update: my employee lies and says other people’s work is her own

Remember the letter-writer whose employee was claiming credit for other people’s work?  Here’s the update.

Thank you so much for answering my letter and to all the commenters – I really appreciated all the advice there. The reply and comments made me see that I would’ve treaded too softly with this.

The day after the post was published, I spoke to HR. I was hoping it was somehow a misunderstanding but I wanted to know before speaking to Anna what options I had if needed. HR was…not helpful. Because there had been nothing external/client facing or “involving violence or theft,” it wasn’t considered a sufficiently serious offense. I pushed back (a lot) but in short they felt this fell into the “annoying colleague” category and didn’t offer any further advice.

The next day I met with Anna. I used your approach, Alison, almost to the letter in terms of asking her to tell me how she came to put the guidelines together. She said she’d realized there was a need for them and felt she could draw on the experience she had to help smooth the work process for external partners and new recruits in the future. I asked if she was aware there was a set of guidelines already, written by her colleague, Jane. She looked at me seemingly surprised. At that point I put the hard copy of Jane’s guidelines on the table. She suddenly said, “Oh yes, I found that while I was putting my guidelines together — it’s not very user-friendly but I cross-referenced them in case there was anything I hadn’t thought of so they’re similar.” I replied that it wasn’t so much that they were similar, but word-for-word the same in most places.

I then brought up one of the other reports she’d said she’d put together — I asked her how she’d found the work, as well as a few questions about it. From her answers I knew she was lying to me about the extent of her involvement but to be sure, I’d already checked with the project lead to see if there’d been any changes to the original workplan (in which she had only a minor role). There hadn’t been.

After a deep breath, I said I was concerned that she’d overstated her role in several different pieces of work. She replied saying she didn’t understand the issue — she had worked on those things. She also tried to blame language/cultural differences for me misinterpreting her (for the record, she’s American and I’m British). I finished the meeting by setting out wording I wanted her to use to reflect different roles, etc. and reiterated that I needed to be able to trust people in my team so she would need to be clear on her work moving forward. I wrote this up after the meeting and sent to her, cc-ing HR.

Some commenters had understandably questioned how well I was tracking the team’s work, so separately I also met with the rest of my team to get their take on the workflow. I really didn’t want to micromanage or put additional burden on the team by putting extra admin in place, but with their feedback we decided that a few tweaks to our existing processes would help.

For a few months, Anna seemed to stick to what we’d agreed. Until last month. I was out of the office for a week and another manager emailed me to ask if I had a presentation on a particular project he could use for a meeting. When I got back and saw his request, I emailed to see if he still needed it. He replied that when he got my out-of-office, he emailed my team and Anna had kindly done one for him… except I knew we already had a presentation on it. I got him to forward me the email and presentation she’d sent. She said she’d “written it” and hoped it covered what he needed. This was a lie — aside from the slides looking very similar to the one already written by one of my other reports (different fonts and colours but same content), she’d not realized that it still had all her colleague’s presenter notes in the Notes section.

I went to HR again but got nowhere, so I went to my boss (the CEO) who told me to leave it with her. Within an hour, she emailed HR and I to advise that Anna was to be transferred to another department with immediate effect.

This department has very high turnover (repetitive work, toxic relationships and few make it to a year in post, longest tenure — apart from the manager — is two years). It’s an approach I’ve sadly seen my boss use before — rather than firing people, she simply moves problem staff to this department knowing that they’ll quit sooner or later.

So that’s where Anna is now. I’m relieved she’s no longer in my team but I’ve no doubt she’s miserable. She’s smart and capable (the times I know it’s been her own work, she’s done well) so I just can’t understand why she felt the need to lie. I did explain to her why I could no longer have her on my team but I heard after that she’s told colleagues that I moved her because I have a personal issue against her. I also don’t like that an already troubled department seems to be the dumping ground for problem staff my company won’t put on a PIP or fire. I hope she’ll learn from this and find a new job where she focusses on doing her own work.

Thanks again for your reply and those of the commenters!

{ 217 comments… read them below }

  1. Doodle*

    Oof, that’s a doozy of an update, but it sure sounds like you handled it as best as it could be handled in your particular context! Good for you for not letting up even after HR was unconcerned.

  2. LadyL*

    Your compassion for the other department that gets used as a dumping ground really struck me, and it seems like you handled Anna as respectfully as one can. It sounds like you deserve a much better place to work than your current job, tbh.

    1. Observer*

      Yes, the OP definitely comes off very well. Respectful and compassionate, without being a wimp.

    2. Biff*

      There are certain kinds of work that are necessary but awful, so I wonder if it’s the collections department or the cold-calling floor. That doesn’t seem entirely unfair. I’ve never seen a company do either of those departments well. it’s the nature of the work.

  3. Observer*


    I agree that your workplace has some issues. It’s good that your boss (the CEO) got that this is a serious issue, but I agree that this method of handling things is poor.

    Are you in the US? If so, it’s hard to see why HR was so unhelpful. I also find myself shaking my head that HR doesn’t realize why this is a BIG deal.

    1. SheLooksFamiliar*

      Agreed, Observer. I’m in corporate staffing and have seen and/or dealt with similar situations with HR partners before. Taking credit for someone else’s work is a serious integrity issue. A responsible HR partner would recommend a PIP at the very least, if not outright termination.

    2. OP*

      No, I’m in the UK so looping in HR is pretty much the norm I think – most employees have formal contracts (a difference I think to the US?) and there’s usually a clause or other policy on disciplinary

      1. GingerHR*

        It’s also covered by legal frameworks and requirements to act in line with the law (statute and case). Realistically, this wouldn’t usually reach the level of firing in the UK, although I get what people have said below about lying and fraud. However, you should have been given guidance about starting to take her through the disciplinary. You shouldn’t need HR approval for disciplinary, they should have advised / supported. Equally, if you report in to the CEO you should really have the standing to deal with directly.

        Some commenters have mentioned the bad habit of moving people to the dumping department – the protections for employees mean that some managers see it as too hard, and think that it’s easier to do this. It’s easier in the short term, but it’s cowardly and bad management.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          While I get what you’re saying about “dumping ground” departments being used as a sort of last chance thing, I’m curious what type of work product such a department would produce and be responsible for.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            From what I have seen it is a department where there is some wiggle room on quality for whatever reason. Sometimes it’s a department of people who are paid less than the rest of the company for this reason, the work is not demanding/exacting. With people being paid less, the high turn over is expected anyway so the attitude becomes “Why worry about it, they will just leave once they are sick of Bad Department.”

          2. Creag an Tuire*

            I think the point isn’t for it to be a “last chance”, it’s that the upper management doesn’t want to go through the process of a PIP/firing, so problem employees are “Reassigned to Antarctica” instead.

            1. TrainerGirl*

              While this is not a good solution, it’s better than just moving problem employees to a new group/department/team instead of doing the work of documenting/PIP/firing. It sounds like this department is where all the problem children go, because the work is not to their liking and they leave sooner rather than later.

        2. Observer*

          I hear what you are saying about the laws that protect workers, and that there needs to be cause. But, it’s pretty disturbing that this kind of lying would not be considered something to fire someone over, if it continues to happen.

          1. GingerHR*

            If it continues to happen, it would be, but UK employment law has a high bar for going straight to dismissal – that has pros and cons! This would, on the information given, probably be grounds for a warning. If it happens again, a final warning, still happens, dismissal (generally – some companies have more complex processes). There are sufficient incidents in the OP’s detail to have got to dismissal – it’s just unlikely on what’s there that it could be the first option.

