update: is the work environment I’ve created on my team too exclusive?

Remember the letter-writer last week whose employee had quit and said in her exit interview that the team environment was too cliquish? She ended up adding more details in the comments on the original post, including that some employees had been mocking the employee who quit on SnapChat, and when someone complained to HR, the letter-writer wanted to move the person who complained to another team.

Here’s the update.

I was fired today without severance. When my letter was published, I was already on suspension based on the exit interview investigation, poor management practices and complaints from other areas, none of which I believe are accurate. HR and the management team stated I had mismanaged my team and the ex-employee. I had given assignments meant for her and assigned to her by my director to other members on the team because I wanted to develop them, including my newly promoted senior. As a manager, I knew my team better. Giving special assignments to her, even though it was her role, screwed over my long term team members who would complain to me. I had also downgraded  her end-of-year evaluation. I don’t think she deserved the praise she received from the sales staff, my directorand client executives. Her work just wasn’t that good to me. I thought if my team and I froze her out, she would leave. I called it un-managing.

My team found her quietness and her ability to develop sales presentations and connect with each client was very show-off-like. When she asked for help, we didn’t take it seriously because we thought she acted like she knew everything and she was making us look bad by always going above and beyond for no reason. My team and I had worked together for 5-6 years so I knew them, their work and their personalities better than anyone else so I took what they said with more seriousness. I also thought that her years of experience were irrelevant; she didn’t have anything beyond a bachelor’s degree (most of us were smart and dedicated enough to get a masters) and her experience was in a different subset of insurance.

HR and my regional vice president stated she had been hired to fill a role for a growing segment of our business and should have functioned as a team consultant. I used her as an associate so it didn’t make waves with the rest of the team. By losing her, we lost clients and leverage in the marketplace. Our sales territory couldn’t afford to lose any more business under my “mismanagement” and the HR was worried about damage to the brand name. During her employment, my director and I had several meetings on her role as she also dotted line reported to him. I had continued to be insubordinate because ex-employee, in my opinion, didn’t fit in and needed to earn her way to what my director had envisioned for her. If her role had panned out, she would have been higher up than me after two years when I had been there for five.

HR told me the brewery beer runs were against company policy and I should have stopped the SnapChats, especially those who had it on their company phones. I disagree that it was bullying because she wasn’t on Snap so if she didn’t see it, how is this bullying? I also don’t know how/if I should have monitored this with my team. My entire team was fired. The reasons for the firings included alcohol at work, even though we were physically at the brewery, inappropriate social media behavior, and not meeting the code of conduct.

I’m not sure the lesson(s) I’m supposed to learn; I feel like I was the scapegoat for a favored employee’s reason to leave. Being dedicated to your work doesn’t mean you can’t have fun at the same time. My former team and I are wondering if we can take action against ex-employee — her exit interview damaged our reputation, our team, and our careers.

With this letter-writer’s permission, I’m also printing here some of the email exchange that I had with her after receiving this update.

Me: I’m sorry to ask this, but I’m trying to figure out if this is real or not. There’s a lot in here that’s making me question it. You haven’t responded to any of the points brought up in my original answer or in the comments. Why?

Letter-writer (LW): Because I disagree with your points and I don’t want to constantly defend myself. My ex employee made me look bad and I thought that as Ask a Manager you would side with a manager.

… I still think my entire situation is messed up that my team got tanked because of someone who couldn’t handle the office and who didn’t need to be there anyway.

I get that I am a shitty manager unless you actually worked with me but I worked with friends for 5 years. I didn’t want the ex employee to begin with. So I wanted to make it uncomfortable for her to leave and didn’t think I’d lose my job in the process.

Me: Do you not understand that what you did was illegal? (Note: When I wrote this, I was thinking the employee was in her 40s, which would mean age discrimination laws were in play. Upon re-reading the letter, she’s actually in her 30s so my point here was poorly formed.)

LW: Is it illegal to not like someone? No one got hurt except for someone’s feelings and she left the company. I don’t understand what or how I did was illegal. I’m not getting the lesson that I should have learned. I should not have been fired because someone didn’t like how she was being managed. She left on her own terms. It’s not like I fired her and if I did, I work in an at will state so I could have gotten rid of her at any time. But I’m not that mean.

Me: It’s illegal to retaliate against someone (like moving them to another department or taking them off assignments, etc.) for reporting harassment. You opened your company up to legal jeopardy. At-will employment has exceptions to it, including retaliation after someone reports harassment.

Beyond that, you’ve been managing your team in really horrible, ineffective ways, and it sounds like you’re not willing to do serious reflection on that. You’re digging in your heels and insisting that what you did wasn’t a big deal, but any decent company will think it’s a very big deal — so you’re really hurting yourself professionally by refusing to change your thinking.

LW: I didn’t retaliate. I wanted to remove the SnapChat person but I didn’t. I’m still upset that happened. I still don’t understand why getting angry over someone not coming to me first but going to HR is that big of a deal.

Me: There are a lot of really good, detailed explanations in the comment section on the post. I recommend reading them with an open mind, because they will definitely explain where you went wrong. I hope you’re open to changing your thinking, so that you’re able to move forward in your career without being hindered by this. Otherwise it’s going to continue to harm you over and over.

LW: Ok but can I still get some credit for NOT doing it though? Or not firing ex employee? Or for looking out for my team and giving them opportunities? Isn’t that what managers do?

(Note from Alison: All comments on this post will be moderated, as I want to avoid a pile-on. I will not release unconstructive comments from moderation.)

{ 1,204 comments… read them below }

    1. Amber Rose*

      I hope there haven’t been too many unconstructive comments to get rid of and you enjoyed your extra time.

    2. Borgette*

      Off topic, but did you adjust the bars between primary replies? They seem thicker to me, but I’m also on a different device. They look nice and make it a bit easier to find the next thread. Thanks for all the work you put into the site!

    3. Lizzie T*

      Wow. Are you sure it’s for real? It’s almost word prefect for every single mistake you could make! Excellent responses by you and the commentators. Might have to use this as a case study!

  1. Xay*

    If you can’t say something nice, you shouldn’t say anything at all. So I am very impressed by the decisive action by the LW’s employer. I wish it had come sooner for their former employee – it sounds like she went through a lot on LW’s team.

    1. Princess Carolyn*

      I agree, the decisive action says a lot about the company’s values. I’d have to know more details to decide if they should have intervened sooner, but firing the whole gang was certainly the right way to respond to the findings of their investigation. Firing and replacing that many people is not an easy or cheap thing to do, so I’m impressed.

      1. Hills to Die on*

        Chiming in to commend the employer also.

        OP, if you have a mentor, or even some kind of therapist dealing with professional situations to help you more clearly see your part in this, I would highly recommend it. If not, perhaps coming back to read the comments in this post will prove to be an eye-opener for you. There’s a lot of opportunity for you to grow as a result of this experience. Good luck to you.

        1. Annonymouse*

          Oh OP.
          Do not complain or try to file anything against the ex employee because everything you’ve accused her of (damaging reputation, costing you a job) you’ve admitted to doing to her in your letter. She has tonnes of evidence to back her claims. You have none.

          You really mishandled your team and employee.

          This is going to be hard to hear/read because this directly challenges your self view (I’m a great manager and my team love me! I’ve done the best for my team!)

          Challenges to self view normally result in defensiveness but I’m hoping you have enough empathy, open mindedness and self awareness to see what the rest of us can see.

          Doing best by the business is best for your team. If the business you work for is successful and growing that means your team has more chances for raises, promotions and other growth opportunities like seminars and training.

          By choosing to act the way you did to your employee you showed that you cared more about the social side and keeping the peace for your existing teams approval than the needs of the business. In fact you actively undermined your superiors and the business by acting that way. You may not see it that way but your bosses certainly did.

          You seemed determined not to like or embrace this employee. No matter what she did she would never be able to be part of your team.

          Here’s the points where I think you could stand to reevaluate your viewpoint:

          * She regularly went above and beyond.

          Instead of being inspired to do likewise or admiring her work ethic you instead decided she “made you/your team look bad” and refused to help her be better at her job (which would have reflected well on you and your team if you had).

          * You downgraded her evaluation even though several outside parties (including your boss) gave her much praise.

          This relates to the above point. She was by all accounts (even your own) great at her job. If any of your other team members had done what she had and gotten those results and that praise I’m sure they would have gotten a better review than she did. Because she was an outsider you penalised her. It almost seems retaliatory.

          * You admit you didn’t respect her years of experience or education because they weren’t a perfect match for your team.

          Instead of judging her on her consistently high performance and changing your initial impression you decided she wasn’t “smart” enough for you to respect or treat well. Even if you don’t respect a coworker you still keep it professional. You decided not to do that.

          * You assigned work meant for her to other people.

          This wasn’t because she had too many things on or was on a leave of absence. This was giving others opportunities at a cost to her. If she is a minority or you assigned her tasks to males only that’s a EEOC complaint right there.

          * By her leaving it cost your company clients and reputation.

          Surely you must understand how important these two things are? What does your team do to generate these things for the company? Not much I assume.
          Would it not make sense to do damage control and remove what caused the loss to happen?

          It makes sense to try and retain what gives you business and remove what costs you business – which meant your entire team.

          OP you need to reflect on these points:

          Managers should not be friends with their reports. Friendly yes but not friends.

          A manager should lift their team so they all perform at the strongest members level. Not drag down the high performers to be mediocre.

          Your job is to treat people fairly. This can be different to equally. If someone is pulling more weight they should get more rewards or privileges. Not punished.

          1. motherofdragons*

            These are all such great, constructive points. I want to add that this (IMO, accurate) assessment of LW’s perspective jumped out at me: “I’m a great manager and my team love me! I’ve done the best for my team!”

            LW…that person WAS on your team. She was a PART of your team. If “team” to you only means your buddies you’ve known forever, and/or people with a certain degree, that’s really poor management. It sounds like she was actually making your team look *good* to internal and external stakeholders by being such a star! A good manager recognizes this and provides opportunities to let the star shine, not work to get them out.

            1. Megan Johnson*

              Not to mention that I highly doubt the team is very happy with her or her management now, since it cost them their jobs. She did them a real disservice by not addressing things that were problems, simply because she disagreed.

              1. Julia*

                I’m not sure. Of course the OP should have stopped the, but apparently (I hope!) they came up with the Snapchat and beer runs on their own.

              2. MashaKasha*

                Based on what the LW said about the team also considering legal action, I’d say they are still happy with LW and think that the ex-employee was the problem. It would be incredibly hard for the members of this team to function in their next jobs, when they do find those. I’m reminded of all the posts on this site about having one’s perspective of what’s normal and what isn’t in a workplace, being warped by spending time working in a toxic environment. It will take these people years to relearn how to be a real team member on a real team.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              Doing your best for your team includes showing them what it takes to stay employed.

              1. Chinook*

                Exactly. Doing your best for your team means everyone on your team, not just ones you have known for X+ years and/or like. Being a manager means managing everyone under you that has been assigned to you even if you don’t like it.

                You missed a great opportunity to work with someone who excelled at her job and could make you stretch to be better at yours. Instead you belittled her for her efforts and tried to drag her down to your level. I hope o e day you realize that you lost more than a job and choose to manage differently if ever given another opportunity to do so

              2. Annonymouse*

                Employed by the company and not just OP to adjust that point.

                Staying employed by OP = drinking buddies and having worked there for as long as OP. Being part of a very specific demographic.

                Staying employed by the company = performing your job well and adding value to the company.

                Value does not always equal profit. E.g the IT or mailroom don’t add profit but woe betide any large company trying to operate without them.

            3. Akcipitrokulo*

              Agreed… even if she wasn’t seen by OP as “really” on her team, OP did the rest of the team a diservice by not allowing the team’s reputation as a whole to improve, and by not allowing them to grow with a specialist there to help!

              Instead of saying “why should she get that plum project? Give it to Bob, he could do with improving there!”, saying “hey… would you mind if Bob assists on that? I think he’d benefit from seeing how you do it.” would have been helping business, doing what boss wanted, letting her do the job for which she was hired which included helping your staff to improve, help Bob’s development a lot more than just giving it to him AND would encourage your team to interact positively with the new member.

              Her presence was a gift to your team, and you threw it away.

          2. The Southern Gothic*

            +10,0000. Thank you for taking this shitshow apart piece by piece. I appreciate you.

          3. snuck*

            The thing that stuck in my mind was the comment about her being on a track to be the OP’s manager within 2yrs, even though the OP has more experience.

            This is real world. People will come along with more potential than you – they will have different skill sets. They might need to learn something in a job role under you but eventually they will move up, and as this employee shows… if they are on a fast track for promotion they deserve often to be there – they are often very adept at reading people situations, and if they can’t get the experience they need they’ll take their highly competitive, high quality skillset elsewhere, and the company misses out. It sounds like the OP’s company hand picked this person, said “We like you, you have potential, we want you to work your way up to X role, but you need to learn Y and Z first… so start in here” and then she was dumped in a bit of a vipers nest of resentment and exclusivity.

            In life, eventually unless you are the CEO, you are going to find yourself managing a stellar employee who will jump the rungs on the ladder ahead of you. It’s a fabulous thing to manage these people – you get the benefit of managing a professional, low maintenance, high performing individual who generally makes you (and the rest of your team) look good… you get the benefit of their professionalism and skills rubbing off on the rest of the team and shared learning and upskilling, and you get a chance to implement management changes and culture changes that you didn’t realise you needed or could do. It’s a win-win for you – you learn from them, they learn from you, your whole team learns from this. If you sit back resentful of the individual and all the bring you are fumbling the (ball) pass, and management above you will see you grinding out a poop, not polishing a gemstone…. it’s like you’ve been given a free throw and tossed it behind your back instead of towards the goal.

            And… coverage for the team going to lunch (to a brewery or anywhere else) if always done by one solitary person on their own, the same person… isnt’ ok. Make sure that coverage is rotated through the team. It’s simple human people management. What if the employee wanted to not sit there and man the phones every week on their lunchbreak, what if they wanted to get to know their colleagues and go to the brewery too? Were they given that chance?

        2. Mabel*

          I agree with the suggestion to get someone objective to help you deconstruct everything so you can see where you can improve. It’s not easy! When I’ve had a breakup or serious disagreement with someone, and I talk about it with my therapist, after we’ve talked about how terribly the other person behaved (little bit of sarcasm there), she always asks me to think about what my role was in the situation. These things are never one-sided, and there are always ways I can improve in the future. It feels really uncomfortable to do this, but it can only help me.

        3. TrainerGirl*

          It appears that this OP has their eyes firmly shut. Gosh, this really, if true, is just unbelievable. I get that the OP is only 28, but I have to wonder what kind of skewed workplaces have they been in to think that this behavior and judgement is acceptable? OP, I do hope you can take Allison’s words and the comments here to heart. Your current thinking will NOT help to advance your career. Please reflect on the advice given here and I wish you luck and success in the future.

          1. constablestark*

            I don’t think age is an excuse. I do wonder what it was like for OP when she (Alison clarified on Twitter that the OP was female) was starting out. I can’t help but wonder if a former boss was the same way and she held herself to that standard, and this whole thing ending up just being too big and too egregious for the company to try and save.

          2. Julia*

            I’m 28, and my previous workplace was terribly dysfunctional, but – mostly thanks to Alison! – I know that this is completely inappropriate.

            If anything, because the OP is still young, I hope she can still change. Someone who’s close to retirement (like my behated former co-‘worker’) probably has a much harder time.

            Then again, people of all ages can be stubborn.

          3. aebhel*

            28 is well into adulthood; OP’s age is no excuse for her behavior. I really hope she changes her thinking, but it doesn’t sound like she’s prepared to do that anytime soon.

            1. snuck*

              28 is well past the clique-ness of 18!

              At 28 you should have enough years of experience in the workplace to rise above social games….

              And at 28 if you’ve made it team leader/supervisor/managing people someone has seen potential in you along the way, so maybe the OP can step back, re-evaluate, work out why they were first promoted to a senior role and see if they can go back to that behaviour. (I’m in a country where seniority rules aren’t the norm, if this was purely a seniority promotion then examine whether that’s a good way to promote over actual demonstrated behaviours and skills!)

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        Exactly. For the company to take that drastic a measure shows how badly pervasive this was. I’m sad the Op doesn’t get it and hope she has an epiphany soon.

      3. Close Bracket*

        I missed that the entire team was fired! Whatever this company is, I want to work there. They really know how to handle a toxic situation.

        1. Bob*

          Ditto! I have put up with so much crap from idiot managers/tech leads it would be awesome to work somewhere they actually take that kind of stuff seriously then do something about it!

          1. Hmmmmm*

            It sounds like to me this person learned how to manage from their misunderstanding of how tech start ups function, but was pulling this crap at a traditional insurance company. Do you know who hates potential legal liability situations the most? Insurance companies! IDK, I would be interested to know if this person was inherited from a failed start up with a great product. My business has essentially pivoted into the business of absorbing start ups with great products but terrible business practices and it has been interesting. You would be shocked at the number of people who have freaked out as though their rights were being violated when we took away their keg and mandated that everyone has to keep regular hours and wear adult clothes.

          2. addiez*

            I was actually a little disappointed by that – to me, it feels unfair to fire someone with no warning and obviously these guys weren’t getting warnings since their boss was encouraging them. I appreciate that the company’s trying to deal with a toxic workplace, but I’m not sure I’m behind my read of how it went down.

            1. Hmmmmm*

              I would argue that they all demonstrated a profound lack of common sense with the social media stuff. If it was a Fortune 500 insurance company, they probably all had signed documents the very clearly outlined the company’s social media policy (ie don’t embarrass us and don’t use our computers or phones or wifi network if you insist on embarrassing yourself). As I mentioned before, my company is having great success by absorbing failing start ups and firing anyone who isn’t completely weirded out by the idea of drinking from a keg at work or doesn’t understand the difference between your social life and work life. If you don’t understand why we are taking away your keg and throwing away your legos, you should not have a job.

              1. Sophoula*

                Not sure if I agree with a mass firing with no notice or severance. The team could have just been trying to please or follow direction from their manager, or gain her approval through their actions. If that was indeed the logic behind what was going on, then it would make sense to fire the manager and give the team a warning and training on workplace behaviors.

                1. Jadelyn*

                  I get the intent here, but I think when you reach a certain level of toxicity sometimes there’s no way to fix it aside from salting the earth and starting over.

                  Like, can you imagine being the new manager for that team? That’s a misery I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy – coming in to an unbelievably clique-ish environment with people who’ve demonstrated themselves to be bullies who expect their manager to cover for their bad behavior, and now you’re supposed to take control and retrain from the ground up on How To Be Professional. What a nightmare that would be.

                  Especially considering the clique-type social environment and bullying, things which thrive on a herd mentality and “us vs them” thinking, you *have* to break up the group if you want it to get better. Just changing out management while leaving the rest of the group intact is going to leave you with a team of embittered bullies who have seen their Cool Manager punished and may well take out their anger on the new manager.

                2. snuck*

                  Yeah. I’m with Jadelyn. There’s no way to bring in a new manager with this team…or there is, but it’d be a massive up hill battle.

                  A company that has handled this so firmly I assume also would have taken the time to step back and look at the team. They wouldn’t fire an entire team (leaving no legacy knowledge) without reason. They probably found profound issues with the whole team, and realised it wasn’t salvagable in it’s current state without a lot of effort (too much effort?) and thus burnt it to the ground.

                  I’d have been tempted to consider the same. Especially if it was a role where recruitment of new staff was going to be easy, and upskilling of them would only require a few weeks to get hte team back up and running, because fixing this existing team looks like a multi month debacle. The response to cancelling beer-o’clock, the snapchat, the sniping, the ostracising of other more professional stuff due to their competence? You can teach new skills, but you can’t really teach new attitudes, and certainly not in a hurry.

            2. RabbitRabbit*

              I’m wondering if maybe the underlings weren’t engaging in a ton of other inappropriate stuff that the OP never even knew about or cared to mention. It could have added up to a sheer volume of egregiousness that couldn’t be overlooked any longer.

              1. One of the Sarahs*

                Yes, this – it was clear that at least 2 members of OP’s team couldn’t go to her with concerns, so there are likely to be all kinds of other issues going on that she never spotted.

              2. msnovtue*

                That, or OP’s behavior was so blatantly beyond the pale that the various team members failing to discuss it with HR or a higher-up was pretty much a cardinal sin in and of itself. OP’s behavior sounds like it’s straight out of the 8th-grade-mean-girl playbook, and ghe fact that no one saw anything wrong with how she was treating the former employee really doesn’t speak well of the other team members’ judgement.

            3. Tanya*

              I don’t think the company felt they had a choice after their investigation. There certainly are ‘teachable moments’ in many cases, and I think that the company probably would have reprimanded and taught these people what is/isn’t acceptable had they shown any remorse for their involvement in the bullying.

              But it sounds like these people, especially the OP, feel that they were right the entire time! They just seem simply unteachable. And well, the drinking during work hours… well… the fact that they just can’t see how this is wrong is shameful! That alone was enough to terminate.

              1. Green*

                As an ex-biglaw lawyer, drinking during work hours isn’t morally wrong or shameful or enough to terminate in a lot of environments. It may not be a healthy culture if it is more than occasional or if people actually get drunk, and it is obviously a terrible idea in some jobs or if it is against policy (or to encourage as a manager if you aren’t sure it’s fine). However, it’s not inherently evil to drink an alcoholic beverage between the hours of 9 to 5. :)

                1. Gadfly*

                  I suspect things like the Snapchats were a bigger issue–screams liability and scandal and other problems.

    2. Jen S. 2.0*

      I know! Not that I wish ill upon anyone in the situation, and I hope everyone lands in a good place, but WOW to the company for taking this kind of action on a report from an exit interview. I think I’ve never bothered to do much more than smile and nod in exit interviews, because what good will it do?

      1. MashaKasha*

        Came here to say this (picks jaw up off the floor after reading the entire post). If there is anything positive I took away from this and the previous post, it’s that exit interviews matter. (Admittedly, a teammate also went to HR, and the company lost some of their business as well, so it wasn’t all just on the results of one exit interview.)

        PS. They had snapchats on company phones! on company phones!… I swear, each time I scroll up to check up on that letter, I find something new that is more horrifying than what I’ve noticed before. That whole letter is just one big pile of awful… No wonder AAM had to double-check that it was real.

        1. JessaB*

          The only possible reason I could see for snapchat on a company phone is if you’re some kind of media, advertising or fashion company. Still in that case I think there’d be incredibly strict rules about what you can and cannot post on it.

          1. MashaKasha*

            Oh, I meant specifically the offending snapchats of the ex-employee on the teammates’ company phones. That’s just so… blatant.

          2. constablestark*

            Can confirm. I work at an advertising agency and some of us do use Snapchat, and yes, we do have a code of conduct specific to social media. This definitely crosses the line.

        2. Bostonian*

          Ooooh, good point. LW definitely had the stance of “all this because of 1 exit interview”, while totally ignoring all the other bad things, too.

        3. MsMaryMary*

          I just want to add that exit interviews do matter, at least at decent companies. At OldJob, we had enough people leave and flatly say they were being underpaid and were leaving for $10,000+ pay increases that everyone who was still there got significant “market increases.” When I eventually left that company, HR called me a week after my exit interview to clarify a point. Specifically, my grandboss had wanted to know if a specific person was the reason I was leaving (that person certainly did not make my job easier, but she was one of multiple issues that made me decide to leave). Exit interviews are not just a formality.

        4. Specialk9*

          I’m an Old, obviously, but isn’t the point of Snapchat that it disappears? I think Snapchat servers keep the data, but would the company be able to see what they wrote? (Never used Snapchat)

          1. Middle School Teacher*

            I’m an Old too, but I spend my day with young people. You can screen-shot the Snap before it disappears, and then you have it forever, and you can send the screenshot to whoever you want.

      2. JessaB*

        I was also amazed by this. Honestly, I wonder if the company, having gotten rid of both the problem manager and the team, would offer her a better job and a bonus as an incentive to come back. She did the company a huge favour and should not end up the one out of work. She seriously sounds like someone awesome.

        1. Amy H*

          I absolutely agree. It sounds like the company was already trying to upgrade this department by hiring this person in the first place, and likely knew there were problems with the manager. Its a shame that a whole shitshow went down and the baby went out with the bath water. Im frankly amazed that the Manager was allowed to stay on as long as she did, as being insubordinate to make a point and directly contradicting the wishes of hire ups is ONE OF THE THINGS THEY TEACH YOU NOT TO DO IN B-SCHOOL. So if all of these cliquish team members were smart enough to get MBAs, then the “troubled” employee with the years of real world experience really did turn out to be the wiser employee.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            Actually, they never taught that in my b-school. They taught how to assess executive directives in context of larger business strategy, and how to go back to execs if you disagree. The rule was much more, ‘here’s how and why to contradict execs effectively – use your numbers’ not ‘do not contradict execs’.

            The ‘we all have masters and she only had a BA’ is a *hugely* troubling attitude to me. My MBA gave me maybe 8 years of experience in 18mo (and a career path change), but anyone with a BA + 10 years experience in the field has the equivalent of an MBA + 2.

            It’s not, of course, the most troubling part of the letter.

            1. MsM*

              Yep. Even from a pure soft skills approach, my instinct would be to go back to the superiors and say “I understand that we want to take full advantage of Employee’s skills and connections in this area, but I feel like the rest of my team is missing out on valuable learning opportunities, and that it would benefit the company in the long run if we’re able to spread this expertise over multiple people. How do we make this work for everyone?” And if the bosses continue to play favorites when it doesn’t seem warranted (although in this case, the fact that one person could waltz in and expose just how badly the rest of the team was underperforming should’ve been a wake-up call to either reassess the rest of the team and the strategies that made them what they are, or enlist her in bringing everyone up to the same level), start looking around for a new job. Don’t bully and undermine.

              1. Gadfly*

                And really, even though they might call them equivalents, they often aren’t. You do learn some very different things and make different connections, usually, in school versus in the workforce. And sometimes one skillset is more valuable than the other.

      3. AMPG*

        Unfortunately, I think the loss of business and damage to the company’s reputation were probably what actually caused them to take action. The exit interview was likely just the evidence they needed to correctly place blame. I’m not trying to take away from the good choices management made in cleaning house in this department at all, but I definitely think this outcome was possible mainly because there was tangible injury to the company’s bottom line.

        1. Annonymouse*

          The business seemed to be taking action and investigating based off the exit interview.

          But then again the business had incentive since a superstar employee was leaving and clients left as a result of that.

          Or maybe as you suggest it gave them the direction or evidence they needed to act.

      4. blushingflower*

        It makes sense to take action as the result of an exit interview if the person doing the exit interview is someone that you were hoping to keep. Comments from a poor performer might also be useful/instructive if it points to a lack of training or support, but if someone who has been good for business is leaving (and their loss hurts the business), it behooves a company to investigate claims they make. You don’t want high performers leaving because of culture fit issues; you want to get rid of the people who make those high performers uncomfortable.

      5. rory*

        I’d bet the exit interview was the straw that broke the back. All that stuff happening and then the rock star they hired, who “for some reason” was having issues and getting downgraded… yeah, if I’d hired someone awesome and saw all this going on, and then getting told the whole story in an exit interview, that would be the point where it snapped and something had to get done about the problem, since it just gone from “this is a bad situation” to “this is a *really* bad situation, and possibly a lawsuit”.

      6. Rmric0*

        Reading between the lines I imagine that the team was on the chopping block before all this went down. The exit interview was just the last nail

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          It’s very possible that new team member was brought in as a “ok, let’s see if having a consultant to show them how to work the way we want them to helps.” Especially as OP mentioned

          “should have functioned as a team consultant.”

          And OP was aware of this.

          ” **During her employment**, my director and I had several meetings on her role”

          It’s possible director hadn’t said bluntly “this is to help save your team” … IF that was what was going on… but seriously, you are given a team consultant and refuse to let them do their job? That is bad for all your team.

          1. Samata*

            I was wondering about the bluntness of conversation as well since OP followed that up with I had continued to be insubordinate because ex-employee, in my opinion, didn’t fit in and needed to earn her way to what my director had envisioned for her. If her role had panned out, she would have been higher up than me after two years when I had been there for five.

            She definitely is coming across as threatened by someone she sees as an undeserving and lesser employee – in terms of age, ability to mesh with team and education. Actual work product and ethic don’t seem to be factoring into OPs concerns and as a manager I would think those should be at the top of the list or reasons to hold on to the employee, not be insubordinate or retaliatory.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        I don’t think they did handle it very well. They recognized there was a problem (good) and brought in a consultant (good)… but then they allowed the consultant’s manager to change the consultant’s role into an associate so the manager’s team wouldn’t be upset about someone being hired at a different role than them, because they all have higher level degrees than the consultant and newbies need to pay their dues. What.

        This is awful all around, except the part where they eventually took action—after the person they brought in as a consultant, who was intentionally frozen out and harassed until she quit, left because of the problem they already knew about or suspected (the letter is unclear). I’m really upset everyone is giving so many kudos to this company. I get that it takes time to fire a manager and their entire team, but seemingly hiring someone to be the evidence of how poorly this team functions is just cruel.

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          I saw it as hiring someone to help the team… OP said they were there to share knowledge and act as a consultant to her team. Also the business was trying to intervene –

          “During her employment, my director and I had several meetings on her role…”

          Now the business may have taken eye off the ball and missed HOW bad things were getting… or were seeing some improvements (maybe not as much as expected) and didn’t realise it was bad enough for star to leave… but they weren’t ignoring this team’s problems.

    3. Lab Monkey*

      I really hope the company are able and willing to reach ou to the ex employee to apologize and offer some kind of good will gesture – fantastic reference, severance, something. An apology would go a long way.

    4. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

      I wonder if they are going to try and lure the ex-employee back to mitigate some of this as well. And I wonder if she’d accept knowing the entire team, not just the manager, is gone.

      One of the lessons to be learned, that I am not sure has been brought up, is that one cannot assume they are more valuable than another employee simply because they are higher ranking or a manager. The ex-employee clearly had value that the OP ignored, IMO, and that is just as much a problem as the bullying, exclusion, ageism, etc.

      1. Your Weird Uncle*

        On your second point, I would add ‘having a higher degree’ to the list of reasons not to assume you are more valuable than another employee!

        1. Marzipan*

          I did rather wince at that bit.

          OP, leaving aside the fact that not everyone wants or needs advanced degrees and that’s perfectly OK, getting a master’s degree is not purely a question of being ‘smart and dedicated’. It’s simply not an option that’s available to everyone at every stage in their lives for a variety of reasons (like finances, or caring obligations). Expecting everyone to have had the (really very privileged) opportunity to do a master’s is, once again, an example of how you were only being accepting of a very narrow section of society being part of your team. I would really recommend thinking about this as you move forward.

          1. Oranges*

            Some of us also are very smart but had enough trouble going through college. Masters… nope. My brain wants tangible rewards to its efforts and will balk at “busy work” or the like. College is FULL of work you do just for learning and gets tossed out the second you get that degree.

            That makes college hard for me. I made it through, barely. However, I am a rock-star at my current (programming) job. I know that between me and someone with a masters (or even a degree in CS instead of Art), there wouldn’t even be a competition. My boss would choose me hands down.

            1. sunny-dee*

              I was good in college and actually had a full scholarship for a master’s program (as a teaching assistant), and dropped out my first week just because that wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life. (A fact that nearly made my husband pass out when I told him.)

              There are all kinds of wonderful reasons why people don’t get a post-grad degree — and all kinds of other reasons why having a graduate degree is not an indicator of intelligence, dedication, or experience.

              1. Oranges*

                Exactly! It’s kinda sad that the one measurement that the LW uses is “Masters” since it’s so very narrow. Not only must the person be privileged enough to have that opportunity, their brain must “learn” in a certain way also. That’s amazingly narrow to me since most of the people I like to hang out with are chaotic autodidacts and I learn SO MUCH from them since we all love having new knowledge nuggets.

                1. sunny-dee*

                  Exactly! I got a bachelor’s, honestly, because I enjoyed college. My brother despised traditional education structures, so he taught himself enough to get about a dozen different software and hardware certifications and has been working as a software developer for almost 15 years. I literally work on high end dev teams where have the people have degrees (and graduate degrees) from Stanford, MIT, or Carnegie Mellon, and the other half maybe went to some regional / state school. There comes a point where experience, performance, and ability greatly outweigh whatever your “academic” credentials are.

            2. Julia*

              This. Other than what Marizpan mentions (finances etc.), being good in school does not necessarily mean someone is smart, and being bad at school does not mean someone is not smart.

              I am currently in grad school and I can see the toll it is taking on my mental health, so after I have my Master’s, I will nope out of academia for life. And that is even though I am getting mostly A’s!

              I also see a LOT of people at my school who cannot seem to do any critical thinking. They’re good at studying and memorizing, I guess, but thinking for themselves, not so much. And then there are those who I’ve mentioned in the previous post who think that words like ‘retard’ are appropriate language for a grad student. (Or any human being.) I wonder if OP is one of those.

          2. The Other Katie*

            Even disregarding people’s personal situations, there are very many jobs that neither require from nor benefit from higher degrees, or where suitable continuing education training can’t make someone as or more competent than the corresponding MA. For example, the OP could have put more time into management training, and thus understood that attempting to “un-manage” a high performer specifically brought on to improve your team into quitting because you don’t like how competent she is is a bad idea.

