warning signs that you were ignoring, which hardly makes employees feel safe. So look at the things Alison mentioned to see if it’s the later case, make sure you’re supporting your managers and employees if a coworker shows signs of being unsafe, but also ensure this wasn’t a situation where the work environment itself is unhealthy too.

    #4– sounds like they have a problem being attractive enough to good employees to keep them. This, as well as their payroll, is entirely a them problem, not a you problem. Not your zoo any longer, not your monkeys.
    That said it sounds like they really dropped the ball so I’m not surprised they might not be an attractive place to work. Every good employer needs a “bus plan”– and I don’t mean silicon valley private mass transit. You need a plan for “how do we ensure people still get paid/we ever release a new patch/we stay in business/we don’t lose the big client if our only HR generalist/the only person who understands our code/our ‘big ideas’ man/their account executive they really like gets hit by a flipping bus tomorrow”. EVERY key role needs one of these. If Apple had a plan to survive losing Steve Jobs then you have no excuse, no one ever defined an entire company’s approach to business more than Jobs and they still had a continuity plan (even if it’s not working all that well long-term) to keep on trucking.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      Wait, what? I don’t think hyperbole like ‘a good person pushed too far’ is helpful. Nobody is all good or all bad. We are all capable of violence, all of us. But we also have a choice about whether we use those capabilities.

      Secondly, someone behaving criminally wildly out of sync with normal work norms having an anger management problem is often an indication of a sick work culture of an anger management problem which may or may not have involved multiple factors which may or may not include work. It is a very big leap to blame the victims with no background information.

      1. Wintermute*

        This can also be true, of course, but I’ve seen people that finally reach a point of fed up that they react out of violence. Keep in mind that I did say *if the associate didn’t have warning signs* because it is a huge leap to go to “never showed any signs of anger issues before” to “3rd degree felony assault” with no steps in between, unless someone is severely provoked.

        It’s not the ONLY factor naturally, normal people don’t act that way! but what you don’t want is something sadly common, where everyone is sitting around going “well I can’t blame her” and getting demoralized more by the fact nothing has changed than by an ugly workplace incident. I’ve seen it, it was not good to have people hoping that finally now that it impacted management not just the grunts they might actually pay attention to working conditions.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          But you just said normal people don’t act that way. Either they do when pushed, or they don’t – I’m not sure you realise how little sense this makes!

          Anyway. This isn’t a very nice thing to say to a letter writer who clearly cares about supporting their staff.

          1. Engineer Girl*

            It needs to be said though. If you do a proper root cause analysis then you need to examine ALL possibilities. You need to dig deeper. The point is to treat the root cause and not merely the symptoms. It’s a question worth asking.
            It may be that there is no issue in this area. Great! But there may also be room for improvement.
            People don’t normally punch others. You need to find all the contributing reasons leading up to it. Then fix those things.

            1. Observer*

              That assumes that this was actually something cause by the employer. From that the OP writes, this doesn’t sound like an abusive workplace or one that doesn’t allow people to take any time off. Beyond that, even if this were the kind of workplace where people *officially* get PTO, but are never actually allowed to use it AND supervisors are tyrants, it’s a stretch to call the the CAUSE of someone hitting someone so hard the they broke their victim’s cheek bone. That’s caused by the person’s anger management problem and THAT was not caused by the employer.

              1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

                A root cause analysis isn’t a blame game, it is a way to see if anything in the environment you can control can be improved to avoid similar situations. I would do one in this case. I would want to know if this was “out of the blue” for an otherwise good employee because it would indicate that something external to work was going on and I had to make sure staff and managers knew how to access EAP and (more importantly) the organization strongly encouraged people to do so and had appropriate policies in place to allow it. I would also want to know if this was not out of the blue and a pattern of aggressive behavior was known and not addressed so that policies and procedures could be put in place.

                1. Jesca*

                  It saddens me when management does not apply root cause analysis for broader work place problems outside of product issues. When I work, safety is so huge that even if a person outside of the company causes a dangerous situation, a corrective action is performed every time. I agree that corrective action definitely belongs here. And as you say, it definitely isn’t a blame game. It is meant to correct all aspects that contributed to a problem and then prevent it from reoccurring. This is especially important when it comes to safety issues.

                2. Wintermute*

                  You hit it on the head. Also, sometimes RCA ends up finding what you’ve done WELL in a situation and that needs to be called out too. Sometimes your routers handled a path failover flawlessly, it was the telco that dropped the ball by putting the failed over traffic onto an oversubscribed link. Sometimes your NOC identified the situation within ten minutes and had great information but you had to have a courier bring in a replacement card and that caused the delay.

                  In a case like this the result you HOPE for is that your policies and procedures functioned just as intended, they are effective and sufficient to handle the demands of your business, your managers are effective at handling problem employees and the rest of the staff feels empowered to raise safety concerns. But any major incident should trigger RCA/RFO analysis because failure points indicate something went wrong somewhere.

                  Just like with IT RCA, what you are hoping for is to find out that someone else dropped the ball and you did everything you could to avoid and mitigate.

                  It’s not that you’re looking to assign blame it’s that you’re hoping to prevent re-occurrence. Looking at all the factors is how you get there.

              2. Mike C.*

                There isn’t an assumption here because the advice was conditional on not seeing any other signs.

                As far as your concern with the word “cause”, perhaps the terms “mitigating factor” and “aggravating factor” fit this situation better?

              3. Rusty Shackelford*

                From that the OP writes, this doesn’t sound like an abusive workplace or one that doesn’t allow people to take any time off.

                The infamous manager who wouldn’t let an employee have the day off for her graduation didn’t think the employer had done anything wrong. People don’t always recognize the flaws in a system that’s working well for them.

                Now, clearly the violent employee was at fault. No matter how poorly you’re treated (or think you’re treated) by management, punching your supervisor is never appropriate (unless it’s literal self defense). But if something about the workplace might be messed up enough to trigger an already troubled or potentially violent person, a good manager would at least consider the possibility, and would also realize that it might be impacting other people as well, and therefore should be fixed, even if no one is at risk of being punched.

                1. Observer*

                  I’d never assume that just because the OP doesn’t recognize that they’ve done something wrong that means that they haven’t. However, the differences in the background descriptions and the actual question is telling.

                2. Free Meerkats*

                  From that the OP writes, this doesn’t sound like an abusive workplace or one that doesn’t allow people to take any time off.

                  And the reason it doesn’t is the reason the criminal couldn’t have the day off:

                  There were other people who had already booked that day off previously and the limit had been reached because the department still needs enough people for coverage.

                  Obviously, management allows people to use their leave.

                3. Rusty Shackelford*

                  @freemeerkats, the fact that *some* people are allowed to use their leave doesn’t mean this particular employee was. Going back again to the manager who wouldn’t let his employee have her graduation day off – everyone else was allowed to use their leave. It’s entirely possible to have an uneven/unfair system in which some people can use their benefits and others can’t. (Which, again, doesn’t justify violence.) In fact, there are examples in these very comments.

              4. Kyrielle*

                No, it doesn’t assume it was caused by the employer. “It may be that there is no issue in this area. Great!”

                Root cause analysis looks at all areas (that you can think of) that might have contributed. Some of those may turn out not to have contributed at all, and that’s great – but rather than assuming they didn’t, you check and confirm.

                What if this is a great workplace but that manager was playing favorites, or just being unkind about how non-approvals were communicated? What if there were special circumstances around the request that weren’t considered? What if specific people on the team were never able to get their time?

                Again, this is not a negative comment on the OP or their workplace. This is advice for the OP to check and confirm that things in that area *are* working smoothly and need no tending…or are *not*, and then they can look at possible improvements.

                Finding problems in that area does not mean the employee who hit their supervisor (in any way, never mind hard enough to break a bone!) was okay to do that. It just means not turning a blind eye to one possible contributing factor. If there’s no issue there, then no action needs to be taken. If there is, hitting someone is still wrong, but now the issue with vacation approvals can be addressed before it causes other employees to take undesirable but reasonable actions (such as quitting).

          2. Kheldarson*

            I think he’s saying that you get all types of people from folks with psych or behavioral issues to the regular Joe. And while your person with issues will get provoked more easily (and probably first) on an issue, that doesn’t mean regular Joe isn’t agreeing with them. And if nothing changes after the wildly egregious act, then it’s just more proof to Joe that this workplace sucks.

            For instance, I worked retail. Tales of outrage abound. And every time somebody did something crazy– management caving on a big no-no return, refusing to believe cashiers on third party tobacco sales, management shrugging off near assaults on salesfolk — it just proved more that I wanted out. It was demoralizing to the point I was getting snippy and suicidal.

            So crazy person may snap at what seems like a minor thing, but it could be a tipping point for morale.

          3. Engineer Girl*

            I also want to point out that when something bad happens most people have a tendency to blame one thing for the problem. It’s a foolish thing to do. In my experience most large problems are the result of several problems feeding into the large one.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Yep. Even the sinking of the Titanic was down to more than just the iceberg.

              Off-topic but I finally noticed I forgot to change my name back. Sorry, Alison!

            2. Not So NewReader*

              This. This. There is always another layer of complexity. Nothing happens in a vacuum, everything is interwoven and interconnected.

        2. Ramona Flowers*

          I say that because I don’t routinely talk about managers and employees this way, but maybe you do.