            1. Bagpuss*

              To me, it sounds as though the firm doesn’t have an effective disciplinary process. I’m in the UK, and where I work, this might have resulted in immediate dismissal (it would depend very much on exactly what the documents were that were lied about, if any were external that would almost certainly mean dismissal for gross misconduct, but even if they were internal, it is an integrity issue and it’s likely that it would have resulted in a verbal warning on the first occasion, and then a formal written warning the second time,with dismissal definitely on the cards if it then happened again.

              Constructive dismissal is much harder to claim, or prove, than many people think, and normally only an option of the employee has used the internal options such as raising a grievance first, so while it sounds as though the LW’s employers’ management and way of dealing with this is pretty dysfunctional, it’s probably not very likely that it would result in the employee being able to claim constructive dismissal.

              LW – I would see this as a bit of a red flag about your employer having poor processes and management and bear that in mind – do you get the feeling that they are better in other areas of management or dealing with concerns? Do they have any kind of formal grievance / disciplinary process?

        3. NDC*

          I immediately thought of constructive dismissal when I read about the toxic department. CEO and HR need to have a good hard look at themselves over that.

        4. Topcat*

          An employee like Anna, with her self-righteous and self-entitled attitude, is guaranteed to sue for unfair dismissal. She is also going to lie through her teeth throughout all stages of that (lengthy and expensive – for the company) process, and unless there’s a very clear record of exactly what her “wrongs” were, it may come down to her word against her manager’s. Pour on the tears while putting on legal pressure, and she’s likely to be expensive to get rid of. She’s already played the “culture card”.

          She’s toxic and dangerous, and in retrospect should never have been given a permanent position.

          I’m not surprised they’re wary.

      2. HR Expat*

        I’m torn whether I would advise a disciplinary or a PIP, but I’m leaning toward disciplinary. This is a big deal with the employee’s integrity. I get why your HR would say it’s not gross misconduct, but I think it could at least be enough to start the progressive disciplinary process.

        And for what it’s worth I’m also an American living/working in the UK, and I think your employee is full of beans when she talks about cultural/language differences. There’s not THAT big of a difference to misconstrue what you meant, especially if your employee has been in the UK for any decent amount of time.

        1. HR Expat*

          I probably should have started with “if I were your HR person…” But you did the right thing OP in raising this issue. I’m sorry that you didn’t get the support you should have gotten.

        2. JamieS*

          Agreed. The employee basically implied, if not flat out said, that she didn’t know what she was doing is wrong because American culture is to steal our co-workers work and then lie about it. I say she should be deported and be welcomed back to America by a mob of angry American office workers with staplers at the ready. Ok, maybe that’s slightly hyperbolic but her excuse was not only ridiculous but insulting.

        3. The Other Katie*

          As another American in the UK, I concur. There’s no usage of standard American English that would allow “I wrote this for you” to be interpreted as “I found this on my team’s fileserver and have forwarded it”.

        4. Samiratou*

          An American in America and I’m pretty sure the word “plagiarism” means the same in both “languages” and the employee is, as we Yanks would put it “completely full of shit” (that would be “shite” for you UK, folks, right?).

          I jest, but really, cultural differences? Taking credit for other people’s work and then doubling down on it makes you a lying jerk, not misunderstood. Don’t try to tar your fellow Americans with that brush as somehow it’s OK in America to steal people’s work then lie about it. Yes, plenty of people have made fortunes off of it, but that hardly makes it OK, no matter where you live.

          1. HR Expat*

            Yep. I mean, my team laughs at me for some of the phrases I use or how I say things. We have a joking ongoing debate about how to pronounce the word “schedule,” but there’s no way I can see to blame this on a language barrier.

            1. Specialk9*

              But I mean, points to her for the sheer brass vagina for throwing that one out there and seeing if it would stick! She sure has chutzpah.

  4. Myrin*

    Oh my, what an absolutely disappointment all around.
    That being said, OP, I think you handled this bizarre and difficult situation absolutely beautifully – you sound like a kind, compassionate, and competent no-nonsense manager an I’m really admiring your attitude and actions in all of this.

  5. MuseumChick*

    I remember the original letter. Happy for an update, happy she doesn’t have to deal with Anna anymore, perplex by the idea of keeping a toxic team around just to drive people out instead of firing them.

    1. Hildegard Vonbingen*

      Yeah, I thought that one of the advantages of working in private industry is that you can actually get rid of problem employees. My first job – brief – out of college was working for the Social Security Administration as a claims rep. They did this, just moving problem employees to another branch. I don’t like to be heartless, but at some point folks who won’t resolve their work issues need to be let go. I’ve had to do it, and it’s never pleasant, but it’s sometimes necessary. Well, at least the OP no longer has to deal with the problem. Hope the OP finds a job with a better organization. Kicking the can to another dept. seems pretty dysfunctional. What if the problem employee doesn’t leave? What if enough problem employees handled this way don’t leave? Then you accrue a bunch of problem employees. That could be a hit to your bottom line. Why do that? I’ve never understood it.

      1. Wendy Darling*

        I worked for a boss whose best trait was that she was super supportive of her employees and really dedicated to helping them grow and develop in their careers. Her worst trait was that she was so dedicated to this that she was supportive and helpful of everyone, forever, including some people who were not capable of performing their jobs as required without being an asshole and dragged the entire team down, either because they were incompetent and everyone else had to clean up after them or because their toxicity was stanking up the joint.

        We had a particular person on the team who was a bully and, like LW’s report, liked to take credit for other people’s work (as part of a general attempt to climb to the top on a pile of her colleagues’ corpses). When she finally left because her contract couldn’t be extended any longer everyone had a much easier time even though there was one person less on the team and we had to take on all her work. Turned out it didn’t matter because we had a bunch of free time we’d previously spent dealing with this coworker, and also a significant percentage of her output was ripped off from other people ANYWAY.

        I sort of understand why employers can be reluctant to fire people, but I think sometimes they’re ignoring how detrimental a bad employee can be to the people around them.

        1. King T*

          I relate to having a boss like that soooo much. My boss right now is the kind of person who is so extremely supporting of everyone all the time, whether or not they deserve it or if it’s good for team for them to stay around. It makes it hard to keep up morale up with the rest of the team because we see how no matter how bad an employee is or how many issues are caused, nobody is ever fired and the second chances keep on coming.

          LW, you did everything right you could possibly do. You gave her the chance to come clean and then took measures to discipline her for her actions. That makes you a great boss in my book :)

    2. Plague of frogs*

      I remember reading a mystery story that take place in a castle where there is a room with no floor–just a door into a huge drop-off. During medieval times, the lords would use it to dispose of people they didn’t care for. I could never understand why they would keep a whole room for that, rather than just e.g. bat their victim over the head with a shovel.

      This company seems to operate in the same way.

        1. Annie Moose*

          Vetinari from the Discworld novels also had one of those, but it was more about getting a message across (i.e. “you can do it my way or you can do it that way”) than anything else.

          Also, it was implied there was a floor that could be put down when Vetinari wasn’t making a point. (or, more accurately, when he wished to make an entirely different point)

          1. Whitinohio*

            My church has one of these IRL. We didn’t intend to have it, and we don’t push people out of it, of course. Out sanctuary is a 1/2 storey above our fellowship hall, but the roof over the sanctuary collapsed and the whole thing had to be torn down. So the door at the top of the steps that led into the sanctuary is now a door to nowhere.

      1. Brittasaurus Rex*

        That’s similar to an oubliette, into which poor saps were thrown to die slowly and forgotten. Huzzah!

        1. Specialk9*

          Lois McMaster Bujold has an odd fascination with the oubliette. Virtually every character longs for an oubliette. Whereas I’ve never heard or seen the word anywhere else. But I adore her writing, so now kinda love the word too.

      2. Tiny Soprano*

        Like the Oubliette in Labyrinth! Hoggle calls it ‘somewhere you put people when you wanna forget about em.’