            1. DDJ*

              In Canada, “unmanaging” is referred to as constructive dismissal and is illegal. If this were taking place in Canada, the ex-employee would probably be able to sue for damages, since the evidence is fairly apparent (although typically, you need to have 2 years of service, which I don’t believe ex-employee had).

              1. The Other Katie*

                Unfortunately, worker protections in most of the US are minimal and constructive dismissal may not even be illegal.

                1. Steve*

                  I am not a lawyer but as far as I know, constructive dismissal is only illegal when regular dismissal would have been illegal. E.g. the dismissee is in a protected class, or it’s retaliation.

                2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  @Steve, you’re mostly correct, but some states have a more expansive definition of protected classes, or they protect a wider array of employment/labor issues (e.g., California). But assuming that other criteria were met, DDJ is right that the OP’s “unmanaging” sounds like textbook constructive dismissal. And certainly once it became retaliatory, it may have opened up OP’s company to federal and state liability under whistleblower laws. That said, there’s a lot of variation in those laws, but it’s feasible—we’d need a lot more information to make a conclusive statement on the full legal risks.

            2. only acting normal*

              I got a 1st class Masters once upon a time, but seriously 20 years later *that does not matter at all*, even 10 years ago *no one cared*, 5 years after graduation it was only a mildly useful add-on to the important bit *my work record*. And I’m in a STEM job in a STEM industry where a degree (or equivalent experience such as via an apprenticeship) is an entry requirement.
              A Bachelors degree and a stellar practical record beats half a dozen Masters with a rubbish practical record, hands down, every time (as clearly demonstrated by the LW’s situation).

          3. Akcipitrokulo*

            Her favoured members didn’t all have an advanced degree.

            “**MOST** of us were smart and dedicated enough to get a masters”

            So the “she didn’t even have a Masters!” is really “she didn’t even have a Masters and I don’t like her as much as I like Jane who also doesn’t have one but that’s OK because she’s one of us.”

          4. Jennifer*

            I read a super horrible article on academia earlier today that makes me very glad I never wanted a master’s. I could have done it, but it’s a lot of money for a lot of shit as far as I can tell.

            This whole article is a giant “Wow.”

        2. Natasha*

          I agree, that was a silly point to be so snobby about. I am very proud to have recently finished a Master’s degree, but most people at work and in my social life just kinda shrugged when I told them. It doesn’t really hold a candle to experience among the crowd I know. (I’m still really happy to myself, though, and not putting down anyone else who did it in any reverse snobbery.)

          1. rory*

            One of my coworkers did exactly the same work I did and did it really really well. When she then got a masters degree, I had no idea she *didn’t* have one. It really made no difference in the work as it was being done. (I think she got her degree in something a bit adjacent and so it was for moving her career in a stronger direction towards what she wanted to be doing.)

          2. Hey Karma, Over Here*

            My feelings exactly. I loved graduate school. I went part time while I worked and if I could go again, I totally would. Never got a job in that field. Stayed in my awesome job. Some friend coworkers have me a congrats card and cookies. Nobody else even knows if I have a Bachelors. That’s the real world, LW.

        3. MsMaryMary*

          I work in the same industry as the OP, and it’s not unheard of for people not to have a college degree at all, let alone a masters. It’s more common for people with 20-30+ years experience to not have a degree, but technically you can be a professional by completing a licensing course and passing an exam. Acting superior because you have a masters isn’t going to do your career any favors.

        4. SignalLost*

          That really ticked me off. (Along with other things but that hit a sore spot.) I am not better than someone with “only” a BA/BS because I have an MA. Degrees aren’t magical ranking systems where the nicest, easiest to work with, best employees all have doctorates and the jerks have HS diplomas. If that is what OP thinks, then it’s yet another part of what OP needs to understand, sooner rather than later.

          1. Julia*

            Since academia can be full of jerks for some reason, that ranking system would be severely flawed.

        5. Middle Name Jane*

          Exactly, Your Weird Uncle. Because of all the degree mills and sub-par for-profit schools out there, an advanced degree in and of itself doesn’t inherently make a person smarter or more qualified.

        6. Red 5*

          Yes, please. In my working career, I’ve been on teams with any number of different educational backgrounds.

          The number of degrees on their resumes and what schools they were from has never been a reliable indicator of their value, ability, talent, or skill. I realize that this bias is probably taught in certain schools in order to prop up the “value” of the education you’re getting there, but if this is where the OP got this idea then their education did them a disservice. You don’t necessarily need a master’s degree if you’ve got skills, experience, and drive. This woman apparently had all of that, and demonstrated it clearly to upper management on multiple occasions. No amount of degrees is more valuable than that and the faster a person can unlearn the idea that a degree makes an employee better, the faster they’ll get ahead in the world.

        7. befuddled*

          My philosophy has always been – I don’t care where/how you learned something, I just care that you know it.

          My most valuable team members have been those who continue to educate themselves on their own long after school is done. With the rate of change in today’s world, it’s hard to keep current. I admire those who put in the effort to do so.

        8. Liz T*

          Definitely this, and I think it’s indicative of having the wrong mindset when it comes to working with others. It’s also demonstrated in the way some people are advised on their resumes to list their work experience first, and educational background later on in the resume.
          Unless you’re in some specific field where having an advanced degree is necessary, having that higher degree won’t mean as much down the line once a person develops work experience.

      2. Jesca*

        This is exactly what I was coming to say. It sounds like she was hired into a specialty role and wasn’t allowed to do it. I still can’t believe this is real …

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          Yes, I can’t believe how indignant the op was about the degrees. My god.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            OP seems to have a lot of concerns. You know, OP, being angry by itself is not wrong. It’s what we do with that anger that is important.

            Please read up on constructive uses of anger. If you sincerely believed this person was not appropriate for your department, then a good way to handle that would be in a sit-down conversation with your boss. “Boss, I am concerned about the addition of Jane to our department. I do not understand how she fits in over the long haul. Can you tell me what it is you see?”

            Perhaps you feel your boss was not letting you manage your people. Okay, that works into a legit question. “Boss, I am not clear on why this person has been assigned to my department, when I do not need more people.”

          2. Elizabeth H.*

            I was especially taken aback by the indignation that somebody could come in and in two years be at a more senior level than somebody who had been there for five years. Isn’t that like the basic concept of how some roles are more senior than others and it’s the actual role and experience required for it that determines seniority, rather than how much time spent within the four walls of the company?

            1. Julia*

              It depends on the country. I assume the OP is in the US, but in Japan, for example, in most offices, people still advance by number of years they have been there.

              Then again, I doubt the OP is Japanese. The university you graduated from is very important in Japan, but having any degree more advanced than a Bachelor’s is still often seen as weird – as if you hadn’t managed to to find a job right after undergrad and thus stayed at university.

              1. Mazey*

                I’d planned to teach at university level.

                I went through pretty lock step getting two (two OP!) Master’s. Agter I got my PhD I couldn’t stand academia anymore.

                I do very personally satisfying work now that does relate to my degrees, but it’s not what I thought I’d be doing.

      3. kittymommy*

        What strikes me is the lack of self awareness that the lw has to this. LW, your are getting to hung up on the fact that you didn’t retaliate not because you realized that it was wrong, but because the opportunity wasn’t presented to you. No, you don’t get props for that as the intent was still there and remained there. Part of being a good manager is developing a good working dynamic with your team, the whole team, not a toxic one that seems to resemble high school. Another big trait good managers have is the ability to look objectively and with scrutiny their actions and work as week as their employees. Even if you ignore all the postings here, your managers, your hr department, your colleagues (minus the team) felt that these elections were so egregious that they fired a multitude of people. That is mind boggling rare. The fact that they felt it was necessary should make you re examine what you did here and your responsibility in it. Make no mistake, you, and no one else got yourself fired and you played a part in your team getting fired (in no way does that diminish their responsibility either). What tut need to do now is honestly look at your actions and most of all your mindset towards what workplace interactions should look like.

        1. Annonymouse*

          I agree.

          This reminds me very much of the letter about the mum who managed her daughter and wanted to retaliate against the person who complained that the daughter brought her baby in.

          She didn’t retaliate but only because HR didn’t disclose the complainant.

          No, you didn’t transfer the snap chat reporter but that’s either because:
          1) you don’t know who did it
          2) became very icy and retaliated or “unmanaged” them.

          Neither of those is worth praise.

          Same with “Well I didn’t fire ex employee.”

          Partly because
          1) you were already trying to make her quit so why make it more obvious?

          2) she was clearly under the watch of upper management. If you fired her how would you justify it? You’d probably be out on your ass and you know that.

          And for “I was looking out for my team”

          If you really cared about them you would have wanted them to shine and pushed them to be their best. Having someone who could have done that for your team and instead of embracing that you pushed them out and encouraged your team to be at their most unprofessional.

      4. NPG*

        I really hope that the company tries to rehire the employee that left for her manager’s (the OP’s) role.

        As for OP, well, I really hope that s/he reads all the comments on both posts and thinks about them.

      5. KapAttack*

        Also, when everyone around you is saying how awesome someone is, wouldn’t you try to see what they’re seeing? At least entertain the possibility that you’re wrong and give her a shot? Mind boggling.

      6. Annonymouse*

        Companies make it pretty clear who they value: the people who add the most value to the business.

        Value being things like profit, new clients, efficiency, excellent support so profit teams can focus on their core jobs, cost reduction or innovation.

        Businesses don’t care about your education level. They care about your experience and what you can do/are doing for them.

        Example: me. I didn’t finish high school. I got an apprenticeship in my dream industry before my final exams so left school early.

        But I have tonnes of industry specific experience across most if not all aspects in my niche industry.

        If my coworker (who has almost gotten her law degree) said “Choose. Annonymouse or me.” Or tried to force me out well she’d be gone.

        Her superior education does not overshadow my superior performance and experience.

        OP I hope you learn to asses your value to your company compared to ex employees.

        She was reporting directly to your boss as well. She was assigned special projects by them. She was supposed to be a special consultant for the team.

        These are all indications she was very highly valued and someone you should help to shine because it would only reflect well on you.

    5. BenAdminGeek*

      As someone who works in a similar industry, I’m 1) encouraged by the company and 2) horrified that a team would work this way. I have an idea of how this type of team would typically be comprised and the types of tasks they’d be accomplishing. I’m flabbergasted that a team would decide to short-change their results to focus on petty behaviors. Contracts like this with clients are a huge deal, as is client retention. The fact that this was sacrificed for some Snapchat “hilarity” is ridiculous.

      I guess I’ve been lucky to have teams that prioritize results over tribalism. My goodness.

      1. Triangle Pose*

        What is LW’s industry? I didn’t think that was in any of the LW’s letters or comments – did I miss it?

        1. Cat*

          From the LW’s comments on the original post:
          “We are in insurance/brokerage firm as part of a larger Fortune 500 company. The brewery was owned by a company whose business we were trying to attract. No one ever asked her but just assumed that she would cover for them because she had made statements that she wasn’t a drinker anyway.”

    6. Hey Nonnie*

      Wooooow. There’s just so much to unpack here.

      When YOUR MANAGER tells you what assignments to give an employee, and how she should function within your team, and you intentionally and continuously do the opposite, that is insubordination. If you disagree with your manager’s call, you TALK to them. And accept the fact that ultimately you still have to abide by your manager’s decision.

      Calling an employee a “show-off” for being really good at her job? What? If your manager, the departments she works with, and THE CLIENTS are extremely happy with her work, then it is really, REALLY out of touch to suggest that she’s bad at her job. Making these people happy is the metric that defines someone being good their job.

      Resorting to freezing the employee out so she would leave — simultaneously openly admitting that AND claiming to not understand why you’re the “scapegoat” for her horrible experience and ultimate decision to leave — just no. This is not how managers manage. This will never be considered an okay thing to do in a professional setting, especially when this was in direct defiance of your own manager’s directives.

      1. Violet Fox*

        It feels like trying to freeze out the employee so that she would quit could be seen as a form of retaliation. Also since the employee in question is female, that could also have opened up the company to liability, or to at minimum some really bad press/lost clients over it.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        If a boss develops a superstar that is a feather in the boss’ cap. OP it does not work against you if someone excels. As far as her being promoted beyond you in a few years, this happens. Sometimes someone who is subordinate zooms out beyond the boss. Again, is favorable to the boss to give the superstar that launch. If we are lucky as bosses we will have that subordinate who excels far beyond our own abilities.

        Subordinates are the “next generation” so to speak. Every manager has a responsibility to help the development of the next generation of managers. This person could have been your legacy, someone you developed who went on to do great work on their own because you helped to launch their career.

      3. Don't Take My Brewery Run Away*

        “Calling an employee a “show-off” for being really good at her job? What?”

        Exactly. OP, you’re punishing the ex-exmployee for excellence. Good companies reward excellence. That’s all I need to know.

        This is coming from someone who couldn’t care less about brewery runs, which is the issue you wrote in about. Obviously there is a hell of a lot more going on here than brewery runs. (Which is also a good reason to question the “we must always take letter writers at their word” rule.)

      4. TootsNYC*

        another one of those amazingly illogical things that will hopefully now alert the Letter Writer that she has some serious emotional work to do:

        “simultaneously openly admitting [to deliberately mistreating the employee so she would leave] AND claiming to not understand why you’re the ‘scapegoat’ for her horrible experience and ultimate decision to leave”

      5. JanetInSC*

        And she downgraded the employee’s evaluation, because she didn’t agree with the overwhelming evidence. Petty and unjustified. That’s really horrible, you know. I’m a retired teacher and that would be like changing an A to a D. Extremely unethical.

      6. agatha31*

        I remember the last letter, though I never saw the follow-up, and there was certainly some questionable statements there, but this update? I made incoherent noises at *several* points in this update. OP is 28 but the actions toward the employee AND the reactions to the firings sound like a junior high kid who just got caught doing something wrong, and instead of learning from it, just complains to their friends about how mean and awful the adults are.

        “I was already on suspension based on the exit interview investigation, poor management practices and complaints from other areas, none of which I believe are accurate.”

        And then immediately after:

        “I had given assignments meant for her and assigned to her by my director to other members on the team because I wanted to [rest of statement cut because really, all the behavior listed boils down to ‘because I wanted to’]”

        That *right there* is a poor management practice and absolutely a good reason for someone else to complain about your management.

        “As a manager, I knew my team better.”

        But you didn’t know they were engaging in bullying behavior in public on company phones, and you didn’t know about an affair going on that by your own admission, everyone else did before you.

        And for the record, just because the person being bullied can’t or doesn’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not bullying. Not only is there the chance she might see it, not only is the maliciousness still there and *absolutely* going to come across to her in other ways if you’ve developed a team to feel *that free* to be openly cruel to another employee AND A HUMAN BEING FOR PETE’S SAKE, but consider that WHOEVER complained may have felt bullied or threatened as well, and so might other people who might feel AFRAID to complain BECAUSE they saw what happened to someone else who did. Consider that since your team felt that their manager had no problem with them bullying ONE employee in such callous and dehumanizing terms, they were all the more likely to do it again and again, any time someone showed up that they decided they didn’t want around, BECAUSE THEY COULD. I am completely unsurprised that your entire team was chucked. That was mindbogglingly toxic behavior even BEFORE we take into account your attitude toward it as somehow no big deal – IN CONJUNCTION with begrudging the unliked employee for being A BETTER EMPLOYEE than the rest of you, talking about it as if she was being a better employee AT all of you! I don’t use all caps to yell, I’m just trying to highlight how the further this story goes, the worse and worse it gets as each new statement adds another layer to the awful of the last.

        “I had also downgraded her end-of-year evaluation.”

        Poor management practice, good reason for complaint.

        “I don’t think she deserved the praise she received from the sales staff, my directorand client executives. Her work just wasn’t that good to me. I thought if my team and I froze her out, she would leave. I called it un-managing.”

        Really poor management practice, really good reason for complaint. Again, not JUST by the employee in question. If I saw my manager behaving like this, I’d be job searching elsewhere asap, because there’s no way I’m leaving my future in the hands of someone who, if she decides she doesn’t like me, is going to ignore the praise of other staff, *higher* staff, *and* clients in favor of nursing a frighteningly petty grudge. That’s a red flag in itself, even before adding in your complicity in the rest of the team treating her like garbage.

        “My team found her quietness and her ability to develop sales presentations and connect with each client was very show-off-like. When she asked for help, we didn’t take it seriously because we thought she acted like she knew everything and she was making us look bad by always going above and beyond for no reason.”

        So she was a jerk because she did her job well. But when she tried to be part of the team by involving them, she was a jerk. But then despite the lack of help she *still* managed to do her job well, so she’s… still a jerk?

        “My team and I had worked together for 5-6 years so I knew them, their work and their personalities better than anyone else so I took what they said with more seriousness. I also thought that her years of experience were irrelevant; she didn’t have anything beyond a bachelor’s degree (most of us were smart and dedicated enough to get a masters) and her experience was in a different subset of insurance.”

        Seniority doesn’t = better employee. Higher education doesn’t = better employee. I mean, the fact that she was quietly and successfully going above and beyond and connecting and developing sales presentations for clients while your master’s degree team was spending company time and resources on SnapChat bullying is kind of a screamingly loud example of why your company demonstrated VERY strongly that they value quality over quantity.

        “HR and my regional vice president…”

        Oh god, oh god, oh god, not going to quote because it’s just that entire paragraph, as well as this:

        “I’m not sure the lesson(s) I’m supposed to learn; I feel like I was the scapegoat for a favored employee’s reason to leave. ”

        HR *and* a VP told you what they wanted and you directly disobeyed them, AND THEN when she still succeeded, you tried to bully her into quitting. And despite getting many chances to change your behavior (all those meetings, and their attempts to tell you what they expected out of you in relation to that employee), YOU KEPT GOING, actively and willfully engaging in – again, your word – insubordination. AND you scapegoated the good employee based on your resentment of her superior performance with an ‘inferior’ education. No one, NO ONE who knows what good management looks like is going to buy that you did nothing wrong to the employee who was performing above the rest of the team, AND that your boss was somehow ‘mean’ or ‘wrong’ for firing you and your team for the negative things you all engaged in.

        “Being dedicated to your work doesn’t mean you can’t have fun at the same time.”

        Unless you don’t like them, in which case being dedicated to your work means you’re a jerk and need to be ‘un-managed’ out pronto? Where was the fun here? You’re focused on the drinking which probably would have gone uncommented on, and you’re completely brushing over all the other ‘fun’ stuff you engaged in which boiled down to actively sabotaging your own company’s chance at success based on an illogical grudge.

        “My former team and I are wondering if we can take action against ex-employee — her exit interview damaged our reputation, our team, and our careers.”

        Yeah the loudest noise I made was at this bit. No. No you can’t. The “action” that was taken against ex-employees that were damaging a reputation, a team, and careers, was when you were all fired for your very very very bad actions. And really, here’s the problem: you are convinced you are a fantastic manager, but you ENCOURAGED your team in their treatment of her by your own behavior toward her. You ENCOURAGED a hostile working environment (in which, as was made clear by someone else complaining, more than just she didn’t feel welcome there). YOU were responsible for maintaining and enforcing acceptable workplace behavior, but you did the EXACT OPPOSITE of that, and maintained and enforced a team of petty bullies. Now, they are all adults and all had a choice as to how to behave (again, demonstrated by whoever complained being adult enough to understand how wildly inappropriate that was and advise the company so they could do damage control before it got even WORSE), but you ARE partially responsible for your team all losing their jobs, because YOU led them to believe that their behavior was not just acceptable, but encouraged.

        So here’s the thing. You were probably doing some things right to keep your job for all those years. That’s a decent chunk of time, and you’re still pretty young. Sooooo… please learn from this. Please read and accept Alison’s advice. It’s really really good advice, and while you unfortunately can’t undo the past (including the potential damage you’ve just inflicted on your own career for at least awhile), you can make sure that future you learns a lesson from this and becomes a *better* manager than you already were.

        And most importantly, absolutely DO NOT get involved in trying to retaliate against the ex-employee or your ex-employers for any of this. Unfortunately you’ve probably already lost several years out of your career that you can’t use as a reference, your biggest hope right now is that this disaster story doesn’t spread industry-wide. But that hope is going to grow exponentially smaller if you demonstrate to your ex-employers that not only didn’t you learn a lesson from this, but you and your team are willing to try and ‘gang up’ on them to continue to act petty and vengeful on your own time as well as on theirs. You really, really don’t want that to be the story other employers in your industry all know about you and/or your teammates.

        1. This Daydreamer*

          Yes. This. All of this.

          LW, please read the above comment. Then walk away, sleep on it, think about it, rage against how unfair it feels. Then do the same thing over and over until you start seeing the truth in it. Take it step by step. Point by point. Read some of the other comments here and on your previous post.

        2. atma*

          I also wanted to come back to the point “I’m not sure what lesson(s) I am supposed to learn”
          I haven’t seen this in the comments, it’s possible that I’ve missed it.

          You came to this workplace when you were kind of young. Maybe you picked up the workplace culture and took it to be the standard. Maybe you had to adjust to fit in.

          Please consider that you have been conditioned to a very unusual culture, and, in order to move forward with your (working) life you are going to have to re-learn. The things you write, the things you’ve done, seem normal to you because of that. They are not really normal, and it will harm you to hold on to them. It may be difficult to change your perspective. Please try. You have a long life ahead of you.

          That is possibly also the only thing you can say about this workplace when you interview for a new job. You gradually realized the workplace culture was not a great fit.

          Good luck!

          1. Yep, me again*

            Okay, first: I got a lot of emotions because though I am not the ex-employee here, I had VERY similar to what ex-employee experienced. Almost to the letter. My ex-boss hired all her friends she used to work with and I and other rep were odd-men out. Projects and assignments were taken from him but it would have happened to me. I was told I couldn’t stand up for myself when one of the reps harrassed me because he was writing paychecks for the whole company. So yeah, I got some feels about this. In a way, I hope my ex-boss and her cronies are fired because they just got a new EVP of sales and they couldn’t prospect to save their lives (yes, sales reps who can’t prospect. This is the ONE company that never needed reps to do so.)
            But that’s therapy time for another day. On to my reply to a reply (maybe we’ll start a chain!).
            The Reply of the reply of lessons LW could learn:
            I’ve seen a general courseness with other persons when they spend more than 5 years at a company. I don’t know if it’s lack of diversity or simply being in the same place for five years and you develop a superiority about yourself and your work. You become more abrupt, less tolerant of mistakes from other people. Rudeness as well. It’s like you become a crusty old man who yells at small children and dogs. That filter you’re supposed to have to make it congenial and open becomes clogged and you just don’t understand what you’re doing and you don’t care. You’re ‘valuable’ to the company and this person doesn’t matter.
            That’s all the sympathy I can conjure for the LW. It seems like she goes from bad to worse and will continue to do so with each submission. I would suggest she not give an update for a while. She needs to heal a bit because regardless of how she acted, she is hurting.
            And I would not work with the same people again LW. If you care about their professional development, it’s not working with the same people over and over again. They, as well as you, will do much better in other environments working with other people, getting other experience, and learning different things.

          2. Decima Dewey*

            Let me try to keep this constructive:

            *Throughout your career, you will work with, manage, and report to people you don’t like, or who don’t like you. You don’t have to become BFFs with them, but you do have to find a way to work with them.

            *As manager, you will have to contend with policies you disagree with, instructions you think are counterproductive. If you can make a reasonable argument against the policy or the instructions, you can try to change it or them. But if TPTB indicate they aren’t going to change the policy, you deal with the policy as it stands.

            *Your team wasn’t as cohesive as you thought. Someone thought the snapchat comments were bad enough to inform HR. No one took you aside to say “You know that Lucinda reports to Aloysius, and they’re dating, right?”

            *Being a manager means being friendly with your team., but not an actual friend. There will be times when you’ll have to make someone work overtime when they don’t want to, or when you’ll have to give someone unpleasant feedback. Something you can’t do if you try to be BFFs with your team.

            It’s likely to be quite some time before you are at the level you were. You have time to learn better.

        3. Jen*

          You did a wonderful job articulating my thoughts on this.

          I work for the Canadian federal government, and our harassment policy is pretty solid – harassment doesn’t have to be directed at a person for it to be reported. Basically, if I’m talking to Guybrush and say something negative about culture X, to which Threepwood belongs, *even if Threepwood isn’t there and didn’t hear it*, Threepwood can still report me for harassment. So just because the employee never saw the Snapchats or became directly aware of them or whatever, she can still report them as harassment — and bullying, which it absolutely is.

          1. agatha31*

            Thank you! And I really really love the MI reference as well. :) Still reinstall and play some of those games from time to time!

            Side note on that subject, since reading AAM, I’ve begun using fictional characters instead of “John/Jane Doe” in my in-office documentation. It makes it WAY funner when I’m typing out some pretty dry procedural instructions to be able to give examples using Ada Doom or Ford Prefect or Lady Catherine de Bourgh!

        4. CMF*

          You do an amazing job explaining exactly what the OP did wrong – piece by piece – something she’s having difficulty figuring out herself. I hope she’ll read this and take your comments to heart.

          The one part that stuck out to me that I wish you’d elaborated on was that she couldn’t understand why alcohol was a problem when they weren’t actually drinking at the office. The three martini lunch is a thing of the past – people do not go out and drink in the middle of the day anymore – whether you’re trying to get the brewery business or not. It’s an office, not a frat house.

          1. agatha31*

            Quite frankly it’s because it’s not really within my experience! My office experience is limited to one very small office where nobody drinks, so I’m glad other people with more experience are piping up on that front. Heck I’m an introverted non-drinker, so even with more experience I’m not sure I’d be able to have a very informed opinion on that! The stuff I did tackle – well heck, that’s all behavior that in *any* field I’ve worked in, it would still be *way* out of line to do any of that stuff, so it was a lot easier to tackle.

            And thank you for your kind words! I’m blushing at the attention my comment received. :)

        5. CocoB*

          Stunning to hear complete admission of insubordination, yet LWs shock and unbelief that was fired and given no severance.

    7. Wendy Darling*

      This message made me think of something the brilliant Mallory Ortberg said in this week’s Dear Prudence podcast — to paraphrase, if anything you are saying sounds like something that would be said by a villain in an 80s skiing movie, you need to stop and consider your choices.

      “No one got hurt except for someone’s feelings” is dangerously like something someone wearing a monogrammed neon forehead sweatband would say, is my point here.

  2. Justme*

    I hope this entire situation is a wake-up call to the letter writer about how to not manage people in the future.

    1. ...with a K*

      This. I would spend some time thinking about this because your next interviewer is going to ask why you were terminated at your last job. You want to have an answer that doesn’t try to defend your actions.

    2. paul*

      I was wondering about the odds of that. I’m not really a manager (thank god) so I’m not privy to a lot of PiP/performance issue type stuff. Have managers that have dealt with this type of worldview seen any success in someone turning it around? or does it generally lead to either dysfunction or dismissal?

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Not when there’s this level of retrenchment. I really hope OP will reevaluate because I want her to succeed. But that won’t be possible if she keeps clinging to the idea that she did nothing wrong.

    3. Catalin*

      LW, would you want to be managed (or un-managed) the way you treated the former employee? What if you were the one who didn’t ‘fit in’ and had things taken away from you without good cause?

      1. Flabberghasted of HR*

        “What if you were the one who didn’t ‘fit in’ and had things taken away from you without good cause?”
        We already know what the LW thinks about a situation in which they feel that to be the case because they’ve told us how they feel about being fired – they are angry, feel unfairly treated, and want to sue the person they consider responsible.

        1. Language Student*

          And that’s when there was a good reason for the dismissal. I think OP is too focused on being cliquey with her subordinates and not focused enough on doing right by the business, her whole team – not just her drinking buddies – and her manager.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Management is a lonely job. One must find friends in other places that are not work.
            OP, your choices are you can have friends at work OR you can have a management job.
            You have to pick because you can only have one, not both.

          2. TrainerGirl*

            This. I’ve never seen a situation where a manager only treating their chummy subordinates well work out. Being friends with subordinates is one of the most un-managerial things you can do. I’m glad to see that the company acted quickly and decisively.

      2. Kate 2*

        Yes! OP you have a lot of classist prejudices you should think about. Namely that 1) having an advanced degree makes you better/smarter than those who don’t, and 2) people who don’t have master’s degrees aren’t smart and driven.

        How would you feel if you were the employee? How would you feel if these things were said about you by a manager with a Ph.D.?

        Also, there is nothing wrong with going above and beyond at your job. That’s how you get promoted. Is there any way that employee could have been good at her job in a way you wouldn’t find “show-offy”?

        1. Bunny*

          I have less than two years of college. I also have 25 years experience in broadcast news, with two networks under my belt and am continuing to work in a top 10 market. I was an adjunct professor of journalism for 5 years. I was on my own at 19. I couldn’t afford a degree.

          Tell me again about your masters. And your debt.

        2. Anon55*

          I really like that you brought up the “how would you feel if you were treated this way?”. That would be a great place for the OP to start understanding why her actions were so wrong on so many levels. I’d also say that a professional would probably be really helpful in getting to the bottom of why the OP isn’t able to empathize.

        3. MadGrad*

          Heck, as someone WITH a master’s I got offended. If trying hard at a place where you will get paid and more clearly rewarded for performance is “show-off-y”, I can’t imagine what this person thought they were achieving with higher education.

        4. bean*

          How would you feel if you were the employee? How would you feel if these things were said about you by a manager with a Ph.D.?

          Every time the letter writer mentioned this, my eyes rolled so hard I thought they were going to get stuck.

          Letter Writer, if you’re reading this: your comments are offensive to people *with* post-graduate degrees, too. How dare you use that to imply that you have greater value than another person? Take a moment and recall that to be able to do an MBA, a person must have a certain amount of privilege in the first place (finances, etc., the ability to not work for a certain amount of time), and remember that even then, not all MBA programs have the same return on investment – so just the fact of having earned one doesn’t actually mean you spent your time or money wisely.

          And I don’t normally put this out there (at least not in this way), but since this seems to be the language you speak: I have two master’s degrees and a doctorate, and precisely zero of those degrees were necessary for me to see that you are either really struggling with self-awareness or severely in denial, and that you appear to be stomping your feet and throwing the 28-year-old version of a tantrum here. Taking action against the ex-employee would be an incredibly inappropriate escalation of that tantrum; there is no possible happy end to that story.

          So please, take this in the spirit in which it is intended – which is to say, I do absolutely think things can get better for you, and I hope that they do – Get Thee To A Therapist. Be prepared to do some digging and reflect on ideas that may be challenging. And be prepared that you may need to develop your own work ethic. It will likely be difficult and it will take time, but it will also be worth it – it will pay dividends, both professionally and personally. And if you decide to take those steps – to make that first appointment and show up to it, and to go to that second appointment and that third appointment, and keep on going even when it feels difficult – you should be incredibly proud of yourself. It will be well worth putting in the effort to figure out how to manage yourself and work with integrity, and learn to treat people with respect, not because it’s policy or because someone else dictated how to act in a given situation, but because you will develop an internal compass. It will be a process, but if you are willing to engage it and work at it, over time you will see progress.

    4. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

      I hope so to but the comments on the original post and her follow up here don’t leave me with a lot of hope for that.

      OP, you just lost a job because of YOUR actions. I hope you understand that. This is entirely on you and how you functioned as a manager. From the follow up it sounds like this wasn’t just about not liking her personally, but that you had professional jealousy to the point that you wanted to torpedo her because you didn’t think she deserved advancement your bosses wanted for her. You were actively working against your direct report’s advancement out of jealousy and pettiness. That is incredibly immature.

      You very clearly were not ready to be a manager. You still aren’t if you can’t step back from this situation and see what you did wrong. Your boss, your boss’s boss, your HR department, a professional management consultation (Alison), and a LARGE working community are all telling you that YOU messed up and need to do better. What are the chances all of those people are wrong and you are the only one who is right?

      I urge you to take a breath, step back, and reevaluate. Read the comments on the original post. Read the ones here. Read Alison’s responses. Read books about management. Read other blogs and articles about management. Read them a few times. Take notes. Look for similar advice.

      You messed up. You had consequences for it. That stings. Don’t dig in out of wounded pride. Dedicate yourself to being better so your career trajectory doesn’t suffer.

      1. Blue Anne*

        Her entire team lost their jobs because of her actions, really. If they had been managed more constructively, they may not have gotten to the low point they reached.

        1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

          Exactly. That her whole team lost their jobs and that she wants to take action again the ex-employee tells me she really just isn’t getting how egregious her actions were.

          Alison, (or anyone) how common is it for an entire dysfunctional team to be let go like this instead of just redistributed? I kind of applaud the company here for their actions.

          OP I am sorry to repeat myself here, but please do some research into why allowing your team to function as it did was a problem. And please adjust your ideas of how valuable someone is based on what degree they do or don’t have compared to you.

          Also, look at future handbooks regarding alcohol. Just because you weren’t drinking on site doesn’t mean it was ok to drink during the work day (I assume that was what was happening and not just purchasing alcohol to drink later – it is a little unclear)

          1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

            We talk a lot here about toxic work environments skewing our idea of what is normal and what is ok and what should and shouldn’t happen. I think what happened here is a little of the same, but in a different way.

            Not only did the team lose their jobs, they likely have it in their heads that this is totally appropriate behavior for work because it is how their team functioned, save 1 (or 2 – with someone reporting the snapchat bullying I get the feeling that the team wasn’t as cohesive and as on board with everything as the OP is making out). I hope they do some self reflection here and can move on and aren’t digging in their heels as much as the OP is.

