our best employee may quit over holiday time off

A reader writes:

I have a colleague, Garnet, who is the highest performer in her department. She is a joy to work with and great at all she does. Many years ago, when she and I were both in different roles, I was her supervisor and she was just as great then as she is now. I do still work with her, but we’re more peers now. Her boss, Jasper, is incompetent and very taxing to be around. I have previously mentioned concerns about Jasper’s performance and behavior to our (my and Jasper’s) shared boss, Amethyst, to no avail.

Garnet has asked me to provide a reference for her, which I agreed to. I will give her an absolutely glowing reference and support her choice to move on. Frankly, I’m surprised she put up with Jasper this long. However, after I said yes, she mentioned that Jasper has told all her direct reports that no requests for PTO in the last week of December will be approved this year. There are two paid holidays when the office will be closed, for those who are full-time, but Jasper won’t approve any additional days in between. That’s what’s finally crossed the line for Garnet.

I know it’s not uncommon for companies to have policies that no PTO will be granted during busy times, but this is uncommon here. There is a chance her department will have a large project that spans that week, but it’s a small chance. Even if it happens, there’s no reason this couldn’t be a first-come-first-served situation, as long as they had enough people left that week for coverage. There is no way they’ll need everyone. Apparently, as a preemptive measure, everyone has been told to assume they’ll need to be in the office. That office is a mix of full-time and part-time staff, but Garnet is full-time and exempt. If this project doesn’t happen, that week will be their least busy of the year.

And we might lose Garnet over it.

I want to tell Amethyst something without betraying that Garnet is looking. But the problem is, I have no reason to know about this unless one of Jasper’s reports told me. The only one of her reports I frequently work with is Garnet. Because of that, I feel like even if I tried to bring it up in a more general sense as bad for morale, I’d probably give away my source. I don’t know if Amethyst even knows about Jasper’s new PTO policy. My gut says there’s a decent chance Amethyst would be against this, even without the Garnet element. I’m torn because it would be a real blow to have Garnet leave, but I also know that good staff leave bad managers, so this was probably inevitable. Is there any way I could try to alert Amethyst without directly telling her Garnet is looking? I do think the higher-ups would do what they could to keep Garnet. Or is my best bet here just to support Garnet with the great reference I plan to give and let things play out?

Well, it sounds like Garnet is doing the right thing for herself by working to leave the job. She has a boss who’s incompetent and taxing to be around, and her boss’s manager apparently knows that but nothing has changed. Yes, it will suck for your organization to lose an excellent employee, but as you note, that’s a natural consequence of keeping bad managers in place: top performers will leave.

That said, if you’re pretty confident that Amethyst would shut down Jasper’s “no vacation time at the holidays” edict, you’d be doing the right thing by letting her know about it. It would be the right thing for Amethyst (to give her the opportunity to intervene when a manager under her is mishandling something), the right thing for your organization (because a manager operating out of sync with how the organization wants her to operate is a problem), and the right thing for the other people who work for Jasper, not just Garnet (because their holidays are being impacted too).

You should not, however, tip off Amethyst about Garnet’s job search, at least not without Garnet’s okay. That’s Garnet’s information to share, not yours. You can certainly ask Garnet if you can discreetly talk to Amethyst about it, and you can share that you think Amethyst would want to try to keep Garnet if she knew … but ultimately you should let Garnet make that call. She may be at the point where she’s not interested in staying regardless, or she may not trust Amethyst to handle things well or at all. (I should note that if you were higher in the hierarchy than Garnet is, the calculation here could be different. Senior leaders have sometimes have conflicting obligations in situations like this one — the obligation to the person who confided in them, as well as an obligation to loop the organization in about serious personnel issues. Even then, though, you wouldn’t just share the information; you’d explain to Garnet that you were in a difficult situation and figure out together how to approach it.)

I know you’re concerned that you don’t have a way to bring up the holiday time-off thing without it being obvious that you heard about it from Garnet, but I don’t think that’s something that either you or Garnet would be expected to keep secret. Mentioning it to Amethyst doesn’t mean that Garnet was complaining about Jasper or his policy; it could just mean that she explained it to you when you asked if she’s traveling anywhere for the holidays. It should be fine for you to say to Amethyst, “Hey, you might already know this but in case you didn’t — I’ve heard that no one on Jasper’s team is allowed to use any PTO the last week of December. I can’t imagine they’ll need all that coverage, so wanted to mention it to you since it seems like it could really create a morale issue.” You tone here shouldn’t be “wait until you get a load of this outrageous action by Jasper.” It should be a matter-of-fact “I wanted to give you a heads-up in case this is something you didn’t know but might care about it, but I realize it might not be a huge deal to you.”

Ultimately, though, I’d accept that Garnet is pretty likely to leave at some point, and that’s okay.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 149 comments… read them below }

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Oh, I just thought they were all precious stones of some kind … maybe OP was a gemologist :D Thanks for clearing that up!

      2. SometimesALurker*

        I don’t know what you look for in TV shows, but I generally recommend Steven Universe highly! The characters are very well-written and it tackles complicated interpersonal situations in thought-provoking and mature ways, while still being realistic and appropriate for the characters who are kids.

        Also, it’s a sometimes-musical cartoon about gay space rock magical girls and their half-human semi-adopted son.

        1. Anon today...and tomorrow*

          Do you think that they’re gay? I always thought that it was about strong, female friendships and how family isn’t just who you’re related to. To be fair…I am only aware of this show because my 12 year old LOVES it but that was how I always saw it. I do think there are some romantic relationships there, but overall it’s strong friendships…and anyway you slice it, it’s a good show.