      3. Candi*

        I think that was one of Donald J. Sobol’s Two-Minute Mysteries. (Half of which read as grown-up versions of the Encyclopedia Brown stories.)

        The room has a straight drop inside; no sill or step to stand on to access the door from the inside. When the butler and Dr. Haledijan hear a weird “thump” from the room, they find the door closed. Opening it, they find a dead body.

        The butler makes a comment that “oh no, Mr. Fancypants commited suicide!” Dr. Haledijan informs him Mr. Fancypants was murdered. Cause the door. Was found closed.

        My thought was that it was for finishing off higher-ranking people, when a more straight-forward method of execution might be problematic. Kill them, leave the body to rot a bit while worrying about their “disappearance”, leave the remains to be found once there was no longer any evidence how the person had died. (Since forensic science was mostly not a thing in the medieval and Renaissance eras.)

    3. Antilles*

      Yeah, I don’t really get it either. Either the department is useful or it isn’t.
      If the department could (theoretically) be useful to the company if it was well-run, then you should be trying to fix it up. If the department is so useless that it might as well not exist…then why *does* it exist?

      1. Tex*

        Cheaper than outsourcing? I’m imagining a department where the work is non-essential and would probably be given to a vendor if not for legacy systems and/or an established workflow.

        Or maybe it’s a corporate blackhole where problem clients they wish would go away are sent to be dealt with problem employees they don’t want. And, voila! The rest of the company is free to function efficiently.

    4. Been There*

      I completely feel for the manager of the “bad” department. And I do see why the department exists, at least here in America. Those employees are more often than not poor but not so poor that you can fire with cause so that you do not have to pay unemployment. So they are sent to this department where they report to a supervisor who makes jerk look like a complement. And they either improve, in which case they eventually transfer out, or they don’t and that manager knows how to push them to get them to quit. Unfortunately, I know this because 2 times in my career, I was the “make him quit” supervisor. Frankly a sucky job where you are paid to be mean all day.

  6. Mike C.*

    Your HR is simply terrible. Blatantly claiming credit like that is a serious ethical issue and should concern your HR department.

    1. Observer*

      I agree. What ELSE is she going to lie about?

      I’m assuming that the OP is not in a highly regulated industry, but even so. Especially since she apparently deals with people outside the organization. Who knows what she’ll tell them? And how that will differ from what she tells insiders? The possibilities for disaster are immense.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        “I agree. What ELSE is she going to lie about?”

        I don’t think she’s lying. I know way too many people (around my age and younger (I’m 35)) who legitimately don’t seem to understand the difference between copy+pasting a document and writing it themselves—and as long as they change enough words to get it a clean pass through CopyScape, that makes it an original document (“adapted from” if they’re feeling generous about it).

        The thought process goes something like I changed something in this document —> The computer saves it under my name —> I’m the author of the document. (Full disclosure: This may be less common than I think and I’m just overly aware of it since I worked somewhere where we were not to list our names in the body of documents we wrote, so it was BIG DRAMA every damn time someone made an edit (even edits that were dictated/assigned by managers).)

        Imo, this is a much bigger problem than if they were lying. People usually know—at least objectively—that lying is wrong. Learning that they’ve actually been doing something unethical because their ethics got skewed is a much harder lesson to make stick.

        1. Blue Anne*

          I’m 28 and have never knowingly met anyone who shared that thought process, either at school or in the working world, where i work on a lot of shared documents.

          1. That Lady*

            I’m a teacher. I see this attitude and practice quite frequently. Combating the behavior and changing it is difficult and takes conscious effort from the student.

            1. teclatrans*

              Yup, I have taught a few courses and this is the conclusion I came to re: plagiarism, that there is a *serious* misunderstanding of what constitutes original work. It’s such a different paradigm that we might as well be adults in a Peanuts cartoon (saying wah, wah, wah). We say words that they hear, but they don’t have the same meaning.

              The struggle is real…

            2. Parenthetically*

              Yep. I inevitably spend a LOT of time teaching my junior high and high school students what plagiarism is and how to avoid it, but I never really learned that in school myself beyond the most cursory lesson. I also used to tutor non-traditional university students (folks in their 40s and 50s, mostly) and was constantly amazed by the papers they’d bring me to look over, with swaths of obviously-copy-pasted text on every page.

              1. Jules the 3rd*

                If it helps any, my kid’s 4th grade teacher is starting them on ‘don’t just copy, resay it in your own words.’ It’s very interesting to hear my kid’s ‘own words’ – did you know hyenas live in an ‘inverted sexist society’ (ie matriarchal).

            3. Clorinda*

              Absolutely. And they are shocked when you name it by its name.
              “You stole this paper.”
              “Are you calling me a thief?”
              “Yes. You took something that wasn’t yours. What would you call it?”
              A couple of moral shocks like that and most of them straighten themselves out.

        2. Observer*

          I don’t buy it. I have kids AND colleagues in this age range and NONE of them are that clueless.

          Besides Anna doubled down on this stuff – when the OP confronted her and explicitly pointed out, for instance, that all she had done on the guideline was to add a cover page and change the order, she claimed it wasn’t true.

          1. SusanIvanova*

            Given a large enough sample size there are bound to be a few. They pop up in fanfiction every so often, and almost invariably either are completely clueless that it’s even a problem (“But that was a GoT fic! This is Walking Dead!” Yes, and all you did was global-replace “white walker” to just “walker”) or blame someone else (“My roommate was using the computer!”)

            1. Susan Calvin*

              And its close cousins from the art department, ‘tracing is the same as using a reference’ or ‘cropping out the watermark and slapping a filter on makes it an edit instead of a stolen re-post’

              1. Oranges*

                This! Or using illustrator’s trace outlines on a “try before you buy” artwork and using it. Blagh. If you like their stuff enough to use it then pay them. I will foam at the mouth about this (and I don’t even have anything on those sites).

        3. Engineer Girl*

          I have seen this in the blogging world. Many times the results are awful. I have a blog that’s fairly specialized. I have a lot of experience so I can write specifically and with details on my topic. I can go fairly deep on my topics.
          The copiers will try to make like it is their work. Unfortunately, they don’t have the knowledge needed for the article. Many times the article is a bunch of hand waving and full of technical mistakes. The copiers are too clueless to know how bad their article is. Worse, since most people don’t have this specialized knowledge they take the copiers word as truth.
          In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king.

        4. neverjaunty*

          If she thought this way, then she wouldn’t have changed her story when the OP inquired about it. That she gave one story and then did a U-turn when she got caught? That’s not how people who fail to understand how cheating works behave.

          1. fposte*

            Yes, that’s the key thing to me. If you think what you’re doing is fine, you tell people that’s what you’ve done.

            1. Gingerblue*

              It’s the fact that she’s now lying about why she was moved from one department to another that really clinches the pattern of behavior for me.

        5. Max from St. Mary's*

          This is just about as common as you think. Plagiarism is really common in college students for a lot of reasons, and the thought process you describe is one of them. I’ve had student argue cultural differences, running out of time, that they thought finding the information was the point of the assignment (so it didn’t matter if they copied and pasted it), and more that I can’t think of at the moment.

          1. Candi*

            “If it’s on the net, it’s free to use!” (Wrong)

            “The author lives in another country. Copyright doesn’t apply!” (Wrong. See Berne Convention.)

            “It’s just a blog! It’s not ACTUALLY published.” (Dr. Grumpy, Alison, and others would like to have a word with you.)

            “But it was from so long ago!” (You still need to give credit even if copyright has expired.)

            1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

              “But I searched on google and they ticked free to use! Do we really need to cite them?” (SOME OF THEM ARE STILL WATERMARKED. AND YES.)