            If by chance any of the team members that lost their jobs are reading this – please read the comments here and on the original post. Please make an effort to understand why what you did was not ok and why you lost your job because of it, even though it was sanctioned by your direct manager. Learn from this so you don’t make the same mistakes in the future.

            1. DietCokeHead*

              I agree, I also felt bad for the team who both lost their jobs and also have had their views towards behavior on the job (brewery runs, bullying other employees) massively skewed by a manager who encouraged this behavior. Letter writer, you mention that you and your team still want to take action against this woman. I think the best thing to do for your team is acknowledge that you made errors in management and focus on moving forward and tinned learning from this experience.

              1. Akcipitrokulo*

                Feel bad to an extent… but…

                They were deliberately bullying a team member.

                I’m in the UK. It’s a lot harder to fire someone here, especially with that length of service. If you just fire them because it’s not working out, or even if theyve done something wrong once and get sacked instead of warnings through company’s formal disiplinary procedure, you’ll probably be giving them a few thousand in the near future after it goes to a tribunal.

                They would get fired on the spot here for gross misconduct. And would get laughed out of a tribunal.

              2. MsM*

                I think the best thing for the “team” is to take a break from each other for a good long while. Maybe they can continue the personal friendships once those can be purely personal, but the toxic hive mind attitude and putting the happiness of the group above all other considerations needs to go.

              3. Annonymouse*

                It came across to me that LW is the one spearheading the get back/sue ex employee.

                How do you propose that will go?

                Lawyer: tell me about your complaint and why you think you have a case.

                LW: after mistreating an employee to make them quit, I’m talking minor things like taking away their projects assigned to them by the director, downgrading their end of year assessments, excluding them from team building/social activities that were on the clock and refusing to have anyone help them when they asked, they reported my behaviour to management.

                I was investigated and my whole team was fired as a result. They clearly sabotaged is so we can sue, right?

                Lawyer: what’s this persons name and number?

                LW: Ex Employee 555 phone number.

                Lawyer (on phone): Hello? Am I speaking with ex employee? Great! I’m an employment lawyer and LW is sitting in my office. Hearing what they’ve said, I think you have an excellent claim against them. I’d love to meet with you and maybe have you as a client.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  That would be against legal ethics for any lawyer to do that. You can’t take what one client tells you and use it against them for another.

                2. Annonymouse*

                  I know, I know.

                  Just that’s how I’d see it play out in a sitcom or watch the lawyer just shake their head, face palm and point a two the door because they’re too dumbfounded/shocked to speak.

          2. SystemsLady*

            I know somebody like one of the long-term employees OP mentioned and was sad to hear they were fired recently. But they had at least had a manager decent enough to give them a chance to improve rather than let them get upset that the department was changing.

          3. Hey Nonnie*

            I can’t believe that the OP thought that real-world working experience didn’t “count.” Why does she think career advancement happens?

        2. aebhel*

          This. They all behaved unprofessionally, but I have to wonder if all of those people would have acted like that under a better manager. For their sakes, I hope not–and for OP’s sake, I hope he can take a step back and learn something from this.

          1. Czhorat*

            A better manager would have reined it in long before this. Cut the weekly brewery runs, told the “clique” to play nicely with their new colleague, etc.

            1. motherofdragons*

              Right, and I would add: modeled positive interactions with/respect toward the colleague. Stuff like that has a trickle-down effect.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Or at the very least not entertained the plotting about the ex-employee. The fact that the team was aware of the “unmanaging,” active efforts at exclusion, and redistribution of the ex-employee’s work to “put her in her place” indicates a complete lack of professional boundaries, professionalism, and cabalistic thinking. And honestly, if the complaining employees were properly managed and kept raising these issues, a functional manager would have placed them on progressive discipline instead of coming up with new ways to haze the ex-employee (I also suspect some team members may have required firing).

        3. WerkingIt*

          To be fair, the team lost their jobs because of THEIR actions. The whole group was a mess. Beer runs? Mean Snapchats? Shutting this employee out? Sounds like they all had some big chips on their shoulders and were not willing to welcome the new team member.

          The stuff they are complains about sounds like pure jealousy.

          1. Anne (with an "e")*

            I hope the person who reported the Snapchats to HR didn’t lose their job. The Snapchat reporter sounds like a decent person, imo.

      2. Kyrielle*

        This is all so very true. And OP…I really want to try to convince you to change your opinions.

        But I’m not going to try. You’ll either eventually come to that conclusion on your own, or you won’t.

        What I hope you will hear, at a minimum, is that _whatever you think of the situation_, most places, managing a team in this way is going to be grounds for firing, and viewed poorly.

        Specifically, you are likely to face consequences (including firing) if you:

        * Break company policy, whether fun or not. (Read and know your policies.) Most places, this will include possession of alcohol on company property (possibly including trunks in the parking lot), and coming back to work after drinking (especially if one is tipsy, or drunk).

        * Treat others poorly (speak of them poorly, be rude to them, cut them out of advancement opportunities, give them extra workload above and beyond other people at a similar level), especially but not limited to cases where it is based on a protected class (age over 40; gender; etc.). See also company policy, which will often have specific rules. Even without those specific rules, poor treatment based on a protected class is illegal and most companies will move quickly to get rid of the risk if you are doing that.

        * Transfer assignments given to one team member to another, when the assignment was given by someone higher-up and you didn’t check with them. This is a more grey area, but I would assume it’s not safe until you have learned company culture and asked your boss. If it is part of a pattern of poor treatment of someone, it is all the more likely to be acted on.

        * All of this will be worse if the person you are acting against is someone who reports to you (and in many cases, if it is someone junior to you who does not report to you).

        * Also, supporting/condoning anyone who reports to you in any of the above actions will also be taken very poorly.

        * Take unilateral actions that cause the company to lose business. Companies are sometimes willing to risk losing business in order to take a stand or because they’re pivoting in a different direction, but that sort of decision either originates in the C-suite, or is okayed by the C-suite, usually. If your actions negatively impact the bottom line and/or company reputation, unless a) you are very apologetic and b) they believe it was a genuine mistake that you are correcting, they will not be happy.

        At the very least, I hope you will understand these sorts of things have consequences, and that they are _very, very likely_ to get you fired. From a practical perspective, whether you agree that they should or not, if you don’t want this cycle to repeat, you need to not repeat your part in it. You don’t control others’ part in it. You do control yours.

        I do also hope some day that you’ll understand that they are right. But you don’t have to think that to understand that these are very, very common consequences for these sorts of actions.

        1. BF50*

          I would also add:
          *downgrading an performance evaluation by removing praise sales staff, your direct and customers.
          *Viewing someone succeeding at their job as “showing off”, not seeing a reason to go above and beyond, and viewing someone else’s successes as something done to make others look bad.

          1. Kyrielle*

            Agreed on the first. On the second, it’s not a problem until it influences actions (which admittedly it usually will – bias like that is hard to completely weed out of actions).

            But, as I tell my kids, they’re allowed to be sad, or angry, or whatever they’re feeling. They’re just not allowed to act in the wrong way to deal with it. (You’re mad at me? Be mad. But don’t kick me. Or downgrade my review unfairly, in the case of a manager.)

            1. Hey Nonnie*

              It’s emotionally healthier and certainly less stressful to not view someone else’s achievements as a personal slight, though. That’s going to be a miserable way to live. Realizing that not everything is about you is going to make you feel better about yourself in the long run.

              1. Kyrielle*

                Agreed! I was listing things that would get you fired, though. _Acting_ as if you view them that way might get you fired. Feeling it, if you keep it truly hidden, won’t. :)

      3. Purple Jello*

        A good manager even manages the staff she doesn’t like, not just her friends or the staff she does like.

        1. TheOtherLiz*

          Yes. And why? Because it’s their job, this isn’t Mean Girls “You Can’t Sit With Us.” And because this is how you end up with homogenous workplaces. Which is a BAD thing.

          1. A.N.O.N.*

            Particularly that LW’s perspective on it in the update: “I accept responsibility for my actions and understand why I was fired. I caused harm to someone else for no fault of her own…”

      4. Say what, now?*

        OP, Blue Anne makes a good point. Your actions caused your team to also lose their jobs. You’ve defended your actions by saying that you were looking out for the best interest of your team but your team suffered mightily for what you did. By not following your directors instructions to the point of insubordination, allowing your team to ostracize a coworker and then to top it off with not correcting them when they were in violation of their company’s code of conduct… oy, you unleashed a load of hurt on them.

        For the record, clients expect above and beyond. It’s not showing off to do more than asked for as long as it doesn’t negatively affect the work you’re able to do for other projects. She sounds stellar and you should have been raising her up, even if it meant that she would be advanced beyond your level. It will always look good on you if you are able to coach your team members to greater heights.

        1. Coalea*

          “You should have been raising her up” – so true! The ability to recognize, train, and advance star employees is an important management skill!

          1. Saint Cynicism*

            Probably not in the same field (I’m retail), but yes do this.

            I’m low level shift management, and I actually trained the guy I now report to. Twice. Once for entry-level, again after he was promoted to the same position I currently hold.

            Recognizing when someone is a better fit for advancement than you are is tremendously important. It means you recognize your own shortcomings, as well as understand the big picture. At the end of the day, if the company does well, typically you benefit too.

            1. Salamander*

              Yes. Paying it forward helps. It’s always a positive to help a talented person move beyond me. We don’t have to step on each other or climb over each other to advance.

              Besides, you never know when that person who is above you will see an opportunity that you are uniquely suited for and return the favor. It’s a win-win.

            2. TootsNYC*

              I would also say that him being more suited to management than you is NOT a “shortcoming” on your part. Maybe a limitation, but even that implies that your current job is lesser. But it’s not.

              Being really good at a job lower on the org chart is one of the most valuable traits.

              But you are right–whether it’s a shortcoming, a limitation, or even an aptitude–it’s important to know and accept your skills and aptitudes.

        2. CrazyEngineerGirl*

          I’m actually wondering how the team members that were fired along with OP are feeling. I know OP says that they and their team are wondering about taking action, implying everyone is on the same page… but I wonder if this is really the case. I know that they all did some truly awful and inconceivable things, and they all deserved to be fired. But with a bit of distance and the fallout of being fired (and under these conditions) I hope that they come to see the bigger picture and distance themselves from the OP. I can see how younger and less experienced employees (as the OP states/implies) could have gone in bad directions under the management of OP. Not an excuse, because they should have known better as human beings, but perhaps under better management some/all of them wouldn’t have behaved this way.

              1. TootsNYC*

                No, I think for hers as well. I think she did a lot of reacting to them.

                Now, she screwed up SO much. All her mistakes are totally on her.

                But they are horrible people (remember, THEY are the ones who were making nasty Snapchats), and she will never learn the things this can teach her if they are still around.

                It may be that there’s a really bad combo here as well–so there needs to be a big break.

                I’m reminded of Doc Gooden, who went into drug rehab and ignored the lesson Keith Hernandez told him: You need to dump every friend you have and get new ones. And then he was using again, pretty soon, because he wouldn’t.

      5. MCMonkeyBean*

        She even used herself the term “unmanaging.” She was actively and intentionally doing the opposite of what her job required her to do for this woman (and what her boss explicitly asked her to do on multiple occasions apparently). And still sees no problem with that.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          We don’t get paid for doing the opposite of what the bosses want. And this is normal for any job.

          We stay employed by finding out what the boss wants and doing that activity.

  3. pammat*

    It sure doesn’t sound like this was a learning experience for the LW.

    And that’s a shame.

    Because what she hasn’t learned may well lose her another job.

    1. KBo*

      exactly, that’s the most horrible part ( outside of this rationale “it’s not bullying because the target isn’t on SnapChat” – my mouth literally dropped open at this), that LW isn’t displaying any self-awareness and continued to double down that her methods (un-managing, she called it) were right.

      We have a saying in Jamaica “who don’t hear will feel”, and I worry that LW will stand in her own way of moving forward.

        1. Kbo*

          Use away. Jamaican aphorisms are pithy and awesome all at once.

          I hope the LW really can see this one day

      1. Julia*

        We say that in German, too! ‘They who cannot hear, must feel’ – which means, if you don’t listen to people’s warnings and hurt yourself (literally or career-wise or whatever), maybe they you’ll learn. I hope OP will.

    2. offonaLARK*

      I agree. If OP could read some of the comments and advice from the original thread, and really take them to heart, she could eventually move past this.

      OP, you are probably not meant for management. You currently seem to have a misunderstanding about how to manage, and how to take responsibility for your own actions. No one “got you fired” but you.

      1. AD*

        Exactly. This is a sad update and I’m not sure the OP is open to learning from this at this time, which is unfortunate….because she’s setting herself up for failure in future roles (especially if she continues to want to manage people).

      2. AndersonDarling*

        Yes, I get the feeling that the OP was confusing managing a work team for managing a group of friends. The OP is defending her actions in a way that someone would defend their actions in a circle of friends on a playground. “But we are all smarter. I didn’t like her. When the boss gave her special assignments, I took them away and gave them to you guys. I let you party at lunch. When people said nice things about her, I told them they were wrong. I let you say mean things online about her.” You can keep friends this way, but you can’t keep a job.

        1. Rana*

          And, honestly, this is an unhealthy way to handle one’s friendships too. It’s immature and toxic.

        2. Lora*

          You can keep friends this way?

          …What kind of friends?

          I generally stick with “sharing common interests”, “hanging out drinking wine and gossiping”, “I babysit their kids, they pet-sit while I’m away”, “having backyard BBQs together” and “taking excess zucchini from my garden” as a means of maintaining friendships.

          OP if this whole tearing other people down together thing is how you conduct a friendship, please talk to a counselor or therapist of some sort. Healthy friendships are built on shared experiences and interests, respect, trust, reciprocity, stuff like that.

            1. Lora*

              Ha! I was thinking more like knitting, music, maybe professional associations.

              Trying to think how I met my various friend circles, other than work. Exercise classes, my Grumpy Divorced Lady support group, my neighbors and I walk our dogs together. Friends of friends who turned out to like the same music, so we go to concerts together. Acquaintances who also were into cooking and gardening so we take turns hosting dinner parties. Another two acquaintances who became better friends because we like fixing old cars and DIY projects. A few who I met at parties who also like karaoke and board games.

              Maybe learn to play an instrument and join a band or something? A craft stitch and bitch group?

              1. kapers*

                I’d bet anything these people are NOT her friends and they have no respect for her. They’re a bunch of bullies and she was– and still is–a pushover for them. They used her for plum assignments, privileges, slacking off, flouting rules, and to avoid repercussions. Doesn’t sound like true friendship to me. I bet this clique was more interested in having the boss in their gang than in her genuine friendship.

                I predict that in a year she will not be friends with any of these people, because they won’t have use for her anymore.

        3. Kbo*

          Mature adult friendships can’t be kept the way the LW was operating. Sadly, her team members are in for a shock at any future jobs they get.

    3. Matilda Jefferies*

      Oh, gosh, yes. I feel like the best possible outcome of this would be that OP would realize that she has a lot of learning to do – but unfortunately I don’t think she has realized that. Or at least not yet.

      OP, you have gotten a lot of good advice here and on the original thread. I hope one day you’ll be able to read through it and do some introspection about where you went wrong and how to avoid repeating these mistakes in the future.

    4. Ms. Minn*

      Agreed. I hope that with time and maybe a career coach, the LW will get some much-needed perspective on how she handled this job and situation. Maybe she isn’t right for management (not everyone is and that’s okay).

      I handled some things in my career during my 20s (and not to lie, my early 30s too!) that at the time I thought were the right way, the only way (mine). Now with the benefit of time and more experience, I cringe.

      As to her comment about thinking Allison would agree with her because she was the manager: this is exactly why I’ve read AAM for years and typically agree with Allison’s advice. Because Allison is impartial and gives a good reality check on situations, even if the writers may not be happy with it. In this case, I think the LW was looking for validation, not advice.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Yep. To me, the comment that she thought writing to AAM as a manager would mean Alison would take her side really highlighted the overall naïveté.

    5. CrazyEngineerGirl*

      What she hasn’t learned may also keep her from getting another job! There’s little chance that the job she was just fired from won’t come up. Even if it’s not ‘why were you fired’ there’s going to be plenty of questions about what she did as an employee and a manager. Based on her current reactions and responses, I’m not sure OP would see an issue with saying something like… “A difficult employee I managed was one that was hired without my approval, and I didn’t like her so I just un-managed her and let other employees make fun of her on Snapchat. And it worked too! She eventually quit.”

    6. OhBehave*

      How this LW got to management levels is beyond me. As I was reading her comment on the original post, I was really skeptical. LW learned absolutely nothing during this period of time. I really hope she takes some time and comes back to these letters and rereads what she wrote and the comments provided. This is a chance to learn and improve. It’s also a wake up call that’s sorely needed. Managers should not be cozy friends with those they manage.

  4. caledonia*

    There are many aspects to this update but the only one I’m going to comment on is the one about education – undertaking any further education such as a degree, let alone professional qualifications or masters degrees does not make anyone else smart. Some of the smartest people in the world will be those without a degree.

    1. Grayson*

      The assertion that because the ex-employee “only had a bachelors” was frustrating for me too. I think the weight certain individuals place on having a degree is not necessary realistic. I have a bachelors, and a masters, but I’m not using either of them in my current job. Smdh.

      1. Cactus*

        I agree. I have an AAS with a direct concentration in my field and my co-worker constantly reminds me that if I want to move up in the word I need a Bachelor’s Degree “because it shows dedication.” Nope.

        1. Archie Goodwin*

          I have a bachelor’s, no master’s. Got some major non-professional recognition for one of my hobbies earlier this year. (Not to brag, but…)

          It’s really not always about the degree.

          1. Amber T*

            When I was two years out of college (Bachelors degree), I went on a date with a college senior. He wanted to be a specific type of social worker where you need a Masters to even start your career (so he said, I don’t know the truth to that), so his plan was to go to grad school directly out of undergrad. I’m in a line of work where another degree *might* be useful in the waaaay future if I stick to this career path (and it might not, honestly). So after we did that whole “what do you do/want to do?” awkward bit of a first date, he said “You’re not going to grad school? Don’t you want to do something with your life?”

            The date didn’t get any better. I skipped over the obvious fake SOS text to a friend and told him I needed to leave because I wanted to play with my parents’ dog. (He still asked for a second date.)

            1. Dust Bunny*

              There are fields where you need a Master’s basically just to get in the door. Libraries and archives pretty much require an MLIS, baseline. It’s sometimes possible to get a job without one, but a lot of people get the degree and then have to do something else until they find an open position, and not having one can limit your access to professional societies and opportunities.

              Don’t get me started on my opinion about this.

              1. Julianne*

                Depending on your state/district, a Master’s is an expectation to remain in K-12 teaching, too. My district rarely hires teachers without a Master’s, and it’s required to advance to a professional teaching license in my state. (This isn’t the case everywhere, though.)

            2. sap*

              “I need to leave because I want to do something other than be on this date.”

              “So when can I see you again?”

              That is a college senior who needs to get some work experience before grad school if I ever saw one.

              1. TheCupcakeCounter*

                Ha! Yes – it is amazing how much different real life is compared to HS and college.

            3. MSW*

              Social worker here. A master’s degree is usually necessary to advance in this field (especially because it leads to licensure, which is highly desired and often required for many clinical mental health positions). This guy should keep in mind though that not all fields require an advanced degree to be successful. My sister has a bachelor’s in biology/chemistry and was making the same amount as I was before I took a supervisory position.

        2. Dolorous Bread*

          Can confirm. I have a technical diploma for a concentration I’m not even in anymore but I’m at a senior management level professionally. Once you have had a few jobs, good employers won’t care where you went to school a decade+ ago.

          1. Your Weird Uncle*

            I agree. I have a master’s degree and am not working in my field. What my master’s DID do for me was open up some connections that I wouldn’t have had otherwise just due to being in the right place at the right time, for which I am grateful, but I would never say that having it meant I was smarter, more dedicated, or in any way more deserving of a job than someone who didn’t have one.

            1. AMPG*

              Ironically, I’m not using my master’s in my professional life but can call on what I learned to discuss our current political situation (I studied international development, with a focus on democratic governance).

      2. Southern Ladybug*

        I have a doctorate and found the point offensive. Sometimes letters after the name matter for job classification etc. And I would like my doc to have an MD or DO for obvious reasons. But damn, the best practitioners I know in my field often don’t have all the letters. And they are able to move up based on years of experience.

        1. Rana*

          Same here. My PhD came with some certain skills that have utility in my current profession, but many of my senior-level colleagues have BAs or less – a few are even entirely self-taught – but what makes them special is their years of experience and their professional contributions, not their degrees.

          1. Optimistic Prime*

            This. My mentor has less education than me, but he is fantastic at what he does and has a lot more experience than I do.

      3. Say what, now?*

        Same here, Grayson. Having a bachelors degree… ANY bachelors degree was a prerequisite to my promotion so I’m glad to have had it done so I could advance (and also because it did me good to continue to learn), but I could have had a degree in literally anything to meet that requirement. What got me the promotion was my dedication to quality, moral standards, and work ethic… also my ability to stay out of a whole lotta drama. We have a whole herd of drama-making llamas here. :(

        1. Kay*

          This happened to my old grand-boss. The company required him to have a Masters (ANY Masters) to be promoted to his position. What did he get his degree in? He get a Masters of Music in Opera Performance. He manages a building/facility (granted, it’s a theatre, but he does absolutely nothing related to performance, he is in charge of the administration). He was (and presumably still is) an amazing boss/grand-boss with a great work ethic. Because he is an intelligent, organized, hard-working, great-at-client-facing, committed-to-the-company, firm-but-friendly, professional person. Not because he has a Masters.

          1. rory*

            I had no idea that was a Masters you could do, and now I desperately want to audit some classes in that. :D

            1. mrs__peel*

              Me too!!

              (I wonder if you can get your Masters in that field if you participate in every class with great enthusiasm, but can’t actually sing…)

              1. Kay*

                Hmm…no idea. This was at a conservatory, so almost all the degrees are based on some type of performance (Dance, Music, or Theatre). I think the only exceptions are conducting, composition, and music education. They have some interesting degrees: there’s a Master of Music in Vocal Pedagogy. :)

                (Sorry to go off topic.)

      4. many bells down*

        On re-reading the letter, I notice the LW says that “MOST” of the rest of the team had Masters. So … some of the other people on the team didn’t? They had bachelor’s? Associates? But it was only a problem for one specific employee?

      5. Annie Mouse*

        I completely agree, I’ve got a Bachelors and a Masters but changed fields and am getting really excited about going back to uni for the diploma I need to progress. I’ll hopefully eventually end up with another bachelors in it but the diploma’s the main thing I need.

    2. all aboard the anon train*

      Yes, this is what stood out to me as well. It’s incredibly arrogant to assume that someone isn’t smart or is lazy because they only have a bachelor’s. Most masters programs aren’t funded and not everyone can afford them, and more than that, they’re usually not necessary for a lot of jobs.

      It makes me sad that there are still people who look down on those who don’t have a degree – or their degree of choice – because there are many people who would love one, but can’t pursue it for many different reasons.

      1. my two cents*

        I’m sure as Hell not spending a dime of my own money on a Masters in Engineering. I’d be looking back to my employer to pay for that, if they thought it was worthwhile in my role.

        How many entry level jobs in the insurance industry really require a secondary degree? Does anyone here know?
        (I’m saying ‘entry’ here because LW is only 28 with the ‘others’ to be about that same age, with a mention of only 1 senior-level employee)

        And it’s entirely possible that the ousted employee had already negotiated some tuition reimbursement for a higher degree when she was hired on. Or maybe she was just savvy enough to go look for the answers herself, in spite of her manager constantly snubbing her requests for help.

        1. Mary*

          FYI, in a few states to start teaching kindergarten through 12th grade you need a Master’s.
          Source: I have a M.Ed which came with $45k student loan debt for a first year $32k annual salary teaching kindergarten. I now work in corporate procurement where the starting salary was $45k and a LOT fewer hours.

          1. my two cents*

            Teaching is a hard gig, whatever state you happen to be in. Many MANY kudos to you for working with kiddos.

            My mother had a Masters degree in Early Childcare and Development. She worked as a preschool teacher for about a decade, but when I (youngest kid) was old enough that she didn’t need to keep those hours, she left and became a machine technician for a plastics (bags, wrap, etc) company for twice the salary and twice the health insurance.

        2. Kristine*

          My partner decided against a Masters in Engineering, too. I went back to school for my Master’s in Library and Information Science, and he makes three times what I do! So, there you are. (I love what I do, and he loves what he does.)
          Two things my graduate school education did emphasize: creative ideas for freelance work, which has been great for me, and a real good grounding in ethics, public service, and how to treat people. Despite a difficult economy my fellow graduates and I traded emails/Linked In messages about potential jobs, offers of reference letters for each other, and short-term projects/gigs. And age-wise we’re all over the map. That kind of support is golden.

          1. many bells down*

            My boss has a Master’s in her field, and her non-degreed husband makes twice what she does. Because he’s very good at his specialization and it doesn’t need a degree.

        3. Anonymity*

          Truly entry level in insurance is probably primarily data entry/call center work, so no degree required at all beyond a high school diploma (I work for a TPA, not a direct insurer, so it may not be the same, but I’m assuming significant overlap given there’s a lot of the same functions happening).

        4. Red Wine & Carbs*

          My mother and younger sister worked/have worked in the insurance brokerage industry for years, both as broker’s assistants. A broker’s assistant is NOT equivalent to secretary, administrative assistant, and/or the like, not that there is anything wrong with being any of those things, at all. My (now) 70-year-old mother has maybe 2 years of college. My (now) 40-year-old sister, who, due partly to learning differences but mostly to laziness/disinterest, barely made it through high school and flunked out of community college. Broker’s assistants, at least in Texas, must pass the same exams and get the same professional licences as actual brokers. I believe that they can pretty much do everything a broker does (issue quotes, bind business, bring in new clients, etc.) I do not believe that my sister’s current boss, an evil, but seriously high-producing broker, even has a Bachelor’s degree – if she does, she got it later in life. Of the 3 to 5 brokers that she has worked for over the years, maybe one has had a Masters degree that I can think of.

          As far as advanced degrees in general, I was “smart and dedicated enough” to get a J.D. fourteen years ago, not a job requirement, and said degree came with six-figure debt. The knowledge that I will be coughing up $700 a month UNTIL I DIE doesn’t make me feel particularly smart most of the time (OK – ever).

      2. ThatGirl*

        My husband has a masters because he needed one to get a job in his field. I have a bachelor’s because a master’s in journalism would have been a waste of money. And I’m not even in journalism anymore. And I make more than my master’s-having husband. (Not that it’s a competition.)

        And honestly if you stacked my salary up next to my JD and PhD-having friends I bet we’re pretty comparable. We’re all doing interesting and fulfilling work in our various fields, too, which matters.

        1. Rookie Manager*

          I have a BA and a BSc(hons). My partner left uni half way through the first term when he realised it wasn’t for him. This time last year he earned twice as much as me (I’ve caught up a bit now).

          One day I’d like to do a Masters for my own development, but getting that qualification won’t suddenly make me smart or not lazy or the higher wage earner in my house!

      3. KC*

        I couldn’t agree with this more. The biggest shame (in my opinion) is how irrelevant LW found her previous experience. A good chunk of the time, and even in my own professional experience, a person can learn so much more from experience than an education. Someone I know in the financial industry will hire someone with more experience and a bachelor’s degree from a lesser known school than someone who graduated from an ivy league with no experience.

        1. many bells down*

          My husband never finished his bachelor’s degree. It was the mid-90’s, programmers were in ridiculous demand, and he got hired halfway through college and never went back. Now, with almost 30 years of experience in programming, he’s never needed it. He’s lead programmer at his current job. Like, of the whole company. He just got the new title last week.

        2. Meera*

          I’m currently doing subjects for my second Masters degree, mostly because I need to do a certain amount of continuing professional development to maintain my certified engineer qualifications. As part of it, we are covering material I’ve probably done 4 times at least. And I’m getting the most of it now, after 15 years experience, because my experience lets me relate theory to actual practice and physical behavior of engineering materials and real world sites. I’ve done this stuff before as an undergrad and a relatively new postgrad and it’s genuinely gone in one ear and out the other after the exam. Now, with actual experience, it’s a vastly different and far more effective learning process that I know I couldn’t have without over a decade of work experience.

    3. Czhorat*


      And in most fields (and I suspect insurance is like this) your level of education gets you your first job.

      Subsequent jobs rely on that less and less.

    4. Manders*

      Yes! From this post, it’s not even clear what a master’s degree would add to this employee’s ability to do her job–it sounds like a lot of her role was about building relationships and being great at presentations, not about having deep knowledge of a technical subject.

      OP, it sounds like the university where you got your master’s degree oversold you on how important that degree would be, what it says about you as a person, and how much weight it carries in your field. Most companies are not going to care about degrees unless they’re a requirement for getting the job or maintaining a legally required certification.

      1. Jen S. 2.0*

        It also sounds more and more (and more) like the departing employee was one of the best on the team at her job, and OP was not the only one who felt threatened by that. Her lack of a master’s degree clearly didn’t cause her any problems with regard to doing the work, which is what REALLY matters once you are out of school.

        Also, to the OP: you keep mentioning “your team” and what you did to support and develop and protect them. This person was part of your team as well, but it doesn’t sound like you ever saw it the way.

        1. WellRed*

          I got stuck on this (among other things) too. She was part of your team, too, but for whatever reason, you treated her horribly.

        2. AndersonDarling*

          It’s mind boggling! It sounds like she rocked her job if she was receiving praise from so many departments and she was receiving special projects from the higher-ups. I couldn’t imagine receiving loads of praise about a direct report and denouncing it. A manager should be supporting the employee and ridding the praise wave with her!

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            Exactly. I feel like this whole thing boils down to the Op and her team thinking the ex employee was making them look bad – or doing everything to prevent that from happening. But instead, the Op defended her position to the death…of her job and all the others’ jobs.

      2. Snark*

        OP is bragging about an MBA, too. Not to devalue MBAs, but they’re a professional qualification, and they’re not evidence of original research or extraordinary scholarship. I mean, hell, I have a PhD, and I don’t value it this much.

        1. Manders*

          Yes, I think part of OP’s problem is that they totally believed the sales pitch that many universities use for MBAs and masters programs. A lot of those universities do try to convince prospective students that they need those degrees to get hired or to move up in the business world.

          It can be awfully disappointing to get out of an advanced degree program and see people succeeding without those degrees. It’s easier to blame the company for being “unfair” than it is to admit that you just spent a whole lot of time and money on a degree that doesn’t matter as much as you thought it would.

          (Some positions do require a degree or years of very specialized training, of course. It just seems like *this* career path didn’t need someone with advanced degrees.)

          1. sap*

            I, like, 50% get this–and I could imagine being VERY bitter about that hard thing I did to the tune of 6-figure debt turning out to not, in fact, have the function it was sold as having.

            …but it’s not some equally (or more) excellent’s fault that they are a savvier consumer.

        2. Lora*

          In my field (biotech/pharma) we actually sneer at the folks with MBAs as being unable to comprehend what the company even does, let alone analyze the business risks or appropriately value our various programs…we look at the shuttering of Bell Labs and the shenanigans of Imclone, Theranos and the Martin Shkrelis of the world and think, seriously guys, get a job that doesn’t hurt people, this is clearly too much responsibility for you to handle.

          I’m fascinated to see the whole exchange though. Good on the company for cleaning house! That’s great news. I’m sorta glad I am cynical enough to know that there are indeed terrible people who think like this who mysteriously end up in management; just when you think you can’t get any more jaded, the world goes and proves you wrong.

        3. Jessica*

          OP certainly demonstrates how a degree doesn’t provide a benefit unless you have practical experience to put it to good use. OP used her MBA to nosedive her entire team directly into the unemployment line, after creating all manner of legal and procedural issues while losing her company valuable clients and revenue. Was she gone the day they taught business in business school? Must’ve been.

    5. Fern*

      This so many times. For many people, getting a master’s degree isn’t about dedication and smarts. It’s about having the means and time. A lot of people have to carve out time part time or at night to get a master’s degree, and cannot afford to add on more student debt/go back to school full time.

      1. MashaKasha*

        Exactly. In a country where higher ed is a ridiculously expensive commodity, it’s one hell of an assumption for LW to imply that people who do not have her preferred level of education, do not have it only because they are not smart and dedicated.

      2. Breda*

        Also, frankly, many of the people I know who got Master’s degrees did so because they didn’t know what to do after college, or were struggling to get a job and were hoping that a greater qualification would combine with a stronger job market a year later to help them out. (I graduated in 2010. I knew people who graduated in 2008 and went to law school rather than contend with that job market!) It doesn’t indicate much, to me.

        1. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

          I’m one of these people! I went to graduate school because I was looking for direction.

          I don’t really work in a field related to my degree, but utilize the skills and talents honed while in school.

      3. tigerStripes*

        There are plenty of people who don’t get a master’s degree because they don’t need one. I don’t have one and haven’t needed one.

    6. Wisdom Beats Intelligence*

      Of all the CEO’s for whom I worked, the absolute best one, by far, was the person with no graduate degree and a bachelors from a school that even the CEO said was mid level. They knew more about managing great people and setting strategy than anyone I’ve ever met.