          1. Gaia*

            THIS! Even if the company sucks and literally never lets their staff take their time off and laughs in their face when they ask, you do not – ever – hit your manager (or anyone). You find a new job and you quit.

          2. Mike C.*

            This isn’t useful in the context of a root cause analysis. The whole point here is to ensure workplace safety, and talking about what people should be doing isn’t going to get you any closer to the answer.

          3. Chinook*

            ““Fed up” with not having enough time off means you find a new job or quit, not that you start assaulting people.”

            Or call in sick – after all while what the OP did yesterday to see the eclipse was fireable, it at least wasn’t criminal.

      2. Anion*

        Yes. We had an incident of workplace violence at an old job of mine. Employee A discovered that Employee B was a parolee; Employee A then decided it was “funny” to constantly pick at B over–well, the thing that supposedly happens in male prisons. Employee A kept inviting B to join A and A’s girlfriend and talking about how attractive he found B (none of us in management–I was a Lead at the time but not yet a supervisor–knew about this; we knew A was constantly chatting with B but did not know the tenor of the conversation).

        One day A started up again while B was at his desk, and B lost it and attacked him. Several other employees separated them, I stepped in (supervisor was asleep at the time–this led to his being demoted and my being promoted to his place) and sent B outside to cool down (B was already panicking about being fired, and I just wanted him out of the room until someone with higher authority could be contacted).

        Both employees were fired (A was not supposed to be away from his workstation at the time of the incident). A then tried to sue for wrongful dismissal, and I was deposed (the company won).

        I felt so, so bad for B. He was goaded and goaded. I wished he hadn’t been let go, because he was a decent guy trying hard. But the fact remains that he had options aside from punching, and you can’t allow someone whose response to frustration–even rather extreme picking at a sensitive subject–is to hit people stay in their job like that. It affects other employees and can make everyone feel less safe.

      1. Anony*

        Especially when it was denied over lack of coverage! This wasn’t a manager that was denying time off because they disapproved of how it was being used or were giving favoritism to other employees.

        1. The Supreme Troll*

          And even that (as disrespectful and insulting as it can feel in the moment)…never, ever acceptable!

          1. Infinity Anon*

            I agree. The fact that the employee became violent over vacation time suggests that the problem is the employee, not the company. It is disproportional and so far outside the norm that I would not trust their judgement at all about what is and is not fair.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Yeah, I’m really not okay with the framing “good people who would never be violent, except someone told them they couldn’t have something they wanted.” The sane response if you feel work has pushed you too far is what we saw from the woman denied a weekend day off to attend her graduation, or the woman who was told her internal transfer and promotion was denied because her own manager decided she was too valuable to lose that way: You put your affairs in order and quit that day. It’s a strong response, sometimes warranted, and no one gets their bones broken.

        1. Allison*

          Yeah, I’m trying to think of a situation where not getting time off would somehow provoke me to punch someone in the face. Can’t. Maybe I’d want to if they were extremely rude or insulting in how they rejected my time off, but even then I don’t think I would.

          1. Camellia*

            Hmm. What if this was a place where seniority ruled and those who were senior always immediately snapped up all the good ‘time off’ days, and this person really needed that time off for Reason?

            Not saying the response was okay, definitely, but we’ve seen posts here about that very situation, so not hard to imagine it.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              I understand the rage quit. I either admire the person who had the gender-neutral cajones to carry it out, or nod thoughtfully that yeah, crazy wasn’t going to last so at least that’s over.

              I neither understand nor sympathize with the rage smashing of someone’s face after they didn’t give you something you wanted.

              1. Infinity Anon*

                This. So much. Vacation time can be a hot topic, but quitting is more effective than punching someone.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              Places with seniority rules like this can:

              Encourage senior people to be willing to trade days when an employee has something critical. (I traded days off a few times, when someone had gone ahead and made a down payment on their vacation.)

              Management can insist on people taking turns for preferred days OR management can block off preferred days if there is a business need.

              One thing I would seriously consider is putting some wiggle room into the time off schedule. Let’s say the most a place can do is allow three people to be off on the same day. Grant vacation for two and leave the third slot open for emergencies. This way the crew does not work short handed, if someone calls in. This may be a way to get people with less seniority the time they want, also.

              OP, I have a saying that fits a lot of situations: Valid message but poor delivery (in this case, unacceptable delivery). This employee’s message delivery was handled as it should be handled. I am impressed with the company’s response. However, perhaps there is a problem with some people not getting preferred vacation time. Once you get through cleaning up from this, you may want to look at your vacation request policy and see if it can be modified in some manner.
              Tricky part: you are not rewarding bad behavior by doing this, as the person with bad behavior is gone. You will be rewarding all the folks who took their vacation denial in professional stride.

          2. The Other Dawn*

            For me personally, there would have to be a lot of other things going on for me to get to that point (and I really hope I wouldn’t, but one never knows what the last straw will be). I’m thinking a really bad manager that plays favorites or is a real jerk in general, or a really toxic workplace, possible underlying anger management issues, really bad home life, etc. I really don’t see how someone being denied time off due to coverage reasons alone would be enough to make someone snap unless there was more going on.

        2. Mike C.*

          And I’m really not ok with people completely ignoring the context and nuance of a root cause analysis. There’s a bunch of us talking about this and too many are ignoring what we’re saying and the context in which we’re saying it in favor of moral outrage. Yes. it’s bad to assault someone. What’s next?

          No one is saying that it’s somehow ok or reasonable to assault a coworker. But it is perfectly reasonable to ask. “why did this happen”, “was there any way to anticipate this risk” and “is there anything we can change to prevent this from happening in the future”? Those are reasonable and pertinent questions to ask. If the answer was, “no, this dude was a hothead and everyone else has reasonable access to their benefits and we aren’t seeing managers prevent employees from taking time off” then fine, you’re done. But you don’t know if you don’t ask.

          Finding proximal causes to a bad situation is not about alleviating blame from the person who assaulted the supervisor. It’s not about alleviating blame at all. It’s about ensuring that the culture, environment, policies, practices and so on didn’t make this problem worse and if they can be changed or altered to better anticipate this issue and prevent it from happening in the future.

          Isn’t that what we all want?

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            No one is saying that it’s somehow ok or reasonable to assault a coworker. But it is perfectly reasonable to ask. “why did this happen”, “was there any way to anticipate this risk” and “is there anything we can change to prevent this from happening in the future”? Those are reasonable and pertinent questions to ask. If the answer was, “no, this dude was a hothead and everyone else has reasonable access to their benefits and we aren’t seeing managers prevent employees from taking time off” then fine, you’re done. But you don’t know if you don’t ask.

            Man, this bears repeating.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              But your first sentence is exactly my objection–I am happy to go straight to “It’s important to look at multiple factors that might have contributed to the incident, not settle on the first easy option as the sole answer, consider whether there were underlying problems being overlooked in multiple areas and this was the first time it boiled over, etc.” There’s no reason to sidle slowly into that position via “Literally breaking someone’s face because they told you ‘no’ is bad, but.”

              And yes, my strong reaction is related to the current political climate. When something is very bad–and smashing in your coworker’s face is very bad in any situation other than self-defense–then you don’t start out with “Hitting people is bad, but (excuses that suggest maybe it wasn’t bad)” or “Hitting people is bad, but (equivocations that other things, like genocide and staph infections, are also bad).”

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                Hitting people is bad, but (excuses that suggest maybe it wasn’t bad)

                That’s not what the first sentence said at all. At all. Try Hitting people is bad, so we need to figure out why it happened and how we can prevent it from ever happening again.

              2. Jesca*

                Well that is pretty much the root cause of why “the current political situation” keeps escalating. Blame gaming (and only acting with emotional responses) without addressing root cause. It applies here as well. Root cause requires objectivity. If you lose objectivity as a manager, I got nothing for ya!

              3. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

                The root cause might end up being that this was the culmination of a pattern of aggression that had not been reported or dealt with earlier. That’s why you do a root cause analysis: to find out if any internal processes contributed to a worker being injured. The punch is on the employee, but if this had been part of a pattern there are things a company can do address it.

                1. Wintermute*

                  Exactly, mitigation could look like a LOT of things in this case.

                  Mitigation might be making it easier for managers to get rid of employees they feel are behaving unacceptably in minor ways that add up to a pattern of potential for violence.

                  Mitigation might be asking questions that get at these situations in interviews, like “Like many industries, we need to ensure departmental staffing levels and sometimes that means conflict over popular times off, tell me about a time where you had an important need for time off you couldn’t get, how did you handle the situation?” And listening for clues that indicate an entitled attitude towards benefit time or poor conflict management skills.

                  Mitigation might include addressing frustrations with the PTO system and perceived or real unfairness.

                  Mitigation might include workplace stress and work/life balance management programs.

                  Mitigation might include reminders about the EAP and resources for handling work and personal issues, OR, and this is important, removing real or perceived barriers to use of these resources by employees concerned about impact to their job.

                  There’s a LOT of ways it can look, but you have to investigate!

          2. CrazyEngineerGirl*

            Yes!! But I’d add that if you’re doing root cause analysis, the “no, this dude was a hothead and everyone else has reasonable access to their benefits and we aren’t seeing managers prevent employees from taking time off” may not be the end and you may not be done! Because, as others have pointed out, if this is the ‘answer’ the issue becomes whether the ‘hothead’ employee was appropriately dealt with or handled prior to this, right?