          2. Rainy*

            My favourite instance of this is the kid who was supposed to write a summary of a journal article on a text and then apply the ideas in the article to the text and tell me his thoughts. (This was, I should point out, my first term and so I was TAing rather than instructor of record–I have and would never assign an essay structured in this way.) He stopped reading the article at the bottom of the second page of the PDF. You could tell because had he even finished the sentence that ended at the top of the next page, the rest of his essay wouldn’t have gone so badly off the rails.

            It was about 1/3 plagiarized content ripped word for word from the article, and then 2/3rds weird ungrammatical rambling, and he challenged his (very bad) grade with “But my friend turned in the same paper to HIS TA and HE got a B!”

            …so in addition to just writing a shit essay, you and your friend wrote and turned in the SAME shit essay? This is not a defense!

            1. Specialk9*

              Oh my gosh, his argument was that someone else had the exact same ‘original’ essay?! I wish I had a jaw-drop emoji.

        6. Rainy*

          I taught university for 9 years. For about half of that I was teaching first-year level courses, and I don’t think I ever had a single class where someone didn’t “write” their first essay by copying and pasting paragraphs from journal articles or monographs with a few mayonnaisey sentences meant to stick it all together.

          This despite the fact that after the first class I TAed in grad school, in which 3 students did this and one went whinging to my faculty supervisor about how mean I was to give her an F for plagiarism, I always included a full day of class time prior to the due date for the first essay about How To Write An Essay and How To Cite Your Sources and also Plagiarism Is Bad Mmkay?

      1. LSP*

        The company probably sees it as “all of these products belong to the company” so they don’t care who does the actual work. Of course they are missing a big issue here, which is if you don’t know who is doing the actual work, then they have no way to know which employees they should be rewarding and promoting over others. They also clearly don’t care about demoralizing good employees, which may cause them to leave for competitors. Just looking simply at the business case, this company seems really poorly managed.

      2. Tuxedo Cat*

        I worked in higher ed in a research group, and the managers didn’t seem to understand that. I often thought they believed my colleague and I were being petty about plagiarism.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Seriously. HR really fell down on the job here. As did the CEO. What a cluster.

      OP, I would honestly suggest you start looking elsewhere. This company sounds like it has a lot of issues.

      1. eplawyer*

        HR is clearly taking the lead from CEO. Why should HR put in effort to document problems or act if you know the CEO is simply going to shuffle them off to a toxic department until they quit? It starts at the top.

        LW I am sure there are aspects of your job you love. But given how they handle this serious situation I would not trust this company any further. Paychecks are good. Continue to collect one while you look for another job if possible.

    3. Antilles*

      Personally, I’m wondering why exactly OP has to check with HR first anyways. OP is the manager and running the team – part of that role is the discretionary power to discipline her employees for performance related issues. If she doesn’t have that power and needs to go to HR (or the CEO???) to handle a minor disciplinary performance issue, there’s some seriously messed-up chain of command going on here.

      1. Observer*

        Well, the problem is that this really is not a “minor disciplinary issue.” In fact, it’s big enough that firing was what the OP had in mind. It’s totally not uncommon to have to loop HR and / or the CEO for that kind of thing.

        1. SarahKay*

          And if OP is in the UK the need to loop in HR would be even higher, because firing someone here is a much bigger deal. For something this egregious you could *probably* just fire Anna with no further disciplinary steps / requirement for written warnings etc, but I would want to be very sure of that before I did it.

        2. Emac*

          And also the OP says that she reports directly to the CEO. So it wasn’t a matter of specifically wanting to loop in the CEO, but of wanting to loop in her own manager, which I think is reasonable and common when firing someone.

        3. Bagpuss*

          It’s common in the UK to have a form process for disciplinary action, not least because most of the relevant laws means that if an employee goes to n Industrial Tribunal to try to sue the employer, the employer mostly needs to be able to show that they followed a fair and open process and that the outcome was one which was reasonable – which often comes down to being able to show that you have a clear procedure and that it was followed.

          For instance, our procedure means that although I am one of the partners in the business, if I wanted to formally discipline one of my reports, (i.e. give them a formal warning which went onto their file,, dismiss them or put them onto a PIP) that would involve the employee being told in advance (and told that they have the right to have a colleague or union rep with them), then a meeting which would typically involve me plus our HR person followed by a written notification to the employee of the outcome including telling them how to appeal if they disagree.
          But any manager would loop HR in because getting the process correct is important.

          Obviously for more minor things I would just speak informally with the person concerned, but that then would not be recorded on their personnel file.

      2. Candi*

        Even in a functional company, aside from crosschecking documentation and doublechecking exactly what policy/law is involved, you want HR to know they might want to begin polishing up a job posting to put up when the time comes.

    4. Jesca*

      Especially in a role like research and analytics. I mean you want very unbiased, objective, AND ethical people in those roles. And I know it is important in all roles, but the fact that this person was in a department dedicated to these two fields means her lack of integrity can create huge issues down the line aside from the low morale!

  7. MassMatt*

    Your original letter really had me hoping for an update so thanks for following up.

    I suppose this counts as at least a partial win—the problem employee is out of your department, and you improved some processes.

    Your boss’s method of dealing with problems by transferring them to a punishment department is dysfunctional but out of your hands. It made me think of Hogan’s Heroes, with Colonel Klink always being afraid of getting sent to the Russian Front.

    HR’s do-nothing response to the problem is all too familiar (I know there are many HR people here, but that’s my experience) but this combined with the CEO’s response would make me re-examine if this was where I wanted to work.

    1. Marthooh*

      It does seem like the toxicity is starting to leak out of that other department and into HR, at least. But what do I know about it? I know nothing!

    2. Artemesia*

      And FWIW, this was not a cultural difference. American managers would have exactly the same reaction as the OP here and co-workers would be just as annoyed at this blatant theft of other people’s work.

    3. Candi*

      There was an episode where Colonel Klink was in danger of being replaced.

      The prisoners conspired to make it look like he was the best camp commander ever. They didn’t want him being replaced by someone ACTUALLY competent.

      Which is interesting from a manager/direct reports perspective…

      1. Specialk9*

        I had a friend who grew up not realizing Nazis were bad because of Hogan’s Heroes. I… didn’t even know how to process that when she told me.

  8. Cassandra*

    Well, I got lambasted for saying this in the original thread, but — I still hope Anna can learn to rely on herself rather than protecting her self-concept by cheating.

    That said, if she’s learned anything she’s sure not showing it. It’s for the best that your unit is rid of her, OP, and I hope all is well for you now. You did everything you could reasonably do.

    1. Coffeelover*

      Part of me wonders if Anna did this at a pervious employer and got away with it. She’s now learned (from hypothetical previous employer) that she can get rewarded for someone else work. It’s harder to unlearn a lesson like that than it is to never go there in the first place… You know, for obvious ethical reasons.

      1. SystemsLady*

        Worse, she didn’t realize that being good at finding existing material and reusing it is an asset in and of itself, even when crediting the person who originally made it. Many are eager to reinvent the wheel in a way that Anna (I’ll say smartly hearing the OP on her original work) is not.

        What a shame.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Exactly! “Hey, I found this presentation Wakeen did. It’s really good and just needed some updates and a little work on the graphics” makes her look good.

          But lazy little gits with sharp elbows don’t think this way.

        2. periwinkle*

          This to a maximum this-ness! I’m in corporate learning, home of masses of redundant, outdated, and abandoned learning materials. One of the keystones of our new strategy is to re-use existing material by incorporating it into new materials (as-is or revised) and to generate new content with an eye toward later re-use. We are going to have a whole team of people responsible for searching/cataloguing what’s lurking in the archives.

          FYI for our MLIS friends… content curation and the cataloging of reusable learning objects are the emerging trend in corporate learning. Two of my colleagues have just enrolled in MLIS programs to get skilled up. Could be a career option for those interested in records management and knowledge management…

        3. StellaM*

          Right? Why not say “We have X document/presentation that was created by Sansa and Arya for last year’s Teapot Conference — take a look and see if it will meet your needs, if not let me know what you need and I can make some edits for you!”