      My two worst managers had graduate degrees from Ivy-level schools. I also attended an Ivy-level school and I hope I can emulate the CEO.

      LW, degrees show what facts a person has learned. Wisdom, empathy, and strategic thought come from experience. If you open your mind to feedback, you can gain experience and be like the CEO. If not, you’ll be the smart jerk in the office for a long time to come.

    7. FCJ*

      Yesssssss. The idea that her experience was worthless because it wasn’t endorsed by a degree is laughable. Degrees are great–I have several of them. But they’re not the same as work experience.

      And, for what it’s worth, in my experience when one of my students makes a point of telling me what degrees they already have, it’s almost guaranteed to presage mediocre or even bad performance in my class. Thinking your degree alone makes you qualified seriously prevents you from recognizing where you can improve.

    8. shep*

      So much this. My dad is one of the most brilliant people I know (and now that he’s nearly sixty, takes great pleasure in accruing associate degrees in everything from jewelry-making to electronics in his spare time), but had to drop out of college as a young person because of finances.

      My partner is also brilliant, graduated from HS in the top of his class, and just didn’t like college. He dropped out. And is STILL one of the most brilliant people I know.

      I have a BA and an MFA, and while I’m proud of the work I did during those programs, I certainly don’t think I’m better or smarter or more entitled than anyone else.

      I feel like OP lives a very insular life, with friends and colleagues that only mirror her perceptions of the world. There’s nothing wrong with having like-minded friends, but when it’s at the exclusion of all else, to the detriment of all else, it is a VERY bad thing, indeed.

      1. Mouse*

        Yes! My dad is easily the smartest person I know, and I went to a top-5 US university. He never went to college. He barely graduated high school. Instead, he traveled around the country with his dad as racecar drivers, and building racecars and doing indoor stunt shows in the winter. Now he’s a steelworker, and rose to the top of his mill lightning-fast because his mind is so well-suited to machines and engineering.

        Beyond that, he took a huge interest in his kids’ educations. I remember complaining that I was bored in math class in elementary school, so he fought the principal (who thought only boys could be good at math), borrowed a math textbook, and studied with me over the summer so I could skip a grade in math. He would sit up at night reading the next unit so he could teach it to me the next day. I have a dozen more stories like that, too. I honestly wouldn’t be anywhere close to where I am today without my dad.

        This kind of educational elitism drives me crazy. I’m so glad I came from the background that I did, because I had peers in college that genuinely thought that anyone who didn’t go to college was dumb as a box of rocks. They didn’t know better, but they should have. And so should you, Letter Writer. Look at the world around you. Talk to the woman changing your oil, or the man repairing your plumbing, or your taxi driver, or your local garbageperson. Seriously examine your thought processes and prejudices and learn about people. You may be well-educated in your field, but your worldview could use some work.

        1. Kate 2*

          Mouse and Shep, your dads remind me of my dad, mom, and grandfather especially, as well as others in my family. Full of intellectual curiosity, highly intelligent, quick to figure things out, but between money/personality never went or completed college.

        2. Baby in the Bathwater*

          “This kind of educational elitism drives me crazy”

          Perhaps. But the first sentence in our post says you went to a Top-5 university. (So, University of Chicago or Columbia?)

          And you perceived some advantage to going to a Top-5 university, most likely by paying a pretty penny to do so, rather than joining the racing car circuit yourself, or going to State U.

          The letter writer is obviously clueless. But it doesn’t follow that success at a top university should be sneered at, and anyone who takes the anti-intellectualism downthread at face value is getting very, very poor advice.

          1. Julia*

            I think they were trying to say that success at university was one kind of success. And unfortunately, it’s the kind many people seem to value the most, even though I know many highly educated fools.

        3. Erin*

          I have a bachelors and I’ve worked in education, (substitute taught while I decided if I wanted to peruse an education degree) and I choose to work retail. Because I make twice as much as a substitute and have health insurance, PTO and the short commute. If I figure out the cost of student loan payments, and the commute and working hours I wouldn’t be making anymore money than I am now.

      2. AnonEMoose*

        My dad never got beyond a high school education. But in his way, he is one of the smartest people I know. He’s been a mechanic and farmer his whole life. Give him a practical problem to solve, or something to fix or build, and he will get it done. And done well. Not only that, but he’s good at teaching the stuff he knows, and incredibly patient.

        What I know about troubleshooting – a computer, a car, or anything else – I learned from my Dad. What I know about training other people – breaking things down into steps, explaining what I’m doing, and then walking them through it – I learned from Dad. Safety around everything from a food processor to a lawn mower to a light rail train? Yep, learned it from Dad.

        1. Adlib*

          Are you me? Our dads sound very similar! So great to hear all the awesome dad stories out there! I realize more every day that my dad is superman.

        2. LavaLamp*

          Mouse, my family is similar. My parents have GEDs (equivalency degrees). My dad worked in construction all his life, and was really good at it. He was a manager, despite not having a degree.
          Even though my parents never attended college, or had a degree in anything they’re smart kind people, who taught me how to be a decent human and have a good work ethic.

          It’s not about the letters behind your name; it’s about being a decent human.

      3. Risha*

        My father only had a GED, but he was a literal genius (way, WAY smarter than me). He just wasn’t interested in school when he was young and a hippy. He got a high A or better in every single college class he eventually ended up taking in his late 30s, before he got sick.

      4. Falling Diphthong*

        My husband has a PhD from a Big School, and if you wanted people like him to dismiss you then a quick way would be to brag about going to Big School. Everyone in the room was admitted to Big School, and we’ve all got PhDs–that’s all you’ve got?

      5. Solidad*

        My father had only a HS education. From small, rural American school in the 1940s. He was one of the smartest men I knew. He read and thought.

        When I went to law school, he spent a lot of time asking very insightful questions on the privileges and immunities clause and the post-Civil War Amendments. He was a Civil War buff and was trying to think through how our constitutional concepts relate to historical events and forces.

        Conversely, I know a few Ph.D.s that are really, really toxically close-minded and small. They only have their degrees b/c they were rich white men who came of age in the US, UK, and Europe in the 30s and 40s.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          You guys are all reminding me of my dad.
          When friends first met him they said, “Oh, he speaks simply and slowly.” Yeah, because he’s thinking as he speaks. In time they saw a brilliant man who could build bridges, shore up houses, double check the bank’s math, shoot lot lines and a host of things. He got through to 12th grade by the skin on his teeth.

          Some people cannot follow the school’s schedule for presenting material. They just do not learn in that order that schools use. They follow a different order and absorb different material that is not focused on in school when they are focusing on it.

        2. Julia*

          University often teaches only a very limited approach to things, and often in only one way.

          I can imagine extremely smart people failing at university because their professors don’t get them.

      6. SarahKay*

        My step-dad went to agricultural college, which came with a BAg – good for farming, but not what other employers jump at. He then spent years working as a milker, a bit of retail, followed by more years as a telephone-line repairman.

        He is way *way* smarter than me, and got me through O-level physics (not sure of US equivalent, but exams at age 16) when I had a total inability to grasp the concept of acceleration (the whole concept of meters per second per second just did *not* compute to me!) and A-level maths (exams at age 18) when I struggled with calculus.

        In the meantime my step-dad’s ability to fix really tough failures got him promoted, then into IT. He retired a few years ago – from his position of head of IT for the county council services.

        I have a maths degree, but that’s now 20 years old, so basically so what. Experience is what counts, and I’ve always been incredibly grateful to my step-dad for (a) his help, (b) seeing that a degree isn’t the be-all and end-all of everything and (c) the knowledge that really, truly, my parents were never ever going to judge me on the ‘status’ of my job.

      7. Anonicat*

        Right? My dad became a surveyor through a cadetship and got a bachelor degree halfway through his working life. To the LW that’s not very impressive.

        You know what’s impressive? He trained more than 30 cadets over the course of his career and they all came to his retirement party. Some travelled 1500km for it. He was truly great at his job and at training young people in both the hard and soft skills needed to succeed in that work.

        Getting a masters or doctorate certainly requires smarts and dedication, but so do plenty of other achievements in life.

    9. AVP*

      That comment really stood out to me as well. Clearly, the upper mgmt thought the employee brought something new to the team in terms of experience and clients, and the OP seems so focused on material details like education and beer runs that she overlooked those good points. Of course there are some fields where advanced degrees are necessary but when your bosses are telling you that you’re not in one, you have to listen.

    10. Decima Dewey*

      I’m a librarian, which means I had to have a masters to get my job. And I’ve worked with some incredibly dumb people who also have a masters.

      1. CMart*

        I’m an accountant and many (most?) accountants past entry level get a masters of some sort.

        This profession certainly isn’t full of dummies, but I will say this: the vast majority of my peers in my masters’ program were very, very hard workers to compensate for not being whip-smart or lightning fast on understanding concepts. Getting that degree (or becoming a CPA for that matter) has very little to do with “smarts” and everything to do with work ethic and diligence.

        1. Colorado CrazyCatLady*

          Not really related to this post per se, but I’m glad that you say that. I’m going back to school for my undergrad in accounting and I don’t immediately understand all the concepts. I just took intermediate accounting and half my class dropped out because they didn’t get an A on the final … I just got a tutor, since I needed some in person assistance (my classes are online). I have to work VERY hard at it and I’m sure it’s even harder in a masters’ program.

      2. Symplicite*

        I’m a librarian, too, with the masters degree. But I work in Business, and don’t use my masters in the way the iSchool intended. And I’m perfectly OK with it – and many of my colleagues do not have masters degrees, either.

        What I have learned is that it is the foot in the door, period. You on your own merits keep the job.

    11. Frances*

      Yes, and even when a degree is an asset someone brings to the table, it often isn’t the only asset that’s valuable! I work in policy research and I have a masters. Some of my other colleagues “only” have a bachelors, but have journalistic experience. For the work we do, that experience is as much of an asset as my formal training.

    12. Kate the Purple*

      Yes. That education comment frustrated me too, and I say this as someone who has a law degree. A degree is not an end all be all indicator of intelligence or dedication

    13. Aunt Vixen*

      And conversely, I’m sure we’ve all known plenty of people with advanced degrees who were … let’s say not any smarter than those of us without them.

    14. la bella vita*

      I have two master’s degrees – my top two coworkers have a bachelor’s and I’m not entirely certain my boss went to college. Higher education can certainly be valuable, but it doesn’t necessarily indicate how good you’re going to be at your job.

    15. Dmr*

      I’d like to add that not getting an advanced degree can be the intelligent decision. I have considered getting a master’s common in my field, but leaving my job to pursue it and then looking for a new position in my niche does not seem worth the investment. I also see lots of clients and co-workers with advanced degrees who are not in any better position than I am (I manage one!), and are likely worse off when considering debt accrued and earnings lost while pursing an advanced degrees.

    16. Anon Anon*

      I think the over emphasis on education is probably more a reflection of the lack of professional experience on the part of the LW. The longer I work the more I value the depth and breath of experience and the less I value formal education. I have a graduate degree, I value education, but experience truly is the best teacher, and I know so many people without a college degree let alone a graduate degree who are amazing at what they do (and I learn from them all the time).

    17. Pearly Girl*

      THANK YOU.

      I have an associate’s degree and a senior position with a household-name company.

      Oh, and this is proof that a Master’s degree can’t develop common sense, courtesy or empathy. Those come from within, and they’re free.

    18. Woahh*

      This kind of attitude also props up discriminatory higher practices, based on the demographics of affording/ having access to masters level education.

    19. seejay*

      Nevermind too that it’s experience in your particular *field* that counts as well. My partner has a bachelor degree in a completely unrelated field but 20+ years experience in what he does and he runs circles around “new grads with master degrees” in his field. All their education and theory means diddly squat when it comes time to actually deliver exactly what the customers want and you only get that by working in the industry… which is sounds like the ex-employee had and the seniors above the LW recognized (and the LW and her team obviously didn’t because their MBA education got in the way). Holy moly.

    20. Alli525*

      What I find most interesting about LW’s high view of her MBA is that she must have skipped the MBA classes about legal pratfalls common in management. Or ethics classes.

      If MBA programs aren’t teaching legal/ethics classes, I’m not so sure that MBA grads are actually Masters of business.

      1. Anon Anon*

        To be fair, many MBA programs are just cash cows for their institutions. They aren’t actually teaching anyone much of anything. MBA vary wildly in quality from borderline papermill programs to top notch programs that are worth their weight in gold.

        1. CMart*

          Yeah. I always have some snarky things to say about MBAs in general, but I held back knowing that it’d be unkind to a lot of commenters here who have their MBA. You articulated the wide swing in merit much kinder and much more fairly than I could have.

          I will say that I have noticed a trend that “people who are snobby about having a masters” tend to also be “people who got a diploma-mill MBA”.

        2. la bella vita*

          I hope this doesn’t come off as completely obnoxious, but I have an MBA from a top 10-15 program and I always tell people if you can’t get into a top 20-30 program, it’s probably not worth it. I say that because if you go below that, you probably will never recoup your lost earnings and tuition.

      2. MsM*

        The “legal” class in my program was about a week long, and the basic takeaway was “if you’re not sure whether something’s okay, consult a real lawyer.” They did build ethics into the rest of the curriculum, though, and I had friends who took classes over at the law school in specific areas they thought might be useful.

    21. Xarcady*

      “Some of the smartest people in the world will be those without a degree.” I have a friend who dropped out of college his senior year. He once told me that he tends to think of himself as someone without a PhD, because all the people he works with have at least one doctorate. And when he was thinking about leaving that job a few years ago, they begged him to stay.

      The LW doesn’t seem to think that experience and hands-on training can compete with academic degrees. In some fields, this may be the case. But in many fields, experience can triumph over book learning.

    22. OldJules*

      +1 I always push back on manager who thinks that a degree is a good minimum qualification.

      If the position doesn’t require it, would you prefer someone with 4 years experience or fresh out of school?

      1. Baby in the Bathwater*

        “If the position doesn’t require it, would you prefer someone with 4 years experience or fresh out of school?”

        Um, the answer to that isn’t self-evident in the slightest. It depends on the nature of the role you’re hiring for, your corporate culture, etc.

        And of course it’s a false dichotomy. Often I’d want someone with a degree and four years of experience.

    23. Lisa*

      Yes to this. She sounds naive about many things. This appears to be her first post-college job. The dismay that someone with many more years of work experience could (possibly, eventually) rise to outrank someone with more years of seniority at this particular employer… that’s bizarre. Does she think that everyone starts over as entry-level every time they switch jobs?
      For what it’s worth, I technically have a 9th-grade education (unconventional childhood). Through a rare-at-the-time self-taught skill I landed a professional role at a Fortune 50 company where I stayed for 14 years, and routinely out-performed MBA-holding peers.
      I know many people who place great worth on their education, but just as many who consider their degree an expensive piece of paper in the context of what they currently do. To dismiss someone’s ability based on what degree they do or don’t hold shows poor understanding of how the world works.

    24. Kate 2*

      Yep! I know very smart people without them, and some very nice, very dumb people with them. Having a degree is no guarantee of work ethic, common sense, or even intelligence! It just means you can write papers and fulfill work requirements well enough to pass. *If* you are intelligent you can learn a lot at higher ed institutions, but I also saw a lot of people just skating by, doing what they had to to pass. I also met people who were doing really well, but who had no curiosity, no ability to put pieces together, and no awareness.

    25. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yes, that seems to be a key issue here. She is undervaluing work experience and overvaluing her degree, to the point where she decided that someone with more experience still doesn’t deserve to be higher in the company than her and actively sabotaged her own direct report.

    26. AnonForThis*

      The SO doesn’t have a college degree and is a wildly successful business owner, more successful than my degree-having self will probably ever be. He’s one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever known, and no one has ever called him out on it. That diploma doesn’t mean anything.

    27. Reliquary*

      I hold the PhD in my field. Over the last thirty years, I have had the privilege to learn from and work with stunningly brilliant people from many countries and from many cultures. My mother did not have the opportunity to pursue any post-secondary education, yet she remains the smartest person I have ever known.

    28. Squirrels Unite*

      A couple of years ago, at a family gathering, the group spent hours trying to figure out a way to keep the squirrels out of the bird feeder. Three PhDs, one MS, two MBAs, four BAs/BSs, collectively outsmarted by a rodent.

      Yeah, degrees are not always useful.

      1. mrs__peel*

        My partner and I have five degrees between us (I’m an attorney, and he has a PhD), and we once spent practically an hour figuring out how to install a $2 plastic seatbelt clip.

        1. Typhon Worker Bee*

          I have PhD, and my husband is a carpenter and generally excellent with all things mechanical. While waiting for the cable guy at our new place last weekend, my husband said “what’s this weird thing on the door frame?”, moved it, and promptly locked us in. It was some kind of extra lock and we could NOT figure out how to re-open it. There’s only one door… luckily, we figured it out between the two of us before we had to explain to the cable guy that we couldn’t open the door because we’d locked ourselves in. Took a good five minutes though.

          1. Anne (with an "e")*

            Look on the positive side of things: You and your husband got to have an impromptu Escape Room experience and now you have a found a built-in, came with the place game for party guests.

    29. Sadsack*

      OP didn’t think the employee was smart enough, except she was performing at a high level and picked to advance beyond OP soon.

  5. Amber T*

    One thing I want to point out that’s a life lesson, not just work related – Bullying isn’t “not bullying” because the victim never found out. First, there’s a good chance she knew *something* was up, even if she wasn’t sure what is was. Second, you’re creating a hostile work environment for the rest of your workers, for as much as you think you know them, at least one person felt it warranted HR’s attention (and it absolutely did). For all you know, there were others that were uncomfortable with it but were too afraid to bring it up or do anything about it, and given your reaction to the person who did talk to HR, I don’t blame them. Third, no, you don’t get a pat on the back for wanting to do something wrong/illegal and not doing it – it’s called being an adult and a decent human being.

    1. Jen S. 2.0*

      Agree. Anyone busy mocking you behind your back is unlikely to be unabashedly lovely to your face, and a pleasant, collegial coworker. She didn’t have to see the photo(s) to know the in-crowd likely had it out for her.

    2. sap*

      So much this, especially your point about others being uncomfortable. Bullying one person doesn’t just show those who see it that you don’t like *that person,* it shows them that you will make life miserable for the other people in the room if you stop liking them, too. Bullies GET to bully, and often DECIDE to bully, because their poor treatment of one keeps everyone else in line. There is always an implied threat to the members of the “in group,” even if the implied threat isn’t intended.

    3. Doug Judy*

      I was a target of workplace bullying at OldJob and while I didn’t know specifically what they were saying about me behind my back I knew enough. The bullies are never as good at hiding it as the think they are.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I have been in a group of people who were talking negatively about me and I could just feel it, intuitively. Fortunately, I did not fully understand it at the time or it would have been more devastating. As it was, every time I dealt with this group, I would get headaches and stomach aches for no apparent reason.

      OP, she knew that she did not have one single friendly face in your department. She does not have to know how that happened, you could be gossiping, you could be putting it on the internet but the method has no bearing here. She saw strained interactions where ever she looked.

      When you target one person with a steady stream of negative comments, that is called bullying. Your group felt they had to side with you as the boss in order to keep their jobs. And probably they were relieved that someone else was the scapegoat not them. They had to stay on your good side so they could get a good eval and keep their jobs. They saw what could happen if they did not stay on your good side.

      I just wonder, OP, did someone ostracize you in such a manner and that is why you think this is okay to do? If yes, then this person who ostracized you was wrong also.

  6. Rebecca*

    I’m interested in how the LW didn’t know that she was managing incorrectly, for lack of a better word. It seems like she genuinely didn’t know what was appropriate, legal, or even professionally advantageous. Is that not also (partially) the fault of her own manager? I’ve never been a manager, but I’ve had and seen plenty who truly do not know what is okay.
    From reading this site religiously, I’m quick to jump to “HOW COULD THEY NOT KNOW THIS IS NOT OKAY?!” when things happen that are terrible. But it’s clear that a lot of people are figuring things out on the spot, and lack oversight themselves. I often think things in my own job would be better if my boss had a boss.

    1. Snark*

      I think this is the key: I get that I am a shitty manager unless you actually worked with me but I worked with friends for 5 years.”

      On some level, I think she knows that she was practicing awful management, she just thought it didn’t matter because her team were all her bros and she didn’t need to actually manage them because they were all one big happy clique.

      1. FCJ*

        That’s what I got, too. Combined with the “it’s not illegal not to like someone,” the LW seems to really believe that it’s okay in a work environment to treat employees badly if you don’t click with them on a personal level.

        1. Snark*

          It’s not just that. She seems to have wholeheartedly bought into her own exceptionalism: yes, this is bad management for other people, and yes, this might be illegal for other people, but she and her team was special, and it would have all been great if she didn’t have this meddling outsider who screwed it all up and brought reality crashing down on her.

        2. Justme*

          I have a few co-workers who I dislike. But you’d never know it because I actually treat them with professional respect. We would never hang out outside of work but that’s irrelevant to a good work situation.

        3. Adlib*

          I’m flabbergasted that she thought this was okay to do to anyone who is a human being. My goodness.

      2. PB*

        I interpreted that as “I know I sound like a shitty manager, but if you actually worked with me, you’d see otherwise.”

        I hope your interpretation is correct, however. If she realizes on some level that her management was a problem, then perhaps she can someday grow beyond it.

        1. Snark*

          I think she realizes that, in the abstract, managers who do this stuff are shitty, but not her, because she is an exception to the rules.

    2. Corporate Cynic*

      This is why more companies need to have 360-feedback formally in place as part of the review process (and take it seriously). Otherwise, managers’ bad practices can continue to go unnoticed by those who need to take note, until something as unfortunate as this happens.

      1. Adlib*

        Absolutely. I have a friend in a bad management situation right now, and I wish her entire team would do something about it (other than leave).

    3. Natalie*

      That is a good point, if I was the LW’s manager I would hopefully be interrogating myself about what, if anything, I could have done differently in this situation.

      That said, it sounds like the new employee was originally brought on board to address some specific deficiencies, maybe in sales numbers or something else that can have lots of causes. The LW’s managers probably had some data suggesting the team had a problem, but until an outsider was brought in none of that data pointed to the manager.

    4. YarnOwl*

      I really recently worked for a Bad Manager, and some of the things she did were so astounding and I had this exact same thought almost daily! I guess some people just think they are right no matter what, and don’t think about what’s professional or kind.

    5. oranges & lemons*

      I dunno, the sense I’m getting from this LW is that she is very reluctant to listen to criticism generally. It’s hard to know how much coaching her manager might have tried to give her, although it does seem like her manager couldn’t have been too closely involved to have let things get to the point they did.

      1. TheOtherLiz*

        Yep. And the thing is, to be good at anything, you need the humility to be open to criticism, feedback, and then the desire to change. You need to own the work. LW doesn’t seem ready for that, but hopefully this will be a wake up call, and she’ll seek out help. Or, maybe she should continue on in a career without being a manager. I know it can be hard to conceive of progressing in many careers without moving up the management ladder, but, you either have to make an effort to be good at that significant piece of the job, or settle for lower-level or different jobs that don’t include management at all. The shame of it is that really managing well, building people up rather than leaving them out to dry so they’ll give up and leave you and your friends alone… bringing out the best in a variety of people – it’s incredibly rewarding. Doing your own job and managing someone in a way that helps them be better is one of those “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” deals. It’s worth making the effort.

        1. Umvue*

          I’m discovering to my great chagrin that you can rise alarmingly high in society without being willing to listen to criticism. You shouldn’t, of course!

      2. yasmara*

        Except that her manager (or at least the directors/vp’s/c-suite) were telling her which assignments to give Departed Employee and LW just ignored their direction & gave the assignments to other team members. My guess is LW did something similar with any/all feedback she got. I would say firing her and her entire team was necessary (although still surprising – bravo to the company) based on the toxic situation LW herself describes.

        1. oranges & lemons*

          Well, if the LW’s or the bullied employee’s managers had been more directly involved, I feel like they would have pretty quickly found out at least about the beer runs, and likely the bullying as well, and would have shut that down a lot sooner. Considering what a hard line the company (rightly) took on these things, I’m a little surprised it continued as long as it did.

          1. Koko ¯\_(ツ)_/¯*

            Based on LW’s age, the 5-year timeframe they’ve all been working together, and the talk about new business and growth, I’m thinking this was a small company when LW & Company were hired. The rest of the company are self-motivating/high-achiever types so the small company developed a culture of hands-off management or lacks people who are interested in managing as opposed to doing their “real work.” That worked well for about five years–maybe they were holding the company back but they weren’t visibly screwing anything up so nobody thought their underperformance was abnormal–until the company’s growth and attempt to bring a new person in brought the the dysfunction in LW’s department to light.

    6. I'm Not Phyllis*

      So … with this. I am with you. I wonder how much of this entire scene could have been avoided if the LW’s manager had been managing HER more effectively. It sounds like, at best, she was a very inexperienced manager who could have used a lot of coaching and that obviously wasn’t happening either. And it cost a whole team of people their jobs when it really should have only cost one.

      1. gabkkb*

        Yeah, one of the most difficult things that I have done in my career it become the boss of what sounds like a group similar to this, that were all my friends going into my taking over as manager. There were a few things that I think my boss at the time did right that I wonder if could have helped the OP.

        1. Make it very clear that my reports were no longer my friends if I took the promotion. They also really discussed in detail what this meant. As in no facebook friends, no one on one lunches, no bar nights. But invitations to the whole team to grab lunch or dinner after work were okay.
        2. Discuss what part of the culture they were okay with and what parts they wanted to see changed.
        3. Discuss more broadly the direction they saw the department going in. We were bringing in individuals with two year degrees, which was upsetting to a lot of the longer tenured individuals with four year degrees. Part of my role was to manager a smooth transition for the new two year degree people.
        4. Let me know that anyone I found annoying or was not friendly with was just as much my report as someone who was my friend, and could not be treated differently.

        My boss also made it clear that this was my promotion to take or leave, but if I took it these I needed to follow those guidelines. Without this, unfortunately, I could see myself making a lot of the same mistakes that the OP made. I think its very difficult to be promoted to manager of a cliquey group that you were a part of, especially when the company leadership is looking for change (for example bringing in outside talent). It can be done, and I actually think I ended up doing an okay job of it, but not without a lot of help from my immediate supervisors. There really not much in the OPs letter regarding their managers before they fired everyone, but I would not be surprised if they took too much of a back seat to some of this groups behavior until it was too late and the entire team had to be let go. While it certainly does not abdicate the OP from the responsibility of being a good manager, you do have to wonder where their manager was during this.

        1. I'm Not Phyllis*

          It’s so great that your boss had this conversation with you, even though I’m sure it wasn’t much fun at the time! That’s advice that can carry you through your whole career because it’s spot-on, no matter who you’re managing.

    7. Amelia*

      I have to disagree, if only because some of the LW’s management involves doing things that you just don’t do–whether or not you’re managing someone. You don’t freeze out another person, you don’t bully them over SnapChat, you don’t try to sabotage people who you feel are doing a better job than you or getting more praise than you. If you think those things are acceptable, how could a manager convince you otherwise?

      1. yasmara*

        Shouldn’t a manager be aware of company policy regarding things like alcohol on company time? I’ve had some managers who follow company policy more rigidly than others, but none of them would blatantly flaunt rules like this or think that somehow the rules don’t apply to them/their team. Add documented bullying to that? I agree @Amelia, this goes way beyond normal coaching a new manager might need and when the rubber met the road, HR & the company acted reasonably swiftly and decisively. Good for them.

    8. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Honestly, the issues you’ve raised are important but also so remedial that I suspect OP’s manager(s) were gobsmacked by the idea that a promising employee who had been fine for several years was all of a sudden behaving in ways that actively hurt her and the company.

      I suspect any number of mediocre managers (adequate, not great) could have missed this, although I’m not sure how they missed it for so long. But if they had never had a reason to suspect she’d have the bad judgment to engage in things like brewery runs, online bullying, and flagrant insubordination, then I can see how it might take them awhile to figure this out. I suspect that it also took awhile because OP’s retaliatory streak, which she mentioned in her prior letter, may have dissuaded members of her team from complaining up the chain, earlier.

      This isn’t to let OP’s managers off the hook—it definitely seems like there was a management oversight on their parts. They should have been catching the insubordination and other issues sooner, and ideally, they would have either steered her towards better practices or, if she was recalcitrant (as she’s been in the updates), utilized disciplinary tools. But her view and instincts are so off right now that I suspect that she didn’t harbor all of these misguided ideas about her managerial competency when they first hired her (pre-promotion).

      1. Annonymouse*

        I think OPs bosses did try.

        Frequent meetings about Ex Employees role and discussion about project assignments etc.

        But it’s hard for the bosses inside the company to see what’s going on when:

        The manager smiles, nods and makes the right words/seems on board but does the opposite of what they’ve been told without consulting or informing the powers that be.

        Has close friendships on their team and has favourites who get plum assignments and have no need to complain.

        Anyone who complains is unmanaged/frozen out/retaliated against

        So I can see how they think there are performance problems on the team without realising how toxic it is because the only person giving feedback or communicating is LW who is the root cause of the problems.

  7. elena marie*

    I don’t understand what the letter-writer was going for by writing in. That you would “side with a manager” and they could take that to their supervisor? That they would just “get some credit” for… their own piece of mind? Were you going to personally call and get them not only un-fired but promoted?

    1. Czhorat*

      In fairness, plenty of letter writers have really odd ideas which they expect to be the norm. The LW might have been expecting some form of support and advice on how to handle what they saw as unfair treatment by their management.

    2. Natalie*

      I think it’s kind of common to tell someone your tale because you’re expecting emotional validation. The satire column “Bad Advice” is tagged “telling advice column writers what they want to hear” for a reason.

    3. la bella vita*

      I would be interested in how long had elapsed between when the LW wrote in and when she posted the original letter since the suspension happened in the interim – I wonder how long it took the company to investigate the problem.

    4. delurker*

      Even accepting the (incorrect) assumption that the name of the column means the advice should always side with the manager —

      — the advice *did* side with the *OP*’s managers, the ones who hired the person she didn’t like, and instructed her to utilize the employee in the way they intended.

    5. Sabine the Very Mean*

      I am just truly appreciative that people like the LW are willing to write in. This is really important for people to read.

      I once had a manager tell me I wasn’t a good fit on the team (of personal bankers) because *she looks me up and down* I didn’t value fitness. I’m considered clinically average and have not struggled with weight.

      1. Clinical Social Worker*

        But even if you were fat, how would that justify what she said? Someone should never say something like that as a manager.

    6. Dust Bunny*

      She literally said, “I thought that as Ask a Manager you would side with a manager.”

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Carolyn Hax does not always side with moms even though she is a mom.

        The goal is not to agree with each other. The goal is to find best management practices. Alison does not “side” with anyone. Alison is on the side of good practices and good ethics, job title or position on the corporate ladder does not matter.

    7. cheeky*

      It seems like she was hoping to be validated by AAM, to feel like she has grounds to “take action” against her former company.

    8. SarahKay*

      I think OP truly believed she was in the right. If AAM had confirmed that, as expected, then even if the worst happened and she was fired, at least she’d have the satisfaction of knowing that her manager/HR/her company were a bad company.
      Peace of mind, and validation that it’s not you, it’s them, can be pretty important sometimes. For instance, it might give OP more confidence in interviews if she’d had it confirmed by AAM that it wasn’t her, it was her company.
      Sadly for the OP, in this case she was wrong.

  8. Not Today Satan*

    Not to play detective but it’s strange that the original letter says “Her senior team members and I were sad to see her go” but this letter admits you forced her out. You say “I’m not sure the lesson(s) I’m supposed to learn.” One possible takeaway: follow your own manager’s direction. If you disagree, maybe have a healthy debate, but it sounds like you were wildly insubordinate for this employee’s whole tenure.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      That’s an interesting way to frame comments here: What are the lessons that we’d hope the LW would take from this experience?

      1. fposte*

        Yes, I was thinking about that, especially with the last couple of lines and the “Isn’t that what managers are supposed to do?” The thing is, OP, it doesn’t matter how wonderful you are to the employees you’re friends with if you’re a bad manager to the one you don’t like. What managers are supposed to do is manage *everybody fairly*. Right now you’re like the teacher who brings 19 kids home from the 20-kid field trip and is annoyed that people want to talk about the 1 kid you left behind at the museum.

        1. EddieSherbert*

          +1 I think this is an excellent comparison :)

          It doesn’t matter if you don’t like that kid, or you think that kid doesn’t fit in, or that kid wasn’t supposed to be in your class, you still don’t leave them at the museum!

        2. Pizkies*

          That line jumped out at me, too (and I love your analogy).

          The thing is, managers are not just supposed to look out for their friends. Managers are supposed to look out for their TEAMS, which includes even the ones you don’t personally like. And just as importantly, managers are supposed to look out for the company. It is a hard job specifically because you have to balance those two, sometimes contradictory, interests. But when you find yourself throwing one or the other (team or company) completely under the bus, you’re doing it wrong.

      2. Lance*

        In some part, to separate work and pleasure; certainly, nobody could blame LW for wanting to create a fun, friendly work environment, but ultimately work comes first, and I’m not completely certain, judging by the (terrible, apparently) Snapchatting during work hours and beer drinking during lunch hour (which, while yes, was off-site, still could lead to inebriation and poorer work quality after lunch), was taken to heart.