          1. SometimesALurker*

            Sorry, it didn’t occur to me that recommending the show that was being referenced was off-topic.

              1. SometimesALurker*

                Fair enough — I’m pretty upset about the casual straight-washing in the comment below mine, so I could have gone off down that path.

                1. Phoenix Programmer*

                  There was no straight washing in that comment. There is one gay relationship (r+s=g) and one unrequited one but trying to wash out the hetero relationships in the series (like Connie and Steve and Dad) and calling someone who doesn’t see a+g+p as a gay family a straight washer is odd. It’s not offensive or anti gay to call a friendship a friendship and a relationship a relationship.

  1. miyeritari*

    It sucks for you and your company, but if Garnet has a shitty boss, they should find someone who appreciates them.

    As a side note, I love themed fake names in this blog.

    1. Amber T*

      Yeah, the no-PTO rule might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, but even if this is avoided, there’s probably another straw coming. I think Garnet is looking to leave regardless of the outcome here, and getting the PTO may delay it for a while, but she’s going to leave sooner or later.

      I’d still bring it up with Amethyst only to help the morale of everyone else. Or maybe with Jasper directly, depending on your standing/relationship with him.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Yes. It makes sense for Garnet not to go into a litany of Jasper’s sins, just point out the latest unreasonable thing–but it doesn’t mean she wants to stay.

        As Alison observed, you keep horrible managers around and you lose the good people who refuse to work under them any more. Or as a friend of mine observed, she takes jobs and leaves bosses.

      1. k8*

        of course, but OP should know that even if she fixes this, garnet will probably leave regardless. To me, it doesn’t sound like the OP’s company might lose garnet over the PTO issue– garnet has already been lost, and it’s really only a matter of time before she finds a new position and leaves at this point.

        1. Jen S. 2.0*

          Exactly this. It sounds like fixing the PTO issue would be a band-aid on a gaping wound anyway, and it’s a symptom of the problem, not the cause. Garnet’s not leaving because of the PTO; she’s leaving because she doesn’t want to work there any more (for several reasons).

          You can’t stop Garnet from leaving, and she has 1.75 feet out the door. You can try to help with the PTO issue if you want to, but letting her take off on December 26th and 27th won’t make Garnet stay in this job for another 10 years.

          Frankly, if I were OP, I’d butt out of the whole situation. Not your problem to solve.

          1. OP*

            Actually, I would’ve thought the same thing, but according to Garnet she doesn’t have a foot out the door anyway. I’m surprised Garnet hadn’t started looking well before this, but the focus on the PTO came from Garnet herself. She framed the whole thing as looking in case the issue couldn’t be otherwise resolved. For all the other issues, Garnet’s dealbreaker is seeing her family once a year, and they’re only all in one place at Christmas, so she’s willing to leave over it, but willing to put up with the rest. It surprised me, but that is apparently it.

    2. hadeyesp*

      Agreed. It’s Amethyst’s job to manage Jasper to help him be a good manager for his team. She should understand the consequences of not doing this. If I were Garnet, I would not want the OP to intervene regarding my job search. I would not want to have an awkward conversation with my boss’s boss about my boss’s shortcomings. I also wouldn’t trust a positive outcome from either Amethyst (the one who hypothetically needs the threat of losing a valuable employee to do the job she should have been doing all along) or Jasper to become the manager Garnet deserves. I’d worry that not only would an awkward conversation not have the desired effect, but that I’d end up leaving soon regardless & would just as soon skip the awkward discussions & give the generic “a great opportunity fell into my lap” reason.

      Of course this is me & your friend my be thrilled by your offer to discuss her job search with Amethyst, but you should absolutely check.

    3. Kix*

      I’m not Garnet, but I could be. I have an incompetent manager and morale in our unit is gone; however, the Branch Chief chooses to have us watch Ted Talks rather than actually deal with the problem, so my last day is at the end of the month. Happily, I’m moving to another Branch where they know me and my skill sets and can’t wait for me to join them. Let Garnet go, it’s better for her.

      1. Leela*

        oh man I love Ted Talks but they are NOT a manager’s version of a digital babysitter. They’re not a get-out-of-management free card. I’m so glad to hear you’re getting out of that situation!

  2. Sassy AE*

    Seriously, even if Jasper’s terrible holiday edict is overturned, what’s next? Will you have to continuously go to Amethyst every time Jasper does something that effects morale? Not to mention the day-to-day stress Garnet probably feels working under Jasper.

    I’d bring up this holiday issue for the greater good of the team, but just let Garnet walk. It sounds like she deserves a better job than the one she has.

    1. Grits McGee*

      Yeah, I have a feeling that the holiday thing is just the straw that broke the camel’s back; you might fix this one instance, but Jasper will do something ridiculous before you know it and Garnet will either a) be out the door anyway or b) feel guilty that you made the effort to fix the holiday thing and trapped into staying in a job she doesn’t want out of an obligation to you.

      1. Antilles*

        I’m honestly not sure I’d even call it “straw that broke the camel’s back”. Garnet is serious enough about leaving that she’s asking for references; that’s something most people would only do if they were already well past the desire to leave stage and getting ready to actively apply/interview.

    2. Lil Fidget*

      Agree, it sounds like OP is overly fixated on the vacation issue causing this employee to leave. Even if it were fixed, I imagine she’s done emotionally (but you should still try to fix it for others!).