      2. Spider*

        …Or she did it in college and never got appropriately punished for it, and now believes there’s nothing wrong with doing it in the workplace.

    2. Frankie Bergstein*

      Someone I know is teaching a course for undergraduates and finds a *lot* of plagiarism (please note, this is a name-brand U.S. undergraduate institution!) and has tried to go through the procedures to handle it. Sometimes this means adjudicating it and the student ending up with a much lower grade. Interestingly, the university hasn’t backed her up… there are students – often those heading into very high-powered professions – who routinely plagiarize!

      Furthermore, faculty don’t always do something about it, because they’re not paid to teach (only paid to do research) and it causes them to have to put more time into the issue without getting something out of it that will get them promoted. I shouldn’t be, but I was stunned.

      With this experience with “Anna”, I wonder if this is a behavior that’s served her well in previous environments (so to speak)?

  9. BadPlanning*

    It’s one thing if she had been passing stuff along and saying “I” when at least “we” would have been appropriate (versus, here’s Fergus’ presentation, hope it covers things).

    But to take it, tweak it and then send it out as your own? And not because you were fixing the grammar or updating dates/versions or something?

    I wonder what kind of papers she submitted in college/high school…

      1. Antilles*

        Right. Even if her changes were fairly substantial edits to the work itself, it still wouldn’t justify not even *mentioning* the original author.
        Doesn’t need to be some lengthy description of the history, even just a simple “hey, this presentation was originally from Sarah but I added the new 2017 data and changed the formatting” would be sufficient to acknowledge Sarah’s contributions.

        1. Karo*

          Personal question here – I originally wrote a piece, then years later Susan updated it to add in at-the-time current content (e.g. added an article that was relevant to the piece). When I updated the document late last year, I essentially obliterated Susan’s updates by overwriting them with current-to-now content. Would you consider this wholly my work, or is it mine and Susan’s?

          1. Coffeelover*

            It would be your work… But in the context of employement work (and not ie academic papers) I don’t see a situation where it would really matter. I think it’s important to keep people in the loop about your contributions, but you don’t want to claim ownership over stuff too strongly. I think that has a way of turning people off because it’s not a very “team player” move.

            1. Karo*

              Good point – I was thinking more in terms of “when I interview, can I claim it as mine or do I need caveats,” but I didn’t make that clear :)

              1. TheCupcakeCounter*

                You could say “This is something I created but it this section has been updated by myself and others in order to keep it current, the latest version was completed wholly by me though”.

              2. Coffeelover*

                Ah okay! Of course you can claim it! Even if something is totally remade/changed by someone later on, you can still say you made it because it’s true. Unless it’s something visible to the public (like a website or annual report) I don’t think you need caveats…. Although I think it can also look good to say you made something that the company/department continued to use.

          2. Tex*

            I work in engineering. We have a records page to document revisions right after the title page so you can see at a glance which paragraphs and sections were changed and who did it. But unless the document was given a new number, the original authors name was left on it.

    1. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

      “I wonder what kind of papers she submitted in college/high school…”
      I have some idea. When I was teaching in a program for gifted high schoolers, I had one of these every year. It’s not an issue of competancy, but of…fear? arrogance? laziness? You could always tell which kids were gonna be all right and which were not, based on their response to getting caught.

      1. I Didn’t Kill Kenny*

        My high school valedictorian was a cheater.

        She was a smart girl. I lost al respect for her.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Ditto. One of ours (we had about 13) was a serial cheater and is now a doctor. The school wouldn’t take action, even when she was caught cheating by other students (she had taken scantrons out of a teacher’s desk at lunch and had his test copy and was erasing and changing her answers). I fear for her patients.

          1. neverjaunty*

            Yes. This is malpractice suit where the injured patient’s lawyer shows that the medical staff faked records after the fact.

        2. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

          Just looked up the guy I knew who blatantly cheated in high school. He appears to be working at Goldman Sachs. Hahahahahhaha [sob].

            1. Squidcrusher*

              I dunno. How does a cheating Goldman Sachs employee harm the commonwealth more than a diligent one?

      2. SS Express*

        I went to a really competitive, academically selective high school and there was lots of cheating. There was so much pressure on the students (both from their families and from the school), and they weren’t taught to value learning for its own sake, to appreciate knowledge and respect intelligence. They were taught to give all the right answers, phrased in the right way, so they’d get 100%. (To be fair, the way the school system and especially university entrance exams work here is also a factor.)

        Like, once we did a science experiment that involved filtering water – the goal wasn’t to make clean drinking water, it was just an exercise in designing the process ourselves and writing it up correctly – and one girl panicked that her water wasn’t completely filtered, tipped it out and filled it up with fresh water from the tap.

        Unfortunately, some people are taught that failing is a far worse thing than cheating or lying.

        1. Oranges*

          This is so true. And makes me sad inside since failure is gonna happen if you try new things and we need to learn how to deal with it.

        2. Specialk9*

          My kid’s school has a sign on the door wishing failure on the kids, because if they are failing they are trying new things and learning. It’s a bit of a shocking thing at first, but every day I like that message more.

    2. AccountingIsFun*

      I wonder about her college work too. I work in education and one of the things I really work on is the claiming of others work as your own. I have the process of a warning, then I report it into their permanent files. What often happens is that a student will say something like “I didn’t know” or “It was an honest mistake” or “I did it because of (insert personal crisis here)”. I find that if the student isn’t being held accountable by having that information put into their advising record, they will do it again and again and again. Therefore, it is very important that the instructors report it so that if there is a pattern of cheating in different classes with different instructors, the university is made aware of it and can give the student consequences like being kicked out of the school or being denied a degree. It is so important that we have real consequences for this behavior in school to hopefully stop it from being an issue in the workplace.

      1. PB*

        When I was a TA, I had one student whose paper was just the Wikipedia article copied and pasted. I reported it to the instructor. He spoke to her, but elected not to report it to the university. She sent me an explanation that she “didn’t do a very good job of citing her sources.” Yes? As the TA, I had no real standing to do anything other than what I did, but that’s never left a good taste in my mouth.

        1. Anon today*

          My favorite from my TA days was a student whose paper was copied and pasted from three online encyclopedia entries. I turned the paper and entries over the the professor and he met with the student. Later he told me the student denied plagiarizing, saying that she didn’t have time to write the paper so her grandmother did it for her; prof said OK, then your grandmother plagiarized. The student didn’t understand why she was being accused of cheating when it was her grandmother’s fault.

          This was good training for my own teaching career.

        2. Specialk9*

          My school required all submissions to be run through an automatic plagiarism check, and get a certain score before the teachers could even see the papers.

  10. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

    Anna is going to go down in flames. Claiming others’ work as your own when tangible proof exits that it isn’t is not a sustainable way to work. It sounds like she is going to continue this in her new job and after a few months people will realize that her transfer was not a personality conflict. I hope there will be another update.

    1. BadPlanning*

      It makes me wonder if she doesn’t see what she’s doing is bad? Like, she put work in “improving it” so now it is legitimately hers? Like a messed up Finders Keepers?

      Or she’s just bad at cheating and leaves a trail?

      1. AnotherAlison*

        What Anna is doing actually makes the most sense from a business perspective. Why create new presentations or guidelines from scratch when we have something that is 80% what we need? The problem is denying that she is using other people’s work at all, and the bigger problem is that she keeps doubling down on this and not recognizing the problem. If she had just said that she found some previous work and modified it, that would have been completely fine in my department. [Caveat – you need to know where the other work came from and know that it was original to the company.]

        I think this is a good outcome for the OP, or at least the best possible without support from HR or management.

