update: I hate my new employee

Remember the letter-writer who hated her new employee — largely because the new hire couldn’t take any feedback or direction on her work? Here’s the update.

This hire was sort of the last straw, and I found another job about a month after she was hired. In the interim, the director who insisted on hiring her was promoted to an executive position and left our department with no transition. The manager who had been out sick when this hire was interviewed kind of assumed she’d be next in line for our director’s job, and I thought she’d be promoted as well. Her poor management had caused almost 100% turnover in our department twice in three years, and people were pretty miserable working under her (classic combination of poor people skills and micromanager. She’d been directly named as the cause of all the employees in our department who left in their exit interviews).

Thinking that she would be promoted, and knowing I’d have to work with this direct hire, I started looking for a new job and found a great new position pretty quickly. As it turns out, that manager wasn’t promoted – a director from another department was moved over, one who actually had dealt with a similar situation (someone being hired who reported to her that she didn’t want to hire) a year earlier. I think my manager not getting promoted was a wake-up call for her, and I think her being the cause of so many people quitting was directly related to her not getting promoted. The new director seems to be pretty aware of who/what the problem is.

Unfortunately, I found out about this change after I’d already accepted a new job. I can’t say for sure that I would have stayed if I’d known. Probably not, because the organization was pretty dysfunctional, but I’m glad that someone FINALLY realized that if everyone is quitting because of one person, that person may be the problem!

As for the new hire, I have gotten a few emails/texts from former faculty complaining about her, for the same reasons I had issues with her – lack of maturity, pushiness, over-familiarity.

I’m enjoying my new job, the atmosphere is much better and less tense, and I don’t have to directly supervise anyone, which is great.

{ 31 comments… read them below }

  1. ContentWrangler*

    I’m always pro people finding a new, better job but this update makes me wonder if the OP ever actually had that conversation that AAM suggested or if they just continued avoiding the new hire while they searched for a new job. Based on the final line of the update, it sounds like OP doesn’t actually want to be a people manager which is probably a good thing if they ducked out of ever actually communicating the performance issues to the new hire.

    1. Letter Writer*

      I did have several conversations about the new hire’s performance issues with her, which went nowhere because she was so defensive that she would either shut down, start tearing up, or start talking over me with excuses and justifications (which was in the original question and my comments on that thread). I’m still in touch with several people at that organization, and my replacement is having the same issues with her that I had.

      I had a long conversation with the new department director after she was promoted, but at that point I had already accepted another job offer. I had already been looking around the time that new hire was brought onboard, but accelerated my search after she started.

      My organization suddenly realized they had a Big Problem when they had several open positions and couldn’t find anyone to hire. Turns out that our Glassdoor reviews were universally horrible, going back 3-4 years. Their solution was to create a “culture committee” to try to address some of the issues, but I doubt it’ll make much of a difference.

      Re: managing people, no, I don’t want to manage a large team, but I recognize that about myself (unlike most other managers I’ve had), so I don’t pursue promotions for the sake of being promoted if it means that I will be doing less of the job I like and more management, which is not really my forte.

      1. Candi*

        “Several open positions and couldn’t find anyone to hire”

        The economy’s recovering, but employment stats still run, what, 2-4 people for every job opening? Maybe more in some depressed areas? That’s pretty bad that this company’s rep is so in the toilet they can’t find anyone.

        1. Snark*

          Or they were doing the “I’m filling an entry level job and can’t find an overqualified, experienced mid-career candidate who’ll take $10k under market, crappy benefits, and a poor work-life balance! WHAT DO” routine.

          1. Wintermute*

            Lets be honest here, at least in my industry, that whole song-and-dance is just a prelude to “oh! poor me! there are NO Americans who will do this job… better get working on that H1-B Visa paperwork!”

        2. Bea*

          It depends strongly on the area. It’s proven incredibly difficult for both places, one low pay and one market rate to fill an entry level position. We had 8 no show interviews in one day a few months ago.

          When looking for work I got the impression people are snapping up any reliable employees possible without digging into their references or taking long to think it over. I had no problem getting multiple offers in a short time.

          1. copy run start*

            +1 In my area there is a worker shortage, so it’s hard to find any qualified candidates. Doesn’t mean people aren’t applying though. Those who are good are snapped up quick while less stellar candidates can sometimes float around a while. Sometimes those less stellar candidates are the same ones who apply for every. single. job. even if they have no real desire to do it or are not qualified.

          2. Letter Writer*

            Yup. We don’t live in a depressed area, and that organization, with a combination of pretty bad pay, terrible Glassdoor reviews, and an HR “department” (one person) that didn’t really understand how to advertise for jobs AND very vague and/or outdated job descriptions (she had never used Glassdoor before and all the negative reviews were a huge surprise, because she’d…never bothered to Google the company she did hiring for?) meant that we often ended up a bunch of resumes that weren’t good fits.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Did you read the original letter? It was pretty clear that OP had multiple difficult conversations and was behaving as a manager about performance and other issues. The new hire was just miserable to work with and wouldn’t take feedback or instruction.

    3. Observer*

      The more fundamental issue that made it necessary for the OP to look for a new job was not the new hire, but the management structure.

  2. Falling Diphthong*

    OP, this is anecdotal, but there’s a very good chance the problems at your old workplace went beyond one person (for example, to the people who left her in place through the 100% turnover in subordinates–twice) and so getting rid of the one person wouldn’t have fixed it all. It’s easy to get focused on The One Thing, but if that thing has been allowed to persist for years, it’s probably become the scapegoat for other Things.