        Besides that: treat all your direct reports well, however new they might be, however you might feel about them. If they’re being terrible, do something about it; don’t shoot the messenger (who, in this case, was very justified in going to HR; from the attitude presented, I imagine they didn’t feel safe going to LW about the issue, and rightly so, which is not a position I would want to be in. I’d want to be able to trust my manager to handle issues well). There are undoubtedly more, but those stuck out to me the most.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          We don’t get to create the culture of a workplace. We don’t get to change the parts of the workplace we don’t like.
          For example, if everyone is in suits we don’t get to say, “But my group can come in with cutoffs and a tank top.”
          Your company did not offer a “fun culture”, OP, you decided on your own to be “fun”. Unfortunately, your employer wanted a “work culture”. Everyone else is working, OP. It seems that your fun culture was so entrenched that your subordinates could not make the switch over to a more serious work environment. This cost them their jobs.
          When in Rome, do as the Romans do. You will find this with any company, OP. We either go with the general flow or we go out the door.

      3. Dee*

        I’d hope she learns the lesson that policies, procedures, and norms exist for a reason. This is not to say that stupid policies don’t exist, but you know, maybe there’s a reason you shouldn’t let your team go out drinking at lunch! There’s a reason your manager assigned the ex-employee a project, and taking it away without any consultation isn’t a good idea

      4. Tuxedo Cat*

        I hope with some time, the letter writer would realize that when you’re presented with a ton of evidence, including outsider opinion (this blog) who has no stake in this, that you were wrong, you consider how you could be at fault.

        I also would hope the writer reflects on why she disliked this employee to the point of trying to get her to quit. There’s a lot of evidence the employee was quite competent at the job (e.g., “. I don’t think she deserved the praise she received from the sales staff, my director, and client executives.”) Maybe this employee was never destined to be her best friend, but she seems to have done something right and likely many things right.

        1. MsM*

          Yeah, if everyone but you thinks this person is the best thing since sliced bread, then at the very least you could stand to watch and learn from their personal salesmanship skills.

    2. CityMouse*

      A lot of this letter seems of two minds. LW says shhe’s a bad manager unless you worked with her for five years (that is just plain bad management) and at points seems to acknowledge problems then defend them. It is very two minded which seems very odd to me.

      1. Junior Dev*

        “shhe’s a bad manager unless you worked with her for five years”

        “He’s such a great dad, except when he’s drunk.”

    3. Stephanie (HR Manager)*

      My thoughts run along the same line. It seems to me that there is a big disconnect in the OP’s understanding of what her job is as manager. She ultimately did not follow the direction of her director, she actively worked against the plans laid in place. She went rogue! She sabotaged this employee’s professional development. If you disagree with the direction given to by your direct report, you should lay out your disagreements professionally, but ultimately your job is to follow the direction given. When a manager doesn’t like the work of an employee, their role is to address that performance. Instead, the OP used her supervisory powers to harass the employee into opting out of the team. It is a huge abuse of power, and was not in the interest of the employer or her team.

      It’s also important to note how OP is really not acting in the interest of her team (referring to the teammembers she liked.) It’s unfair of the manager to allow the behaviors of her staff to continue: Drinking on the clock, bullying another employee, etc, these are behaviors they are learning from the OP, think are acceptable because the OP has accepted them, and those behaviors won’t fly in other jobs. My guess is that there are other behaviors she wasn’t addressing as well, and it’s such a big disservice to their professional development to promote behavioral issues.

    4. Breda*

      Yeah, this is…VERY different in feeling, which I suspect is part of why Alison had the reaction of “is this for real?” I didn’t follow the comments on the last post, so I came away feeling like she was misguided but well-intentioned, and hadn’t tried to make the ex-employee feel like an outsider but also hadn’t tried hard enough to include her. This paints a much more hostile picture. “She was good at her job, so we felt like she was showing off” is a pretty tell-tale line.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, between the showing off comment and the bit about how she didn’t deserve to be promoted above the OP because she hasn’t been at the company as long and only has a bachelor’s degree–it definitely seems like jealousy is a major factor here. Definitely not a good look on a manager.

      2. SarahKay*

        If you search for “Letter Writer” on the first post you can find the follow up comments by OP. She goes from almost-reasonable in the original letter to horrified-gasp ‘No!’ in the follow ups.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        We are supposed to be good at our jobs. And it is perfectly fine that someone else is better than us at our job. This happens. It’s not abnormal at all.

    5. Cleo*

      That’s the thing that jumped out at me – LW actively sabotaged her manger and was then surprised she was fired.

      I think another, related take-away is that this is how middle management works. You have (may have) some leeway in how you manage your team but you actually have to do what your manager(s) ask you to do.

    6. cobweb collector*

      I also noticed a distinct tone change from the first letter to the second one. The first was concerned that maybe s/he was managing wrong, the second was absolutely convinced s/he could do no wrong.

      Alison – are you sure they came form the same email address?

      1. Clinical Social Worker*

        The tone shift goes from plausible deniability to “I did it but I had reasons.” Plenty of people make this shift.

  9. FDCA In Canada*

    Alison, if you were the manager in charge of this LW, do you think you would have done anything differently? I’m assuming you would have fired the LW as well, but would you have taken other steps to try to educate her, or mitigate the bad blood between the employee who left and the company?

  10. Oryx*

    OP, I think it’s interesting that you feel like a scapegoat when what you essentially are doing is scapegoating your ex-employee for your own poor managerial decisions and insubordination.

    1. bridget*

      Another twist of irony – OP believes her actions were ok because the ex-employee was at-will and could have been fired for any reason, but is wondering whether she and her other fired friends can take legal action against the ex-employee for their firings.

      1. Jiggs*

        Yes, that struck me as well. What could you even sue for? “This person told the truth about me to HR, and yes all those things happened but she TOLD ON US!”

        “Someone told someone else something true about me” is not illegal anywhere, LW.

      2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        She should hire Bob Loblaw.

        “Why should you to go to jail for a crime someone else noticed?”

    2. Sharon*

      Agree. It’s an amazing example of the Mean Girls School of Management.

      But on a lighter note, I’m pleasantly astonished to hear about a company that didn’t automatically back the poor manager without question. On a darker note, I feel bad for the LW because it sounds like she needs some management training. Instead they just dumped her.

      1. Observer*

        Well, sometimes a person is just so toxic that there is not much a company can do. And if she was talking to her management the way she writes to Allison, I ca wee why they would not want to take the chance.

      2. BethRA*

        She was deliberately insubordinate (and uses that term herself!), and after her bosses told her they wanted to bring this employee in to develop an new area of business, she went out of her way to make that person want to quit. That’s not a lack of management training.

        1. Xarcady*

          Yeah, that caught my eye. It’s as if the LW was deliberately sabotaging the company’s new area of business. I suspect that figured greatly in the firing.

      3. Hills to Die on*

        She was just so aggregious in her behavior, and it sounds like she had been insubordinate for some time. Sometime you can see that no amount of investment is going to make a situation better.

      4. Betty Cooper*

        I feel like the important factor in deciding whether to fire a manager like this one or send them for retraining is the presence or absence of remorse.

        Had I been the LW’s manager, if we were discussing her actions here and she admitted wrongdoing and expressed remorse for her actions, I would consider keeping her on with a demotion and a retraining plan. But that’s not what we see in this update. When a person can’t even admit that they did something wrong, sending them for more training seems like the equivalent of keeping someone after school to write “I will not mismanage my team” on the blackboard 100 times.

      5. Not So NewReader*

        They could not keep OP, because OP sincerely believes that she did nothing wrong.

        A manager’s nightmare is an employee who has done something wrong and will not admit to it or recognize it. This type of employee cannot be corrected or retrained. There is only one solution and that is to remove the employee from the company.

        My husband got written up at work. He was beside himself, he had never been written up for anything ever. Gosh, he was upset. I asked him what the write up said. (He forgot to do Important Thing.) I said, “Well, did you forget?” He said yes. I said, “Fifty percent of your problem is SOLVED.”
        He had a look of shock on his face. How can this be?
        The employees who do not admit to making a mistake or having a problem cannot be helped. Employees who recognize that something is wrong are the people who CAN be helped. Admit to the problem/mistake and rebuild from there.

      6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        It sounds like by the time the information came to OP’s manages (or a complete picture of what had been happening), it was so severe that firing everyone was the only reasonable outcome. If this had been caught earlier, then training may have made sense. But OP and her team’s behavior was so egregious, relationship-hemorrhaging, and reputation-damaging that by the time it showed up (in customer complaints, exit interviews, complaints to HR, etc.), there was only really one reasonable thing they could do, and that was to excise the a team that had become completely corrupted.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      This goes back to the above quote.
      “If you don’t hear it then you will feel it.”

      OP did not hear that she was scapegoating her own employee, so now OP feels like she has been scapegoated. That’s happening for a reason, OP.

      (Sorry the quote is not accurate, but that’s the general idea.)

  11. ENFP in Texas*

    There is so much wrong in this person’s letter that I don’t even know where to begin. The OP admits to sabotaging the employee, directly disobeying their management, trying to freeze the employee out so they’ll leave, and yet thinks it was the ex-employee’s fault that the OP was fired without severance and says “I’m not sure the lesson(s) I’m supposed to learn”?

    I’m hoping the OP can take some courses in managing people in order to learn what managers really do. Because even with a Masters, that knowledge is severely lacking.

    1. Treecat*

      As someone with two master’s degrees I will say: they don’t teach self-awareness, maturity, or humility in grad school. You’re on your own for that.

      1. Salamander*

        Same boat. Two master’s degrees. But I don’t know if the LW would listen to me if I said this, but I’m gonna try anyway:

        You are behaving in a very dysfunctional, immature, and ultimately destructive fashion. Your management style has hurt you, it’s hurt your “friends.” You all have lost jobs based on the environment you fostered and allowed to continue. Put another way: you failed your team, your “friends.”

        This may have been what your college experience was like, but this is not that. This is the workplace. You are required to be fair, impartial, and productive. You have to adult up. And you’re going to have to do that, whether you like it or not, because you are not going to be hired for a management position anytime soon. You are going to be managed. You are not going to be managed the way you managed other people. You will likely have someone who looks at what you do very closely, given your history. Try to learn the norms from them.

        I am very curious where LW got the idea that the workplace was supposed to be a group of chums that drink and have a good time. People keep telling you, over and over again, that it is NOT like that, and it is NOT a success that you fostered an environment like that. That was not a success. That was you emulating a social structure earlier in your life that is untenable in and adult, professional environment. You all may have had fun, but having good time is not a mark of success or a sign that you are a good manager or had great charisma or whatever. Likely, it meant that you goofed off a lot and crossed a lot of boundaries.

        If you were my friend, LW, I would encourage you to see a counselor or therapist during your period of unemployment to unravel this. This is going to haunt your professional life for a very long time unless you get to the root of what caused you to create this. No one else created it. You did. You need to figure out why so that it doesn’t happen again.

        1. OxfordComma*

          “I am very curious where LW got the idea that the workplace was supposed to be a group of chums that drink and have a good time.”

          TV? There are certainly tons of workplace comedies out there and maybe along the line, the OP assumed that those were appropriate models?

          There’s a fine balance about friendship in the workplace and it can take time to learn that it’s great to be friendly, but can be tricky to be friends, particularly with the people you manage. But it sounds like the OP has had over 5 years to learn that. Going forward, should you land a job, my suggestion, OP, is that you stick to friendly.

          The other thing is…I work with people that I don’t personally like. We all do. But they do their job and they do it well and as long as everyone’s polite, whether I like them or not is immaterial. OP, if you want to foster a team, I’d suggest there are more productive ways of doing that, and that social interactions, particularly ones involving alcohol, are the wrong way to go.

          1. Salamander*

            “The other thing is…I work with people that I don’t personally like. We all do. But they do their job and they do it well and as long as everyone’s polite, whether I like them or not is immaterial.”

            This is a great point that should be underlined and in bold. Getting along with people we don’t like is a huge part of being in the work place.

            1. SSS*

              That’s the basic golden rule of employment…. You don’t have to like your co-workers but you DO need to treat each other with professional respect. If your employees are not following this basic code of conduct, they need to leave.

          2. Betty Cooper*

            Heck, I’ve got a direct report I don’t like all that much. But I do absolutely everything in my power to make sure he never knows that. It’s not his job to make me like him, and it’s 100% my job to manage him effectively, no matter my personal feelings.

      2. Anthro M.A.*

        Ooh oh oh! I can actually speak to this! In my Master’s program in Anthropology, in my Urban Anthropology seminar, we actually DID learn about these things! True, it was in the context of working within marginalized, urban populations in which your and their cultural values and practices may be foreign to each other (despite being born and raised in the same county!), but it was one of the most enlightening, fulfilling classes of my life. I take the experiences I learned about from my professor and her books and use them daily. I’m not doing anything important with my life now, but I take the duty to practice community seriously.

        1. Treecat*

          Haha as I was typing up my comment I was thinking, “I bet someone with an MSW or who studied sociology or something will actually have taken a class on this.” Glad to be proven right! I have an MS and an MLIS, and it wasn’t part of the curriculum in either.

        2. ArtsNerd*

          Would love any and all reading suggestions you can provide in the open thread! I work with a non-profit that could really use these resources.

        3. Anne (with an "e")*

          I agree with Janey, ArtsNerd, and constablestark. I would be very interested in a reading list.

  12. GigglyPuff*

    Honestly OP, like Alison says, you really need to start understanding or your career is going to suffer. To be perfectly frank I can’t help but wondering if the entire thing was about this “If her role had panned out, she would have been higher up than me after two years when I had been there for five.”, and you were actually just worried that she was going to succeed beyond you?

    Otherwise you’re also missing the entire point, you talk about protecting your team, just because you weren’t the one to hire her, or really even like her, doesn’t mean you get to force her out, she was part of your team and you didn’t protect her.

    Also your employees aren’t your friends, they are your employees.

    1. GigglyPuff*

      I’m also wondering OP, if you notice the similarities in your actions and the perceived (from the info we have) of your bosses? The entire story has the implication that the employee was a “favorite” of senior management, and that bothered you. You do realize you did the same thing, you took work away from someone who was hired to do that work specifically to give it to your “friends”. The only way this would have ever been appropriate is if you had performance concerns with the employee, brought them up to the other managers, and got THEIR permission to reassign the work.

      I ever much think you need to look into the unwritten workplace rules. There is almost always going to be a hierarchy, there’s only so much push back you can do (leaving out stuff like illegal things) before you need to move on (not that it sounded like you even pushed back, just did things your way), alcohol during business hours, physically there or not, is not going to fly (yes there are exceptions, know them before you do it), and you can’t screw up a reports performance evaluation just because you felt like other managers were being too generous, that’s not about performance that’s personal.

      You very much need to learn to separate work from personal, standard business operations are just that, business. Everyone is expendable, everyone has a ranking and a place, because of you, your company lost business and an employee they saw as having long term potential value for the business. You lost them that business and the future business, that’s why you got fired.

      1. Lance*

        And regarding performance issues… LW, you say you weren’t satisfied with her performance, but other parties in the company were. At that point, I’d have a serious look at whether there was any personal bias at play in your assessment of her work, because if multiple other people think her work was good, there’s likely some truth to that.

        1. boop*

          YES! That’s what I was noticing- from even the LW’a biased accounts, it sounds like The Co-Worker was VERY good at her job.

        2. Alton*

          Not only that, but I think the OP needs to realize that it wasn’t just her opinion that mattered. Unless the feedback from clients was actually mistaken (like if they attributed things to the employee that she didn’t actually do), they’re entitled to have opinions about the work they receive, and those opinions can matter. The manager’s job is to look at the big picture and the context when evaluating feedback, not just override feedback they don’t like.

        3. Kate 2*

          What’s weird is that OP says employee’s performance wasn’t that great and she wasn’t impressed, then says that employee went above and beyond and tried to make her look bad.

          OP how can someone doing sub-par work make you look bad?

    2. JustaCPA*

      Trying VERY hard not to pile on so I’ll just say I agree with this.

      It appears your biggest issue with this person was that she would supplant you readily, easily and shortly.

      I think if you WANT to be a manager, you need to do some SERIOUS self review and reflection.

      And like Allison says, read all the comments form the first post.

      1. DivineMissL*

        +1. I was horrified reading this whole post, and I also found it hard to believe that this was for real . But the key phrase I read was the OP saying, “If her role had panned out, she would have been higher up than me after two years when I had been there for five.” I think the OP felt threatened by this ex-employee from the start, and found every way possible to sabotage her. And then sucked in the other employees to be her minions in the process. Very sad – I hope the company hires back the competent one who left, now that the coast is clear!

        1. Kbo*

          I picked that up also. LW felt threatened and sought to make the co-worker into the “villain” of the story.

          1. Marie*

            Exactly. It’s also amazing to me that this was LW’s best attempt to create a narrative painting this worker as a villain, and she only succeeded in making herself and her friends look terrible and everybody else look so wonderful that we are all wishing blessings upon them.

            If you can’t hear anything else, LW, at least take away from this that your written communication skills are unreliable in describing your intended narrative, and your written narrative instead generated 900+ comments about your lack of professionalism as well as admonishments from a manager to not be too mean to you.

            Hopefully you do not come across this way in business correspondence as well, though if you do, you might not realize the damage you are doing to those professional relationships, as other professionals do not treat people they dislike the way you do. You have likely burned more bridges than you know, and depending on how small and communicative your field is, your reputation may be significantly damaged.

    3. la bella vita*

      I have worked at a place where the mentality was that experience at the firm was *so much* more important than experience anywhere else. They still can’t figure out why so many amazing experienced hires don’t last long when it’s obvious that it’s because they’re valued less than people with way less relevant experience. It sounds like this company (or at least this team) has that mentality if the LW cannot fathom how someone with a decade more experience could possibly outrank her in two years.

    4. Wren*

      Yup. In that quote, OP doesn’t seem to realize that the Company doesn’t exist to further her career goals, but to further its own business. OP stymied and then lost them an employee they hired to fulfill certain goals they’d previously been lacking in capacity.

    5. Blue Anne*

      That was the part that stuck out to me too. I actually said “Oh, right” out loud when I read it. It seems likely to be the whole cause of LW’s feelings.

    6. Istanbullfrog*

      When I read this sentence ( If her role had panned out, she would have been higher up than me after two years when I had been there for five.) it all made sense. Mocking ex employee when they needed help, taking assignments away, LITERALLY demoralizing her. This letter writer makes me feel like the B BEST MANAGER EVER today. I’m not perfect, but holy hell, I’m light years from this.

  13. LadyL*

    In my field most managers are just people who were promoted because they were good at their job, not because they have any real skills in managing people (think like a curator at an art museum who gets promoted to head of department for knowing art so well, and now their job is managing 15 people and very little art). Often the employer doesn’t even so much as get them into any kind of management training, not even like a Saturday morning seminar or something. I see that turn into toxic management all the time.

    I think this letter is a great example of the fact that being a good manager is a skill like any other, it requires talent, training, and someone with the passion for it. LW seems like they were truly in over their head. Obviously well-trained people can still make poor choices, but it seems like LW didn’t even recognize that their choices could be a problem. Hopefully they get better guidance for the next step in their career.

    1. LeeGull*

      Yes! This!

      And then the struggle becomes asserting yourself over your new reports who used to be close work friends – and establishing new boundaries around this new professional relationship. It sounds like that didn’t really happen here – OP wanted to still be part of the in-crowd and do the beer runs and picking on coworkers who were different – and iris understandable that with no management training or previous experience with direct reports, OK had no idea how to do that. Hopefully this will be a good time for reflection for the Oon but it sounds like she is pretty set on the idea that it was everyone else’s fault but hers.

    2. Observer*

      True. But even someone without training should be able to understand what Allison (and a lot of the comments) are trying to tell her. What is really troubling is the lack of awareness and lack of integrity that the OP displays.

    3. SarahKay*

      Oh, so true! When I worked in retail the department store group I worked for required you to pass two timed maths tests and and English one if you wanted to be a manger. The maths tests were done without the aid of a calculator. I like maths, including mental arithmetic, so no problem. One of my co-workers, who was a far better manager than me (I wasn’t a *bad* manager, but she was excellent), took another year to get promoted from supervisor to manager because she struggled on the maths tests.
      Seriously, in real life, *we have calculators*. Managers need to know how to manage. For everything else, there’s calculators.

    4. Argh!*

      Exactly. My boss is one such person. She lacks people skills in general but she is obedient. She wasn’t promoted for her own judgment but for her willingness to implement what someone else’s judgment is. Her “meetings” are indistinguishable from email forwards, and her one-on-ones are basically gate-keeping for grandboss. She nevertheless thinks she’s an excellent supervisor, and I only realized this after having terrible results from following her advice.

      I hope OP’s organization also learned a lesson from this — they need to be more pro-active and be sure that all managers have been trained properly… and re-trained! It’s easy to become complacent, as OP did, from having everything go well with a team that hasn’t changed for awhile. If that team works it may be due to the supervisees having figured out how to deal with the supervisor rather than the other way around.

    5. Doug Judy*

      I totally agree with this point. Managing is usually less about the technical aspects of the job and more about human relations. The manager does need to have experience on the technical side but I’d always prefer someone who was good at their job but fair and compassionate over the rock star employee who thinks everyone else is an idiot.

  14. Dulf*

    LW still thinks the only person who could have been a target of her retaliation was… not the employee she forced out, but the team member who took the bullying Snapchats. Troubling.

  15. Mr. Rogers*

    The really odd thing about this letter to me is that they’re describing their own actions in very negative terms, not really like someone trying to gloss things over. There are some excuses, yes, but all in all they’re reporting a lot for details of their own bad behavior. But also they seem to not have learned anything and continue to argue their case? Very curious.

    One lesson is I think is pretty widely applicable though is that often you don’t have to agree that something was right or wrong in the workplace, you just have to know that doing it is likely to get you fired. Take that lesson from this, LW, if nothing else!

    1. Anna*

      I feel like the reason they’re reporting their own bad behavior is because they see nothing wrong with anything they did, as evidenced by the following interaction with Alison. The OP cannot fathom they are a shitty manager and created a horrible environment for their employee. Show-offy? That’s clearly professional jealousy as well as middle-school attitude.

      1. Solidad*

        I think this is framing.

        Studies show if you ask “Are you a rapist?” everyone, including rapists, will say “no, of course not!” If you ask, “have you ever had sex with someone who was passed out?” or “have you ever gotten someone drunk to turn a ‘no’ into a ‘yes'” some of those same people will say yes.

        She knows she did the action, she just does not think that the rules apply to her. She wasn’t mean girl or a bad manager in spite of x, y and z actions.

    2. VivaL*

      Yes. This. I couldnt figure out what it was that made this update seem a little different than others. The ‘describing my own actions in negative terms’ is exactly the thing that is a bit odd.

      Agree on the lesson to take too.

    3. Breda*

      I also found that third paragraph baffling, but I think it’s actually a list of the things management told her were the case, not necessarily that she agrees with them. It’s not framed clearly, though.

    4. Tex*


      They knew what they did was wrong, but it was subversion for ‘the greater good’ (as defined by OP, not upper management).

  16. Czhorat*

    Wow. Just wow.

    LW, if you’re reading this, there are lessons to take:

    1) Unless you own the company, it’s not yours to decide who will move upward, who won’t, and what wprk to give them. Your directors hired this employee for a reason. You repeatedly ignored her. That isn’t OK.

    2) Having fun and friends at work is obvously fine. Trying to deliberately make the people who aren’t in your friends group uncomfortable so they’ll leave really isn’t. This is why one needs to tread very carefully when forging friendships with subordinates.

    3) You seem to assign a great deal of import to levels of education. In very few segments of the workforce are these as relevant as you see them. Once you have a job and have done it for a while, where you went to school and even what degree you achieved is not going to make a tremendous difference.

    You said this was your first management job and that you’re young. The lesson to take from here? You need to learn to better balance your personal likes and dislikes with professionalism. There are many traits of a good manager; the one you missed on is the very basic trait of fairness. Treat your reports well, even if you don’t like them. ESPECIALLY if you don’t like them.

    Good luck. I sincerely hope you learn something from this.

    1. sweetknee*

      I started to type a response to “what should I learn?”, but this is so well worded, I just give it an “AMEN”.

    2. Noah*

      I disagree with (1). In most companies, including LW’s, there are managers charged with determining who gets promoted. The problem here is that LW exceeded her own authority in this regard and disregarded the authority of other managers (presumably non-owners) to make promotion decisions. Ownership isn’t really relevant here (especially if, for example, it’s a public company).

      1. Czhorat*

        Fair point; bigger picture, it isn’t LW’s role to create upward paths for their friends because of personal affection. In most companies there are rules or, at the very least, guidelines as to who moves up and why. LW’s main metric appeared to be, “The team and I like to hang out with this person”.

        Yes, a manager has some autonomy. LW was managing capriciously. That isn’t OK, for advancement or any other reasons. If you’re a sole proprietarship, then it’s easier to put the people you personally like in whatever position you want and let the chips fall where they may.

  17. Jubilance*

    LW, I implore you to read the comments to the original post, and what Alison has told you. And sidenote- just because the site is called Ask A Manager, doesn’t mean that Alison is obligated to side with the manager. Alison and the commenters have all told you, this isn’t how you manage. You opened your company to a lot of liability and they did what they felt was best, and I completely agree with them.

    Before you even think about taking another manager role, please read the archives here, especially the posts on how to be a good manager. Really consider if you have the ability and the temperament to manage effectively. Also think about if you’re able to take direction from your leaders – you mentioned that you didn’t agree with decisions about how work was assigned and that’s not how to handle a directive from your leaders in the future.

    You can come back from this but it’s all going to come down from you being honest with yourself and learning some hard lessons from this experience.

    1. Noah*

      “And sidenote- just because the site is called Ask A Manager, doesn’t mean that Alison is obligated to side with the manager. ”

      Right! Imagine: “Dear AAM: I’m a manager. I stabbed one of my reports in the chest. I’m in the right, don’t you agree.”

    2. Tuxedo Cat*

      On a related note, I’m not sure what the point is in writing in if you aren’t at least somewhat receptive to hearing a different POV.

  18. Backroads*

    I wish she had learned more of a lesson as those will be essential in her work life. I also hope Ex-Employee finds a less dramatic team.

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      I hope the ex-employee’s former dotted-line manager reaches out to her to let her know what happened with the OP and team. It probably won’t be enough to get her back, but you never know.

      1. paul*

        Is that considered appropriate/good when there’s been issues of bullying? I know in a few other letters it’s either backfired or not helped. My instincts (see above me not being a manager) would be that it might help sooth some relations with the former employee, but I don’t know if I’m right, possibly right, or crazily wrong.

        1. Lance*

          Honestly, it depends. Considering all the negative factors (that we know about) appear to have been stripped out, and she could move on to her originally intended role, sure, it could help. But at the same time, there’s no guarantee she’d even come back because of the negative experience she had at the company (even if it wasn’t the fault of the company on the whole).

          1. paul*

            I was more thinking as a “we’re sorry this happened, we’ve done what we can to fix it and please don’t hold it against us in future business dealings” more than a please come back gesture.

          2. Natalie*

            Nah, you wouldn’t be trying to get her to come back – she has a new job and also moved, I think. But you might want to let her know what happened because she’s a trusted figure in a smallish industry, and that has an impact on the reputation of both the company and the upper management as individuals.

        2. Chinook*

          I have been head hunted for a job where I was later bullied into being incompetent and fired. If the person who recruited me but was never my manager let me know that the bullies were let go, I would atleast get to know that karma does exist.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          I think the answer to that varies, just like people vary.

          The root of your question is would the lost employee find it of value to have her old job back? No way to know for sure. But there really is no general standard for this type of thing.

          I think the best thing the company could do is offer her a glowing reference. Perhaps they could say, if you ever decide you would like to try working here again, we would be very happy to hear from you.

          What happened to her at this company is enough to send people into therapy. My guess would be she is done here.

      2. napkin seal*

        Wouldn’t that be a fantastic update! Sounds like ex-employee was a great asset to the company.

  19. irradi*

    I was going to write in that I’m totally confused by her irrational downgrading of her direct report skills while she basically admits that said employee was meeting her goals as evidenced by EVERY OTHER person contributing to her review, her sales, her presentations, etc. “We didn’t think she needed help.” Ok. But then I realized: this is a situation that just sounds like jealousy. Between the “masters” comment and the LW admitting her fear that her direct report would get promoted over her, it seems like she felt threatened and is coming up with weak reasons she’s justified in feeling that way.

    1. fposte*

      Or it’s just a bubble. More distant admin and clients like her? Just proof of her fakeness to those in the bubble. It’s either that or consider that the whole group might be wrong, and that is, honestly, pretty hard to do, even for people with more maturity than the OP.

    2. Ex-Academic, Future Accountant*

      Yeah. Bitch eating crackers being good at her job like she owns the place!

      (I also found the “show-off” comment rather striking.)

        1. Toph*

          From the follow-up I’m getting the impression that “quiet” means “didn’t chit-chat with us all day, but instead just did her work”. That’s how you can be quiet and a show off: only talk when it’s relevant to the work you’re currently doing, while everyone else is socializing.

        2. So Very Anonymous*

          I was just coming here to say that! Somehow she’s both too quiet AND a show-off, so, boy, she really can’t win. She must have been miserable.

        3. Ex-Academic, Future Accountant*

          The most charitable, sense-making interpretation I’ve been able to think of is “she was aloof and stand-offish with us, but she managed to turn on the charm for clients/when someone outside the company was watching.” Which might be true of someone, somewhere, but OP’s opinion of this person was so biased that it’s not likely to be the case here.

      1. Bouwer power*

        True. What also struck me was the negative view the LW had of the co-worker “going above and beyond” and insodoing, made “me and my team look bad”.

        This was definitely part of the source of the LW’s attitude.

  20. Hunger Games Summer*

    Ok – I am trying really hard to just think of possible advice – because yeah you sound like an absolutely nightmarish mgr and team and all consequences of your actions sound justified. That being said it does sound like your cliquey team worked reasonably well together. Perhaps since you are all unemployed now as a group you could all pursue a small business venture together where you can be as “fun” as you wish. Not sure if this is a possibility, but it is all I can think of since no seems to understand the gravity of your errors.

    1. Snark*

      “That being said it does sound like your cliquey team worked reasonably well together.”

      Honestly, it sounds like they were a bunch of low to middlin’ performers who were threatened when someone capable of connecting with clients, putting together good presentations, and behaving professionally intruded on their 40-hour-a-week party, but maybe that’s just reading too much into it.

      1. napkin seal*

        I thought this too! We recently broke up a cliquey sales group (no firings, just changing the teams that work together often), they were so offended because they were “meeting their goals”. Now they’re exceeding goals because they’re more focused on guests and less on how much fun they were having. Meeting vs exceeding can be a huge difference.

      2. whatshername*

        That’s how I read it as well. It definitely sounded like a rather low-performing team. (And really, with lunch time beer runs, how productive can you be?)

        1. Woahh*

          Weekly beer runs! A once in a blue moon client meeting where you order and sip, I can maybe see…and I dont drink alcohol!

        2. Temperance*

          As a beer nerd, I’m going to defend the idea of picking up beer at lunch. Drinking, however, is a different story.

      3. Hunger Games Summer*

        Oh I agree – I didn’t get the impression that they did great work as a team just that they seemed to like working together. I guess that’s something???

  21. Cake Person*

    I’m surprised the director didn’t take action earlier, especially with the dotted line. Super surprised that the LW admits the ex-employee was quite effective in her role and still wanted her gone. Figuring out how to fit productive people together is a huge part of managing, and if she was that successful in the type of environment she got put in, she’d be a super star with a manager and team that knew how to utilize it properly.

    1. Referenceless*

      Oh, well, that’s the OP showing how magnanimous she is: I hated her and wanted her gone but I’m so professional I’ll compliment her.

      OP, part of life is working with, being neighbors with, being related to, etc., people you don’t like. Learning to deal is an important life skill, especially if you have your heart set on management.

  22. The Unkind Raven*

    I just wanted to say thank you to Alison for posting the update. I know she has qualms sometimes about posting possibly inflammatory things, and recently even said in the comments there was an update she wouldn’t publish. I would have even been happy to see this with closed comments; I really enjoy the updates, and while I enjoy the comments I’d rather have the updates regardless if people can respond or not. This doesn’t even need to be released from moderation. Thank you again, Alison.

    1. NotThatGardner*

      agreed- thank you alison!

      out of curiousity, i must have missed it – did she say which one she wouldnt publish an update on/do you have a link to that comment?

      1. The Unkind Raven*

        I ‘m sorry, I don’t have a link! It was pretty recent, though; maybe in a weekend thread? I wish she hadn’t said it, because of course I would love the update, even if there were no comments. I feel like today’s post has worked out well. I don’t recall if she said what letter the update was for.

        1. Brogrammer*

          Oh dear. I’m really interested in an update to that letter, but you’d need to post it either with comments closed or with all comments being moderated like this post, and I know that takes a lot of time.

          For what it’s worth, you’re a champ handling this post today with everything else that’s going on in your life.

        2. Just Me Here*

          You’ve closed comments in the past. I can understand if that’s against your blog; it’s the only solution I can think of.

        3. The Unkind Raven*

          Respectfully, if the OP submitted the update, shouldn’t you find a way to publish it?