        1. MsMaryMary*

          At OldJob, they told us we were allowed to “cheat” at work. We had hundreds of different client teams all running on the same software, so while each client was unique there was a decent chance someone had already created the code/form letter/spreadsheet you needed. Instead of creating something from scratch, we were encouraged to borrow from other teams. The environment was crazy fast paced, so it wasn’t unusual to find what you needed, use it, and move on without necessarily giving credit to the creator. But these were generally small things, not entire presentations. It would have been very poor form (and immediately obvious as BS) to claim sole credit for a team project.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            I don’t think that’s cheating. I think that’s working smart. Why recreate the same things over and over?

            The key is that you’re not claiming credit for what someone else created.

          2. JanetM*

            According to what I’m learning about project management, those sorts of things are Organizational Process Assets and are meant to be shared from a common repository :-).

          3. Tiger Snake*

            While I don’t disagree with the way the letter writer went about trying to resolve the issue, I wonder whether we’d have a ‘happier’ update if trying tot each Anna this was the direction it had gone.

            If Anna had heard “Being able to find and adapt existing material in a meaningful way is a way more important and useful business skill than making documents from scratch, and you’ll be thought more highly if you acknowledge the original author and explain you made alterations because X changed in the project”, would she have changed how she presented all this?

            Again, I don’t think the letter writer went the wrong way about this; I’m just wondering whether there’s additional steps to this issue that could be added if it occurs again in future.

            1. Guest*

              I don’t see how that would be a happier update, tbh. Anna’s got serious integrity issues, and if I were the LW, I wouldn’t want her on my team even if she’d learnt to curb that particular bit of dishonesty.

          4. Bagpuss*

            I think that that is different – it’s very common (and sensible) to have a ‘precedents bank’ – the skill is then in knowing which precedent to use, and in being able to then tailor it to the specific requirements of your project / client.
            I think it would only be problematic if you were then billing a client based on the time needed to do it from scratch the first time, or if you were sloppy and left specific or confidential details in one version from a previous client. (which is one of the reasons why our precedent bank is set up so that you have to download a copy to amend, rather than being able to change the master copy)

        2. Observer*

          Well, the key is that she is NOT giving credit – even when she is being explicitly asked about it.

          The OP wasn’t concerned that Anna is using other people’s work, but that she was denying credit to others about it.

          Reuse of materials is generally a good idea, and I can’t imagine a good boss being bothered by it. Which makes the whole thing so much more stupid. Had Anna just been honest about it, she would have looked like a star.

      2. Irene Adler*

        When I took paralegal classes, in contract law we were allowed to plagiarize clauses from other contracts. We didn’t need to indicate the source either. The instructor explained that in contract law, a well-written contract is going to be copied endlessly. There’s only so many clauses written into most contracts and there’s no advantage to creating original verbiage each time. Just take what you like and make it yours.

        I had a hard time getting used to this concept. Felt like a little thief.

        Granted, Anna isn’t doing this. And she should have asked what the procedure was for using already created materials. But if she had been in my paralegal contract law class, well, that might explain her absence of remorse.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Law is VERY different about this, though. It’s routine to copy certain clauses/phrases, but this is part of our standard practice. It’s not common to copy/paste analysis or to claim that you drafted something “from scratch” if you relied on prior resources.

          OP clarified last time that this is a research group. In that context, I think the plagiarism is a big and knowable deal—even in law. I suspect Anna knows what she’s doing is wrong. The fact that she blamed it on American v. British phrasing is so absurd it’s laughable.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            From what I have seen that precise wording is for a reason. If the statement or document is worded differently there are too many loop holes that everyone is well aware of, so some things must be stated in an exact way to avoid ambiguity or avoid spending time on a long drawn out discussion that is basically preventable.

            1. Candi*

              And a contract is a whole document, not a bunch of individiual sections. The parts interact and inform each other. Messing with the phrasing in one part can cause who-knows-what havoc with other clauses and sections. Better safe than creative.

        2. SignalLost*

          Yeah, as I kept telling my students, the reason most drop-down lists are terrible is because there’s only one and we just keep reusing it. (Not literally, but still.) but if you’ve ever wondered why a store with two locations has a drop down that includes Left Podunk as an option, that’s why. And then there’s the issue that there’s a limited number of ways to create anything on a website so “original code” is hilarious. That is not what Anna did.

        3. Observer*

          I doubt it.

          I’m in IT and code reuse is a really big deal. And most of the time no one is expecting you to give credit for every piece of company code you reused; no one has time for that. But if you say “Hey, I wrote this cool new routine to calculate the temperature needed to melt different kinds of chocolate” when it was really part of a library that had been written by someone else, you’re asking for trouble.

          I’d be willing to bet that the same thing is true in contact law – you get to use the same clause that’s been used by others, but you don’t get to claim it as your work. In this kind of environment, reusing these clauses is working smarter, not harder. But everyone understands that, so even when you don’t give credit, everyone understands that you’re not the actual author of each clause and no one is being mislead. If you then put your name on the clause and claim that you wrote it, it’s a big deal.

          Also, what Anna did goes much further than just picking up some pieces and incorporating it into her work. What she did was the equivalent of taking a contract and copying it, lock, stock and barrel and then telling her boss that she did it. THAT would be a REALLY big issue – especially in a law firm, where this would probably equal to a bunch of billable hours that she didn’t work.

        4. neverjaunty*

          No, this wouldn’t explain it, because nobody takes credit for writing boilerplate language. Nobody drafts a contract and claims they developed it from scratch, and then suddenly revises their story when asked where such and such a provision came from.

          (Also, while it’s common to reuse standard language in law, copying and pasting is a big way to get in trouble, because nobody’s proofreading is perfect.)

    2. Missing Satchmo*

      I’ve several times had to fire people for falsifying documents, and they always told everyone else some “personality conflict” narrative. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that people who falsify documents would cover their behinds by lying. It’s what got them there in the first place.

      1. Circus peanuts*

        When she eventually leaves, she can also say she wants to spend more time with her family as politicians are wont to do.

  11. Namast'ay in Bed*

    Yikes, what an update. OP you handled this awful situation beautifully, so my congrats and condolences to you.

    My only thought is that if you’re hearing Anna spread it around that you have a personal issue with her, and that’s the sole reason she’s been banished to the proverbial elephant graveyard, I’d be tempted to pull Anna aside and put the squash on that, as a way of protecting yourself.

    At the very least I wouldn’t hesitate to correct the people who you hear this from, that she’d been stealing credit for work and personal issues had nothing to do with it.

    1. Observer*

      I agree that the OP could correct the record when she hears about it from people. But I see no point in pulling Anna aside. It’s not like the OP has any authority over her and Anna couldn’t / wouldn’t stop lying even when the OP actually DID have authority.

      1. k.k*

        Pulling her aside could cause even more issues. It’s already clear she has no problem lying, so I could easily see her saying, “OP already had me banished to this department, now they keep coming here to gloat/bully me/other wacky things she’ll come up with.” If I was OP, I’d avoid Anna all together, and when they hear this from other people just say, “That’s odd. Her transfer was for business reasons, I don’t know why she said that.”

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          All of this. Anna is a liar – you don’t engage those types. Let her own BS be exposed on its own (because it will).

      2. Circus peanuts*

        The fact that she has been transferred to that other department after the OP had spoken to others in her department about how much of her work was original should be clues enough to the people who would want to know. As a manager, you don’t need to get into a gossip war with a disgruntled employee. However, I suppose the letter writer could have a refresher talk in a meeting in her department about ethics and plagiarism and that the letter writer takes those topics seriously and let people draw conclusions without naming names or circumstances.

  12. Observer*

    You know I was thinking about this and I had another thought. Does your HR care whether people lie on their resumes? Because, to be honest, given the nature of her lies I have no doubt that she would “pad” her resume with no thought. And not just “fluffing around the edges” as Alison put it, but full scale lies.