            1. Wintermute*

              also true. When an employee melts down this hard you need to ask, “could we have seen this coming?” as well as “can we modify interview and hiring practices to screen for this potential?” among other important questions.

              I feel like my original comment should have called that out, ask yourself how this slipped through hiring, do you warn people about limited PTO availability to screen out people that find it unacceptable? Do you ask questions about PTO conflict, or in general dig into conflict resolution skills with specific performance-based questions (“tell me about a time…” etc)?

              And again as with all RCA, the answer may well be “yes we did everything right”, there’s a number of reasons that someone who never showed risk factors could go off the rails, from a bad reaction to new medication to a traumatic experience to an actual brain tumor to just really hiding their problem temper well in normal settings.

          3. Anion*

            It is indeed reasonable to look at where the company could have done things differently. In the story I told above, the incident inspired us to go over our harassment policies with our employees again, and remind them all that it was our job as their supervisors to make sure they felt safe and help them with coworker issues that might come up. If even one person had told us about A’s conduct toward B, we could have handled it before it exploded…but no one did, either because they didn’t think it was a big deal or they didn’t think we could/would do anything about it.

          4. Jesca*

            I understand your frustration. And thank you for saying this. I do keep seeing the “moral outrage” trumping logic a lot here lately. It is rarely helpful. It is ok to use empathy for the manager that had been punched. It is never ok to do that, but not digging in deeper? That is just … not logical.

        3. Database Developer Dude*

          I cannot imagine any type of situation where I would find it acceptable for me to engage in violence at work no matter how far I was provoked, and I’m a taekwondo black belt. The only time I would EVER use my skills is self-defense, or in defense of another person, when someone ELSE is initiating the violence. Even then, it’s only enough force to stop the threat, then get away and call security.

          I’ve had a manager in the past who has outright lied about me to others, blaming me for not getting something done that I never said I would do, and that I didn’t have the skills for. She blamed me for how long it was taking for my security clearance (government work as a contractor) to transfer over, and she got me canned after putting me in the middle of a political fight between two offices over space issues.

          As mad as she made me sometimes, my only thought was “gawd, I wish I had another job lined off so I could flip her off and leave.” I got my wish.

          In what universe is it even remotely acceptable to punch out someone who’s not being violent towards you???????

          1. Jessie the First (or second)*

            “In what universe is it even remotely acceptable to punch out someone who’s not being violent towards you???????”

            It’s … not? and no one is saying it is?

            If you’re responding to the discussion about root cause analysis, then I think you misunderstand root cause analysis. Person A can be entirely in the wrong and nothing excuses her actions. But you dig deeper, and you see Person B was being an asshole to Person A, and better management would have stopped the situation or found out earlier that Person A was starting to show signs of anger issues. So Person A is not in any way less blameworthy, but now you have information that helps you anticipate and stop possible future problems.

          2. Wintermute*

            in root cause analysis sometimes you find a bad component. It’s poorly designed, the systems engineer that built it should have his architect certification revoked. It’s asking for trouble, and you need to replace it immediately. It’s a bad part and leaving it connected to anything more important than an etch-a-sketch is begging for downtime.

            But, sometimes you find out that other components around it could have handled the failure better too: things went down and automated systems didn’t actuate, your mitigation procedure was out-dated, your monitoring tool didn’t see the fault until it was too late, your oncall number wasn’t forwarded properly and you missed crucial minutes of response time while people dug for a home phone number for the oncall engineer.

            None of that means that you should leave the bad component hooked up to your network, nor does it excuse the system designer who did bad work, but the goal is not figuring out who to blame, the ultimate goal is uptime, and sometimes that means a failure is an opportunity to examine the entire environment and make sure that your other systems, procedures and policies are robust enough to handle a bad part.

            Same thing here. Maybe this was a single-point-of-failure type situation where nothing could have been done differently by anyone. Maybe they could have. You don’t know until you ask questions and that’s all we’re suggesting. No one’s saying it’s okay what they did, what we’re saying is that you should ask the questions when something has gone seriously wrong, because even if the answer is “no we did everything right, this was an unpredictable fluke” that is valuable information that increases your confidence as well.

    2. Gen*

      My mind immediately went to the woman who was refused time off for her graduation because she couldn’t find coverage. Now obviously she quit on the spot rather than assaulting the supervisor (and the supervisor made a lot of mistakes in that case) but I get your point about reaction out of proportion over leave because we’ve seen other cases of it.

      Now OP seems very reasonable and their company has a lot of resources available for it’s staff so hopefully it doesn’t have the sorts of issues with leave I used to have to deal with but it might still be worth a review in case something is going on. So I give the examples below only as an extreme version, because it’s what I’ve seen personally-

      I used to work for an organisation with a blanket ban on summer and public holiday leave. It caused chaos because there was only just enough days left outside that period for everyone to take their benefits but you could rarely get more than two days together so you couldn’t go on vacation and you couldn’t really plan anything. I’ve seen people absolutely hysterical sobbing in hallways because they were denied time off for their own father’s funeral because they used their government mandated bereavement leave at the time of death and the organisation had already reached capacity for leave on that date. I’ve seen people quit on the spot because supervisors ‘couldnt’ let them leave early to collect a sick child. Both of those cases were fine in terms of the handbook but not reasonable in reality.

      It might well be that the learning point in OPs case is more about how long in advance people need to request time, or making sure people understand the rules for refusal of time, or there might be no learning point at all and this person was just wholely problematic and unreasonable. But OP wanted ideas for other ways to support her staff so I would personally suggest reviewing the leave system just in case.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        I don’t think that one was out of proportion, though – quitting was an entirely proportionate thing to do in that situation.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          It was out of proportion for the single incident but in proportion for the longtime pattern of bad coworker behavior.

          1. Observer*

            Actually, not even so out of proportion for that one event, given all of the circumstances.

          2. Health Insurance Nerd*

            It wasn’t out of proportion at all, she needed time off for her college graduation, and her manager refused to grant it; to echo Ramona Flowers, “quitting was an entirely proportionate thing to do in that situation”!

          3. Blue Anne*

            I don’t think it was out of proportion. She was a foster kid who had worked really hard to get herself through school, and her employer was telling her she couldn’t attend the graduation she’d worked so hard for. That one incident, regardless of the rest of my job, would be enough to make me quit that day.

            1. Kelly L.*

              Yep. And the workplace she quit was a call center, IIRC, so it’s not like that was what she was going to do for the rest of her life now that she had the degree. Quitting a dead-end job that I was probably going to quit before too long anyway, to go to my college graduation? No contest.

        2. Gen*

          And we know that because we were told the situation upfront by OP in that case. The OP in that case DID think it was out of proportion even given the work history but she COULD have framed it as just “one of my employees quit on the spot because requested leave on a day when there was none available, should I tell her that was unreasonable?” See how without zero background explanation the employee does seem potentially unreasonable? All we know of the case above is that leave was requested and was not available. That could be all there is to it, or there could be a whole bunch of issues OP doesn’t know about and that her staff would benefit from her dealing with.

          1. Observer*

            To be honest, even if the OP there had left out the background, I would have been questioning the issue simply because would a boss want to reach out to a FORMER employee to tell them how unreasonable they were? That’s just so odd that I’d be wondering WHY on earth this is even a question.

            1. Database Developer Dude*

              Exactly. If a fired employee wanted to contact the employer after the firing to tell them they were being unreasonable, they’d either be blocked from contact or laughed out of existence. An employee who quits is essentially firing the employer. Same deal.

      2. Wintermute*

        you catch my meaning exactly! It’s not that this is justifiable, reasonable or normal, or should be normalized, but people without serious problems don’t just go punching out supervisors and if she never displayed any issues before that issue could have come from work, of course it could have come from home or from new medication (paradoxical aggression reaction to anxiety medication is a real thing, and scary), or from some other medical condition, or from the phase of the moon, or who knows what, that’s not important. The important part is you want to rule out a work cause because you’re trying to support your employees. This is where you ask and listen and really think about what you’re hearing.

        Now maybe this comes from my time working blue collar factory work. There’s absolutely some managers that were very production-focused and the crew would have bluntly said “I’m surprised it took this long for someone to break Frank’s jaw given how he treats people.” An office job is less likely to have that sentiment or be so blunt about it (NOT saying anything about blue collar people, but there is a certain frankness of conversation that happens on a shop floor that an office lacks, and once again I’ve literally seen it happen, manager gets into a fight with someone and everyone basically shrugged and said “can’t blame him, what Frank said was out of line”)

        A good manager looks for learnable lessons in every situation, even if the lesson is just “there’s nothing we could have done, an employee with a previously asymptomatic rage problem hurt their manager”.

      3. TootsNYC*

        One other thing–make it possible for employees to see all the scheduled time offs so they see why they were denied, or can see that a date is filling up so they’ll get their requests in earlier, etc.

        1. boop the first*

          Tsk, yeah the secrecy and unreliability makes booking days off incredibly STRESSFUL! I felt so much worse the 2 or 3 months I spent trying to book vacation time than I would have if I’d just not taken vacation! Every job I’ve had used a “loose paper” system – that is, you write your request on a scrap of paper, hand it to management, and watch them immediately lose that paper. And when the schedule goes up, you beg and bargain. And only at the very last minute, when coworkers think they’ve got this time off and thus plan their life, management shuffles the whole thing and destroys half the staff’s weekly plan. Every week. So pretty much NO ONE can ever plan their life. If we could, we might actually be okay with our job instead of deeply despising it, and who the hell wants happy employees?