          I’m clearly biased, though, in my enjoyment of updates.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I don’t think the submission of an update obligates me to publish it. In this case, I talked a bit with the OP about my hesitation, so he knows where I’m coming from.

            1. Myrin*

              I gotta say, I’m really glad to hear you talked some more with Henry the OP. I was squarely on his side in the original thread and was so sad and disheartened to see what kind of comments he had to read that I went away from it thinking that he must think that writing in was a horrible mistake and that this is a terrible board – I’m assuming that he felt a bit better and encouraged by your personal conversation, which makes me very happy.

        4. Troutwaxer*

          I saw the “whitesplaining racism” thing a little differently. It was obvious in reading that discussion that the OP didn’t understand the difference between their own personal view of racism, however correct and accurate it might have been VERSUS the way our legal codes frame the issue of racism. Then stuff got bogged down in Black-vs-White when the real issue was “personal view” vs. “legal realities.”

          By the time I figured out what was happening and got ready to astound everyone with my extremely wise reframing of the issue ;-) you’d shut down the thread… but I’d be very interested in an update on that particular story. Can you post an update and turn the comments off immediately?

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I don’t mean to be unkind, but this is an example of everything that was wrong with the original comment thread. The issue/problem was not about personal view v. legal issues at all.

            That said, I would be really interested in the update, if you’d be willing, Alison. I’d be tempted to close the comments on the update, just to avoid relitigation of all the problems that led to the closure of comments on the original post.

            (Regardless, thanks so much for publishing this update.)

            1. Troutwaxer*

              My idea of “personal view” versus “legal view” is something I took out of the context of the thread, not someone literally writing, “This is the legal view of the issue and this is why you’re wrong,” but that many of the non-OP views of racism seemed to come out of an experience with their employment, or their HR dept, or whatever. But the other thread was several months ago and I’m comfortable agreeing to disagree unless one of us wants to do a deep-dive into that thread, which argument I think Allison would probably rather not read here.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Oh, I misunderstood. Thank you for clarifying—I definitely had the wrong/inverted understanding of what you were saying.

        5. NotThatGardner*

          wow. i missed the original post and just looked and… wow. i 1000% understand you being hesitant to post an update, those comments are — man, i feel for henry. thanks for your total transparency, as always. if you do decide to post the update with comments closed, i’d love to hear how it worked out.

    2. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

      Same here Alison. Thank you for all that you do!

      It’s got to be a tough line to walk to watch for constructive comments without completely shutting down commentary. Updates with no commenting are fine with me, too! (I just want to KNOW, usually…)

  23. Summer Shandy*

    Puts into perspective how ludicrous it can be for normal, adjusted individuals to find decent work in this day and age. You can do good work and it won’t matter for some people. Makes me want to become a rancher and ditch this corporate lifestyle.

  24. KBo*

    Alison, thank you for your continued diligence and I can see why you’d need to moderate this particular entry.

    I read this update completely agog.

    LW, I’m going to say this as kindly as I can, in life you cannot and will not always like the people whom you work with, for or supervise. Please take the time to see the situation from the point of view of the co-worker, HR and your managers as well as your own. Kindness and empathy for team member are just as important as having strong technical skills and are far more important than having an MBA. You completely mismanaged this situation and weakened the overall impact your team could have had on its client base. This is a key factor you need to understand moving forward.

    Let the idea of suing the co-worker go, it will not fly.

    I can only hope you understand this, in time.

    1. SarahKay*

      Wow! I’d misread the update, and thought LW wanted to sue her ex-employer. Which would be a bad idea, due to lack of legs upon which to stand. But wanting to sue the ex-employee?!? So much no.

      LW, please, please, *please*, stop considering this as an option. The ex-employee did nothing except excel at her job, and then leave when it became clear she was effectively being sabotaged by you. She told nothing but the truth in her exit interview. IANAL but I’m 99.99% certain that you would not win any legal case, if you could even find a reputable lawyer to take you on, given the facts.

  25. Myrin*

    I’m spinning on my own axis a bit after reading this so I will only comment to ask something:

    “I still don’t understand why getting angry over someone not coming to be first but going to HR is that big of a deal.”

    Is this a typo and it should be “not coming to me first”? But even with that change, I’m completely not understanding that sentence. Oh no, wait, upon re-reading, I think I just got it: OP is still angry about her employee going to HR first and she doesn’t understand why her anger is that big of a deal. Am I getting that right?

  26. FormerHoosier*

    I think there is definitely an opportunity for self-reflection here. Somehow there was a significant miscommunication or misunderstanding about what your company’s expectations for this employee were.

    I would gently suggest that your employee leaving for some very legitimate concerns which then resulted in your company losing clients and leverage. That alone is reason enough to let you go for many companies. However, while I do support having a good time in the workplace in appropriate ways for most companies allowing employees to go on beer runs is not appropriate. And yes, even if the employee is not on SnapChat, it could be bullying if she was still made to feel uncomfortable about it.

    Being let go for any reason doesn’t feel good. I hope that once some time has passed you will be able to reflect on this experience and change your behavior in the future.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      It sounds like the company’s expectations for this employee were communicated perfectly well, but they chose to ignore and defy those communications.

  27. Arbynka*

    The only thing I am going to say right on is that I find this update very frustrating.

    On other hand, It just made me think of that one OP who really dug her heals in comment section – the one who got some medical certification, was returning to work, did not get a job as a receptionist in medical facility, found out the receptionist who was hired worked in tire place before… She then appeared in comments under different thread saying how it was difficult to hear all that feedback but when she calmed down she found it helpful. It was one of my favorite moments on AAM. I wonder if there was ever more update on her ? I hope she is doing well :)

    1. CityMouse*

      On the other hand it is heartening that the employer took appropriate steps to remove a bad manager.

    2. fposte*

      She was a commenter for quite a while after that–months at least–and she had a really kind heart for people in distress. I don’t think she ever officially took her leave, but her mother had some health problems that were taking up a lot of time and complicated the job hunt; I presumed that posting here just fell by the wayside as a result, and like you, I hope she’s doing well.

      1. Arbynka*

        I can’t believe I missed that – her posting. I have been feeling lately like I am turning stupid. I actually went to the doctor and medically everything is OK with me but darn :( I don’t feel like I am function like I am suppose to.

      2. Natalie*

        Is that the person who used Jobseeker as a handle?

        This whole scenario reminded me (in a contrasting way) of the manager who was jealous of her employee, had a rough time in the comment here, and IIRC was let go as well, but just had a completely different attitude through and through.

        1. fposte*

          It was that or something like it, yes. I really admired her for coming back after she had not necessarily initially covered herself in glory. It also made me hope that other letter writers were similarly taking a little time to digest after initially defensive responses, even if we didn’t always see it play out.

          1. yasmara*

            It’s very human to be immediately defensive and it can be hard to take a step back and admit you did something wrong, but that’s how you (we, me, all of us) grow…

  28. Princess Carolyn*

    So, what I’m seeing is that OP values things like loyalty, teamwork, and formal education. The problem here is that those values aren’t what makes OP’s former company money — at least not compared to things like skill, professionalism, and, y’know, actual sales.

    Some of OP’s behavior would have been fine if the company’s mission was to support her social life and give her team something to do five days a week. If, like most people, you work for an organization with a mission to make money (or a mission to serve a population or the greater good or what have you), managing your employees the way you manage your friend group isn’t going work.

    I hope the change in environment will help OP see this more clearly at her next job.

  29. special snowflake*

    LW I’m a bit confused about why you thought it was ok to completely disregard your director’s instructions. Presumably if people had disregarded yours this flagrantly you would want an action to be taken. If it helps at all swap the thinking -and put yourself in your director’s shoes. You assigned a task to someone who disagreed with having it assigned to them or that it was assigned to them and never did it. Now the company loses the chance for new business (like the brewery) over something that the person you wanted doing the task would have done right.

    Aside from the legal and moral issues at play here (and there are many) – there’s also the basic cannot follow instructions – and that means they cannot trust you.

    1. boop*

      YEAH! She took work meant for The Co-Worker away from her?? I’m just… so agog at the new information in this update. One thing that really stuck out to me was how well The Co-Worker performed even though LW and the rest of the team were working against her. Upper management loved her, clients loved her, other departments loved her- she was so loved that her leaving meant the company LOST BUSINESS and fired the group that forced her out. Co-Worker, you are an inspiration. #yougoglenncoco

      Sadly, all this did was to reflect even more poorly on the LW.

    2. Spicy Spice*

      Yeah, that’s what got me (one of the many things that got me) as well. The whole section was basically saying that the company and director had a plan but OP figured she knew better than they did so she did whatever she felt like, and now can’t understand why they’re upset about that.

  30. Granny K*

    From the post above “My team found her quietness and her ability to develop sales presentations and connect with each client was very show-off-like.” (Being quiet is showing off? Whaaaa? ) This sentence is a great example of the disconnect of this LW in what happened vs. her perception.

    It seems like this LW would rather be right than be happy.

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      This comment stood out to me, too. The OP and her team saw the employee’s skill at connecting with clients as “showing off” when it sounds like…that’s literally her most valuable contribution to the company. It’s why they hired her.

      1. Matilda Jefferies*

        Which makes me wonder, what was the rest of the team doing? If doing presentations and connecting with clients is not a valued skill on a sales team…

        …honestly, I just ran out of words there. Is the OP really saying that the employee’s ability to do her job well is a bad thing? And by extension, that must mean that the rest of the team are not doing their jobs well, which is actually what OP wants from her staff…

        …damn. I’m actually speechless here.

        1. Granny K*

          Well the rest of the team were fired, so the answer may be ‘the opposite’ of doing presentations and connecting with clients.

          1. Anne (with an "e")*

            They all (except the bullied, ex-employee) seemed to think that doing brewery runs would somehow help attract the brewery as a client. The OP does not mention that this strategy worked, so I am assuming that, after ditching the bullied employee every single week for months, that the brewery is not, in fact, a client. Meanwhile, the bullied ex-employee was bringing in business.

            All of this just boggles my mind.

            I am a teacher. I have taught for over thirty years. I have to teach every single child who attends my classes. I do not get to pick and choose my students. Being a manager, I believe is somewhat analogous. It seems to me that a manager should manage everyone assigned to their team equally and fairly. How would the OP like it if a new student transferred into a class and the teacher not only allowed, but actively encouraged the other students to harass and bully the new student? What if that new student were a sister, cousin, niece, or daughter of the OP? How would the OP feel if she herself were the “new kid”?

            The OP reminds me of Snape and the bullied employee reminds me of Hermione, except there weren’t any fellow Gryffindors there to help protect her. Poor Hermione was left to deal with a group of Slytherins who were freezing her out and calling her mud blood behind her back. She bravely stuck it out while doing exemplary work. Then she made her escape to greener pastures where I hope she is surrounded by numerous Gryffindors, Hufflepuffs, and Ravenclaws.

            1. Anne (with an "e")*

              It’s very sad that I feel obligated to add this because I personally believe it should not matter, however, based on the OP’s stated educational prejudices, I feel that I should mention that do have a MA and a MEd. Perhaps the OP will maybe listen me.

      2. Snark*

        And she was probably hired to teach the rest of the team how to do that, in the consulting role she was hired to do, which suggests to me that this is not about fit, or friends, or management style, but about feeling threatened by someone who arguably should have had OP’s job rather than her.

      3. Ogress*

        “She was better than us at some aspects of the job and that made us nervous about our own performances.”

    2. Jen S. 2.0*

      I was flabbergasted by that too. Departing employee did not create drama and was very good at her job. That made her coworkers…angry? Whaaaaa?

      1. wintersnighttraveler*

        As a quiet person, this has actually happened to me! My quietness was interpreted by certain types of people as snobbery or stand-offishness or a superiority complex. No, people, I am just quiet! And a little shy around groups of people who all already know each other well! It’s intimidating to be the odd person out. This interpretation of quietness says a hell of a lot more about the projection of the manager and the team than the ex-employee.

        1. Snork Maiden*

          Yep, me too! I’ve had people come up to me later after getting to know me and saying, “We thought you were a snob who thought you were too good for us, because you were always so quiet.” I was like, “Uh, thanks…”

        2. Annabelle*

          This has happened to me too! Thankfully not in a workplace, but it was something that happened a few times in undergrad. Also I can totally imagine myself being ever more quiet if I sensed that my new boss didn’t like me. I really feel for the former exmployee here.

        3. sap*

          I am not a very quiet person in most scenarios.

          This is a group of people I would be quiet around. :/

    3. Kaboobie*

      No kidding. She was being a “show-off” by taking her work seriously and doing it well? This smacks of jealousy, as does the concern that the employee would someday have a higher position than the OP. Therefore the OP basically sabotaged her.

    4. Violet Fox*

      Makes me wonder if she was the only woman on the team. Just speaking from some of my own experiences…

        1. Julia*

          What if everyone else was male, though, and the OP wanted to be the only woman among bros?

          1. Denonciateur*

            I had a very similar experience recently. My team had a bro culture initiated by one person who negatively impacted a lot of people in the company and encouraged by manager who participated in the (sometimes sexual) banter. I was the only female in the team aside from my female manager who stated in a department meeting that she preferred to work with females. So sadly this can and does happen.

  31. No Thanks*

    I also thought that her years of experience were irrelevant; she didn’t have anything beyond a bachelor’s degree (most of us were smart and dedicated enough to get a masters) and her experience was in a different subset of insurance.HR and my regional vice president stated she had been hired to fill a role for a growing segment of our business and should have functioned as a team consultant. I used her as an associate so it didn’t make waves with the rest of the team. By losing her, we lost clients and leverage in the marketplace. Our sales territory couldn’t afford to lose any more business under my “mismanagement” and the HR was worried about damage to the brand name. During her employment, my director and I had several meetings on her role as she also dotted line reported to him. I had continued to be insubordinate because ex-employee, in my opinion, didn’t fit in and needed to earn her way to what my director had envisioned for her. If her role had panned out, she would have been higher up than me after two years when I had been there for five.
    I mean if you can’t even read what you’re writing out here in a self-reflective way, you’re not ready to learn the lesson you’ve been handed. Try reading your own words as if someone wrote them about you, or your loved one. You are being incredibly underhanded, dishonest, jealous, and your “insubordination” alone is cause enough for correction, not to mention being fired. It seems like your superiors recognized this in you and your team, and most likely were tired of your managerial style.

    1. wintersnighttraveler*

      Especially this: “I also thought that her years of experience were irrelevant; she didn’t have anything beyond a bachelor’s degree (most of us were smart and dedicated enough to get a masters)…” So neither her experience nor her education were enough for you (and BS on the experience being in a different sub-set)? You are straight up admitting that you created a no-win situation for her on your team and in your head.

    2. Alli525*

      I’m so glad someone else picked up on the jealousy – especially when she talked about her employee theoretically getting a promotion (because of all her incredible work and value!) just because it would put her above LW, who let’s not forget has an MBA instead of just a lowly BA, in too short a time span for LW’s liking.

      Another clue: since Employee had a dotted-line reporting structure to LW’s boss, LW really should have realized that Employee had a special level of protection/favor that the rest of the team did not. An MBA apparently doesn’t mean much when you can graduate without an understanding of ethics and office politics.

      1. la bella vita*

        So, here’s something I found interesting. The LW is 28 and has been in her job for 5 years and has an MBA. She could’ve done the MBA part-time, although I would find it surprising since – very generally speaking –
        people with only a couple years of work experience are strongly encouraged to go full-time with part-time/weekend programs being designed for people with more experience. If she went straight after undergrad, she would be a prime example of what can, in my experience, make people wary of hiring people from programs that allow that – the tendency for some bad apples to think they are masters of the business world who know it all when, in fact, they have little to no real world experience. I’ve seen some smart people who entered the workforce with master’s degrees (MBA or otherwise) who ultimately ended up being awesome need to get smacked down a little by someone senior reminding them that they were still entry-level and needed to chill out and act accordingly.

        1. Natalie*

          Ah, good catch. The timeline makes me think it may have been one of those 5-year bachelors-and-masters-combined programs, which I have always been wary of.

          1. Artemesia*

            The most successful MBA I personally know went directly to Harvard from his undergrad and set the world on fire and retired as CEO of a Fortune 500 company after nothing but amazing success. But yeah — most MBA programs want experience first. And there are lots of masters programs that are not MBAs and there are lots of 5 year programs that are mostly a way of delaying entering the workforce. I always recommend that people not do a grad degree until they have some real world experience and now for sure why they are pursuing the degree. This is completely true of professional programs; academic programs are a bit different as they are focused on mastery of an arcane niche of a discipline and not as job prep and the motivation should be intellectual.

            But a masters per se is only valuable if the person who has it, can do stuff better.

    3. Bow Ties Are Cool*

      I sometimes work with someone who acts like only idiots don’t have a PhD. Hardly anyone in our large (30+ people) department has a PhD, and most people really hate working with her. She picks her direct reports based on how much they will kowtow to her every whim. She is rude and condescending to everyone she doesn’t consider her equal, and more than one person has left the department to get away from her–some of them, she seemed to be deliberately trying to drive out.

      Working with her, on those occasions I have to, is deeply unpleasant. LW, if you’re reading this–you’ve made yourself sound an awful lot like her. Do you really want to be a manipulative, rude elitist? If not, consider adjusting your attitude. There are plenty of “smart and dedicated” people out there who decided to apply their smarts and dedication directly to their career instead of to more academics. You are not better than your ex-employee, and I’m quite sure you missed a golden opportunity to learn an awful lot from her.

  32. more anonymous than usual*

    I had a boss like this. The team wasn’t so bad, but I dealt with someone just like this LW who wanted to push me out because she didn’t think I fit in. This boss only looked out for the team members she liked, gave them the projects destined for success and piled me up with 3x the amount of work one person could handle and they were all those bottom of the barrel projects that are destined to fail before they set out of the gate. She wanted me to fail and did everything in her power to undermine me, gaslight me, and make other people think I was inept. (When in fact any ineptitude I may have displayed was due to being so overworked that things slipped through the cracks.) I knew how disliked I was by my own manager every single day until she left the company. It really made me doubt my professional skills and experience to be so mistreated, and it’s been difficult to recover from. I urge you to think about the damage you do when you purposefully try to make someone quit because you don’t like them or think they fit in. You are doing damage to them every single day you manage them, and you absolutely should lose your job for that sort of abhorrent behavior. I wish my old boss had been taken out before she left on her own free will! She’ll never know how terrible she was – she was so high up that no one cared what I had to say, so I stopped telling people and just suffered silently while looking for another job. (Which was difficult in fact because I’d been told how lazy, useless, and slow I was for 2 years so I’d started to believe my 16 years of very positive, high-achieving work experience meant nothing.)

    1. Old Admin*

      I feel for you.
      How horrible for both you and the OP’s ex-employee to have long, long experience completely devalued and to be so mentally damaged by one manager’s unchecked gaslighting and bullying.

      I’ve been there myself, and had that manager tell me to my face he wanted to get rid of me, that I didn’t fit in. That was after 5+ years of basically developing the entire branch of my work there. He, too, was an overconfident snotty young manager who thought a reign of terror would create the best results. It lasted two years, with us very pale and quiet minions tiptoeing around him, doubting ourselves, hanging on to jobs in a terrible economy.

      He was summarily fired for completely ruining a large project and running it into the ground. Not, however, for what he did to us, in spite of complaints all the way up to the CEO, who signed off our write ups and warnings.

      OP, don’t be that manager. Please listen to Alison, and don’t be defensive. Take some management and leadership courses, even if you think you don’t need them. I am sure some of the other commenters will have good suggestions where to go / what to take. Our own CEOs did that, and things changed vastly.

    2. Princess Carolyn*

      I had bosses like this in my first two jobs out of college. It destroyed my self-esteem and made me think I wasn’t good enough to work anywhere. Three years after being laid off from that second job, I’m still working to rebuild some semblance of confidence in my abilities.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      Yeah, it sucks. I had a boss like that too. They do everything int their power to undermine you. It’s hard to recover. Usually, they’re much more subtle about it than LW was though.
      This situations is terrible. Someone above LW should seek out this employee and apologize for what went down and tell here basically “No, it wasn’t you.”

    4. Not So NewReader*

      It’s nice to know I am not alone but I am sorry you guys all had these bad experiences.

      My bad boss happened right after my husband died. I got a job and then several quick promotions. I ended up with the worst boss of my life. She out right said that I was old (at 45?) and she said she did not want women working for her. I had two things wrong with me that I could not fix.
      She tried setting others up to dislike me but most of the crew saw through her and realized if she did it to me she would also do it to them.

      When she could not find much wrong with my work, she made up stuff. One day she accused me of X. I said, “that is not true and the proof is in the computer.” She refused to look in the computer and declared herself correct.
      She started threatening me with write ups and dismissal based on these accusations that she made up. Because of my recent loss at that time, my head was in a “no BS” place. Life is too short for this crap, play your head games on someone else, I thought to myself. I gave her two weeks notice. I have no idea what she told the big boss but the big boss stopped speaking to me.
      I really did not need to be unemployed but I trusted karma would handle things from there.
      OP, you’re going at it the hard way. Life does not have to be this hard. Change your mind, change your life.

      1. Old Admin*

        Thanks for sharing, and for standing up for yourself when you were alone in the world!
        Did you find work afterwards, did you ever hear what happened to Bad Boss?

    5. Been There, Done That*

      Wow. Your post reads like you’re my (not evil) twin Skippy. This letter has been a blessing. I thought I was the only one in this horrible situation and that it was a failing on my part to be in it. It’s been an eye-opener to see how much of this goes on.

    6. Denonciateur*

      I feel for you. No matter how strong we are in character, it is difficult to prevent those situations making an imprint, however small, on our self esteem. I am at the point now that I have changed from working full time to doing contract work which is quite lucrative in the country that I live in. I do not think that any organisation will live up to what I think are relatively low standards and that is simply to be professionally courteous and respectful to people in an office.

  33. Devils Advocate*

    I find it hard to believe that any manager wouldn’t know that that allowing drinking on the job (the brewery runs) would be enough to result in termination. Especially in a Fortune 500 company. At the VERY least, hopefully LW learned that lesson (because it doesn’t sound like LW took to heart any other lesson).

    1. Cobol*

      I’ve worked with quite a few fortune 500 companies where this wouldn’t be weird at all. All of them were tech, but interesting how different things can be in different sectors.

      1. Observer*

        That’s true. But insurance is pretty heavily regulated. I can’t imagine any solid company allowing that.

        1. Immy*

          In accountancy – often considered the worlds most boring profession- lunchtime drinking is not uncommon. In fact at the pub round the corner from our office on a Friday it gets super busy around lunchtime and gets busier throughout the afternoon. This is in London though and I know we have a different drinking culture than a lot of the US.

    2. napkin seal*

      Coworkers and I used to go grab lunch at the brewery next door to Old Work and get our growlers filled up so we didn’t have to go during their dinner rush after work. I’d usually have a beer with my lunch before going back. I was hardly sitting at the bar for hours, but running to the brewery was something not uncommon.

    3. Woahh*

      Not to mention the optics of this regarding diversity- there are lots of people who don’t drink for lots of reasons, some of which are protected, and weekly things involving alcohol in a crappy environment like this could lead to some bad situations.

    4. Artemesia*

      I know a company that brews beer on site (not a beer company) and beer is available to drink Friday afternoons. Not my thing, but not that unusual. The brewing was a sort of cool signature of the company. When a new person was hired one of the welcoming things was to let them be the brewmaster that week (or month or however often they did the thing.)

  34. JanetInSC*

    This letter is surreal. The manager doubled down on every single mistake…and admitted a slew of more mistakes not mentioned in the original letter. I’m just not understanding this person’s mindset. She doesn’t want to admit she’s wrong. I hope she can take a giant step back from this, maybe see a counselor, and pursue an altogether different line of work. I do hope this ends up being a growth experience, but I can see it will take time…a lot of it.

    1. Sarah M*

      Honestly, it’s as though LW is making a deliberate effort to fail to understand.

      For what it’s worth, LW (again, I AM a lawyer), with every single follow up email you mention more actions that are legally problematic – *for you*: i.e., casually mentioning that you deliberately gave her assignments to other team members contrary to your bosses’ instructions, that you deliberately froze her out in the hopes that she would quit, etc. I will say though, my favorite tidbit is your desire to sue the employee herself, essentially over what *you* did, repeatedly, over a long period, while she worked for *you* ?!? Words fail me.

      Look, you’ve gotten some very solid feedback on this site, including from Alison herself, and yet you steadfastly refuse to heed any of it. I will tell you that any such suit you may wish to pursue against this woman is likely to fail spectacularly (think: Hindenburg), but since you won’t listen to anyone else, perhaps a lawyer can finally (figuratively) knock some sense into you, for both your own sake and the sake of your future coworkers.

    2. Pearly Girl*

      I seriously second the idea of getting professional help, since the LW can’t see how her own actions reverberated and caused her to fail her employer, be put on probation and ultimately be fired. No one did that “to” her.

  35. FCJ*

    You may know your team better, LW, but your superiors know the company better, and where they want to take it. It sounds like this woman was hired to do a particular job, and you actively undermined her in doing that job, in the process actively undermining the direction your superiors wanted to take with your team and the company. To be totally blunt, I’m not surprised you were fired.

    Rereading your first letter, I saw some inexperience in management (maybe or maybe not in years worked, but certainly in the larger norms of professional culture), but this response really clarifies that you were (admittedly) trying to push her out because you didn’t like her. That’s appalling. That’s not how a functional workplace works. Maybe your superiors didn’t give you any input into the hiring of this person or the direction they decided to take your team, and that would absolutely be a valid grievance on your part, but the way to deal with it would have been to talk to your boss and other decision makers, not decide on your own that you know better.

    1. AMT*

      The first thing is the most important, and it’s one that didn’t come out at all in the original letter! The directors hired an employee for a specific role, and though OP admits she went above and beyond to do a good job, OP didn’t let her perform in that role, didn’t respond to requests for help, and generally froze her out — which led directly to the company losing important clients. This is a bad move with any employee, but for someone hired *especially* for a hard-to-fill position, it almost looks like sabotage. And OP can’t come up with a business case for doing this other than that she “didn’t want to make waves,” that the employee “didn’t fit in,” and that she expected the employee to “earn her way” to the role she was hired to do!

  36. Cathleen*

    “I get that I am a shitty manager unless you actually worked with me but I worked with friends for 5 years. I didn’t want the ex employee to begin with. So I wanted to make it uncomfortable for her to leave and didn’t think I’d lose my job in the process.”

    You were a poor manager to someone who did work with you, though. Even if you disliked that employee, she still worked with you, and you were a lousy manager. The disdain for this ex-employee is apparent in your post. Sometimes people with less tenure than you will advance before you do. “she would have been higher up than me after two years when I had been there for five” – that’s not all that strange. My manager has been with our company for quite a few years. One of the people who works under her has been here almost twice as long. Sometimes people can be good at their jobs even if they’re not “smart and dedicated enough to get a masters”.

    I really hope that you can learn something from this experience, but it seems you’re still convinced that you’re right and HR was out to get you and your team.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Arguably, getting her entire team fired was an exercise in poor management too.

      1. President Porpoise*

        I don’t know. Sometimes you have to raze the hovel to the ground before you can build a lovely house.

        I do wonder if the snapchat reporter was included in the mass firing though.

        1. Inspector Spacetime*

          I wondered this as well. Perhaps it depended on how bad the rest of their behavior was.

        2. sap*

          Yeah, this would really suck. “I reported bullying and was fired for hearing the bullying, keep your head down next time you see something fucked up” is the message I would take from that if it happened to me.

          I see why some companies would fire everyone involved for the alcohol thing… Except the employees were TOLD to do it by their manager and their manager told them it was part of a business development task. In that situation, if my workplace had a no alcohol policy and I double checked with my manager, who said “it doesn’t apply because it’s business development,” and it turned out my manager was wrong, I would be bitter for getting fired for following my manager’s instructions. Since the reporting person was reporting bullying, I’m assuming that they weren’t doing the same sorts of fucked up mistreatment of rockstar ex employee.

        3. Juxtapose is Just a Pose*

          I could see management feeling like the Snapchat reporter must go, so that the new team could have a completely fresh start– but if so, I really hope the reporter was laid off rather than fired, with some really generous severance.

  37. LilySparrow*

    So the company invested time, energy, and money in recruiting a special consultant. You intentionally undermined their strategy, diverted specific assignments, and wasted her salary by treating her as an associate.

    Your company lost clients and leverage in the marketplace because you chose to intentionally drive her out. You got your entire team fired because of your choices to not uphold company policy and common-sense team management basics.

    What does it take to become a “big deal?” Those sound like pretty big deals to me.

    1. Princess Carolyn*

      Beautifully said. That’s exactly the information I was trying (and failing) to distill in my own post. Bottom line is she undermined the company, not just this one person.

    2. LizB*

      This is the aspect that I find extra baffling. The higher-ups in the company had a specific goal, and hired someone who could make that goal happen (ex-employee). The LW did everything in their power to sabotage that person, in the process completely obliterating any chance of the company achieving that bigger picture goal. LW, even if you somehow don’t think you were out of line in how you treated this woman, can you understand that big companies exist to make money, not to give you 40 hours a week of chill time with your BFFs? Your job as middle management is to implement the strategies that your C-level folks want implemented. You did literally the opposite of that because of your personal feelings about one employee. If you’re being asked to pursue a business strategy you don’t like, the appropriate thing is to find a new job whose direction you like better, not steadfastly ignore the new strategy in a way that torpedos the company’s market share and is also borderline illegal.

    3. KHB*

      Exactly this. You did what sounds like a great deal of harm to your company and its future in the industry, all because…you didn’t like someone? Because she was older and good at her job?

  38. Falling Diphthong*

    OP, it seems like your management kept giving you opportunities to learn–from this employee, from what they wanted to see her accomplish with your team, from what they decided went wrong–and at every turn you dug in your heels and refused to consider any path other than what you saw as preserving your fiefdom. Which in the end didn’t work at all.

    Consider this: had you behaved differently and implemented a course correction at any of the waving red flags, not only might you still have a job, but all your subordinates whom you claim as close friends whose careers you care about might also still have jobs.

    Harassing people until they quit–with the idea that you can then claim no blood on your hands and no one will argue that interpretation–is not an admired management style.

    1. sap*

      And, in fact, in some states that person could still claim unemployment! So it’s not just morally that you can’t claim clean hands! Society and law as a whole thinks your hands are dirty if you do this!

      Not a comment about this particular harassment until they go away scenario, just… Maybe it would help LW see what is wrong here if LW learns that actually, harassing someone until they quit is seen as equivalent to firing them.

  39. La Revancha*

    (most of us were smart and dedicated enough to get a masters)

    WOW. Way out of line. That way of thinking will not get you anywhere in life. I believe OP deserved being fired without severance. It’s also clear OP doesn’t think they did anything wrong.

    In my opinion, getting a masters is a lot more hassle than the beneficial unless you’re in a field that requires one.

  40. Big10Professor*

    LW, I want to point out the part about damaging client relationships. Even if you don’t agree with AAM on who was right or wrong in this situation, taking an action that will damage a client relationship is almost never viewed favorably by an employer. Heck, there are plenty of examples where someone doing the “right” thing damaged a relationship like that and angered TPTB. So that’s something to look out for in the future.

  41. Scully*

    “Ok but can I still get some credit for NOT doing it though? Or not firing ex employee? Or for looking out for my team and giving them opportunities? Isn’t that what managers do?”

    This is such a huge red flag to me. It’s so similar to the Nice Guy dynamic, i.e. wanting to get credit for meeting the bare minimum standards of society.

    No. You do not get credit for “looking out for your team”. You were looking out for your *friends*. Ex-employee was part of your team, and you excluded her. That’s not taking care of your team.

    I really hope you take the time to reflect on your actions.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      You also don’t get credit for un-managing. As a manager that was the exact opposite of your job.

    2. Kat G., Ph.D.*

      Also, she only didn’t move the SnapChat-reporting employee because *she couldn’t figure out who it was.* That deserves exactly zero credit.

    3. Havarti*

      When I got to that point, I remembered the immortal words of Lore Sjöberg: “If you are describing yourself as ‘nice’ you are like one of those tiny motels where the sign out front just says ‘Air Conditioning – Color TV.’ You are saying ‘I have nothing to recommend me other than a bare minimum level of acceptability.'”

      LW, you have forgotten the Golden Rule to your detriment. Treat others as you wish to be treated. Even if they are not your friends. What you did to your employee, what you allowed your other employees to do to her was horrible. I must say I’m very disappointed with your follow-up. I suspect if the first round of comments didn’t enlighten you about how wrong your actions were, the second round won’t help matters either.

      You face a long hard road where your beliefs and insecurities will only hinder and harm you. I wish you luck because you’re going to need it.

      1. Dankar*

        I’d never heard or seen that quote before, but it’s so true! I’ll need to remember that going forward.

        But if A/C and color TV are the bare minimum, what does that say about motels that advertise clean sheets? :/

  42. OxfordComma*

    I don’t even know where to begin here except to say, OP, is that if you want to be a good manager in the future, that you need to admit you mishandled a lot here–like a LOT. And that while you want a functioning team who work together well, that having people who bring different experiences and opinions and backgrounds to the table can make that team really strong. It doesn’t sound like you had that at all.