  13. Trout 'Waver*

    Ugh, I hate it when terrible people blame a cultural misunderstanding for their own terrible behavior.

    1. BadPlanning*

      Yeah, it’s not like they’re arguing over color and colour. Or why someone thought a person was rude because they only used one hand to give a business card.

      1. SarahKay*

        Wait, what? Only one hand to give a business card? Is there etiquette on this? *Is fascinated*.

          1. SarahKay*

            That is a fascinating article, in a slightly scary sense of the word.
            Since I’m not customer facing I have no business cards of my own, and reading this, clearly I fail entirely at business card etiquette *looks at the four or five cards I have lurking in my desk drawer from various reps*.
            Thank you

          2. Candi*

            This goes way back, too. There’s a (really funny) book published in the 1990s called “Do’s and Taboos Around the World”. (Dos and Taboos rhyme.) It devoted a big chunk of one chapter on international business card and card exchanging etiquette.

            One page endeavored to illustrate the difference between about 15 different countries’ cultures (give or take) by explaining what happens if a man walks in on a naked woman in the bath. It was interesting. (Didn’t mention the likelihood of things thrown, though.)

              1. Bagpuss*

                I once read that (anecdotally) formal etiquette requires that the man walking in should say “I’m so sorry, Sir” and immediately retreat, as walking in on another man is much less of a problem so pretending you think the person in the bath saves everyone embarrassment (and presumably also implies that you didn’t see anything at all, including the face of the person you walked in on, which would identify them!)

                1. Mary*

                  That makes a weird sort of sense. I actually WOULD feel less embarrassed to hear “sir” in that context!

        1. Emac*

          It’s also not polite in Korean culture (and possibly some other Asian cultures) to hand something to another person, especially someone older/more senior, with only one hand. You either use two hands or hand it with your right hand with your left hand under your wrist.

        2. SarahKay*

          Thank you all – I had no idea about using two hands. I do love how much AAM teaches me about other countries and cultures, as well as about workplaces.

        3. Julia*

          In Japan, you have to use both hands to give and receive business cards, unless you have the other hand full with, say, an umbrella because you’re outside for some reason, and then you’d usually apologize for that.

        4. Miss Herring*

          I can confirm that my Chinese colleague very deliberately uses two hands to give people important things, such as business cards and paychecks.

      2. MassMatt*

        Things are changing among younger people but the exchange of business cards can be a big thing in Japan and etiquette is important. When a card is presented with both hands, it should be accepted the same way. It’s considered disrespectful to stuff the card in a pocket with barely a glance. Look at the card, maybe ask a question or make a respectful comment on his or her responsibilities or tenure. In a meeting (especially a large one) people will often leave cards out on the table to help put names/titles to faces. Cards represent you and your company and reputation, treat them carefully. It’s best to take your card out of a case vs: having it loose in a pocket, and put cards collected into a case. Sorry to derail but it’s an interesting cultural difference.

        1. Candi*

          I understand part of that involves Japanese business cards conveying not only the specific business and company position of the person, but a lot of other information about themselves as well, related to their status.

          A friend of mine spent several years in Japan some time ago (she was there at 9/11) and for her second job at the time worked at a daycare. The older man who owned it wasn’t just a small business owner; he was very, very, very important in his community both professionally and socially.

          She described the impact of his business card: The information on the front had people bowing deeply; the information on the back nearly gave people concussions for how fast their heads hit their knees while bowing. (She was joking. Kinda.) He had the influence that, if he took a dislike to someone’s actions, could pull strings that could make it so someone would have to leave the country to find another job. Luckily, he was a very nice guy who only used his powers for good.

    2. NW Mossy*

      Particularly when American bosses often frown on this kind of thing too. It’s not like American bosses are notoriously lackadaisical about attribution as some kind of well-known cultural meme.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Agreed. It’s also just absurd in this context. I get that Americans and Brits are a people divided by a common language, but plagiarism and authorship have more standards in common than they do differences for both countries. I have never once heard an American blame their plagiarism on a lack of understanding about what English words mean. We’re not talking about pants v. trousers or lifts v. elevators or fannies or boots, etc., etc.

      1. Grandma Mazur*

        A Canadian friend who’s recently moved to the UK asked one of his new colleagues (that he thinks dresses quite smartly) whether he ever wears pants with suspenders… Didn’t go down well. Canadian friend worked it out in the end and was mortified.

        1. Helena*

          I read cloth diaper blogs, and read an American one who made some passing comment about her baby daughter’s “cute little fanny”. I was until I realised what she actually meant.

          I understand Americans find the phrase “fag break” (smoking break, widely used in the workplace over here particularly in blue collar jobs) jarring on the ear too.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Mostly because the f-word is a slur, here :)

            I feel like Spanish is this way, too. Half a dozen words that are not vulgar/slang in one dialect are really vulgar in another.

      2. Candi*

        There’s a loooooooong running joke between me and an Aussie friend about crisps/chips/fries and cookies/biscuits. :)

        We also had an interesting discussion one time. She was describing an original character as a sociopath. I told her that the character did NOT read as a sociopath. Very tribal, yes, very “Us and Them””, but not sociopathic.

        Turns out the definition of sociopath she was raised with differs quite a bit from the definition I was raised with. Hers was more cold and hard boundaries, less nasty and vicious, then the US version I know. Food for thought, that.

    4. LurkingAlong*

      My work used to involve dealing with people from over dozens of countries from all over the world. I recognize there can be cultural differences when communicating but most of the time when people used that as a reason it was to excuse unethical behavior or mistakes – I’m not talking about being tardy or handling business cards incorrectly. Decency and morality is actually very similar in most cultures even if they’re named differently.

  14. Triumphant Fox*

    I feel like Anna combined a series of well-meaning pieces of advice on how to succeed into a surefire way to get hated.
    1. Fake it until you make it.
    2. Everyone always exaggerates their roles/responsibilities – put your contribution in the best light.
    2a. Women especially don’t take ownership for the work they do – make sure you get credit for everything.
    3. If you project confidence, people tend to believe you.

    Each of these ideas advises people to succeed by projecting confidence, pretending competence and aggressively promoting themselves. In this way, it might be the case that Anna thinks this is an “American” way of doing things – and has decided that faking it until she makes it means taking others’ work as her own.

    It also sounds like she genuinely doesn’t understand why she was caught or what the actual problem is here. It’s like a compulsive liar being confronted with his or her lies – the liar doesn’t admit them, or acknowledge them or really understand why you’re mentioning them at all. Instead the liar just looks confused and dig in deeper.

    1. Marthooh*

      Hey, it worked for that guy in “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”, didn’t it? Maybe the cultural difference she’s talking about is Brahms versus Broadway.

      But seriously, folks… I think Anna knows very well that she cheated; she’s just used to getting away with it. And she kind of got away with it this time, too.

    2. Jubilance*

      That was my immediate thought as well – somewhere Anna got the advice to take credit for everything, and she misconstrued it into the behavior the OP wrote about. At the point where her boss laid out that he knew she was misrepresenting other people’s work as her own, that’s when she should have abandoned that strategy.

  15. CBH*

    OP I respect how you handled everything.

    During your own review/ private discussion with management, I would seriously bring up their response to the situation. While it sounds like you have a solid reputation, I would also keep my guard up, not hesitate if another opportunity came up. I’m not saying you have a “bad” company to work for, but I can’t believe that even with solid proof that an employee is stealing someone else’s work this is being brushed under the rug.

  16. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

    Thank you for the update, OP. Was really hoping for one.

    I would take the “reverting to previous habits as soon as you disappeared” as a sign that Anna really had no intentions of changing. Actually (and unfortunately), I might take it as she was only honest to your face (or when she knew it might get back to you).