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Wall calendars are a wonderful thing for just this type of setting. Everyone can see what is going on. Additionally, if I need Jane’s help and I don’t see Jane around then I can check the calendar to see if she has requested off today. This saves me digging through email and checking with three other people who don’t know either.

      4. Anony*

        It seems like if the vacation policy is the problem then they would be having high turnover rather than physical violence.

    3. Cambridge Comma*

      It sounds from the letter that there was one very clear criteria for the leave (sufficient coverage). No impediment to the staff member taking leave at another time is mentioned. I can see the motivation to think that there must be a reason for such an extreme reaction, but there is nothing to indicate an unhealthy work environment, and we wouldn’t want to get into victim blaming.

    4. Mookie*

      Someone behaving criminally wildly out of sync with normal work norms is often an indication of a sick work culture

      No, it’s the opposite. A pattern indicating a larger, more systemic problem emerges when multiple people begin to push back, exhibit dissatisfaction, or publicly question certain prevailing procedures. The LW indicated nothing of that sort here, and handling coverage at the expense of leave is a universal woe one can rarely manage out of existence entirely.

      1. (Different) Rebecca*

        I don’t know about that–I think you might be underestimating the “quiet desperation” part of some work places.

        1. fposte*

          Sure, but that’s also multiple people *not* pushing back. Or else we’re saying there *are* no signs of a sick work culture, because it looks just like a functional one. I suspect that’s not true.

        2. Jesca*

          Yeah, I mean as sad as it is, some places are really horrible. I have seen some shit go down – pardon the phrase – and people react just like this.

          For instance in this situation:
          “Man Marry has been flipping her gear for months and was completely unchecked. I am surprised it took this long for her crazy butt to escalate to this”
          “Man the way that manager speaks to people, I cannot believe someone hasn’t punched them before!”

          The scary part about both of these situations is that you have employees subjected to a very dysfunctional work atmosphere and none of them feel the need to speak directly about it. They are also starting to internalize the behavior and commiserating at times with really scary reactions to the dysfunction. I think a lot of places take for granted that people are going to just go speak up about situations, when they really aren’t. It is too far off the rails. If you have an employee who punches a manager in the face, then you really should be looking into all avenues of why that had occurred. Remember the woman who bit that man who was a supreme office asshole? That is exactly why this is the perfect opportunity to look into root cause.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Remember the woman who bit that man who was a supreme office asshole?

            Exactly. It was an inappropriate response to an inappropriate stimulus. The fact that someone’s reaction is inappropriate doesn’t mean the incident that triggered them couldn’t be inappropriate as well.

            1. Jesca*

              Exactly. And trust me, in the line of work I do and the places I have been? Yeah, you HAVE TO investigate something like this. Management never realizes how little they actually know as to what is really going on!

        3. Mookie*

          Possibly, but workplace violence in the US follows very specific patterns, particularly when it’s employee-instigated intentional violence, and the common denominators are alcohol and drug use, domestic violence in the instigator’s personal lives, and at work a pattern of being repeatedly disciplined, missing shifts, filing grievances, and issuing threats and otherwise behaving emotionally and disproportionately relative to their colleagues.

      2. Kyrielle*

        I think it is very, very likely that this was a single problem employee.

        But I would still be looking at, and asking about, whether there are problems with the leave system or whether it’s creating inequities, either across the board or in some departments.

        Even if I thought it wasn’t, I would still do the looking. Punching someone (let alone hard enough to break their cheek!) is never okay. But if there is a bigger problem, which set off this employee’s anger management issue, then other employees will benefit by seeing that ironed out. (And more reasonable employees will not feel the need to, say, quit and move to another job over it.)

        And if there’s not, my review would set my mind at ease about that possibility.

        I don’t think framing it as something that could drive a “good” person to do this is useful. But I do think looking for any contributing factors that _are_ in my control would be useful. I can’t control Fergus’s anger management problem. What can I control?

        1) Was the anger management issue noticed, and not reported or dealt with? If so, why? How can I make this more likely to be reported or dealt with?

        2) What can I do to give every employee a wider awareness of the EAP, in case they are having issues that *don’t* show in the workplace, but where getting help would be useful?

        3) Was the vacation system being systematically unfair to this employee and/or others, and if so how, and what changes might improve that? (Because I don’t want a system that’s unfair; because I don’t want to set off anyone else with anger issues; because I don’t want my ‘safe’ employees to quit over the vacation system.)

        4) What damage has the incident done to the comfort level of line employees and managers, and what support in dealing with it can I make available and obvious to them?

        5) What can I do for the manager that was actually punched?

        Sounds like the OP is mostly on these. #3 is part of a reasonable root cause / risk analysis, and it’s good data to have. No matter what the findings, it doesn’t in any way exonerate the employee who through the punch. But figuring out if the trigger was just “I wanted it and didn’t get it” vs “this system is consistently keeping me from getting what I want” is useful because the latter is good to address, even though punching is a completely inappropriate, unexpected response to that sort of thing.

        1. fposte*

          These are excellent, Kyrielle. This is a really good illustration of why you have a protocol to deal with a situation rather than just going case by case, too.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          I don’t think framing it as something that could drive a “good” person to do this is useful. But I do think looking for any contributing factors that _are_ in my control would be useful.

          This is the distinction that I wanted. Look at all the possible causes that went into this, that’s often warranted. But don’t frame it as “Good people who hear the word ‘no’ sometimes smash the speaker’s facial bones into pieces. Understandably.”

          1. RVA Cat*

            Yes, but Bad People do, and bad people will continue to exist in this workplace unless you proactively remove them before it comes to the point of breaking faces.

            1. fposte*

              Well, they might, anyway. There’s no guarantee you’ll ever get another one–but you still want to assess the event.

            2. Kyrielle*

              Agreed, but I don’t think Falling Diphthong was arguing against handling the situation. The confounding issue was the phrase “wasn’t a good person pushed too far” in the root comment, I think. It’s not that everyone speaking about Good People Don’t Do That means you don’t have to look at root causes. It’s that they’re reacting to that one phrase. (Which is why I tagged in with my thoughts – I wanted to make sure we didn’t throw the root-cause analysis out the window with the ‘good person’ phrase, because root cause analysis is important and useful.)

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                Yes, root cause analysis is good and likely called for. You don’t have to tiptoe into the root cause analysis by framing the face-smashing as what happens when you push a good person too far.

      3. Mike C.*

        When it comes to something this serious, you should be looking for systemic issues even if it’s only happened once. If there is a systemic issue, there’s always going to be a first incident and you never want this to repeat. You won’t know if it’s systemic until you start looking around.

        1. fposte*

          I think this is a great point, too. What you don’t want to do is write off something critical as a freak situation and then find something you could have averted happening later.

    5. Yorick*

      Like you, I wondered if the employee requested time off for some meaningful reason and was denied. The puncher’s behavior is obviously inappropriate no matter what, but maybe their frustration was legitimate and maybe it’s felt by other employees too.

  6. sacados*

    #4: Something similar happened to me after my first job. I was an assistant editor at a small weekly magazine (only 3 people in the editorial department full-time). I helped interview my replacement and trained her once the hiring decision was made. It seemed like it was working out all right when I left, but I started hearing about a lot of problems with her really quickly, and after just a few weeks she was let go with no replacement. To make matters worse, the other two members of the three-person editorial team had also quit right at the same time, so the whole department was new to the company. (One of the two was just a coincidence — I had no idea when I gave my notice that he had just given his as well — and after that our EIC decided he’d rather leave along with us than be stuck with a whole new team, so he gave notice as well.)
    Long story short, the magazine contacted me to see if I could help out for a while when my replacement was let go. I was already started at my new job at that point, but I was working a late shift (1pm ~ 10pm) and the two offices were fairly close together, so I agreed to come back and help. So for about two months, two to three days a week I would go into the magazine from 9am until about noon to help keep things running then walk over to my new office for my 1pm start.
    It was rough, but rightly or wrongly I felt for them about the situation. If it had gone on for any longer though, I probably wouldn’t have been able to keep it up.

    1. Just Curious*

      Did they pay you for that work? If so, was it the same rate as when you were an employee, or did you raise your rates as a consultant? Maybe if OP#4 has the time and inclination she can agree to go back for a limited period of time as a (higher) paid consultant (I would definitely not recommend that she volunteer her time for this).

      1. sacados*

        Yeah, I definitely didn’t volunteer for that! I was paid hourly for the time I spent at the office– don’t remember exactly how much it was, but generous enough.
        Definitely agree that if OP’s schedule allows, going back short-term/part-time would I’m sure be a help to the company, but it depends on the situation. Juggling two jobs like that was pretty stressful.

  7. Marzipan*

    #3, sometimes people apply to me using wording from the job description for the role they’re applying for – I roll my eyes pretty hard when people do that. (I’ve had colleagues say ‘look how well they’ve described this’ and I’m like ‘But I wrote that!’.) I find it a bit offputting. Not enough to totally rule someone out, but enough to make me feel less enthusiastic about them.

    In this case, though, it sounds as though you’re talking about using the wording from your current job to describe what you do in your current job, which is less weird. The only thing is, if you then apply for a more senior role within your current company, you’re back into ‘I wrote that’ territory and it’s weird again.