  43. LadyProg*

    If I were you, I’d do the exercise of putting myself in her shoes, specially now that you have to find a new job.
    Would it be fair to be hired for one role, and immediately upon starting realizing your boss won’t allow you to do that because “you have to earn it” now?
    Would it be fair to you that your promotions are impacted by the fact that if you kept the planned trajectory, you’d be higher up than your initial boss and she’d resent that, like you did to former employee?
    I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t want to be in her position right? So why did you willingly put her there?
    Also bullying doesn’t get any less bad just because they didn’t see it, it’s bad – period. The way people treated her was surely impacted by the jokes being made at her expense, behind her back, and it’s not acceptable among kindergarteners, imagine among adults in thr work place!
    Hope you can find it in you to understand that you did do wrong and won’t do it again…

    1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      Yes! So much this!

      Also, put yourself in the place of your director. If one of your direct reports refused to give certain assignments to someone repeatedly and you found out that they were doing things that violated company policy and exposed the company to liability (harassment, beer runs), you would probably want that person gone yesterday.

      I’m sorry you’re out of a job, but I hope you learn some empathy because I think it will help you in your professional life and also your personal life.

  44. Intern*

    I really do think this is one of those situations where the Golden Rule would have been helpful. You giving away her duties to your team members because they complained and you “know your team better”? Presumably, at one point in time, you were also a new employee at that company? How would you have felt, knowing that your bosses didn’t trust you and that they were giving development opportunities to other workers? On top of that, this employee was hired specifically help grow a business segment and your decisions led to visible losses for the company. I’m not sure why you didn’t think, at that point, that you should have re-evaluated your thinking and try to at least approach the situation more neutrally.

    With regards to the snapchat, the employee’s unawareness does not negate your accountability. If somebody was badmouthing you, wouldn’t you want to know? If somebody had been bullying, for example, your parents or your friends on Twitter, would you say, “Well it’s okay because my parents/friends don’t have Twitter”?

    You’re right that being dedicated to your work doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. And a good manager SHOULD give their employees a chance for growth a development. But not when it comes at the expense of others.

    1. constablestark*

      On that last note, if she approached the situation in a more neutral, level-headed manner, she could have easily set up an arrangement wherein her teammates would learn from ex-employee/special consultant so that the expertise isn’t concentrated in one person. Management would appreciate that and it would’ve been a way for ex-employee to feel included and valued by the team.

  45. fposte*

    OP, there are many things that can be said about what happened here, but I’m going to focus on this bit: “Giving special assignments to her, even though it was her role, screwed over my long term team members who would complain to me.”

    You bought into some bad crap there, and I think breaking up this team was utterly necessary even without this person who got hounded. It does not “screw over” employees to assign work to qualified people that aren’t them. It’s absolutely fair and appropriate to do so. The fact that they didn’t like it doesn’t change that.

    It seems like all of the team, you and your staff, really couldn’t tell the difference between what you liked and what was fair/good for the company. And if it’s your company and your money, that’s not an important distinction. But it wasn’t and it wasn’t; you took the company’s money and prioritized what you liked, not what was good for the company.

    I won’t go deeply into the whole freezing-out-the-employee-you-like thing, which is pretty horrific, except to say in work and in life it’s always going to be more ethical to use your words. If you’re not committed enough to a course of action to take accountability for it, you haven’t earned the right to do it.

    1. Nerdling*

      Exactly. When a specialist is hired, they’re hired to do specialized tasks because that’s their area of expertise and because it benefits the company to have someone working on those specialized tasks without being distracted by other, less specialized ones. If you divert those specialized tasks to the rest of your team, you’re telling your management chain that you know better than they do how to run the business. Except that you clearly didn’t know better. In fact, your insistence that you knew better cost the company money and relationships. You sabotaged the company’s attempts to act for its own good.

      I’ll also say that you are, in many ways, responsible for the fact that you and all your friends are now unemployed. Had you managed them properly, you could have developed them into a cohesive team that welcomed and worked with new members. Instead, you allowed them to engage in practices detrimental to the company because you preferred to be a friend rather than a manager. You could have course-corrected the ship for *all* of you if you had managed decently from the outset. The blame doesn’t lie with the employee who left. The blame lies on you.

      1. fposte*

        I’m not going to completely let the rest of the team off the hook–I think to some extent they played the OP like a harp, with the complaining to her that the disliked co-worker got appropriate assignments–but ultimately I agree that it was the OP’s responsibility here that mattered.

        1. Nerdling*

          I’m with you, and I wasn’t trying to excuse them for their actions. It sounds like the whole dang team was a serious piece of work (except the person who reported the SnapChat bull puckey to HR). But as a manager, the OP could have brought them to heel before it got to this point by cutting off the complaining, demanding professionalism from all her reports, and integrating the disliked coworker into the team. They all made their beds; the OP just tucked them in with crumbs instead of making them get out and clean up their mess, and now they’re all lying in it.

          1. fposte*

            Oh, yes, no argument. I’m just not spending a lot of grief over the other fired employees. Not being Regina George isn’t enough to get Gretchen Weiners off the hook.

            1. Jen S. 2.0*

              This analogy literally made me laugh out loud. “Stop trying to make fetch happen!”

        2. Lance*

          That, likely, falls into a new manager trap of ‘I want my team to like me.’ Unfortunately, there are many situations where the team, or members of the team, won’t like their manager… and that’s fine. It’s a natural course of work that there will be some hard and not always pleasant decisions made.

          1. fposte*

            Yes, I’d be interested to know what was chicken and what was egg here as far as team culture and the OP’s hire.

  46. RVA Cat*

    This part leaped out at me: “My team found her quietness and her ability to develop sales presentations and connect with each client was very show-off-like. ….she was making us look bad by always going above and beyond for no reason. My team and I had worked together for 5-6 years.”

    I think the OP mismanaged her team, but the company allowed that mismanagement to become institutionalized. OP’s managers should have nipped this in the bud much sooner. The clique fostered a crabs-in-a-bucket mentality that was pulling down the team’s performance. It’s a shame things reached the point where the whole team had to be fired, but it sounds like they and the OP had become too far gone to save. The fact they were drinking alcohol on company time took this into the realm of misconduct and I’m guessing that is why the OP was denied severance.

    1. Pearly Girl*

      “Going above and beyond for no reason” jumped out at me too.

      You go above and beyond because that’s the way you impress your boss, advance the company and sleep well at night. That’s something to be ADMIRED, not derided.

      1. nonegiven*

        “Going above and beyond for no reason” except the one reason most likely. That is what she was hired to do.

      2. KG, Ph.D.*

        Plus, if your boss and your team are freezing you out, a motivated, career-driven person might cope by saying, “Well, I guess I’ll just keep my head down, do flawless work, and start job hunting!” The employee actually did exactly what Alison would recommend in a situation like this.

    2. SusanIvanova*

      I’m wondering if adding the new team member was their attempt to nip it – she had skills and drive that they lacked, but if they could’ve picked that up from her the whole team could’ve been salvaged.

  47. BlueWolf*

    Wow. There are so many things that could be said. I’m going to focus on the below quote:
    “I get that I am a shitty manager unless you actually worked with me but I worked with friends for 5 years. I didn’t want the ex employee to begin with. So I wanted to make it uncomfortable for her to leave and didn’t think I’d lose my job in the process.”

    Unfortunately, being a good manager is not about being friends with your staff. It is about developing and maintaining a team that works well together and is productive in ways that help achieve the goals of the business. Sometimes (or most of the time?) it isn’t up to you who ends up on your team. And it sounds like your own bosses thought she could do good work if you let her, but you didn’t. You can certainly be “friendly” with your staff, and maybe in certain rare situations a manager could be friends with their subordinates outside of work, but ultimately you should not be exhibiting the kind of favoritism you did here. I don’t blame her for leaving or giving the kind of exit interview that she did. Ultimately, it sounds like your company took her exit interview seriously in order to make much needed changes to their company. Kudos to them for identifying a serious problem and resolving it quickly.

  48. E*

    Letter Writer, please try to put yourself in the employee’s position. Would you have complained to HR if you had been on the receiving end of this treatment? While you may feel that your actions were justified, the law, the employee, and your former employer all disagreed. Surely this indicates that you need to reconsider your actions and take this into account for future employment.

  49. bridget*

    “HR and my regional vice president stated she had been hired to fill a role for a growing segment of our business and should have functioned as a team consultant. I used her as an associate so it didn’t make waves with the rest of the team. By losing her, we lost clients and leverage in the marketplace.” This, plus the comment about how looking out for your team members is what managers are supposed to do, shows that the OP came into this from the wrong perspective.

    It is not the primary job of managers to make team members (even as narrowly defined as not including the ex-employee) feel professionally developed and give them opportunities. The primary job of managers (and all employees, really) is to promote the best interests of the company. This certainly should often include developing the skills of employees and giving them opportunities, but the OP was doing so *at the expense of* the company, in that doing so drove away an employee who truly was important to the company’s business strategy and bottom line. If the company loses clients and market share, they rightly do not give a flying fig whether some other, less valuable employees were “given opportunities.”

    1. TootsNYC*


      “It is not the primary job of managers to make team members…feel professionally developed and give them opportunities. The primary job of managers (and all employees, really) is to promote the best interests of the company.”

      Our OP was looking down the org chart, and not up, or out.

    2. The Other Katie*

      Ish. Part of the manager’s role is actually to develop their employees professionally (to the extent that’s reasonable for their jobs), since that’s how you keep employees engaged and committed. Boredom is good for neither employee nor employer. That said, the OP should not have been reassigning work that was specifically designated for the team’s more experienced and effective member, but instead should have been finding ways to provide development that was at the right level for the team members, like training opportunities or taking on new projects.

      1. TootsNYC*

        True–but you do that in order to serve the interests of the business.

        I mean, we all want to be decent human beings, but you can be a decent human being and still not advance an employee’s career.

      2. constablestark*

        I agree. If the OP’s ex-employee was brought in as a consultant, taking her actual work away from her and delegating it to her other teammates, who may not have the same level of knowledge and experience not only compromised ex-employee’s purpose and denied her from providing value to the organization, but it was also a direct message to the C-suite that OP did not respect their input and their direction.

        You can disagree with your company’s direction. The time for clarification and presenting rational arguments should have been at the beginning, but once a decision is final, what’s left is execution. If the rest of the team wanted opportunities, I think that could’ve easily been a discussion between OP and HR. There could’ve been a mentorship with ex-employee and the rest of the team, although given the culture with OP and the team, I’m not sure how well that would’ve worked.

        OP, I really hope you and your team don’t follow through on suing the ex-employee. It will not end well.

  50. Cleopatra Jones*

    I hope the LW and her team learn a bunch of valuable lessons from all of this.

    But can I give a shout out to HR and LW’s direct manager for handling the situation so swiftly and appropriately? Some of us have worked at companies that we could only dream that this would be the response from TPTB.

  51. Armchair Analyst*

    Un-managing sounds accurate.
    It sounds like you un-managed your team, though, not just this one employee that did things her own way (the right way).
    Sorry this happened. You sound like a good employee and team player, but perhaps managing a team is not right for you right now.

    1. js*

      eh… I don’t know that she sounds like a good employee or a team player, between the insubordination and favoritism.

  52. Elysian*

    Depending on the state, age discrimination could still be an issue. Some state laws protect against age discrimination regardless of age (unlike federal law, which only protects over 40). It’s a harder case to make, but the OP says flat out that part of the problem was her age, so… yeah. In some places, this IS actionable age discrimination. Either way though, it is bad management.

    1. Koko ¯\_(ツ)_/¯*

      The re-assigning of projects could also potentially present a liability issue if he was taking projects away from a female employee and re-assigning them to male employees without justification beyond he wanted to help out the male employee.

  53. argus*

    Letter Writer, I think this was why you were fired: “By losing her, we lost clients and leverage in the marketplace. Our sales territory couldn’t afford to lose any more business”

    That’s not scapegoating. You’ve identified a clear business consequence of your actions.

    1. a Gen X manager*

      Spot-on, argus!
      OP – Another point to consider is that you managed as though your team was the entire business, rather than a part of the larger organization. This is one concrete part of the puzzle of where you went wrong. Your approach lacked perspective and acceptance of your place in the pecking order. In most businesses being a manager who willfully disregards the directions from senior staff is enough to be fired – even without the freezing out of an employee that you’re jealous of, the lunch time alcohol consumption, and social media bullying. I’d suggest that you seek out opportunities to interact with managers and co-workers of a variety of ages and backgrounds to help you on your path toward maturity (even volunteering opportunities – it doesn’t have to be a work setting!).

      1. RVA Cat*

        This. Seconding the diversity of ages and backgrounds. It sounds like the LW’s reports were too similar to her and that encouraged the cliquishness and warped norms.

  54. Jam Today*

    This probably won’t make it out of moderation, since it adds nothing, but I cannot contain saying that I read this entire letter and subsequent exchange completely goggle-eyed at the obtuseness and *malice* the LW expresses. Her behavior was openly insubordinate, vindictive, and ignorant of even their own business strategy, since she froze out the most productive person on her team and her company *lost business* as a result!

    I don’t even know what to make of her contemplating legal action against the woman she mistreated so badly, as if that lady is responsible for this terrible situation of her own making.

    1. H.C.*

      I agree, and was most taken aback with this paragraph in particular:

      My team found her quietness and her ability to develop sales presentations and connect with each client was very show-off-like. When she asked for help, we didn’t take it seriously because we thought she acted like she knew everything and she was making us look bad by always going above and beyond for no reason. My team and I had worked together for 5-6 years so I knew them, their work and their personalities better than anyone else so I took what they said with more seriousness. I also thought that her years of experience were irrelevant; she didn’t have anything beyond a bachelor’s degree (most of us were smart and dedicated enough to get a masters) and her experience was in a different subset of insurance.

      As AAM noted in her chat excerpt, LW is still digging in her heels about so many things that are self-detrimental to her (Master’s/Bachelor’s vs work experience, faulting her for going above and beyond, connecting with clients as “show off like”); unfortunately, between the original letter & this update I don’t think any of the advice/insights provided will go through and she may have to the learn this lesson the hard way again.

      1. Old Admin*

        Re the “Master’s/Bachelor’s vs work experience”:
        I remember when I started working in, ah, Cast Iron Teapot documentation many years ago in a European country (because I know how to make them, how to use them, AND spoke/wrote English plus the local language at university level).
        This kind of documentation was totally unheard of in said country, but all of a sudden the Government General Teapot Certification Office (and the real name is even longer) demanded full documentation for all Metal Teapots for high level use!
        Panic ensued in the industry.
        Secretaries and paralegals, backed up by highly unwilling developers who wanted to code, not “write stuff nobody reads”, were struggling to make heads or tails of just what to write, how to format and deliver it, the proper spelling of teapot terms in the local language, and *horror* ENGLISH.
        The economy was terrible, and I (a Steel Teapot Administrator) had been laid off with many others like me. My unemployment ran out, and I grabbed the Cast Iron Teapot documentation job, making lemonade out of the lemon. I invented nearly the entire documentation process and workflows, and bravely battled the developers for their precious information, set up a translation memory system, created company wide spellchecking in two languages etc., while they called me “the new secretary”.

        And there was NO FORMAL TRAINING for this.
        No college course, no private school, no degree, no bachelor, no master, no NOTHING. We all had to invent things on the fly. But I was American, and started to look to just what the US was doing. I was bowled over by the checklists, best practices, books, conferences etc. on Metal Teapot documentation, and started porting that to this little backward country.

        Now, 12 years later, a General Teapot Documentation university course has been instituted here – but people like me have a decade of experience no bachelor/master can replace!! I actually got a mail from a recruiter for G Shaped Teapots :-D , even though I am far beyond their standard desirable age… we’ll see what happens. ;-)

        1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

          I just think this is so neat! The world is always changing and developing. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? I love that everything worked out for you, and that you shared your knowledge with others, to the point that there’s now a university course. Just amazing.

          1. Old Admin*

            I wish I could say my company appreciates my experience, too.
            However, this is a country that values papers/academics higher than experience, so I haven’t advanced at my company *at all*. Hence my interest in moving to the Big G or or other international company. ;-)

        2. Julia*

          For a moment, I was afraid your story would end with, ‘and after I’ve done all this, they suddenly decided only people with a master’s in cast iron teapot documentation could work in the field’ – I’m glad that didn’t happen!

    2. Seal*

      That’s what struck me as well. Aside from treating the ex-employee terribly, the OP openly admits to repeated insubordination. The ex-employee’s exit interview didn’t damage the OP’s reputation, team, or career – the OP brought it on themselves.

    3. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      OP, please take some time and come back and re-read the comments. Please. Please reflect on them, and even talk to someone impartial about the situation.

      Taking managing out of this completely, your actions were cruel and malicious. Everything you’ve done has been out of spite. Nothing was to genuinely help anyone. It was done to hurt and inflict harm.

      I really hate to say this, because it’s such an overused defence, but all of this appears to be the actions of a jealous person. (Please note the ‘appear’, since I don’t know for sure.)

      But you disliked someone because you felt she had less education and therefore was less deserving of her position. You thought someone being quiet and doing her job was showing off. Your ex-employee likely simply took pride in her work and liked doing a good job. A lot of people are like that, including me. We go above and beyond because that’s who we are. And we treat people how we’d like to be treated. People have gone above and beyond for me, so I always take the opportunity to do the same.

      I implore to please take all of this very seriously. I’ve been targeted by people like you and your team. It’s been years and it still hurts. Your employee just wanted to come in and do her job. She didn’t want to hurt anyone, she didn’t want to play games.

      It’s clear in your letters that there’s someone about the ex-employee that hit your buttons. Instead of being honest and acting with integrity, you have inflicted harm that will last years. If cruelty and spite are who you are at your core, then, well, nothing anyone can do. But if it’s not, and you feel shame, take the steps to do better. You’re getting a bunch of advice here for free. Listen to it. You’re at a crossroads here, and I really hope you take the opportunity to go within and change your behaviour and act with integrity and compassion.

      1. a Gen X manager*

        Agree, Lady! I would supplement your great points with one additional comment:
        To me this quote from LW is at the heart of the whole problem: “If her role had panned out, she would have been higher up than me after two years when I had been there for five.”

        There is an inherent competitiveness present for the LW that is independent of any competitiveness that may or may not be present in ex-employee. The concerns about years of service, “earning” development opportunities and promotions according to LW’s personal definition of earning them, the harsh views about the necessity of a masters degree, the “dotted line” reporting structure, etc. This all points to an extreme level of competitiveness, jealousy, and/or insecurity on the part of LW (and painfully absent self-awareness and maturity).

        I’ve read the first post three times, this update twice, and the majority of the comments so far and I am still just completely blown away by the situation, but all of it has a ring of truth and I don’t doubt at all that these are the facts as LW sees them (that it is not fake email).

        LW – Based on your own descriptions in both posts, it is clear that the EX-EMPLOYEE DID NOTHING WRONG. This would be a good place to start facing the objective reality of the situation so that you can create a path forward for yourself. I truly wish you luck.

        1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

          That’s a really good point about competitiveness! I hadn’t considered that, but it does round out the picture. If OP came from a competitive, intense environment, that would colour her thinking in this issue as well. (I’m extremely non-competitive, just let me do my job so I can go home and sit on the couch.) But I’ve known competitive people, and they took others doing well as a challenge, and even almost a personal affront.

          I think it has a ring of truth as well, and what seals it for me is that it sounds like she started managing at 22/23, and she’s 28 now. It really sounds like she learned bad habits when younger and for whatever reason, only held on to them tighter. (I am not excusing the behaviour in this letter, only saying how it could make sense.)

          BTW, OP has commented and said she’s taking steps to change, so that’s a good sign.

    4. K.*

      Yeah, I read this like ” … She’s just mean. And jealous, and willfully obtuse.” I was wondering if the letter was real because it was baffling that she could be so clueless, so I was glad Alison asked. As a direct result of her “unmanaging,” the company lost so much business it couldn’t afford to lose more AND the brand name (and this was a Fortune 500 company, if I recall correctly) was tarnished. Her mean-girl “leadership” led to her entire team getting sacked, and she’s wondering if she should sue … anyone? What?

      LW, there are lots of lessons you need to learn before you even try to go back to work at ANY level.

  55. Lauren*

    How is it possible that this OP has no clue how wrong she is on multiple levels?

    – OP never wanted the hire, and started freezing her out from the beginning.
    – OP reassigned projects given specifically to this hire and for what she was hired for.
    – OP was jealous, and thinks that even though this hire was hired to build the business and tries to justify it by saying she needed to earn the job.
    – She got the job, this was the job, OP was actively preventing the hire from doing her job.
    – Since the role was to build a service line, OP prevented the company from winning and keeping business by actively removing responsibilities from this hire.

    OP deserved to be fired for above, and I never even mentioned bullying or the fact that OP wanted a ‘fun’ employee. Employees are there to contribute to the work, not match well with the individual manager’s personality and style.

    OP – your job is to help your employees do their work without obstacles, in this case – you were her obstacle. I’m trying to be mean, but you need this spelled out for you as you still think you didn’t do anything wrong. You did. If you can’t see that, then you will have trouble getting a job moving forward. Your interviewers will ask why you left, and if you repeat those parts of your letter where you think freezing out an employee is good management – it is very unlikely that you will move forward to a job offer.

    1. Michael*

      Your last point is what I was thinking. If the OP thinks she was right and her former company is wrong, and she isn’t interested in taking advice, then in her future interviews she should just lay out the bare facts and be proud of her management decisions, and see what kind of reaction she gets.

  56. Loopy*

    I am with Alison’s initial reaction. Can this person possibly be fore real? This mindset is so outside of professional norms and what I’ve encountered in my 7 years in the professional world that I can’t believe the OP can’t see that they were in the wrong.

    If the comments here, Alison’s response, and HRs STRONG reaction (plus LOSING THE ENTIRE TEAM) haven’t made a difference, what on earth will? What more evidence could you possibly need?

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Here and in non-work parts of life, it’s not unheard of to encounter people who are told they are wrong, double down, told they are still wrong, triple down, they ask an outside person and are told they are yup definitely wrong, quadruple down, and just keep digging and digging on the theory that perseverance will eventually wear everyone else down and everyone will admit the digger was right all along.

    2. Solidad*

      As a lawyer, I often tell clients “Don’t ask for my advice unless you are willing to take it. To do otherwise is a waste of my time and your money. If all you want is someone to agree with you, you shouldn’t be hiring a lawyer.”

      I cannot imagine being an advice columnist and having people write in for advice and then telling the columnist they are wrong b/c it’s bitter medicine.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Honestly, that bothers me less than the people who weigh in (in the comments or in updates) and never bother to say if they’re going to take the advice or not. This scenario is super common:
        – I print a letter
        – In the response, I give advice
        – OP is active in the comments but never engages with the advice at all and instead just keeps complaining about the situation

        No one needs to take my advice! But if you’re going to come back to say more, at least respond to it! Engage with it in some way, don’t just vent.

        1. This Daydreamer*

          The LW may not take your advice, but you’ve got a huge number of people reading and commenting and trying to make sense of this and how they would deal with a situation with some similarities. I like to think that some of us even see just a little bit into our blind spots because we’re being faced with it here along with the rule that we can only say constructive things.

          We’re all engaging with your advice. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who has learned a lot from your responses to others. I know I’ve mentioned that you helped me get my current job. You also helped me deal with the emotional shredding that came from my old one and you helped me get some perspective on that whole mess. Thank you.

          And now I’ll shut up before I start crying.

  57. em2mb*

    OP obviously isn’t interested in Alison’s advice, but I’m genuinely curious as to how you find another job after a debacle of this magnitude. Are you brutally honest? “I was new to management and dug my heels in when higher ups tried to hire someone new for my team, but I’ve learned from my mistakes.” Or do you just have to cut your losses, switch professions, hope what references you have left will vouch for you?

    1. Lab Monkey*

      I suspect the LW will be brutally honest, because she doesn’t seem to understand or be willing to understand that she was entirely wrong. I don’t think it will work, except possibly with other toxic people.

    2. OxfordComma*

      I would think that if this was something that might percolate through, especially if it’s one of those fields where everyone knows everyone else, that being that brutally honest might be the way to go. Maybe you say, “I was wrong and I have learned from my mistakes. I have done X,Y, and Z to correct for them and am confident that I will not make those mistakes again.”

    3. Princess Carolyn*

      OP might be able to demonstrate a solid track record of doing whatever else she was doing in insurance that didn’t involve management and find a role somewhere as an individual contributor. I would give some serious side eye to anyone who hires her for a management position right now.

      1. InkyPinky*

        I don’t know – there was some intense mean girl behaviour happening, which the OP doesn’t think is a problem. I’m having trouble seeing the OP successfully working even within a team b/c she isn’t a team player and is very much someone who actively creates problems. By which I mean as opposed to a manager who’s just too removed to notice the problems or something like that. It’s not just a management style problem – it’s an ethics, a creating problems, and an insubordination issue.

    4. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      I feel like step 1 is you don’t apply for management jobs.

      Step two is “I was fired for making very poor management decisions. I’ve done a lot of soul-searching, and I’ve come to the conclusion that management is not the right area for me, at least not for the moment, but I feel very confident in my skills as an individual contributor in [insert areas relevant to job].”

    5. Jules the 3rd*

      Well, OP’s current attitude (“I got fired because I knew better than my bosses”) will not get her hired.

      Her options are
      1) Remorse – with no hint of that in any of the letters or comments, I just don’t see it happening
      2) Obfuscate – ‘the company was moving in a different direction, and laid off my entire team’

      Pretty sure that’s what will happen. The real question is what will happen with referrals.

      OP: Don’t apply for a managerial job. You are not ready for it. You will be fired in a series of ever-shorter job tenures, which will eventually be so visible on your resume’ that no amount of obfuscation will be able to hide it. Find a job as an associate and spend some time with a therapist. Do not apply for management until you understand that diversity is a boon and that rules do apply to you. There’s a dozen other things you did wrong, but if you start with those two, you might get the rest before your career implodes.

  58. Interplanet Janet*

    My mouth is hanging open. O_o It’s a shame for the OP to not have taken AAM’s responses a more to heart. The further information provided in the update, along with the OP’s tone, certainly confirms the OP has much to learn about being a people manager.

    1. Health Insurance Nerd*

      Maybe the lesson is that this person is not meant to manage people. So many feel that management or director roles signal career success, when there is nothing wrong with being a superstar individual contributor.

  59. Aquila*

    LW, that employee was on your team. You had the same commitment to her as you did to the other members. Instead of helping her integrate with the team, you participated in isolating her.

    1. nonegiven*

      She could have used the opportunity to have her team help the employee when she asked and as often as possible and maybe learned some things that would help in their professional development, if they weren’t too busy snapchatting stuff about her with their manager’s approval.

  60. Snark*

    Among the many things that jumped out at me – one or two per line, actually – this one was special:

    “”HR and my regional vice president stated she had been hired to fill a role for a growing segment of our business and should have functioned as a team consultant. I used her as an associate so it didn’t make waves with the rest of the team.”

    So you unilaterally and against the wishes of the regional VP downgraded her position such that her duties involved less responsibility and power than she was specifically hired to have, specifically so as to not offend the tender egos of the people she was hired to advise? Good God, woman, I’d have fired you for the insubordination even if absolutely nothing else had gone down.

  61. MuseumChick*

    Oh boy OP. I’ve been trying to think of what advice you need to see where you when wrong.

    You may disagree with the details but at the end of the day you 1) Created an extremely cliquey toxic work team 2) Lost the company an employee THEY were very happy with. 3) Lost the company valued business 4) Broke company policy that as a manager you should have been aware of 4) Open the company up to the possibility of legal action.

    I think what you don’t get is your team doesn’t have to like you for you to be a good manager. You had a friend circle not a work team and that is extremely unhealthy. Just because a coworker you like/consider a friend complains about something doesn’t mean you get to just blow off the way your company/boss wants something handled. Just because co-workers you like want to go to brewery doesn’t mean you get to cosistantly single out one person to always be left in the office etc.

    Until you accept that you were in the wrong 100% you will have a tough time rebuilding your professional reputation.

  62. Grits McGee*

    Oh dear, OP I hope you can get some distance on this so that you can understand what Alison is trying to say to you, because I don’t see how you can ever be an effective manager if you don’t recognize that you aren’t being scapegoated- you forced out a revenue-generating high performer (who it sounds like was keeping your whole team afloat) because she was “making you look bad” and she didn’t fit in with your clique. This isn’t an unfortunate mistake that blame has to be pinned on– you made a series of deliberate decisions that undermined your bosses, lost money for the business, and opened the company up to legal liability.

  63. Natalie*

    Oy vey.

    Or for looking out for my team and giving them opportunities?

    But this woman you pushed out was *part of your team*. My read on this whole update is that this is your core problem – you never viewed this person as part of your team, so you didn’t treat them like that. Hell, you didn’t even seem to treat them like they were part of the same company! Your actions sounds like someone leading a team on some competition game show and trying to sabotage the other group. Which… isn’t how work works?

    I sort of doubt you’ll come back to chat, but if you do end up reading this, think a little bit about how you expected the rest of your time managing at this company to go. Did you never anticipate needing to hire someone new, someone who’s not part of the original clique? I’m genuinely mystified as to how you were thinking this would go.

    1. LabTech*

      I think this is the crux of the issue. She never managed the “problem” employee in good faith, even going so far as to sabotage her work and frame her hard-won achievements negatively (“showing off”).

  64. F M*

    In the spirit of constructive commenting, I’m going to mention this line, which I can identify with a bit:

    “If her role had panned out, she would have been higher up than me after two years when I had been there for five.”

    In my first serious full-time job, after I’d been there for about a year, my manager left to do other things, and the assistant manager moved into her role. After a few months, the new manager came to me and another person working in the (very small) department and said that she was going to look into hiring an assistant manager, and how did we feel about that?

    My first reaction was not very professional! (As I said, first full-time serious job.) I cried. I said I might quit if some stranger was supposed to come in and start telling me what to do. I was indignant. I’d been there for a year, I knew all the processes, I was good at my job, and they wanted to hire someone from outside to take the next slot up? To be my boss?

    Well, yeah. They did. And it was fine! He was a great assistant manager. He was friendly and clever and fun, he was good at his job, he did a great job of managing, he picked up on all the departmental procedures lightning-fast. Great guy. Wish I was still in touch with him.

    But I still remember that first reaction: that it wasn’t fair, because I was there FIRST and had been there LONGER and why was someone else going to be ABOVE me under those circumstances?

    The thing is, LW, that’s a childish reaction. It’s based on childhood experiences where older people get more privileges and younger people get fewer, where you earn your way to new things just by sticking it out and moving up a linear progression path. Even in the adult world, sure, there are plenty of areas where experience and seniority give more benefits, so it can look like this is always true… But it’s not always true. It’s not how everything works in a business environment. “I was there first and I’ve been there longer” is not a trump card that overrides everything else.

    So I think that’s something for you to examine, specifically, and adjust for your future expectations. I can empathize with that part; I think it’s very common as a reaction in people who haven’t had several jobs, or been in the workplace for all that long. You’ve been there five years, but if this was your first serious job out of your academic program (which I assume went at least through MA level, given your comment about the employee’s degree), I can see how this might’ve blindsided you.

    But, yeah. Doesn’t work that way in the professional world.

    1. Dankar*

      This is a really understanding, and useful comment. I had nearly the same situation in my first job (working part-time as a coordinator while I worked on my masters). My assistant director left and I took on a number of his duties. When his job was finally posted, I applied and even though I got to the final stage, they hired someone with YEARS more experience than I had.

      I felt the same way you did–processes! internal candidate! already working well with my coworkers!–but it was the right call. I did my crying at home, thank god, and finished out my contracted time there even when my supervisor offered to let me take my last two weeks off, paid, to spare me working under the person who got the job. It was the right decision, and that job got me killer recommendations for my job search.

      OP really needs to do a little maturing. While her behavior was horrendous, I do think she was thrust into managing too early, with too-little real-world experience, and was allowed to continue for 5-6 years, it sounds like. This experience seems to have reinforced, in her mind, that everything was fine. Until it wasn’t.

      She needs to go back and learn the basics, and learn that business is about business, not friendships and cliques. It should never be personal, even when we feel personally attached to our teams, our projects, etc.

      1. Observer*

        Well, the OP does say that she had a number of meetings with the higher ups about this person, and she just ignored it. So, clearly she wasn’t entirely being allowed to do what she wanted.

    2. Natalie*

      Ugh, this brought back a memory of a similar time in my life. When I started my first job I had really rather terrible managers that kept hiring fresh college grads for their main admin position and then being mystified when said young people moved on 2-3 years later. Needless to say, they weren’t doing much to develop me as a professional.

      A few years later, in the midst of a management shake up, I’d clawed my way into a different position with some actual potential for me, and a new admin was hired. Our newish manager was her mentor, and thus spent a lot of time working with her directly and helping her gain more experience in the company. She was promoted 8 months later.

      I was so angry and upset. It triggered all this other brain stuff I live with (shame and self-loathing, primarily) but it’s much less painful to be self-righteously angry. And I let that anger convince me to remain cool with my co-worker (who now shared an office with her) and our mutual boss. I don’t think they ever especially noticed – I’m fairly cool with all of my co-workers – but I’m sure there was an opportunity cost to that reaction.