    Glad that the CEO saw it as an issue, but it sucks for that other department that they get the people no one feels like managing out instead of the help they really need.

    I think you handled this really well, OP. I would pick up a few of Alison’s scripts regarding “employee saying they were fired with no warning/reason when in fact it was X serious issue I can’t discuss” when you are responding to people that mention Anna’s side of events, because you do want to squash that if possible.

    Best of luck going forward!

  17. Trickle*

    Your CEO sucks. No wonder that department sucks when it’s a dumping ground for people who are unable to function appropriately in the rest of the company! I must say there’s an element of shadenfreude knowing that Anna will probably have to suffer increasing misery month upon month until she quits, though it’d have been a much better message to just fire her. Nonetheless she knows she’s done wrong and been caught which is no small thing! Well done OP.

    1. nonegiven*

      With Anna’s MO, if nobody clues in the other department, she’ll end up running it instead of quitting.

  18. hayling*

    OP, do you work for the government or another public institution? The fact that they just transferred her to another department smacks of public sector bureaucracy.

    My father was a researcher at a big public university medical center. He had an office manager who ended up being horrible. She didn’t know how to create footnotes in Word for a research paper, so she just copied them from another paper! Turns out that she’d been transferred around the institution many times because she was terrible, but it’s really hard to fire people there.

    1. Karo*

      I mean, when I have trouble figuring out some formatting quirk I’ll go find something that’s done it successfully and copy over the format…But then I put my own words in.

    2. OP*

      Its a private company in the UK, I think the caution comes from a tribunal raised against the company a little while ago but I think it’s generally not that easy to fire people here without going through a formal, drawn out process

      1. hayling*

        Interesting! In the US we mostly have “at-will” employment, which generally boils down to “we can fire you at any time for basically any reason, and you can quit at any time with no notice.” I understand in the UK that people generally get and give long notice periods.

        1. Bagpuss*

          In the UK, a person can normally be dismissed for any reason (other than where the reason is discrimination based on a protected characteristic such as age, gender, gender identity, sexuality, pregnancy, disability or race) during their 1st 2 years employment but after that, dismissal has to be for a reason and following a fair process.
          If an employer has good reason to dismiss someone but fails to follow a fair process then they may be able to make a claim against the employer (although this may only result in them having the right to be reinstated while the proper process is followed, or the tribunal finding that the faults in the process didn’t affect the outcome so there is no loss/disadvantage to the employee) .

          Notice periods vary a lot -in my industry (Law) it is normal for lawyers/fee-earners to have a 3 month notice period, and I think this is fairly common for other professional / management jobs.
          Support staff often have shorter periods (in my firm, most support staff have a 1 month notice period)

          If your contract doesn’t specify your notice period then there are statutory rules, which require an employer to give 1 weeks’s notice for every full year worked, up to a maximum of 12 weeks. The Statutory notice an employee has to give is one week, but it’s common for contractual notice to be longer.

          And the longer notice periods mean that there is a difference between how someone is dismissed – normally, when someone is fired, they will have to either work their notice period, or may be put on gardening leave (so they will be paid for their notice period but told not to come in). You can dismiss someone immediately (summary dismissal) but normally this is only appropriate where there is gross misconduct.
          So if someone (say) was caught stealing or if they assaulted a colleague, you wouldn’t necessarily be able to say ‘you’re fired’ and march them out then and there, but would probably suspend them immediately, have a formal disciplinary hearing within the next day or two and then summarily dismiss them for gross misconduct, so they would be gone within a day or two of the incident.

          Because there is a legal requirement for an employer to provide an employee with a written statement of the key terms of their employment, it is normal to have a formal, written employment contract which would usually include details of the contractual notice periods.

    3. WeevilWobble*

      That’s a broad brush. I work for the government and she’d be immediately suspended pending hearing and then likely fired for cause.

      1. SystemsLady*

        Yup. Lazy (or perhaps more charitably in some cases, overworked and understaffed) management is frequently the problem, not the government inherently protecting bad workers.

        1. hayling*

          I don’t disagree with you, but the institution is notorious for making it very difficult to fire people.

    4. doubleblankie*

      I work for a public sector institution in the UK and I’ve never heard of anyone being fired (even when there are issues)! I’ve heard of occasional non-renewals of contracts. But permanent members of staff are just moved sideways when they’ve proven themselves ineffective or fallen out with senior management. One colleague joked that she’d like to become Head of Herbaceous Borders if she was ever moved sideways! Some of these sideways positions are pretty well-paid with impressive-sounding titles- not sure what many of them actually do though…

  19. Steph*

    I can’t help but wonder if Anna is really cognizant of what she has done, or if she genuinely believes her “tweaks” are sufficient enough to render a document “her” work.
    Might she actually be confused about the language she and everyone else is using to denote their roles in producing documents etc.?

    1. Observer*

      Highly unlikely. She’s capable of doing reasonably good work, and the OP was pretty explicit with her. Furthermore, she WAS able to use the correct language till the OP dropped out of sight as far as Anna could see. In other words, she knew EXACTLY what she was doing.

  20. neverjaunty*

    so I just can’t understand why she felt the need to lie.

    Oh, OP. You can’t understand because you are a decent, kind person. It would never occur to you to steal other people’s work and claim credit for it, or to lie to your boss repeatedly about your contributions. Anna, on the other hand, is what we Americans call “a piece of work”.

    Unfortunately, one of the reasons jerks like Anna get away with their crap is that it’s hard for people who don’t think that way to perceive what’s going on. You handled this admirably. That you can’t understand why she’s a spiteful, lying twit reflects well on you.

  21. e271828*

    OP, perhaps a memo to all hands and a written employee handbook policy about the undesirability of plagiarism and copy-pasting others’ work to claim it as one’s own would clarify this issue, in the future. Would CEO be supportive of a firm policy statement? The honesty and mutual respect issues raised by Anna’s behavior are fundamental for the workplace.

    1. Someone else*

      I don’t know that this would be a solution to the problem. The issue isn’t that Anna repurposed existing documents. In fact, it sounds like she was expected to do so. The problem is that when asked “do you have an xyz?”, instead of saying “yes we do; here it is” or “we did but it was a little out of date so I just updated it; here’s a new copy”, for some bizarre self-aggrandizing reason she chose instead to say “no we didn’t, but here is one I just created myself, brandy new!” It’s a weird credit-grab when credit wasn’t even what was important. She’s lying for no benefit. If it were true she’d created a new Thing from scratch, it wouldn’t make her look good because Management knew there was an Existing Thing that she should’ve just passed along. Anna added in the extra step of taking credit when the important part was Give Colleague The Thing. She outed herself as a liar in a scenario where there was no need to lie. It’s really hard to policy-around that.

      It’s a bummer the CEO didn’t allow for some actual disciplinary action, but if the problem person has basically been sent to Siberia, that’s probably the closest thing to a good result as was possible here.

    2. WeevilWobble*

      Honestly a lot of businesses just don’t care enough about this issue to make a policy. From their POV all internal work belongs to them so it doesn’t ultimately matter. It’s not plagarism to them.

      Yes they should care their employees are dishonest. But having a policy against dishonesty is inherently flawed. And many really don’t care.

  22. periwinkle*

    Any fellow Rifftrax fans out there who immediately envisioned Anna being sent down to Hormel’s hide cellar?

  23. MilkMoon (UK)*

    LW, if I were you I’d be looking for a new job – because you deserve to work for better, more competent people. Your CEO is basically managing people out, which is disgusting and cowardly, and eventually someone will bring a constructive dismissal case against the company, and it will be well-deserved.

    I’m not condoning what Anna did in the slightest, and as others have said I think you’ve handled this well and compassionately yourself, but managing people out is… it really tells me far more about the person/company doing it than the victim.

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