    Added to that, if your job actually is something to do with marketing and that isn’t just a random example, I’d be particularly cautious, since marketing is so much about being able to, well, market things effectively. If you’re relying on other people’s words, you’re passing up the chance to use your own and show what you can do. Instead, why not break down how the wording they’ve used achieved the clear effect you noticed, and work out how to use that approach throughout your whole resume?

    1. Ainomiaka*

      I have been told that this is a good tactic to get your resume through computer gatekeepers. You may not have them, but it’s common enough that I wouldn’t assume that the person you are seeing doesn’t know you wrote that and doesn’t have other ideas

      1. Judy (since 2010)*

        I’ve certainly looked at job ads before to understand the language. But I don’t generally copy the sentences, I copy the terms. For example:

        Design of Experiments
        D. O. E.

      2. Polymer Phil*

        Not just computer gatekeepers – it’s common in technical fields to have to get a resume past some HR drone who has no idea what any of the jargon in the job description means, and is just blindly matching keywords. I’ve probably been screened out of jobs I was a fit for because the HR screener didn’t know that the word in my resume is a synonym for the one in the job description. Federal jobs are especially notorious for this – a candidate pretty much has to cut and past the job description verbatim into their resume to get past the initial screening.

        1. Allison*

          I do sympathize, the person screening resumes for technical positions should have some baseline knowledge of what they’re looking for. On the other hand, if you know a requirement was listed one way, it’s a good idea to make sure that word or phrase is somewhere in your resume as it was listed. If they want someone strong in Linux, make sure the word Linux appears, not just RHEL. If you’re a Javascript expert, it’s great to list the frameworks you’re proficient in, but it would be silly to apply for a Javascript-focused job and not have that actual word in your resume. If I’m applying to a job and they require Excel skills, I’m going to make sure the word Excel is there, not just the words “spreadsheets” and “pivot tables.” It doesn’t take that much effort to put that word in.

        2. Competent Commenter*

          Yup. I work for a large public university and when I was applying to work here, a friend who was already on staff told me she had personally been assigned to compare application packages to a list of key words as an early step in the hiring process. After that I retooled every part of my application to use as many key words as I could and still have it sound normal. That included rebranding myself from “teapot design consultant” to “teapot engineer specialist” since that was the in-house terminology. I actually copied all the job posting text into Word, highlighted all the potential key words, used those to make a list, grouped it by subject to make it less overwhelming, and then checked them off as I used them. I couldn’t use more than about half but I got a lot into the online form and uploaded docs. I’d applied for a job here in the past for which I was really qualified and heard nothing. Since then I’ve applied for two other jobs and gotten interviews (and these are high-level jobs).

          It comes back to knowing your audience, though. If someone had done this with their materials when they applied for a job at the business I ran, I might have found it strange and off putting unless it was done very carefully.

        3. Hapless Bureaucrat*

          Yes, this is the case at my government agency. An HR person does a first screen, but they can’t be experts in all the areas of our big, diverse agency. So they do rely in part on keyword match, at least for required qualifications.
          I only see resumes they let through, so I can’t check if they are interpreting correctly. They do bring me resumes they’re uncertain about, but those are mostly matters of “does this degree count as a policy degree in your field.”
          So I expect to see a certain amount of match between my job description and the resume. I regard it as a sign someone knows how the hiring process works in our field.
          If I see my words in your cover letter or supplemental questions, or in your interview, that’s a yellow card. Or if your resume is mostly parroting back the job description. That’s when I start to wonder if you actually know what you do NOW, much less what I want you to do.

        4. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

          One of my friends was screened out of a position based on education. The job requires a bachelor’s degree. He had a JD. Apparently the screening staff didn’t realize a bachelor’s precedes a law degree. He found out because the friend who referred him asked why he didn’t apply.

    2. MicroManagered*

      That’s a good point. A job description is actually someone else’s work. Personally, I might borrow some language from my official job description, or from the job I’m applying for so that I’m tailoring my resume. Like if the posting uses phrase “ensure compliance” 4x, I’ll think about what duties I’ve done that involve “ensuring compliance” and make sure that phrase is on there. But at some point, it’s plagiarism to make a straight one for one copy.

    3. Agent Diane*

      +1 on the fact as a marketing person, you need to show your ability to change the source material into engaging copy.

      1. Competent Commenter*

        Depends on the situation, though. See my comment above—I’m a marketing director and worked as many key words as possible into my public university application to get through the initial screening process.

    4. PB*

      Maybe another example of college career centers gone awry. I remember being told in grad school that using words from the job posting was a good tactic. Presumably, the hiring manager would read it and say, “Hey! That’s literally exactly what I want!”

      As an adult professional who hires people, I realize what a poor idea this is. As a freshly minted graduate, I did not.

      1. Competent Commenter*

        It’s probably just not a good match for your field. For applications to a state or federal agency it might be crucial to getting past the initial screening.

      2. Librarianne*

        It’s actually necessary for a lot of government jobs, but like literally every other piece of workplace advice, half of what is required for government positions is the exact opposite of what works in the private sector.

  8. Evil HR Lady*

    As someone who tends to be better than the average HR person when it comes to technology I have lots of sympathy. I hate boring trainings where I already know everything.

    But also, as someone who has done technical training, I also have lots of experience with people thinking they know what they are doing and being shocked when I teach them how to do it better, faster, and more easily.

    1. Mike C.*

      I know what you mean, but there’s nothing worse than having had to sit through four hours of slow paced instruction only to come away with a few shortcuts.

        1. Mike C.*

          Now I’m sitting here wondering how long the training/meeting would have to be to prefer a punch to the face.

  9. Cambridge Comma*

    #2, is there anything you can do to objectively demonstrate your competency in the software? A while ago I did a free on-line assessment of my Word skills; it gave you a result expressed as ‘you are in the top x% of people who take this test’.
    I also took the stupidly named European Computer Driving Licence a while ago without any test preparation, I don’t know if there’s something similar outside Europe, but it’s an easy way to prove your competence.

    1. MeowThai*

      I am very interested in that free online assessment… Is there more than just Word skills? Having this kind of objective result sounds awesome. Do you have a link?

    2. OP 2*

      Unfortunately, there’s nothing like that for this program as it’s a very niche program. It all worked out well though as my boss didn’t end up even caring if I went. She was trying to give me a break from regular work. She knew I didn’t need a basics course on that program, which is awesome! I would love to get a link to this online assessment you mentioned though!

  10. Annie Mouse*

    I can’t understand how someone would think it was acceptable to thump another person, especially over something like leave. There are situations where a punch is more understandable (self defence for instance) but even in the most toxic workplace it seems so completely bizarre to me. I’ve had leave issues in the past, and I may have sat muttering at the email for a moment, or released a sarcastic ‘oh of course I can’t have that off, that would be far too convenient.’ But a lot of that has been due to the tone of the email, a ‘tough s#%*’ tone of response is never going to be received well, I can’t imagine getting grumpy with them if they told me in person, let alone getting violent.

  11. Kinder Gentler Manager*

    OP#2: Is it possible that you may not be as proficient as you think? In my department we use a specialized design software and I frequently deal with employees who believe they use the software well but are really using cumbersome workarounds instead of best practices. Once we get them trained more effectively, they save roughly 8 hours a week in new efficiencies.

    1. Competent Commenter*

      As someone who finds it excruciating to sit through trainings for software or processes I’ve already mastered, your comment gave me pause. And then I thought…yeah but every time I’ve had to do these kinds of trainings I go in hoping for some new information and walk out thinking okay, I spent X hours and got 5 minutes of new information. It’s always so basic. Also, I personally don’t do well with a whole-day training situation anyway. I can only absorb about an hour at a time.

    2. OP 2*

      It’s not possible that I’m not as proficient as I think. There are only three people in my organization that actually use this program and this training session would be for people the very basics. I’ve used it daily for several years and have had the basics formally taught to me by our IT manager. I taught myself things that would not be covered in this session.

  12. Volunteer Enforcer*

    OP 2, I was in a similar position to you. We adopted a new client records system that I thought I knew a lot about when training was announced. By asking what it would include I discovered that it would cover areas that I didn’t yet know about but needed to. It could be worth you asking the same thing.

    1. OP 2*

      Turns out it really was the absolute basics course for people that have never used the program before and I’ve been using this program for years. I would love to learn more about the program but it would not have happened in this session :(

  13. Nox*

    #1. Interestingly enough we JUST had a similar incident a few months ago with the cops called and all. The employee in question had been with us for a while and just blew up one day with no prior issues outside of requesting off the assigned account multiple times. This was largely due to the project always being behind because it’s staffed with under performers so this guy worked hours and hours of overtime and felt burnt out. His supervisor never approved his time off requests even for holidays citing coverage reasons as other people on the project would get the prized time off even when they weren’t doing what they were supposed to do. TLDR he blew up one day and threw a keyboard and wireless mouse at his supervisor and stormed out. We called the cops because the sup wanted to press charges and we have since been forced to revisit how we handle time off by ensuring all employees take time off at least 2 times a month and limit overtime. We also make sure that it’s no longer capped at a certain amount of people being allowed to take time off because after the incident we had many employees speak up and tell us that they related to the overwhelming feeling of never being able to take time off to smell the roses sometimes.

    Also, we lost the unemployment claim for this because of the fact this person was working so many hours in a pay period that the unemployment office determined he had no other recourse. Even after we cited the assault that took place, unemployment still sided with the employee. So while I don’t think that the LW works for an unreasonable organization, I just felt I should share this story because in our case this was an example of a person who just couldn’t take it anymore and exploded which resulted in many changes for us as an org.