    1. Letter Writer*

      Oh, for sure – I don’t want to out my employer but they had a lot of deeply entrenched, systemic issues, coming from the top of the organization. Their Glassdoor reviews are really something to see.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        I definitely understand you not wanting to out them, but I probably speak for several commenters here when I say that I wish I could read the reviews!

    2. RVA Cat*

      Good thought Falling Diphthong.
      Think of it this way – it wasn’t the iceberg that decided not to put enough lifeboats on the Titanic…

  3. Bea*

    It pleases me that you were able to find a new job quickly. I realised that I didn’t like managing people either at my former job once you get saddled with someone you can’t communicate with.

    1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      I have learned that it is really easy to manage high performing people you click with. Managing low performers and those you don’t click with is much less rewarding and the reason I am not going to look for a management role after this one. Has been a good experience, but my preferred headache:enjoy ratio is not possible in a management position.

      1. Bea*

        I’m right there with you. My high performers made it seem like a cake walk then we had to replace one who gave notice. Training someone who had never stepped foot in an office was too much along with running three departments. Nope.

    2. Letter Writer*

      I think what often happens is that someone is good at their job, so they keep getting promoted – which usually means that they get promoted out of the job they were good at and into a management position, which they may or may not be good at. Being a good teapot designer doesn’t mean you are automatically good at being at managing teapot designers.

      In my experience, a lot of managers who get promoted out of their competency look at managing their staff as a distraction or a waste of time – it’s taking time away from what they actually want to be doing, which is the job they are good at and enjoy. They never seem to make the leap that managing people now is their job and that it takes time (and I also blame employers who don’t recognize this and think that you can continue doing your full-time job and also manage people in the same amount of time).

          1. A dedicated reader who is not a manager by choice*

            You are exactly right, but if it’s the owner, then it might still be the Peter Principal. :-)

  4. Argh!*

    My old boss was fired less than a year after I left OldJob. For awhile I felt badly about leaving, until I learned that NextBoss was even crazier. CurrentBoss is incompetent in her own way, but at least I like the work better here.

    1. Viva*

      Yes, I noticed that too.

      But I suspect when someone is at the point where they need to write to Alison, the problem they’re writing about is just no longer salvageable or sustainable. At least it seems that way for most of the updates.

  5. AnonForThisOne*

    OP, this was really insightful for me. Thank you for sharing.

    I was terminated by a boss who really seemed to resent having to hire me (higher ed, union rules re: employees restructured out of their previous position and eligibility for existing open positions, etc.) and it was a very difficult 18 months until termination. Faculty, staff, department chairs, etc. all agreed it was Boss and not me (Boss was sadly universally disliked, by the way people spoke about Boss after Boss moved on to another position out of the area (which I heard about via former colleagues)), but your original letter and the update (and the always helpful comments from reader!) really opened my eyes to the other side of the situation.

    If you have any advice re: the fine line between an excuse or justification, and providing a reason or explanation, I would really appreciate it. I think it is an area that I have trouble in.

    Thanks much, and I hope you are enjoying your new position!

    1. Letter Writer*

      Hey, AnonForthisOne – it’s hard to say without more context, but I’m sorry you were in that situation. With the benefit of hindsight and some distance between myself and the situation at OldJob, I feel pretty badly for the new hire. It’s not her fault that our management was messed up, and certainly not her fault that she got hired into a toxic situation.

      It’s hard to say what issues your OldBoss had with your hiring – she may have had someone else in mind for the position, may have felt cut out of the hiring process, who knows!

      In the case of this particular employee, her defensiveness was making it impossible for me to teach her the job. She interpreted every piece of feedback as criticism and was so desperate to prove that she knew everything that it made it impossible for her to take in training. When I was explaining why we do certain things, I could see her check out and stop listening as she thought about what she was going to say. She was a chronic interrupter, and while I’m always open to suggestions about doing things a different or more efficient way, I don’t think it’s helpful until you actually know the job enough to make informed suggestions.

      I really think it was just a combination of insecurity and immaturity on her part, and her being exactly the type of employee I didn’t want to manage.

      I too struggled with perfectionism, anxiety, and defensiveness in my career for many years, until I finally learned that everyone makes mistakes, most mistakes are not fatal, and also got a grip on some underlying mental health issues that were amplifying the problem.

      I guess the best advice I can give is that when someone is giving you feedback, actually listen to it instead of trying to come up with a response or justification right away. It’s okay to ask for some time to think about input. If my boss wants me to do something in a different way, I don’t really need to explain to them why I’ve been doing it a certain way in the past, unless there’s something that they don’t know about or I have a reason to not want to change a process.

      If you have issues becoming defensive (which, honestly, defending yourself when you feel attacked is a normal human reaction!) I’ve found it has helped me to have a few scripts handy, even something as simply as “thank you, I’ll think about that” instead of jumping in with an explanation.

      And finally, now that I’ve had to interview and manage people, I know that managers get nervous about giving feedback to employees. It’s not easy to tell someone they’re doing something wrong or even that you want them to change what they’re doing, and I personally think that being defensive with a manager is the fastest way to damage your relationship with them. The person giving you the feedback may be just as anxious as you are, and I personally would think a lot more highly of an employee who, even if they made a mistake, accepts feedback with grace than one who gets defensive.

      1. Way over yonder*

        Thank you so much for this. I have struggled in my jobs with this issue– getting defensive– and this is super helpful to hear from the side of the person trying to train or correct mistakes. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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