    3. Antilles*

      Good comment. I think LW is misunderstanding how seniority works – it’s usually based on years in the *industry*, not just the specific company. The other employee may have only been at this company for two years, but if she had ten years at another place first, that means she has 12 years of experience compared with LW’s 5.
      Though frankly, even if that wasn’t the case, it still *wouldn’t matter*. Some people move up more quickly. Some people luck into being in a role with lots of open spots above them to move up. You can be disappointed if you feel like you’re moving too slowly, you can try to find new opportunities, you can swap companies…but what you *cannot* do is point to someone else and say “I should be above HER because of our relative years of experience”.

      1. Solidad*

        And seniority really doesn’t count in nonunion jobs. Ability to fill the purpose of the job does.

        If you are 20 years old but can do the job better than the 60 year old, you are hired.

        All companies really care about is ability. The reason seniority exists as a concepts is union-based jobs. For anything managerial in the USA that isn’t union, seniority means nothing.

    4. SarahTheEntwife*

      Yes! I actually had the same knee-jerk reaction in a situation where intellectually I *knew* I really wasn’t qualified for the position and would possibly not actually enjoy it even if I could handle the responsibilities. But it still felt Unfair, with an added dose of embarrassment at knowing that I wasn’t good enough (which wasn’t even necessarily an expected trajectory for my position, but that doesn’t matter to jerkbrain thoughts).

      1. F M*

        Exactly that! In my situation, I realized within a week or two of the new assistant manager being in place that I would’ve been lousy at the role, and years later, I can say that with even more confidence. I didn’t have the experience, aptitude, or temperament necessary to manage even two laid-back friendly employees at that point in time.

        But I reacted as if I were in seventh grade and being told a fifth-grader was the boss of me now. It wasn’t faiiiiir. I’m just glad that I got over it fast enough that it didn’t cause me serious work issues at that job.

    5. CB*

      Also just on numbers – iirc the LW is 28, with an MBA, so maybe five years in the workforce? The iced employee is in her 30s so maybe 12-15 years in the workforce. The LW is clinging to her seniority within this firm, but her three years headstrong there counts for nothing when this rockstar was brought in for her advanced skills.

  65. LS*

    LW, being able to look objectively at your own behaviour, understand how you contributed to (or created) a situation and what you could do differently in future are important life skills and *critical* for anyone in a management role.

    Alison and many commenters have given you a lot of constructive feedback which you choose to ignore. Do consider the fact that nobody here knows you and so none of the comments are personal – then think about why your view of the situation might be so very different to everyone else’s.

    You are still looking for ways to justify your behaviour, defend your decision to ignore your director’s instructions, ignore the damage you’ve done (lost clients, etc) and pass the blame.

    You criticise your team member for “her ability to develop sales presentations and connect with each client”. That’s something that should be valued and encouraged, not sneered at.

    Until you develop some perspective and the ability to introspect, you’d be better off avoiding management positions.

  66. Anonyna*

    Alison, thank you for asking LW directly if this is all real. I’m struggling to believe anyone could be so open about their blatant maliciousness and utterly horrible management and work ethics. And to appear as though they think their behaviour is totally normal and acceptable! Really, thank you for asking. I can’t even be satisfied with this update because LW has learned Absolutely. Nothing.

    1. JulieBulie*

      Honestly, I was going to make exactly the same comment. It’s not that I wanted the letter writer to be humiliated and exposed as a prankster or anything like that. It’s just that the scenario and attitude were so horrible that I HOPED it would all turn out to be fiction.

      This letter (and the updates from LW) were like a couple dozen nightmares rolled into one. With all I’ve witnessed in the workplace, it’s not terribly hard to believe that a nasty little department like this could exist. I just don’t want to believe it.

  67. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

    It sounds to me like ex-employee was a rockstar and LW and friends were somewhat mediocre. I’m basing this on where the LW says “…her ability to develop sales presentations and connect with each client was very show-off-like. When she asked for help, we didn’t take it seriously because we thought she acted like she knew everything and she was making us look bad by always going above and beyond for no reason.”

    LW – Take this as an opportunity to really think about what you have said here. She was developing presentations and connecting with each client. These are GOOD (even GREAT) things! She was not making you “look bad” by going above and beyond. YOU made you look bad by not also going above and beyond. She was just working to the best of her ability, which is what we should all strive to do at work.

    1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      Yes, that really stood out to me. It’s a very high school thing to say. If you’re thinking this long into adulthood, there’s a problem.

      She was not making you “look bad” by going above and beyond. YOU made you look bad by not also going above and beyond. She was just working to the best of her ability, which is what we should all strive to do at work.


    2. fposte*

      I think you might be right and that this could be pretty important. OP, you were unhappy that this person was on a faster track than you, but it also sounds like you put a lot of energy into things that weren’t work-beneficial, like the brewery runs, which would explain your slower trajectory. Did you consider raising your own work level?

    3. NextStop*

      Yeah, getting mad at someone for “showing off” by doing her job well sounds like the attitude of a slacker who’s upset that the bar is being raised.

    4. Kate 2*

      Yep, LW openly says in the update that Employee was better than her and the team in some areas and it made them nervous.

  68. Peter B.*

    Making it uncomfortable and trying to make someone quit is not somehow better than just firing them. And retaliation is something that any properly managed organization is going to take very, very seriously. Many times people get in more trouble over the appearance that they retaliated than over any original (usually hard to prove) discrimination issue.
    As for LW’s behavior around this issue, I hope you take some time to think about this and how it plays into your future career goals. In effect, you made decisions about someone based on your dislike for them, even when instructed to do otherwise by your organization’s leaders. And you created serious potential legal issues for them. You should work hard to never repeat this pattern of behavior. Nobody is perfect, and in cases like these the challenge is to really learn from the experience. As for taking action against this former employee, I would stay away from her. Nothing good will come from trying to do anything like that.

  69. Mona Lisa*

    I’m sorry, LW, but you want credit for not doing things that, in your estimation, would make you even worse? I’m having a hard time reconciling “Shouldn’t I get credit for not directly firing the employee?” and “I forced her out by taking away the projects she was supposed to be doing and making her life miserable by putting her through a semi-hazing situation.” (You said she had to “earn” her spot on the team. She earned it by being hired.) It sounds like you made her work life so untenable that she eventually needed to seek employment elsewhere to get the experience she was hoping to have at your company. I don’t see how that is more charitable than outright firing her. I don’t see any mention of trying to work with her to incorporate her skills into your team or to find a way to make the best out of what you considered a bad situation. I really feel badly for your ex-employee who sounds like she went above and beyond to produce good results and contacts for a team that didn’t value her contributions.

    I hope you can find a way to see things from her perspective as a rather innocent bystander and learn from this situation. Maybe in the future, you could try to find ways to work within decisions your higher ups have made even if you don’t agree with them instead of passive aggressively taking your frustrations out on other people.

    1. Mary*

      >> It sounds like you made her work life so untenable that she eventually needed to seek employment elsewhere

      This is called constructive dismissal in the UK and it is illegal. Is there any equivalent in US employment law?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes, but it’s not illegal here. You might end up getting unemployment compensation when you otherwise wouldn’t have, but it’s not in itself against the law unless it’s tied to something else that’s illegal (like race based discrimination).

    2. Anon and off and on again*

      Given that the employee wasn’t reporting solely to LW, would LW even have been able to fire her? Or would the higher-up to whom the employee was also reporting be involved in any decision like that? Trying to get credit for that sounds kind of like me trying to get credit for not using my eyeball lasers to set my ex-boss’s hair on fire.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      You don’t get credit for “not firing” someone.

      You get credit for developing that person and for giving them a chance to show what they can do. You get credit for building a cohesive team that does spectacular work.

      The key part that you are missing here, OP, is that management WANTED her there. They did not want you to fire her and they did not want you to force her out.

    4. Geoffrey B*

      What LW did was *much* worse than if she’d just fired the employee. The damage from bullying can last a lifetime.

      It was also dishonest. She clearly knew that her bosses wouldn’t approve of firing this person, so instead she tried to get rid of her in a way that wouldn’t look like her doing. That’s pretty blatant insubordination.

      Rule of thumb, any time a plan starts sounding like “make it look like an accident” it’s probably not an ethical plan.

  70. littlemoose*

    There is a lot to unpack here, and I realize that the LW wrote this shortly after being fired, so they may not have great perspective on or distance from the situation yet. But one thing I wanted to mention is that I think resentment of people who “go above and beyond for no reason” and “make everyone else look bad” is a counterproductive mindset. It sounds like the new coworker came in with experience in a different area and was doing well at helping your department gain business. That benefits everybody! I think an important part of working with others is recognizing that you’re a team and that others’ contributions benefit the entire organization. Being resentful of your coworker’s dedicated effort isn’t productive, especially if you’re the manager and that resentment leads you to exclude that employee and work against her. And that employee isn’t doing great work to make other people look bad – she’s just doing it because she cares about her job and is putting in the effort. I don’t understand the mindset to devalue another employee’s contributions, especially from management.

  71. DCer*

    Well, I think this letter offers a great opportunity for many of us who read this blog. We often see the train of thought of the person on the other side of this – who can’t figure out why their boss would do or say certain off the wall things or engage in behaviors that are totally counter to building a functioning, productive workplace.

    Here is your answer: Some people are horrible bosses and don’t even realize it. They think they’re doing the right thing. They think they’re taking the correct steps. And they think that others will agree with them.

    That clearly won’t fix the problem if you’re in one of those awful boss situations. But for me, I think it offers a reminder that some people are just awful and there isn’t anything you could do about it.

    1. fposte*

      Yes, this is genuinely fascinating; I’ve never heard the candid rationale of somebody who really took against somebody valuable just for being different before, or at least not at such length.

  72. Dee-Nice*

    “LW: Ok but can I still get some credit for NOT doing it though? Or not firing ex employee? Or for looking out for my team and giving them opportunities? Isn’t that what managers do?”

    Okay, here’s the thing: You WEREN’T looking out for your team. Not your whole team. She was part of your team. You state that she developed presentations, developed connections with clients, and went above and beyond, so on some level you knew she was a good employee and that she therefore had value to your company. By failing to encourage her continued good performance and creating a highly unpleasant work environment for her, you lost value for your company. Your company likely felt that your poor management was a liability and was likely to lose them future valuable employees (which is probably true, no? If you had another employee you didn’t like you’d probably treat them the same way and they would also leave). Why would they retain you as a manager when you were only committed to managing people you personally liked? That is too unreliable a standard. Regardless of whether you think how you treated the employee was wrong, your company needs to know that you will reliably do your best to manage your reports.

  73. Sue Wilson*

    Usually when people write-in with incorrect actions, they try to make their actions make sense in context, but you honestly haven’t here. Let’s review:
    A) You decided your manager’s decisions and opinion didn’t matter.
    B) You decided your clients’ opinions didn’t matter.
    C) You decided that passive-aggressiveness is management.
    You got fired because of these things. It wasn’t that your employee didn’t fit in or gave an accurate (you haven’t disputed or countered literally ANYTHING she said) exit interview. It was that your reaction to not wanting that employee was to behave in a way that literally risked your business.

    My former team and I are wondering if we can take action against ex-employee — her exit interview damaged our reputation, our team, and our careers.
    To answer this: No. She told the truth! HR and your boss confirmed it was the truth! They fired you because they didn’t like the things you were doing/the things you were doing violated policy! So the damage was caused by you doing the things, not by your employee reporting it. The method they gained they information is not relevant!

    Lesson: Just because you manage someone doesn’t mean you are the sole arbiter of reasonableness. If you’re going to do something, make sure the person who can fire you, and the company would also think it reasonable, at the least. This is just self-preservation. Start with that.

    1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      Oh wow, I somehow missed that the first time! Unbelievable. They didn’t do their jobs, and they’re angry at her????

    2. CityMouse*

      I covered these kinds of actions in a class at law school and am always shocked by these kinds of questions. This is actually one if those instances where the first amendment applies. No, you cannot use the court system to punish someone for telling the truth about you, even if it made you look bad.

    3. Old Admin*

      “She told the truth! HR and your boss confirmed it was the truth! They fired you because they didn’t like the things you were doing/the things you were doing violated policy! So the damage was caused by you doing the things, not by your employee reporting it. ”

      This so very, very true. Thank you for pointing that out.

      “My former team and I are wondering if we can take action against ex-employee”

      Nope. That’s retaliation! Remember , the illegal thing you’re not supposed to do?

    4. Artemesia*

      The group that ought to be talking lawsuit is the rest of the team. Of course they don’t have a legal case, but they have a moral one i.e. ‘we all got fired for just doing what our boss encouraged us to do, like make beer runs on Fridays.’

  74. Artemesia*

    The thing that shines through all of this is that the OP was punishing someone for being effective. It was ‘show offy’ to be good with clients and bring business; it was unfair that she might be promoted above him although she didn’t have a masters degree; a degree was equated with virtue and performance was dismissed as unimportant; fitting in was important but getting the job done was not and somehow losing clients was less important than showing her who is boss. Being able to make the best use of a diverse team to do a great job is the essence of management. Putting people in their place, especially when what annoys the boss is that the person is more competent than the rest of the team, is not the role of management. By creating an environment that focuses on socializing and prioritizing time served and friendship, the OP cost his whole team their jobs and the company business. Bottom line is that it is critical to keep your eye on the goal when a manager and not use the position to punish people you don’t like especially if they are among the best performers.

  75. Dulf*

    I’m also surprised that the employee who got forced out wasn’t the LW’s direct report, and was also reporting to LW’s managers. In this case, it appears she was aware she was being insubordinate when she did what she did anyway, but it seems it isn’t even “(very) bad management”! Instead, it’s just “bullying a colleague.”

    To LW: justifying these actions is difficult no matter what, but at a bare minimum you should reconsider the idea that you were supposed to have absolute power over this employee no matter what.

  76. Anon Anon*

    “During her employment, my director and I had several meetings on her role as she also dotted line reported to him. I had continued to be insubordinate because ex-employee, in my opinion, didn’t fit in and needed to earn her way to what my director had envisioned for her.”

    I thought this piece of information was very valuable. There are many times when managing people that you functionally supervise someone, but they really report to someone else (often more senior). I think it’s important for everyone to recognize when they are placed in this situation that the dynamics are slightly different and you do have to keep those in mind as you manage that person.

    And to the LW, there are going to be times when someone who is more senior than you is going to see the value in someone you don’t. When that happens it’s incumbent upon you to try and stay open minded and try and see that person’s potential and value, because you will cause yourself problems. And that is going to be true of any organization that you are employed at. I really do hope that you reflect on this situation and take an honest look at how your behavior really contributed to this situation. We all make mistakes. Some of us even make really horrible mistakes. When mistakes happen you have two choices. You can either repeat the mistake endlessly or try and learn from it and not repeat the mistake. I hope that you will try and learn from the mistake.

    1. Adhdy*

      This! It sounds like there were a series of meetings before the employee quit and gave the scathing exit interview. In fact, it sounds like the Director may have been intervening.

  77. Danielle*

    Focusing on the employee and management issue here: If your Director hires a person for a specific job and you don’t feel that the person is a good fit for your team, the right thing to do is have a conversation about it with your manager about why. You would also share your ideas on a more successful way to manage the role and team, backed up with reasons why. If your Director agreed with your proposed approach, then you go ahead and do it your way. If they don’t, you do it their way. What you did here was insubordination, as you mentioned, and that alone is grounds for termination.

    Reading between the lines, it looks like the true reason you didn’t have the employee do the job she was hired for is that you didn’t want her to be more senior than you, as outlined in her assigned development trajectory. It sounds like she was a stellar performer who was valued by, well, everyone EXCEPT you (which should signal something to you), and was a real asset to the company on the whole. It sounds like you were perhaps threatened by her depth of experience, and resentful that a person with a lesser degree than your own and newer to the team would be promoted above you if you had managed her successfully. It would be worthwhile to give your motivation and insecurities a real, hard look in order to find professional success in the future. Best of luck.

    1. Anon Anon*

      My take away was also that the LW was threatened by the ex employee. They were liked and valued more than the LW and her team. Perhaps the LW thought by getting the ex employee to quit that she would “fix” the situation and her status with her boss would go up?

      1. Danielle*

        I don’t think the LW thought that far ahead. Unfortunately, she seems ego-centric and short sighted. Nothing in her letter or responses talked about the value she or her team added to the organization, if any. Just that they were “smart” (because they had Masters degrees) and best buds.

  78. animaniactoo*

    OP, here’s what you strongly seem to be missing:

    • Your job as a manager, is not just to manage your employees and develop them. It is also to serve the business needs of your company. The company lost clients under your management. So you did not figure out how to do that very well.

    • When you are given explicit instructions about certain things, you don’t get to ignore those instructions because you know better. While you’re a manager, you’re also still an employee. So would it be okay for your team to ignore your instructions and go do what they thought was better? Even though it didn’t have the results that you wanted? If not, then it’s no more okay for you to do it, than it is for them to do it.

    You can present an alternative if you feel there’s a different way you want to do it, but you need to present it and get approval on it – and accept it if you don’t get approval and do it the way you’ve been told, not the way that you want to.

    • You don’t have to like the employee. You DO have to try and figure out why your higher ups are so insistent on this person, and see what value they can bring to the team. Regardless of how much more (I can’t emphasize this enough) BOOKLEARNING you and your other employees have. You will get absolutely nowhere until you acknowledge that there are skills and experience that can’t be gained through booklearning, but are absolutely invaluable to performing a job and if an employee has gained them through another method other than officially getting a degree, then they have them and they are valuable – and in fact more valuable than those who are only somewhere along the path to them.

    If your other employees are upset, your job is to address those concerns without giving in to them. To defend the decision if possible and if not possible, then to explain that you understand their issues but this is not something it’s in your power to change. And then if they’re still upset – this is important let them be upset. They will either get over it, or they are not being very professional and you’re letting them get away with that.

    (Splitting due to length)

    1. animaniactoo*

      Managing is in no way about making everyone happy. It’s about doing your best to make them happy WHILE respecting everyone on your team whether you particularly like them or not, and while serving first and foremost the needs of the company (caveat: provided you’re not blatantly abusing and taking advantage of your employees).

      It’s your job to make the employee feel welcome and try to integrate them into the team – because that serves the *business needs* of your company and it fulfills what you’ve been told – that the higher ups want this employee on your team. So you do your damnedest to actually make that work.

      And you do all of this for one primary reason: So that when you have concerns, and you want to discuss them, your words have weight. Because you have shown that you are trying and it’s not just that you don’t want to try it and you don’t respect your company or your higher-ups. You took them seriously, and you want them to take you seriously in return.

      This is fundamentally where you failed. You did not respect your company, its needs, or the directives and initiatives of your higher-ups. You did not look for the value. You dismissed anything that did not serve the priorities you had created for yourself as a manager.

      Alison cannot take your side, because while you had the title of manager, you did not do a very good job of doing the job. No matter how fun/friendly/helpful the people you actually liked considered you to be. These are things you can fix. But only if you can first admit that you need to redefine what you think it is to be a manager and who you answer to in that role.

      1. TootsNYC*

        “Managing is in no way about making everyone happy. It’s about doing your best to make them happy WHILE respecting everyone on your team whether you particularly like them or not, and while serving first and foremost the needs of the company (caveat: provided you’re not blatantly abusing and taking advantage of your employees).”

        In fact, managing is ONLY about serving the needs of the company.

        You keep your team happy, and develop their skills IN ORDER to meet the needs of the company.
        Sure, yeah, you’re pleasant to people because that’s how decent people act.

        But you make people happy at work primarily because it serves the company’s needs by making them motivated to do their jobs. It’s about how they will regard the company, not how happy they are.

        (and as people have pointed out–you didn’t define this ex-employee as being “on your team”–but she was.)

    2. Anon today...and tomorrow*

      “Regardless of how much more (I can’t emphasize this enough) BOOKLEARNING you and your other employees have. You will get absolutely nowhere until you acknowledge that there are skills and experience that can’t be gained through booklearning, but are absolutely invaluable to performing a job and if an employee has gained them through another method other than officially getting a degree, then they have them and they are valuable – and in fact more valuable than those who are only somewhere along the path to them.”

      100% agreed. There are a lot of fields where a degree isn’t all that necessary and it’s more about personality and skills. Sales is one that immediately comes to mind. The fact that clients walked when the ex-employee was forced out by a team that acted so pettily is pretty indicative of the type of skills she had that others didn’t.

      LW, I really think you need to take a good long look at how you behaved in this situation, own up to the fact that you were most of the problem here – not the ex-employee , and work on changing those behaviors. The company did the right thing here.

  79. Health Insurance Nerd*

    Holy sh*t. I know we’re not to supposed to pile up on the letter writer, so I’ll just say that the company clearly made the right decision in terminating their employment, and this is a perfect example of why you should not be close friends with people you manage.

    Just, yikes.

  80. Knitting Cat Lady*


    So, you reassigned task that were given to her by YOUR boss to other team members.

    You, and your team, intentionally ‘froze her out’ to make her quit. That is a prime example of work place bullying!

    And you’re really annoyed that she ‘only’ had a bachelor’s degree compared to your masters and upper management and the sales team really liked and valued her work.

    The function of a degree is to give you the tools to tackle your work.

    A Master further specialises you in your chosen field. All the tools you need you’ve already achieved with a Bachelor.

    And work experience is far more valuable than a degree!

    1. H.C.*

      As someone with a Master’s, LW’s continual insistence that the degree magically makes someone better or smarter annoyed me too, as well as wanting to apologize on behalf of all graduate degree folks with this mindset too.

      1. Artemesia*

        As someone who has created and run masters degree programs, it is the case that many people expect magic from a degree. We had many people who improved their skills and analytic processes getting a degree which translated into being more promotable. But we also had people, often who had not had much success getting and keeping good jobs or getting promoted who thought just getting a degree would make them more important and more desirable and more employable. For a fair number of people it makes them less employable. An advanced degree should always be undertaken for very clear reasons involving the learning that will take place as it is often an albatross otherwise. (not to speak of money loss and opportunity costs)

        1. H.C.*

          Agreed, I pursued my Master’s because it was a field of study & career path that I had a serious interest in AND because I had the means to do so (somewhat – still working on that grad school loan debt now, haha); I know many smart, talented and ambitious folks who would excel in grad school programs but just don’t have the interest and/or resources to attend.

  81. Sled Dog Mama*

    Wow. Allison when you said, on the open thread, you were thinking about publishing this exchange I had no idea it would be this. I’m caught somewhere between this explains a lot and are there really people like this? and I can’t get my jaw off the floor.

  82. BethRA*


    LW, do you really not get why the company might be unhappy that your actions towards this employee cause what sounds like a significant loss of sales? That’s such a basic, bottom-line issue. The higher-ups told you they wanted to build this area of the business, and you – by your own admission – sabotaged those efforts by TRYING to get her to leave. If someone on your team did that to you, wouldn’t you want them fired? And again, you cost them business. I get that you’re upset, and none of us are good at self-reflection when we’re upset, but that shouldn’t be that hard to comprehend.

  83. Jaguar*

    There is a lot of context missing that could change things, but in lieu of that, firing the entire team does seem to pretty drastic on the employer’s part.

    1. paul*

      Not to me. It seems fairly rampant–boozing on company time against policy is a giant no. And the photos of a coworker. And not making goals.

      1. Jaguar*

        Yeah, but if that culture is deliberately being set up and enforced by your manager so you participate in it and then wind up being fired for it, I think you could reasonably see that as a miscarriage of justice (the photo-shaming of the coworker is beyond the pale and automatically fireable, but it’s not clear if everyone was actively engaged in that). It’s worth acknowledging that, and it’s another thing the LW can think about if they get to a place of introspection: they deliberately set up the people they were responsible for and wanted to look out for to lose their jobs.

        1. CityMouse*

          Once those patterns are established they are very hard to break, even if they broke up the team, which would be a lot of work. A clean slate is a good idea. Their actions more than justified it.

        2. Jessie the First (or second)*

          This is a large company with, it seems, actual written policies. That the manager here allowed and sanctioned beer runs doesn’t change that – the direct reports are employees of the company, would have had the employee handbook, and *should* have known that what they were doing was against policy. That said, if the beer runs were the only thing that had been going on, I bet the direct reports would not have been fired.

          But that was not the only thing – there was the snap chat mocking, which the company obviously knew something about because they named snapchat (or rather “inappropriate use of social media”) as part of the reason for firing. And code of conduct issues. The beer runs were not the only reason, and frankly, the beer runs are the only part of the behavior described that any of the employees could hope could be viewed as forgivable because they were blessed by manager. No amount of “but my manager lets us” or “but…culture! From the manager!” makes the mocking of the coworker okay. You don’t get to be a crappy human being to a team member and then lay the blame on the manager for allowing you to be a crappy human being to a team member. The company seems to have done what it needed to do in firing them all.

          1. Jaguar*

            I said explicitly in the post you replied to that I’m not excusing the SnapChat stuff and that it’s automatically fireable. But we don’t know that the entire team was involved in that and it strikes me as a dubious assumption to make that they all were.

            1. Jessie the First (or second)*

              Between your two posts, you say that firing everyone seems drastic, and that though snapchatting is fireable, it’s not clear everyone is involved in that.
              However, we know that the company did not fire the OP right away, – they put her on leave and investigated, and then after that, fired the team. The company didn’t leap to firing as a first response (not even the OP!), and so I don’t see a cause for your concern about a “miscarriage of justice.” WE don’t know exactly who was involved in what, but the company does because the company investigated, and afterwards, fired the team. Of all the people/entities here whose actions I can doubt, the company is lowest on my list.

          2. Jessica*

            Some of the Snapchatters were using their company devices to send these messages, which opens the company itself to liability. Zoinks.

            1. Y*

              Pretty sure it wouldn’t as this use of the devices would be considered them being on frolics of their own.

              Plus, it’s always good to get to use the legal concept of a frolic.

              1. Observer*

                Nope. If these are company owned devices, there is still a real issue of employer responsibility.

        3. TootsNYC*

          Also, I think most of the people on that team actively pressured their manager into bad behavior as well.

          Sure, the manager is the big screw-up. I don’t want to minimize how bad that was, or create a reasoning for our Letter Writer to use to excuse herself.

          But the subordinates on that team played their parts as well.

          It also would not surprise me if those people had been interviewed by HR over this and their reactions and attitudes found wanting, just as the LW’s are. After all, those people are talking w/ the LW about suing the ex-employee.

    2. MuseumChick*

      Not really. The team was 1)Drinking on company time (against policy) 2) Engaged in active bullying of another employee 3) Were not meeting their goals.

      1. One of the Sarahs*

        Plus 4) the relationship between a manager and junior employee, which no one told the LW about

    3. Nerdling*

      I’m genuinely curious. What context would change things for you? And why do you feel that firing an entire department that engaged in bullying an employee in a way that cost the company money/relationships is pretty drastic?

      1. Nerdling*

        Hah, nevermind. I see paul’s comment and your response now. I don’t know that I entirely agree, but I do see where you’re coming from.

    4. Antilles*

      I don’t think it’s drastic. Look at this from an employer’s perspective:
      1.) Employees were drinking alcohol during work hours. In many places, this is a straight up fire-on-sight level of offense. Even in more laid-back offices, it’s usually viewed as a ‘special occasion’ thing – not an every week thing.
      2.) Employees were bullying another employee. This is another very serious offense. Especially given that the other employee was (apparently) critical to the business viability of the entire team.
      3.) Also, the employees showed terrible judgment through and through – both in being part of these items and by not bringing it to management’s attention.
      LW mentioned in one of her comments that the company is a financial services company that’s part of a Fortune 500 company. With that background, I’d be pretty confident in saying that both #1 and #2 are *explicitly* forbidden in the Employee Manual.
      So yeah, this seems completely defensible on the employer’s part.

      1. Jaguar*

        Look at what it gets you when you don’t participate in the manager’s culture, though: what the coworker who resigned had to put up with. It strikes me as a no-win situation: either you get along with your manager and wind up getting fired when that all blows up or you act like a professional and are ostracized and deliberately run out of the department.

        I can understand the company deciding to get rid of the whole problem, but I don’t agree it’s the most ethical way to go about it (and, again, we don’t have a massive amount of context, so I’m talking very hypothetically here).

        1. Jaguar*

          This is not to mention that this has apparently been going on for five years in some form or another. It’s easy to say “it’s probably in the manual,” but every place I’ve ever worked has had its share of things individual managers would do and expect their reports to do that weren’t 100% in compliance with the often broad employee manual. Five years of a manager being allowed to do beer runs every week by their superior is harder to argue with than an employee manual made by God only knows who in a nebulous Fortune 500 company.

          1. Jaguar*

            Also, keep in mind the LW stresses how they’re all young, so it’s likely these are all kids with little to no prior professional experience.

          2. Antilles*

            From the employee’s perspective, you’re probably right: If you’re just joining and this is a thing, you might just chalk it up to different managers – particularly given that LW’s comments seem to indicate that the team members are all fairly young, so they probably don’t have the work experience to realize that no, a weekly beer run is not in any way normal.
            However, the employer absolutely won’t see it that way. This is even more true given the way it turned out – if the beer runs had never caused issues, management might have given them all a minor slap on the wrist…but since the beer runs were a key factor in upending their entire strategy for this department, they certainly aren’t getting any leniency on that.

        2. Desdemona*

          I see your point. At the same time, in a lot of respects, they’ve done these employees a huge favor. They’re being forced to see that there will be situations in their careers where their bad choices can put them in situations that they can’t slither away from. They’re getting to learn while they’re young the extent of possible consequences for behavior that damages their employers’ interests, regardless of their direct manager’s involvement, and that being evil doesn’t necessarily help you get ahead.

          I also work for a Fortune 500 company. We do training every year on our business ethics. The expectation that you’ll decline to participate in intentional violations (like mobbing fellow employees) is made absolutely clear. These employees had a choice, and they knew how to exercise it. We know that because one of them did decline to participate and reported the situation. Even if there had been retaliation for reporting, that’s got to be a better answer to “Why are you looking for another job?” than “I was fired for helping my manager bully out someone she saw as a threat.”

    5. Caro in the UK*

      They could be trying to placate / avoid a lawsuit from ex-employee. Because with all of the additional details in this update, she seems to have endured a particularly horrific case of workplace bullying and may consider the company partly responsible for not stopping it before she was driven to quit.

    6. LS*

      When the team culture is a cross between Lord of the Flies and The Hunger Games I don’t think the team can be saved. Even now the LW *and* her former team are wondering whether they can sue the chased off employee. Obviously nobody has learnt from this and they’re all reinforcing their collective victimhood.

    7. InkyPinky*

      I suspect we aren’t getting the full story about the rest of the team either. It may be that they were all given a chance to explain their actions but instead just doubled-down like the OP. Which is likely given that they’re now all angling together for a lawsuit. And it’s highly likely they weren’t performing well already (hence bringing in the ex-employee) and so this was just the final straw. And especially if they were being given tasks meant for the ex-employee – I’m going to go on a limb and guess that they didn’t do those “stolen” tasks very well.

  84. JoanLynne*

    A couple things…
    I had given assignments meant for her and assigned to her by my director to other members on the team because I wanted to develop them. Surely there was a valid business reason these assignments were specifically meant for this employee. You should have taken it up with your director first if you really felt she shouldn’t have been given this assignment.

    I had also downgraded her end-of-year evaluation. I don’t think she deserved the praise she received from the sales staff, my director and client executives. This is incredibly petty and clearly off-base, since the sales staff, your director, AND your clients (!!) all agree that she’s doing a great job.

    My team found her quietness and her ability to develop sales presentations and connect with each client was very show-off-like. When she asked for help, we didn’t take it seriously because we thought she acted like she knew everything and she was making us look bad by always going above and beyond for no reason.
    ….So you and your team resented this employee because…she was an all around excellent worker and was quiet? I’m at a loss here.

    1. Referenceless*

      I’m guessing they disliked her because : a) she was more interested in doing her job than becoming one of the staff; b) she had skills they didn’t-and the higher ups knew this and wanted to use those skills; and c) she’s either not a drinker or, like most people, waits until they’re done with work. I mean, once you get the “not cool” label it’s hard to get rid of it.

      I know C sounds like a stretch, but I’m a life-long non-drinker by choice (can’t stand that alcohol aftertaste) and the amount of coldness and brush-offs I have gotten once co-workers have discovered this…

  85. YarnOwl*

    I work in insurance (for a broker) and I can very safely say that the Letter Writer thinking that the ex-employee’s experience didn’t matter, and that their Master’s degrees made them better employees, is not accurate at all in my experience (besides being a generally crappy and elitist attitude to have). Insurance is complex, and even when you work in a support department (I work in Communications), you have to understand it at least at a basic level to be successful. Additionally, I can’t really think of any position in my company (besides maybe in accounting; I know some of the women who run that department have advanced degrees) where a degree, and not experience, is more valuable. Most of our executive team don’t have advanced degrees, and many of the most successful producers in my company got BA’s in things that are totally unrelated. Being a valuable employee comes from understanding the industry, having good relationships with clients and providers, and being able to use those things to give your clients something other brokers can’t. I understand that Letter Writer’s organization might be different from mine, but I think in general, this is an industry where experience absolutely matters more than advanced degrees.

    It also really bums me out that this person thinks this is how millenials operate in general. I have great relationships with people of all ages in my company, and my team (who is made up almost completely of millenials) don’t do the things that this team of people did. In an industry like this (and in any industry, really) you can benefit a lot from good relationships with people in different positions and with different experience. If you’re basically ignoring people because of their age, you’re going to miss out on a lot.

    1. BethRA*