    1. Frozen Ginger*

      “This was largely due to the project always being behind because it’s staffed with under performers so this guy worked hours and hours of overtime and felt burnt out. His supervisor never approved his time off requests even for holidays citing coverage reasons as other people on the project would get the prized time off even when they weren’t doing what they were supposed to do”.”

      That sounds pretty unreasonable. Maybe the org as a whole isn’t unreasonable, but considering your example, it’s very possible LW’s org was bin unreasonable in regards to coverage too.

      1. Amy*

        Agreed! Seriously, the supervisor consistently gave poor performers time off while expecting the one guy doing all the work to work consistent, extensive overtime AND go without any time off (including holidays)? And this continued to the point where even unemployment determined he had no other recourse? That sounds incredibly unreasonable. I’m glad it’s resulting in changes for your org, but seriously, poor guy.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          It’s an extreme version of never promoting the key person who is critical to the department functioning–it doesn’t matter that the barely competent are or are not in the office next week since they barely impact the product, but we need Wakeen here 12 hours a day.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            Am I a horrible person for actively wondering how to get hired into a company that rewards slackers and still manages to employ enough Wakeens to keep the ship above water? I have always been the Wakeen, going all the way back to junior high group projects—I am tired of being the Wakeen, damn it. ;(

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          It sounds completely reasonable to me. Why would you let the guy who’s doing all the work take time off? It makes more sense to let the slackers go – you lose less productivity.

          (This is a great example of a system that looks fair and reasonable to the manager, even when it’s not.)

    2. Anon Accountant*

      Thank you for sharing this. It’s interesting to see how this played out at another company.

    3. The Supreme Troll*

      Nox, the employee at your company still deserved to be terminated. What he did, well…there really would have been no going back. The bridge with your company and his boss was already burned.

      My personal opinion, though: while my first reaction was that he should be denied UI benefits as well, I don’t mind at all that he is receiving them, given the circumstances you explained. The firing – absolutely justified; receiving UI benefits – justified as well.

      1. Anon Accountant*

        The bridges are burned and I can’t imagine explaining “why are you no longer at this position”. I feel bad for him because of feeling so overwhelmed but his reaction was so extremely bad.

      2. Sunshine Brite*

        Agreed on the benefits; the guy clearly needed some time off prior to finding a different position.

      3. Hapless Bureaucrat*

        My guess would be that UI determined the guy quit before he was fired, and quit because he had no other recourse. In which case he hadn’t been fired for cause (the assault) because he was already gone.

        I could be wrong, but that fits what I know of the quit because of working conditions portion of UI law.

    4. Isabelle*

      It sounds like a textbook case of performance punishment and I’m not surprised he blew up.

      It’s good that the company put a new time off policy in place but they should also look at not letting employees get overwhelmed and making sure they manage the under achievers better (including letting them go if they don’t improve).

    5. Caro in the UK*

      I feel so bad for this guy. Anger and violence should never happen in the workplace… but the supervisor really pushed him to the limit :(

      I think firing was the right call, because once that line is crossed, it’s crossed. But honestly, I’d have fired the supervisor too for such spectacularly poor management of the team and his horrible mistreatment of this employee.

    6. Bea*

      Since he stormed out afterwards, I think he quit before you could fire him. As stated up thread, that makes even more sense why they accepted the unemployment claim. I cannot believe anyone would think that after that kind of meltdown that they’d still be employed, so the company being disfunctional is trying to spin this as “oh we fired that dude” instead of “this one time, this guy quit his job by throwing his keyboard and mouse at the supervisor.”

  14. Frozen Ginger*

    #5 – I’m curious- would they have increased salary to deal with the change in cost of living? Something tells me if they can’t “afford” retirement plans they’re probably also can’t “afford” to raise your salary to live in NYC.

    I know this is just speculation, but considering LW already suspects a bait and switch and NYC has an astronomical cost of living, it makes me wonder if that was why offered remote in the first place.

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      I was wondering this as well as the difference in cost of living between Vermont and New York must be quite large.

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I was thinking something along the same lines as this: if they can’t “afford” retirement plans, then they can’t “afford” being based in NYC.

      Anyway, OP5, DO NOT MOVE for this company. I’m sure you weren’t even considering it, I just wanted you to know that I’ve got your back. Since you’re not bluffing about not continuing to work for them if they won’t let you work from VT, you should definitely make that clear to them. If they decide they don’t want you because you won’t relocate from sparsely populated VT to crowded NYC, well, their loss and in which case, hope you can find something good that will allow you to work from VT.

  15. Czhorat*

    For OP#2, I’d suggest talking to your manager about the training curriculum. You could say something like:

    “I’ve used Bluebeam Revu on my own somewhat extensively. I know how to markup drawings, how to use the keyboard shortcuts, and how to set up collaborative studio sessions. Is this training going to be covering those kinds of basics, or will there be procedure-specific information that I wouldn’t get otherwise? If the former, can I bow out on this one to work on my other commitments here?”

    This way you’re bringing up specifics, letting them know what you can do, and giving them information to make the best decision. Remember that your time is a resource for your employer; a smart employer is going to want you to use that time effectively. Sitting in on a class to learn things you already know may not be the best use of your time.

  16. CAS*

    #3: I’m not sure I can overstate the lameness of copying your job description verbatim into your resume. I teach at the undergraduate level and previously taught the capstone course for my discipline. One assignment was resume preparation. Over and over, I had students attempt to copy job descriptions from various online sources and use them in their resumes. And over and over, I gave them zeros for plagiarizing those job descriptions. In some instances, the job descriptions they copied were the ones posted on their employers’ websites. The job descriptions were not their work, and it’s not acceptable to copy another source’s work that way.

    By copying your existing job description, not only does it appear as if you can’t describe your work with your own words, but it also might look like you weren’t willing to put the time into developing a resume that reflects what you contributed to the organization. A resume is more than a list of job duties. It should reflect what you accomplished for the organization. In marketing, you’re selling. Your resume is how you sell yourself as a candidate — not your job duties.

    1. Sunshine Brite*

      Many of the online entries that companies use and HR filters through use the job description verbatim to filter candidates. I’ve known people who’ve done the job in various capacities or trying to move from intern to full-time get filtered out prior to getting to the decision-makers who told them to apply due to the process. Think government or university – highly standardized processes where people can’t just pull the resume of a former coworker or intern they would be happy to work with again. I know a number of examples where using your own language or synonyms of the job description rather than verbatim landed an application in the ‘no’ pile before a human even looked at it.

      1. Competent Commenter*

        Agreed. I’ve already posted about this too many times above, but TLDR is: using key words from the job posting is mandatory in our public university if you want to advance in the hiring process. Doesn’t mean you have to paste large swathes of the text, but you’d better get in a lot of key words. And I’m in a director-level position and had to do that.

    2. Mike C.*

      You’re not wrong,but it’s also a great way to bypass the automated systems that many companies use.

      1. Lynn Whitehat*

        Or even the recruiters, who for some reason are allowed to do this work even though they don’t know the first thing about the field they’re hiring for. I can’t tell you how many recruiters I’ve talked to who are told to hire someone with “Linux experience”, and don’t know that Red Hat and Ubuntu are types of Linux. Or “SQL knowledge”, and don’t realize that Oracle is SQL. Good Lord, how hard would it be to keep a list of synonyms or common sub-types? But they don’t. So you better use the exact words in your resume that they have in the job posting, because the recruiters will never no-how make any connections on their own.

        1. Mike C.*

          “Hmm, yes. I see that you have experience in MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access but we really need something who knows Office. Better luck next time!”

    3. Iris Eyes*

      Most companies don’t need a bunch of people that can think creatively, they need a bunch of people that can reproduce things efficiently. They don’t want people who will reinvent the wheel, they want people who can take the old wheel out of storage and make it profitable. So from an employer perspective someone who borrows heavily from job descriptions and makes use of key words should get more consideration then someone who’s resume is creative and unique.
      I know that attitudes toward plagiarism are strict in academia in the Western world so I can see where your disgust is coming from however I think you need to think about how your students are going to have to function in the non-academic world and train them for that too.

  17. Delta Delta*

    #2 – One thing jumps out at me here. If the whole office, or most of the office, is expected to go to this training, allowing the OP to skip it is going to potentially have a detrimental morale effect. Unless OP is *SO* proficient in the software that everyone else would think, “well obviously Jane isn’t going, she’s a total whiz with the software!” then it’s possible they’ll think, “what the heck? we have to miss a whole day of productivity and Jane doesn’t? that’s not fair” Relating to an experience I had – I once worked somewhere where there were mandatory state-wide trainings. Big Boss skipped those regularly, and allowed his class pets to skip them, also. New employees felt a little slighted by this, even though there were reasons Boss et al skipped.

    Also, you might learn new things you didn’t know before. And there might be free lunch!

    1. Misteroid*

      It would be pretty demoralizing if I had to sit through a beginners training on a program I already knew. If there’s no clear reason for me to be there, then why am I not getting my actual work done?

      1. Competent Commenter*

        Seriously. I’d be demoralized. And if the OP is the one everybody’s coming to with questions, I doubt there would be a detrimental effect created by the in-house expert not attending.