    3. Mike C.*

      Or maybe shutting this down leads to a crackdown of Jasper’s dumb behavior. The cost/risk of trying are minimal and the payoffs are huge, so why not?

      If nothing else, how would the OP look having not tried at all while her peer suffers and then leaves?

  3. The OG Anonsie*

    Good lord what a turd move by Jasper. “Hey, if this holiday is the only time your family gets together and you’re not local to them, sucks to be you! See your family next year, maybe, if I allow it!”

      1. anon24*

        My husband’s old job did something like this with a major holiday that happened to fall on a Sunday. Management told everyone that it was company policy that there was to be no time off approved that Monday, and that everyone must show up or be fired. Everyone showed up except management, they all took vacation days (without telling anyone ahead of time).

          1. Snark*

            Right? I’d have walked out in slo-mo with the mushroom cloud rising behind me. Oh, screw 100% of that nonsense.

        1. DecorativeCacti*

          That’s just being mean for no reason.

          At my job, our policy is that if a holiday falls on a weekend, it is observed either Monday or Friday instead.

        2. esra*

          I had a director who used to just leave early on long weekends… without letting the staff go. We started also leaving, like 5 mins after he did. Such a jerk.

        3. Plague of frogs*

          My team had to come in on a weekend because we had a new chip out. I asked my manager if he was coming in, and he said, “Why would I? I can’t do any engineering.” I told him that he could take our lunch orders. He did come in. (By the way, he had a master’s degree in engineering. He just wasn’t interested in using it).

          I was so relieved to get away from him when I finally got another job, and he was probably equally relieved to get rid of me.

      2. The OG Anonsie*

        Oh yeah. I’ve worked in more than one place where I worked as support staff to some important people or other and they wouldn’t let us take off time around the holidays because they wanted coverage “in case one of the VIPs needs something…” but of course all the VIPs took nice long vacations around those holidays so we were just required to come in to twiddle thumbs and do general cleanup while missing family gatherings. It was neat.

      3. Tiger Snake*

        Out of all the ‘shocks’ you get when you’re a young thing coming into the business world for the first time, I remember that this shocked me the most.

        My dad had been a team lead for most of my childhood (sometimes a manager, but he liked getting his hands dirty and kept going back to the team lead role), and I constantly saw him take on the view of ‘If I’m not in the trenches with my team, its because I was the one who dug the trenches beforehand’.

        The idea of setting some sort of standard that you knew wasn’t going to be popular – like working over the holidays – and then not sticking to that and further yourself just absolutely blew my little mind.

        1. miss_chevious*

          It’s stunning to me how many “leaders” think that means all of the privileges and none of the responsibilities. Yes, sure, I am higher up than my direct reports and that means I get certain perks, like a parking spot and an office with a door. That doesn’t mean I prohibit them from taking off around the holidays and jet off on my own personal vacation or leave early while every one else is staying late on a project.

          1. Just a thought*

            This ticked a memory for me (by stimmyabby on tumblr):

            Sometimes people use “respect” to mean “treating someone like a person” and sometimes they use “respect” to mean “treating someone like an authority”

            and sometimes people who are used to being treated like an authority say “if you won’t respect me I won’t respect you” and they mean “if you won’t treat me like an authority I won’t treat you like a person”

            and they think they’re being fair but they aren’t, and it’s not okay.

            1. FormerEmployee*

              About the only exception to that that I can think of is the one about respecting the Office of the President. When POTUS walks into the room, you must stand unless you actually cannot do so for a medical reason.

    1. k.k*

      Horrible move. Wouldn’t be surprised if that team got hit by a mysterious bug that week, forcing some of them to call in sick.

    2. DecorativeCacti*

      I had a boss who would schedule vacation blackouts the entire week before and week after every major holiday. This was for a team of receptionists and back office workers. The facility had limited hours on holidays and was not any busier than normal. She would, of course, be gone one or both of the blackout weeks.

      She never gave a reason for it and eventually we all complained enough that people above her stepped in and put an end to the blackout.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        It feels like the kind of solution people give to squabbling kids. “There’s just one green gumball and you both want it? Well, then I’m going to THROW IT AWAY SO NEITHER OF YOU CAN HAVE IT!” Only applied before any squabbles actually start, to preemptively not have to deal with any conflict.

    3. Allison*

      Right, I couldn’t work in a place like that and I’d be out the door like Garnet, or at least trying to get transferred to a different manager if possible.

      I’ve never lived far from my mom and dad, but at Christmas my extended family (on my mom’s side) gets together in an area 6 hours away from where I live. No time off around the holidays essentially means being alone at Christmas, and to me, no job is worth that.

  4. Hills to Die on*

    It’s a culmination of things. Let Garnet go live a good life and if Amethyst mentions Gatnet leaving (afte rshes already left), tell her Jasper will likely continue to have a negative impact on the talent pool.

    1. Anon today...and tomorrow*

      Exactly. My husband gave his notice because of a bad manager. The company knows they’re losing an asset and have asked what they can do to keep him. One of the higher ups offered to do something about the bad manager. My husband said “I think that you should remove her not because I’m leaving but because she’s bad. You’ve had so long to do something about her that I now feel like this place is a hotbed of toxic energy and need to get out…even if she’s gone. Just know that I’m probably not alone in feeling like this.”
      It’s sad when it comes to that point though.

      1. Magenta Sky*

        You’ve found an important truth. A bad manager who is around for a long time before being fire isn’t the real problem. The real problem is the company culture that takes that long to get rid of him.