        In my office team I’m the self-taught expert in several suites of software. At this point I’ve been using some of it for 20 or 25 years. Also the most proficient in-building editor of our website; only one other person besides the coders knows better how to use it, and I’ve been there less than two years. I believe I can accurately assess my own skill level. My god please don’t send me to a remedial Word training. I’ll lose my effing mind. There’s always something more to be learned about applications, but not in a basic class. As someone above said, that’s what Google is for.

        However, I did sign up for a basic online Excel class because I’ve rarely needed it before and am all thumbs. I will happily sit through that.

        1. not my usual alias*

          I was a technical writing intern working in an IT division and I had to attend their afternoon workshop on technical writing. It was… not a good use of my time.

    2. Lynn Whitehat*

      The question isn’t whether there’s *any* value to going. The question is whether it is the *best* use of time. If the training is 8 hours, how long will it be before the tricks they learned saved them 8 hours? If the OP is as proficient as they claim, they might not learn enough to save them 8 hours over the entire rest of their career.

    3. OP 2*

      I work at a school, so it would only be admin staff that’s attending. It was about 6/7 people total. Myself, the IT manager and my coworker did not attend. It was not an issue that we didn’t go. It was really the basics (ex. how to log in, how to update a student’s records, etc). I have used it every day for several years and the IT manager laughed when I told him that my boss mentioned I should go. With school starting in a couple of days, it would have been so bad if I lost an entire day.

      In the end, it turned out that my boss had only suggested that I go to give me a break from work but she agreed that I definitely knew it and if I didn’t want to go then I shouldn’t. Hooray!

    1. LQ*

      It should have been paid to Vermont. And it will absolutely make a difference. Generally Unemployment should be paid to the state where the work is done and then that is where you’d file your claim.

      You should really check with the Vermont laws/call and ask. Different states will have different requirements for things like if the office moves, if you are offered a job and you don’t take it (because that may be a refusal of a job offer even though it requires moving), what distance is reasonable for your profession/area/labor market to have to commute. (Like if it had been Connecticut then it may have been reasonable because people commute from there to NYC.)
      Call your local unemployment office and ask.

      1. Naruto*

        Seconding the advice to call your local unemployment office and ask.

        It’s also possible that the length of time you’ve been working for the employer matters in terms of whether you’re eligible to collect unemployment benefits. That varies by state.

  18. stuff*

    #2, I’d suggest going to the training. I don’t know you, so you may be as, more, or less proficient than you think but in this case, it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that you can’t know exactly what the instructor will talk about without guessing; which means you can’t prove you know how beneficial the training will be.

    So go. You’ll have more standing the next time it comes up and you can say from experience and reading the syllabus that it won’t cover anything new.

    And this is coming from someone who was more proficient than the class and only ended up learning one hotkey… which I had to remap because it was suited for right handed people.

  19. Hiring Mgr*

    On #2, this may have been mentioned already but can you find out more detail about exactly what the training will cover? Then you’ll be in a better position to know if you should attend..

  20. Jana*

    Punching someone is never an okay reaction. But I agree with some of the other readers about making sure you revisit how time off is approved to make sure it’s fair. Getting time off denied can really kill morale. At my old company, I started in a part time position. Within a month, I was working 50 hours a week but they refused to move me into full time, so I was unable to access benefits like PTO. So I would try and request a day off and I would be told: you’re only part time, you don’t get to take PTO. It was so frustrating and burned me out so quickly.
    I’m not saying that’s what happened here. Just a story about how frustrating being denied time off can be.

    1. John B Public*

      Depending on your location, If you consistently work full time hours your company may be legally required to provide you benefits, essentially reclassifying you as full time. This was something I’d heard regarding the ACA.

      1. Natalie*

        There’s no legal requirement to provide benefits in the ACA. A company can always chose to pay the fine rather than provide insurance, and some do.

        That said, if one does offer health care to employees generally, it has to be available to people who work 32 hours a week or more even if they are officially classified as part time.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          And if those people fall below a certain number of hours, the company can drop their health insurance. Without telling them. Even if they’re classified as full-time employees. (Or at least that’s how it worked the summer I worked at Wal-Mart, lo these many years ago…)

    2. Lynn Whitehat*

      My step-daughter used to work for a fast-food chain. She was one of their few reliable employees, and they were constantly calling her to come in on her day off, come in early, stay late. At first, she loved all the overtime. But it caught up with her, and she was always exhausted and not thinking straight.

      I told her, “you need to quit. Nobody can go on like this forever. One day, you will make a serious mistake. You will use machinery unsafely and hurt yourself, or leave the till lying around and have it stolen, or serve undercooked meat and give people food poisoning. And when that happens, management is not going to get introspective about how they contributed by over-working you. They will point the finger at you, ‘bad employee! You broke the rules! You violated policy!’ And they will consider it an isolated incident by a bad employee. They will fire you and never think about it again.”

      Guess what? That chain did have several food poisoning incidents that, combined, made the national news. And I was right: after the first one, they considered it simply a problem of a bad employee who didn’t follow procedures. It took multiple incidents and a lot of ugly press coverage before they were willing to consider that something systemic was going on.

  21. bandmom*

    #1 – I’d encourage you to review the situation from the fired employee’s perspective, not that it’s excusable what they did, but making sure that your process and policy is consistently and fairly applied and is reviewed for everyone going forward. For example, if the employee had requested the time off and didn’t receive a reply for several weeks, they could have perceived that others received preferential treatment by having their time approved instead. So the lesson learned here would be to ensure that responses to time off are provided within 24 or 48 hours or whatever is appropriate on a consistent basis. Their perception is their reality, so while there’s truly no excuse for the behavior, something drove them to it and it needs to be identified. Kudos also to the OP for ensuring the coworkers are being treated kindly in the aftermath.

  22. Argh!*

    Re: #3

    Using the job description of the job you’re applying for as inspiration for your resume would be more effective! Copying it outright would be obvious, but the more your resume matches what they’re looking for, the better!

  23. YarnChick*

    I can definitely sympathize with the frustration, even anger about vacation time denials due to my own past experiences but…yeah, not remotely the right way to deal with it. I do second the advice to ensure there aren’t problems with the policies. In past jobs I had occasions to be so very angry with management and coworkers over how vacation time requests were handled, particularly in small departments where the staffing level requirement meant that only one or two people were allowed to be off at a time. Two stand-outs were one where approved requests were canceled 1-3 weeks before because management abruptly decided that was the time to do major non-routine work (and itself not infrequently canceled a few days before it was to happen, after we had dealt with canceling our time off plans) and one where senior staff were allowed to submit multiple tentative time off requests, for a total of time well in excess of their time off allotment for the year, and those tentative requests blocked definite time off requests by others. It was infuriating to be denied time off to go on a trip with my family, for example, with “why not just take the week before or after?” and then have the person whose request blocked mine be in the office that week, having not canceled the tentative time off until less than one full business day before.

    On the training, I do sympathize. I work for a major software company and we get these periodically. We recently implemented a new log/ticket system for which we had to attend training. Though the training included a lot that I didn’t know I ultimately found it useless as the UI is such that even with the training I find it no easier to use – it’s simply not designed for the users who aren’t using it for at least half of their work each day.

    1. Julia*

      My former colleague always said she wanted Christmas off and then changed her mind the week before when flights back home were astronomically high. I hated her.

  24. Amber Rose*

    #1: What kind of training do you do for workplace violence, if any? I hold an annual course for all supervisors and managers that includes how to watch for and handle violence from workers, and everyone gets training on what to do if a visitor gets violent. Policies are nice, but they’re just paper hard hats without something to back them up, you know? And de-escalation is something anyone in charge of other people should have some knowledge about. It’s possible that the person could have been dissuaded from violence with words and the right tone of voice.

  25. Chinook*

    “I have become the go-to person for tech issues from other staff members.”

    OP #2, this line is an important reason for you to go to the training session full of newbies. As AcademiaNut said, “it’s worth going just to calibrate the level of the instruction” so that you know what they have learned in the training session when they end up asking you for help (as well as how knowledgeable and clear in their instruction the instructor is).

    As well, you can pay attention to the types of questions being asked and who seems to be having the most trouble grasping the software. This will give you a heads up on who will be asking you questions and where they are probably stumbling.

    I know this from experience. I sat through 5 sessions of the same training for one program (with the presenter constantly being interrupted by her boss at each one – I mentioned it in another post) and my biggest take away was that people A, G and L couldn’t grasp some of the concepts unless/until they used the program a few times. And I was right, because I then spent the next month answering questions only from A, G and L and always the same concept asked with different questions. A & G now no longer need to ask but L still calls about once every 2 months to be reassured that she is doing Task X correctly.

    If I hadn’t been in those sessions, I would have wondered if those individuals weren’t paying attention but, since I was, it was clear that there was a comprehension disconnect that needed to clarified.

    Finally, by being in those sessions, you can see if the instructor understands how your organization uses the program. If they aren’t, you then have a heads up on what was missed so you won’t be blindsided by questions that will make your way to you. Or, if you are feeling brave, you can ask questions about known stumbling blocks or tricks you know the answer to but the others don’t. A good instructor will go with it while a poor one won’t, so don’t push it if they want to stick to their script (but maybe have some cheat sheets ready for when those questions come to you).