  5. Chriama*

    OP, you say your company would probably work to keep Garnet but you’ve mentioned concerns about the manager before and they’ve done nothing. Sounds to me like they’re happy to leave things as they are. Companies who know there’s a problem but won’t do anything because it’s easier deserve to have employees leave them. Hopefully that way they learn.

    1. Sarah*

      I think this is key here. If this were the first instance of bad management coming up, I think it would be reasonable to report the situation and see if upper management would respond appropriately. But apparently they are perfectly fine keeping Jasper in a management role without doing anything to either work with him to improve or move him to a different role where he’s not impacting others so negatively. It’s a pretty obvious consequence of that that everyone who has the option to get a different job will do so, meaning your best people will leave! So I wouldn’t be so surprised if upper management again shrugs their shoulders and pretends there is nothing they can do.

    2. LKW*

      I agree that management is likely to do nothing, however, if the LW can show direct correlation between bad management and loss of talent, it could be a motivator. A good company steward would want to get rid of bad employees. A halfway decent company steward would at least want to get rid of bad employees as the cost of keeping a good employee.

      It may be too late for Garnet, but that’s on management.

    3. Jekhar*

      You’d think companies would learn after enough good employees left them, but i’ve often found the opposite to be true. Just as history is written by the victor, a bad manager can spin the reason for an employee leaving any way he wants and deflect the blame completely. Especially if his higher ups don’t want to see any problems either. Much easier to assume the problem left with the employee, than to identify one’s own culture, i think.

    4. OP*

      I didn’t get into it in the letter, but it’s a not-secret secret that often employees will advocate for themselves (or their managers for them) for raises, promotions, etc, and the execs will come back with “no no just not possible, budget” blah blah blah, but as soon as someone valuable has another offer, the C-suite will suddenly try to match to keep them. I recognize that this is a systemic problem there, and indicative of bigger badder things, but I’m not in a position to do anything about that. So when I said they’d try to keep Garnet, that’s what I meant. They’re not interested in fixing the underlying symptoms as long as things appear to be running smoothly. At the moment, that department only runs smoothly because of Garnet. So they’re apparently willing to risk it. The work Garnet and I do is fairly niche so there are other things about the work that are satisfying. But management here is a major downside.

  6. Lia*

    I left a job in large part because of a Jasper, and actually, about 75% of the department turned over due to him within two years. He implemented a similar policy for us, and yes, he was indeed out “sick” the entire week between Christmas and New Year’s. Sick, but skiing out of state (people should really lock their social media down). No one else was allowed to take more than the actual holidays themselves off.

    I can absolutely guarantee Garnet has not told you 1/10 of the b.s. he is pulling, and even if you’re able to intervene on the holiday policy, she will leave the company over something else.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Yeah, this thing about the time off at the holidays is an issue, but that’s not what Garnet is quitting over. It’s the last straw. I don’t think the OP should say anything, frankly. Jasper is not a good manager. The time off issue is just one symptom of that.

    2. Samata*

      I worked somewhere once that closed the entire week between Christmas and New Years. Our VP made us come in one day of that week and it was usually smack in the middle- you know, so you couldn’t really make plans to visit your family. She thought it was imperative to be available during that week because we worked with external visitors…except we had none because when you called in or you drove by it said the company was closed for the week.

      She did buy us pizza though, so there was that???? Oh, and she did not come in of course.

      1. Wilbur*

        Similar situation-I’m a contractor for a company that shuts down between Christmas and New Years. However, my company has many sites, some of which don’t have that time off. Naturally, we have to work “to be Fair” to all the employees at our company. You can use vacation, but it’s annoying to have to choose between sitting in an abandoned building and using three days of vacation. It’s a real tossup if there’s anything to do, because so much is dependent on other support, facility resources being shutdown (it’s a large testing facility, there may be steam/cooling water, electrical, etc. shutdowns).

    3. Jam Today*

      I used to work for a company where 2/3 of a department threatened to quit if Person became director of the department (as was rumored to be an upcoming promotion.) The company took it quite seriously and not only di not make him director of that department, they moved him out of the department entirely.

      Of course, they made him director of *my* department…

  7. The IT Manager*

    Tell, tell, tell about the holiday week PTO restrictions. If the prohibition on PTO is cancelled it helps everyone who works for Jasper. This is topic you could hear about in normal conversation, and it doesn’t give away that Garnet is job hunting.

    The greatest win (Jasper is fired or demoted) is unlikely, but if Amethyst at least puts a stop to it Jasper’s employees can have a better holiday.

    1. k.k*

      Agreed. Garnet may very well leave anyways over other reasons, but for the sake of everyone on Jasper’s team, the boss needs to be looped in.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Would management intervene, though? So far all Jasper’s antics seem to have fallen to “Well, that’s Jasper, nothing we can do about it.” Is this truly a move so exceptional and heinous that they will ride in to rescue all his employees, but all the other stuff was okay?

      If management was kicked back waiting for a last straw…. well, that’s not a good way to approach firing someone who makes everyone around them miserable. You’re likely to lose a bunch of those people around them while you wait for them to poop out the perfect, inarguable final straw.

    3. One of the Sarahs*

      Yes! I love that OP wants to help Garnet, but this is making the whole team suffer, in ways that are unnecessary. This is the kind of thing that can cause high departmental turnover, and even if the rest aren’t rockstars, but “just” good at their jobs, losing people unnecessarily will hurt the company.