    1. Competent Commenter*

      I think that’s a great point. My only question is whether the OP is the go-to person just because other people were trained, or because they are actually supposed to provide them tech-support. There’s a big difference. Where I work, I was becoming the go to tech person, and this was not a good use of my time, and I was able to get an IT person assigned to answer those questions and provide that support so I could go back to directing our marketing. I would not need to go to A trading just to find out where the knowledge gaps were in my colleagues’ understanding of the software.

      1. OP 2*

        Exactly! This software is definitely a big part of my job, but managing my coworkers’ questions is not. It is unreasonable to sit through an 8 hour training session just to know what my coworkers are struggling with.

        My boss was trying to be nice by asking me to go to the training anyway… she thought it would be nice for me to get a break from the office but she agreed that I knew the software more than the basics that would be taught (ex. how to log in, how to check student records).

        1. Competent Commenter*

          Okay that kind of “nice” is not what I’d want. “Nice” would be, I don’t know, a day off. :)

  26. TootsNYC*

    Alison wrote:

    there’s going to be benefit to having the whole team there

    This is an important point.
    Someone else on your team may bring up a question, or may leap to adopt a procedure, based on what they learn (“We can accept all the changes with one keystroke? Cool–let’s all do this at X stage”). And you won’t be there to learn this, or to influence the decisions.

    They may all start using a language you don’t, based on what they hear there.

    There are benefits.

  27. This Daydreamer*

    Had she been denied time off for her sister’s funeral? Life-saving medical treatment? Achieving spiritual singularity with the glorious alternate worlds of the perfect cosmos and love of pizza with extra tomato sauce?

    Seriously, if there is a manager who is being an absolute tyrant over his kingdom of time off and whatever else he has control over, that’s something you need to know. Obviously there is no excuse for violence, EVER, but looking into this could shed light on serious problems that need to be addressed.

    Also, she may have shown danger signs that other people missed or didn’t feel comfortable being up with management because “it wasn’t that big a deal”?. Has she been violent outside the office? Were her coworkers walking on eggshells or ceding control over parts of the workplace that should have been under shared authority? Was she the office control freak? Was she bitterly resistant to change?

    Or maybe her shower flooded the bathroom and the living room below, her best suit jacket had a bleach stain on the sleeve, her dog ran out the door, she had to get someone to jump start her car, and then she was rear ended by a bit and run driver and finally got in trouble for being late after getting stuck in the elevator for two hours with the taco enthusiast and the office stoner. And then was denied leave for something important after she was told she would get it.

  28. PM-NYC*

    Regarding #1, Gaving DeBecker’s book “The Gift of Fear” has a great chapter on preventing workplace violence that might be helpful going forward. The book overall is about using your intuition and building skills to prevent violence in all areas of your life. The book and the workplace chapter generally focuses on more violent altercations than what you describe, but if you want to start the discussion about larger policies of preventing workplace violence going forward it might be a helpful resource.

    1. Solo*

      +1 The Gift of Fear, came here to recommend it (with the GIANT CAVEAT that the Domestic Violence chapter has a ton of victim-blaming nonsense and is worth skipping entirely).

  29. Gee Gee*

    When I’ve had to go to training that wasn’t useful to me (often because I’m lumped into an unrelated department due to being the only person who does my type of work) I’ve sought and received permission to discreetly work remotely in the back of the room. I’m present and can contribute if the need arises, but I’m not losing an entire eight hours.

    YMMV based on your type of work and the nature of the training, of course.

    1. Chinook*

      Heck – when I run my trainings, I openly state that I can’t tell if they are checking their email while I am talking and I don’t care as long as they are paying attention well enough to complete the assignments at the end of the session.

      Which is yet another reason why I wish more training sessions had an assignment (based on a real life circumstance and done in a “sandbox” environment that won’t damage working data) at the end to check for comprehension. Not only is it an easy way to check if someone already knows the stuff, but it reinforces for those who may not be paying full attention that, at some point, they need to actually use what they have been shown.

  30. Friday*

    OP#2 I hear you… I’ve been in training sessions this week, with another one today, for a reporting system that I first learned months ago. It’s a remedial training because we have a handful of new users, so 95% of the time I am sitting there with glazed-over eyes, thinking about dinner plans, GOT theories, etc. etc. But I do force myself to take notes on that 5% that I’d either never learned or forgotten, and the best use of me being in these trainings is during the times when we are to build our own reports based on standards the trainer gives us – I build mine quickly and then I help the people around me who are new to the program.

  31. Liz2*

    I feel you #2! I had to do the same but it wasn’t a total loss- I learned TWO things about using the program I hadn’t known before, and I knew what everyone else was getting to level up. So when I became the “local experienced guru” I had a sense of where their questions would come from and what they were used to doing before.

    1. OP 2*

      If I didn’t have these deadlines coming up I wouldn’t even mind going. It’s the fact that I have things that HAVE to get done and if I do waste a day, then I have to do it at home/on the weekend.

  32. FellowVermonter*

    Op 5- *Waves from Northern Vermont* Hi! Being a semi frequent flyer with unemployment insurance in Vermont I have some experience with the system. Although I have not had this reason come up for me that I ended back on UI I do know that Vermont is pretty understanding as long as your job ended because of changes in the workplace/events in the workplace that resulted in your unemployment. The only caveat in VT is that if it’s anything than a mass layoff your case will be processed by an adjudicator. It’s not a situation where they are doubting you but it’s the process that Vermont has adopted. My advice is to sit down and just write out why you are applying for unemployment, bullet point facts, as the adjudicator call is usually only 5-10 minutes. If you are respectful to the adjudicator they tend to like you more than if you go into the call with a chip on your shoulder.

    If for some weird reason this is not approved unemployment there is also an appeals process in Vermont that you can follow up with.

  33. Erin*

    When I see titles like this one I always think, “I shouldn’t bothering writing in, I can’t compete with that!”

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I hope you are joking. I don’t think Alison requires every question to be spectacular and I’d think she would feel bad if someone thought their setting was not eye-popping enough to get attention.

  34. Statler von Waldorf*

    To all of those commenting that no good person would ever resort to violence in the workplace, I have a story for you. I only have her word for it, but I’ve known her for years and I believe her. She broke her boss’s nose over a time off request, and I feel she was completely justified in doing do. Why? Well, in response for her time off request to attend her brother’s wedding, she was told “If you want that time off, you better get on your knees,” while her boss unzipped his pants. Now, even then punching your boss is probably not the best idea, but given that she was sixteen at the time, I’m more than willing to cut her some slack.

    Now, I’m 98.7 % sure that this is not the situation the letter writer is dealing with. There is a overwhelming strong probability that the manager in this case was the victim of a violent assault for no reason of their own, and it would be incredibly shitty to blame the victim for their assault. That said .. you want to ensure that you do a root cause analysis on this to make sure of that. If the manager was trying to sexually coerce the employee, they are not going to admit it. They might even try to make the employee seem irrational so no one believes them .. like claiming that they punched them over something trivial like an unapproved vacation day.

    1. Here we go again*

      Oh my… I don’t even care that she was 16. He totally deserved it. What a pathetic POS.

      I also know that as a person who is rational 99% of the time and has NEVER resorted to violence, there could be something that could set me off. I couldn’t think of anything, but I think we all have our breaking points.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        When I was 20, I got robbed at work.
        You know, fear is a powerful emotion and to counter balance my overwhelming fear I got incredibly angry. I mean I have never been this angry in my life, previous to the robbery and after the robbery.
        It dawned on me that if I had to go to the police station to ID the guy, I would probably do great bodily harm to this jerk… with my bare hands. Problem. I am not a violent person. What’s up here.
        Then, of course, later I went through Shame because of my rage.
        The point is that we are all capable of incredible anger. Mine caught me because I did not know I had it in me.
        In the end, I analyzed why my anger went off the charts the way it did and I found a list of 53 reasons that were seemingly unrelated but spoke to how poorly I was managing my life. Taking the reasons one by one I started fixing my life.

    2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      I agree. I beat a manager of a cafe I worked at in college, BUT I only did it because he was kicking a dishwasher and I was afraid he was going to kill him. They were outside in the back and I was going to squeegee the floor. When I opened the door I saw the dishwasher on the ground, not moving or making noise, and the manager kicking him in the face and stomach. I started hitting the manager with the squeegee and yelling for someone to call 911. The dishwasher was in a coma for a week. The manager was arrested. I was fired. I’m still glad I did it.

      1. Observer*

        You got fired for preventing a murder? Well, I hope that the place is long since out of business. That’s utterly HORRIBLE.

  35. Fresh Faced*

    OP #2 I’ve been there, I’m fairly computer literate and most training courses I’ve experienced that have been mandatory have been on software that I use daily. (Once for unemployment I had to go through a basic IT course even though they knew I had received a qualification several levels higher than what they were working towards.) By the end of the day I tend to drift into to role of an unofficial teaching assistant since these courses tend to have a lot of students of varying levels, and only one teacher who can’t get around to everyone. If there’s some kind of test in the course I’d ask to take it early to signal to the teacher that you know what you’re doing then spend the time helping others out.

    1. OP 2*

      I feel you, that’s so rough!!! I wish there was a test but unfortunately, there’s nothing like that for this program as it’s very niche. My boss totally didn’t mind that I didn’t want to go. She was trying to give me a break from the office for a day. It would have been the 101 course though (ex. this is how you log in…) so it would have been a wasted day. Thank goodness!!!

      I wouldn’t even care if I had to go if we didn’t have this deadline that CANNOT be missed.

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