    4. JustaTech*

      Yes! Who knows, maybe *this* will finally be the thing that causes Amethyst to actually manage Jasper. And even if it doesn’t, you know you tried to help a whole group of people (not just Garnet), and you have more information about how your company handles bad managers.

  8. I'm A Little TeaPot*

    For me at least, once I’ve gotten to the point where I’m actually looking for a job, that’s a ledge that I can’t get off of. It takes a lot for me to get to that point. Once that environment has been soured that much, nothing but a new environment will fix it.

    Garnet’s looking for a new job. If Jasper were to leave today and the new mgr was a good one, it might still be too late. Because it’s not just the immediate problem manager – if other mgmt hasn’t stepped in to address the problem (Jasper), that sends it’s own message.

    1. Windchime*

      This is the point, exactly. At Oldjob, a toxic manager was put in charge of our department. She proceeded to gut it by firing or attempting to fire people one by one. She would target a person, make their life miserable or fire them, and then move on to the next. She bullied another woman and me to the point where we quit, and her reward was to be promoted to director. The people above her as well as HR *knew* what she was doing, because we told them. They did nothing until there were rumblings of a lawsuit; only then did they remove her from the position but it was too late. The damage was done and that team has a reputation of being a sad and unstable team.

  9. Mike C.*

    Why are so many people here advocating that the OP do absolutely nothing? The cost and risk of the action suggested by Alison are nil (nothing improves) and the possible upside is an improved workplace for Garnet and the OP’s boss’s understanding that she’s looking out for the business. The payoff for doing nothing is losing Garnet and who knows how many other employees.

    This is a trivial Nash equilibrium – the OP should say something.

    1. Mike C.*

      Is this trend towards inaction part of that thing were some folks believe you shouldn’t ever complain about your job and just leave if you aren’t happy or something? I really just don’t understand this.

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        No, the OP complained about Jasper. Jasper’s supervisor isn’t going to do anything about him.

        1. Mike C.*

          We don’t actually know this, and having a concrete issue rather than a generic “he’s causing bad morale” is a huge difference.

          1. Anonymous Educator*

            Her boss, Jasper, is incompetent and very taxing to be around. I have previously mentioned concerns about Jasper’s performance and behavior to our (my and Jasper’s) shared boss, Amethyst, to no avail.

            I’m not seeing “he’s causing bad morale” in that. It specifically mentions Jasper’s performance and behavior.

      2. Lil Fidget*

        Meh, to me it’s more just that OP isn’t this person’s supervisor (either of the gemstones) and has already raised objections to the mutual manager, so it’s hard to see that OP has a lot of purview here. Certainly not to retain an employee who already wants to leave. Most of us are suggesting that OP flags the weird holiday policy to the Grandboss in case that does anything, but otherwise it’s the same advice we usually give when somebody writes in with no authority over the situation (“my friend says this is happening,” or “someone I don’t manage has a problem with their supervisor that I also don’t manage”).

    2. fposte*

      I’m not seeing that–I’m just seeing people focused on telling Garnet to leave, which isn’t the same thing as telling the OP to do nothing.

      1. paul*

        but it’s really weird because Garnet isn’t OP. They’re not reading the letter (unless OP is sharing it at the office).

        I think it’s fair to point out that Garnet will still leave, but I also think that if there’s a safe-ish way for her to bring up the stupid PTO thing without hurting Garnet they should.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, I think people just default to empathizing with the person who’s hard done by, whether they’re the OP or not.

        2. OverboilingTeapot*

          I don’t know why she can’t present it with a mild lie: “a couple of people have told me…”

    3. EddieSherbert*

      I think people are just trying to say that telling Amethyst what’s going on probably won’t stop Garnet from job-hunting, because it sounds like Jasper sucks as a manger in general, and this is just one example of his awfulness as a manager.

      So even if the holiday PTO policy is revoked (and it should be!), Garnet will probably still apply to other jobs.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Yes, it sounds like OP has set this up as 1) say something and Garnet goes to the head of the layoff line, since mgmt knows she’s looking 2) say nothing and Garnet finds a new job. In both, they lose her. And OP is hoping that if only mgmt knew, really knew, what Jasper was like, then they would say “Why how ridiculous, we are going to step in and curb his excesses right now. If you know anyone looking elsewhere, tell them we’re now On The Problem and it will be fine.”

        I don’t think management will come through on that. And while I think Alison has a point about how the no timeoff thing could come up in casual conversations, I think OP is right to worry that this comes out in a way that puts Garnet on management’s “ungrateful troublemaker” radar.

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          OP doesn’t need to say Garnet id looking though. Even if they do work out where they got the info, there’s a big leap between “upset about holidays” and “actively job hunting”.

    4. Allypopx*

      OP should absolutely say something. I think people are more coming from the perspective that if it were Garnet writing in, they’d tell her she has a crap boss and she should leave. Therefore OP shouldn’t expect fixing this one issue will keep Garnet on the payroll. Setting expectations, vs discouraging action.

    5. One of the Sarahs*

      I’m also unclear why this is being treated as an “only Garnet” issue. It feels like some people are saying Garnet is searching, so she’ll be ok, so leave it – but in the mean time Jasper has implemented a policy for her team which means the people who work for her are having worse conditions than anyone else in the company.

      OP says there *might* be a project, that won’t need all hands, and if there’s not, it’ll be the quietest time of the year. Unilaterally banning holiday for everyone under such circumstances is such a ridiculous move! There are alternatives, like allowing a couple of people to book holiday now, and telling them when they’ll know if the project is coming or not, so people can work out their options – and offering incentives for people who will commit to being in the office between public holidays.

      But the bottom line is OP says what Jasper is doing is out of kilter with the norms for the rest of the business, and that causes problems for the whole team, who are already working with a difficult boss, and some of whom might not find it as easy to just up and leave the job like Garnet can.

  10. The Supreme Troll*

    OP, I’m going to play devil’s advocate here (not trying to cause drama, but just have some honest questions…). Are you sure that there isn’t a project that Jasper’s team is working on that needs all hands on deck, which you or your team might not be in the loop about? Has Jasper demanded that none of her employees take vacation during the last of December in past years? Has Amethyst just ignored your concerns about Jasper, or has she shown herself to be an advocate for Jasper?

    1. The Supreme Troll*

      Which I’m going to add, still, is something that you should casually ask Amethyst about. Ask Amethyst, in a strictly curious way, about why it is necessary for all of Jasper’s team members to be present during that last week of December. Use a pleasant, positive tone, and don’t make it seem that you are trying to show Jasper in the worst possible light. You will probably get a more effective answer this way.

      Other than that, even if Jasper’s reasoning is logical, her past behavior and noted poor treatment of her employees is more than reason enough to be the “straw that broke the camel’s back” in Garnet’s case.

    2. Specialk9*

      I can pretty much guarantee that their project isn’t hearts in coolers, or OP would have mentioned it, so even if there is a project, it can wait.

    3. OP*

      I’m sure there isn’t another project. I’m also sure the potential project I mentioned is not yet confirmed. I’d need to do my own work on it before it’d even get to Jasper’s staff, so there’s no way it’d be confirmed without my knowing, and it’s very clear from working with others in my department, including Amethyst that we still don’t know. Everyone discussed it in an “if” context. Jasper has never done this in past years. The normal SOP was always that, if things weren’t busy as long as there were coverage people could take the time off at that time of year, but usually no one takes the entire week. Usually some will take the beginning, some will take the end, so no one is left working the whole time (unless that person didn’t want/ask for the time off). There isn’t a situation where the early bird gets it and potentially blocks others year after year. It’s historically been fairly even. Amethyst does not actively advocate for Jasper. She has occasionally shut down some of her bad attitude (or bad ideas). She doesn’t ignore the concerns outright. She listens, and the responses have been a mix of either “well that’s just Jasper’s personality” or acknowledging something was bad and in theory talking to Jasper about it, but there have never been any consequences when the bad thing gets repeated, or sometimes her response is that I (or others bringing a performance issue to her attention) must be exaggerating or overreacting because the work still gets done. But in those cases the work is either getting done by Garnet, even though it’s Jasper’s responsibility, or it’s getting done in twice the time a competent person would be able to do it. Part of the disconnect, I think, is that Amethyst doesn’t have expertise in what Garnet and I, and theoretically Jasper, do. So if Jasper tells Amethyst “oh that’s not possible” or “oh that’ll take hours” Amethyst believes her. If it somehow gets round to me that the quote were hours, and I point out I could do the same in 15 minutes and it shouldn’t take an experienced person much more than 20, Amethyst tends to not be concerned about that and assumes Jasper must’ve been, with all her other work she’d need hours, rather than the task literally taking her hours (newsflash: the task literally takes Jasper hours). Basically Amethyst gives Jasper way too much benefit of the doubt.

  11. CR*

    God this kind of thing really grinds my gears. If I was Garnet and was reasonably certain I had a good chance of getting another job, I would call in sick those days.

  12. Allypopx*

    If you can talk to Amethyst, it will be a kindness for not only Garnet but everyone else who is being impacted by Jasper’s poor management. That’s enough of a reason to do it.

    But reasonably, it might be that this just put things in perspective for Garnet and she’s done working for what you acknowledge is a crap boss. Chances are she’ll leave sooner or later. I think it’s definitely something to bring up with Amethyst, but don’t feel betrayed if it doesn’t change the outcome.

    1. OverboilingTeapot*

      Yeah, probably the best you can do is make sure Garnet’s departure is as much of a wake-up call as it can be.

  13. animaniactoo*

    Here’s the thing – if Garnet knows that Jasper’s issues as a manager have been run at least partway up the chain (and OP, I’m sure you’re not the only one who has raised the flag), then the company doesn’t have a lot of standing to try and “Save Garnet” by working with her if they knew she was looking to leave.

    This is an issue that they’ve decided isn’t really a problem for them despite having it raised until it really BECOMES their problem by having to replace somebody like a Garnet.

    So, separate out the issues. If the holiday time is seriously an issue that the company would not be okay with at this moment, then you can raise that and let Garnet know you’re going to raise that and only that.

    But don’t try to stop Garnet from leaving on the company’s behalf. She’s spoken to you in confidence, she’s not your direct report, and they’ve had ample time to try and save her already and they’ve made a different choice. Let them get the consequences of that, because it might be the only thing that pushes them to do something active about Jasper. If anything, I would ask Garnet if she’d be willing to be explicit about her issues with Jasper in an exit interview.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      They’ve had ample time to try and save her already and they’ve made a different choice.

      +1. I think OP wants a solution where Garnet stays, and I don’t think that’s really on the table, based on senior management’s actions to date.

    2. Antilles*

      +1 – These are separate issues. The holiday issue might be worth raising on its’ own…but don’t do it with the thought that it might Save Garnet, because it won’t.
      Look, here’s the thing: Employees who are generally fine with their situation wouldn’t leave over being unable to get a few days of vacation around the holidays*. Yes, they might be irritated and grumble. But they wouldn’t jump straight to “okay, serious job search time” and start collecting references and applying places. Garnet’s actions here in asking for references and mentioning she’s searching indicate a serious desire to leave; fixing the vacation issue isn’t going to change her mind about Jasper’s overall awfulness.
      *Barring special circumstances like “I’m getting married this week” or “I want to have major surgery on December 22nd so I can recuperate over the holidays while my family is home to help” or Major Life Stuff like that.

      1. Anne of Green Gables*

        I don’t really understand why the OP thinks that saying something to Amethyst about the PTO policy gives away that Garnet is job searching. Is there a correlation here that I’m missing? I mean, I get why it’s a last straw for Garnet, but I don’t understand why Amethyst, who presumable doesn’t already know that Garnet is looking to leave, would get that from a concern over the PTO.

        1. animaniactoo*

          Because OP is thinking that the reason to raise it as a major concern is because Garnet is planning to leave over it (or so OP thinks vs this might just be a final straw even if it is redacted after), so s/he doesn’t seem to know how to make it clear that it’s a serious problem without giving away that Garnet is looking.

    3. King Friday XIII*

      So, separate out the issues.

      Good point! They’re not going to take this seriously until they try to replace Garnet with a Sapphire and a Ruby and realize she’s more than just the sum of the parts of her job description. ;)

  14. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

    I think the only thing that will keep Garnet is a new manager. Either a new team or Jasper getting fired. Otherwise, I think you need to accept she’s gone.

    That said, I *do* think you should mention to Amethyst that Jasper has this PTO rule in place, in the matter-of-fact way AAM recommends. Say nothing about Garnet leaving, but do mention the impact on morale. Once Garnet leaves, if Amethyst asks you if you know why, be truthful and say “She left because of Jasper, and I have the feeling we will lose more good employees because of Jasper if something isn’t done.” Make sure it isn’t about the PTO but about Jasper as a whole. But say nothing about her leaving before she leaves.

    1. Jennifer*

      Seconded. Garnet is gone unless Jasper is gone first. This is just the “final straw” but she’ll leave as soon as she can.
      I don’t think people care about maintaining “top employees” if they are not managers.

    2. TootsNYC*

      and as was pointed out by someone upstream–Garnet might still leave even if they fire Jasper. Because they’ve sure let Jasper be a jerky manager for a long time. Their long inaction may have poisoned that well.

    3. Just a thought*

      I’d suggest divorcing it from “Jasper” — not in an attempt to protect them or downplay the issue, but as a way to focus on what is actually the concern.

      A personnel misfit is one thing, and there are ways to handle that which include more direct management, conversations, workshops, etc.

      A policy and implementation misfit with a central source is a differently solvable issue that can lead to retraining, dismissal, retooling processes, etc.

      In the end, I would think the latter is more valuable than the former. It’s entirely possible Jasper is a product of the systems they are set in, or reflective of higher mandates than OP is aware of. It would be good for those to come to light. If Jasper’s behaviors are out of sync with the company as a whole, then, talking about those behaviors — not Jasper, but their behaviors — will get down to what needs to change, and why, and how.

  15. Amber Rose*

    Garnet has seen the future, and it is not that great if she sticks around. Moving on is in her best interests.
    It sucks when a bad boss chases away a high performer, but that’s just how it goes sometimes.

    But you should mention the vacation thing, since it seems like a larger group would benefit from you speaking up.

  16. Beancounter Eric*


    Let’s assume Jasper is incompetent and “very taxing to be around”, and you have expressed your thoughts on Jasper to Amethyst in the past with no result. Sounds to me like Amethyst and their supervision are happy, or at least tolerant, with Jasper.

    Regarding the PTO policy implemented for the final week of December – “There is a chance her department will have a large project that spans that week, but it’s a small chance.”….do you know if Jasper may have information you are not privy to regarding pending projects and staffing requirements?

    Mention the PTO restrictions to Amethyst….but don’t be surprised if you hear back a) it’s none of your business, b) the “small” chance of a project is much bigger than you thought, and/or c) that your move is seen by Amethyst, Amethyst’s supervision, and Jasper as a blatantly political move.

    1. McWhadden*

      The LW goes onto say that even if the project happens they won’t need everyone. And she’s in a better position to know their company and work than we are.

    2. OverboilingTeapot*

      Actually, that’s not a bad way to address things with Amethyst…”I heard that Jasper’s department isn’t allowed to take PTO around the holidays–is there an update about [potential project]?” And then if not, “oh, that might not be great for morale…”

    3. The Supreme Troll*

      Beancounter Eric, this was similar to what I was asking above. Unless the OP is sure that Jasper has demanded that her team work during the last year of December for all the years that the OP has been at the company, there is a possibility (maybe remote, but still a possibility) that Jasper is working on a time-sensitive project that, for whatever reason, is known only between Jasper’s team and Amethyst at that time in December 2017.

      Again, I think that the OP might be able to get an honest answer from Amethyst if she asks her in a genuinely curious tone of why Jasper needs the full team to be available that week. The OP shouldn’t throw sarcastic jabs at Jasper or question Jasper’s managerial competence in front of Amethyst. Because in that case, the three points that you mentioned in your last paragraph might come to fruition, and cause a long tension between Amethyst and the OP even after Garnet leaves the company (which, realistically, with all of the crap that Garnet has had to take from Jasper, is going to be very soon).

    4. Mike C.*

      Wanting to protect the vacation time of employees during the holidays isn’t in any way, shape or form a “political move”.

  17. e271828*

    There are a lot of moving parts here. I’m unsure why the OP is trying to manage this situation for everyone, but, that said, why assume that OP’s and Jasper’s boss Amethyst does not know that Jasper has forbidden PTO that week? I feel that OP really would like Garnet’s decision to leave to be unwound by the consequences of taking the PTO thing up to Amethyst, and it’s coloring their view of this. On the whole, staying out of the Garnet-Jasper-Amethyst chain of command seems wiser and less dramatic.

    If OP really wants to stick their oar in, would remarking to Amethyst “Is it true that Jasper told his department no PTO can be taken between Christmas and New Year’s Day? Wow” be at the right level of gossipyness?

    However, it sounds like Jasper is the sort to take revenge. If the OP thinks there is any chance of Garnet being fired if Jasper thinks she had something to do with management telling him not to forbid PTO (assuming that’s the outcome of going to Amethyst), OP should certainly stay out of it. Garnet has decided to leave. OP, if you want to help, give that glowing reference.

  18. Cassie*

    In some companies in which I’ve worked, the end of the year is the time in which to use up PTO that you previously could not take because the company kept you hopping the rest of the year. Black-out dates at the end of year would force people to eat PTO they could not carry over. It is not a good look for a company to actively prevent people from using their benefits.

    Garnet is doing the right thing, and I hope she lands on her feet.

    1. LKW*

      I just got a message that in short says “Our clients shut down over the holidays. We don’t, but we highly encourage you to take time to see your families, friends and relax if your client demands allow.”
      AKA – take the break while your clients are taking a break because that’s the easiest way to take a break.

      1. Fishgal*

        Some companies do shut down, I know a lot Boeing employees work most holidays during the year and then the entire plant shuts down for about two weeks during Christmas and thanksgiving

        1. Just a thought*

          My dad’s a Boeing employee and he LOVES the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s because of the ample double-time shifts available.

    2. OverboilingTeapot*

      I wonder if Jasper is just kind of clueless, and thinks that making sure his team is in the office makes him look like a high achiever, and not a jerk.

  19. Adlib*

    I have a lot of friends who are almost Garnets right now, but the difference is they aren’t leaving their terrible manager. I can’t convince the one I’m closest to to say something to the grandboss or HR about the terrible abuse they take. I know they’re miserable, but that’s not my issue to solve beyond what I’ve told them to do (based on excellent advice on this blog).

    1. bridget*

      Garnet? What is she doing that’s a problem? It sounds like she’s performing her job well, and looking for a new job because she recognizes that AAM’s advice (your boss sucks and isn’t going to change) probably applies to her situation with Jasper.

  20. AdAgencyChick*

    I would:
    1) help Garnet in her job search, as OP is already doing
    2) tell Garnet to mention the holiday thing as the last straw in her exit interview
    3) when Garnet has left, tell Amethyst, “I think we could have treated her better,” and mention the holiday thing as part of that.

    Something tells me that since this boss has already failed to respond to feedback about Jasper, that this time won’t be any different if OP again brings up issues with his management style. But OP can help connect the dots between “Jasper behaves this way” and “awesome employees leave.” (Which is also not a guarantee that Amethyst will do anything, unfortunately.)

  21. nep*

    Just from what OP explains here, sounds like it’s just a matter of time before this great employee leaves.

  22. Stellaaaaa*

    The thing that sticks out to me is that Jasper doesn’t know yet if the big project will even happen. With enough advance notice, management could have worked out a perks system to make people reconsider their holiday plans while there was still time to work things out. Significant bonuses, double PTO for the next year, first dibs on next year’s holidays. There are plenty of people who would agree to pop in for a few days or even the whole week if it was worth their time. It would have almost been better to just start out with no PTO during the holidays as a rule, than to have Jasper being wishy-washy about the status of the project and then banning PTO after Garnet and her coworkers have already made their holiday plans. As it is, Jasper is going against company norms in a pretty extreme way.

    Honestly, I think Jasper’s superior needs to say something like, “If we don’t have this project solidified by December 1, we’re going to act like it’s not happening. We’ll revisit it in January.”

  23. Fishgal*

    These letters always make me appreciate my boss, we work a set rotating schedule because we need someone 365 days a year. I have thanksgiving off and was able to take a week and a half off (in addition to the week and a half I just took off two weeks ago) because we are slow right now and I work Christmas this year. The rotation sometimes works fair for all of us, sometimes one or two of us get jipped but it evens out and it’s based on the calendar so there’s no bias.

    My manager gives us ample time off during slow periods because come busy season we all go 150% and get limited time off for months at a time.

  24. TheTallestOneEver*

    Here’s hoping that Garnet can find a new job and give her two weeks just in time where her last day is right before the start of the PTO blackout.

  25. chi type*

    Ugh, this is hitting a little close to home for me. My supe gave only one person the week of before and after X-mas off (as in the same person, both weeks) and denied all other requests saying everyone else is needed for coverage. (Spoiler alert: it’s going to be dead, everyone else is not needed for coverage.)

  26. Tuesday Next*

    “our best employee may quit over holiday time off” – actually, your best employee will quit because her manager is a jerk. The bigger picture is important here, because if it isn’t the holiday time, it will be something else that pushes her over the edge.

  27. Sean*

    I totally came to the comment section to see how many people recognized the Steven Universe references, yay!
    As per the OP, I hope whatever the end result it does work out in some way. Definitely unfortunate situation to see happen in a workplace.

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