my boss told me to quit or be fired

A reader writes:

For the last six months, I’ve essentially been on “probation” with my supervisor, determining if this manager role is a good fit for me. His conclusion is that I do not possess the skills necessary for this role. Instead of terminating my employment, they offered me another position – a demotion to a role that I was supervising. They stated they do not want to lose me. Even though I do not yet have another job lined up, I have decided to turn down this role. I do not feel it would be a good move for my career, nor for this team. When I turned down this offer, I had the option to resign or to be terminated. I chose to resign.

Given the situation, what should I tell my team and colleagues? I’m not leaving by my own choice – even though technically, I am the one who has chosen to resign because I did not want the other options. I don’t want to leave on bad terms or badmouth my boss, as I know that can haunt you later! But how can I be honest about the situation without tarnishing my reputation or my boss’s?

I answer this question — and four others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • We accidentally left our new employee behind when we went to a staff lunch
  • Should I recommend a former coworker for a job if I liked her work but others complained about her?
  • Explaining what I’ve been doing since getting laid off
  • Can I ask why it took so long to be contacted for an interview?

{ 202 comments… read them below }

  1. CM*

    The fact that no one else seems to care that the new employee was left behind makes me think that maybe she is disproportionately upset because this is the latest in a sting of things that makes her feel like she is not a part of team or even that the rest of the team dislikes her. The fact that she got left behind is an understandable mistake, but the people who were in her assigned group should feel bad about leaving her! The fact that they don’t suggest deeper issues.

    1. Murphy*

      Yeah, definitely. If I were her, I’d be upset/hurt as well. I don’t know that I’d make a huge stink about it, but I understand where she’s coming from.

      On the other hand, if I were in the group that left her behind, I’d feel so badly! I’d apologize immediately, and the fact that no one’s done that is weird.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I could see very hurt, but not fury. But then I think “oh dear we all thought you were with the other group I’m so sorry” is also obvious. All of the reactions in this letter, sans OP’s, seem really out of scale.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Yeah, I’d be hurt/embarrassed. But I can see that someone with a different personality would be angry instead.

          1. Fuzzy Pickles*

            Me too – I’d be embarrassed and withdraw, but I have family that would do the exact opposite. That’s why this site is so interesting to me because it keeps talking about open communication between coworkers/managers and my decade of work experience has only proven that you keep your cards hidden and stay quiet…then leave. But my family? This person? They express! I used to but when it proved to get in my way more often than not, I simply gave up.

            1. Specialk9*

              I think there is a middle path. I suspect you think it’s either a squirrel hoarding nuts approach, or an Italian opera fire hose of thoughts and feelings. But at work and in private relationships, one can speak up judiciously, in a careful way, and make sure you’re heard on the important stuff.

              I’m pretty open, but, I mean, I’m open about anything negative only after a lot of thought and practice wordsmithing, and even then I weigh heavily if this needs to be said, now, by me. My coworkers see a lot of smiles and positivity, but I speak up kindly when it needs saying.

          2. TootsNYC*

            actually, anger is a reasonable next step to feeling hurt and embarrassed, especially when you feel that YOU did nothing that you should feel embarrassed out, and when you realize that you don’t deserve to be hurt.

            And if there was a lack of apology, or a “oh, well >shrug<" attitude, that would make me furious.

            So Alison's right–if the fury doesn't abate pretty quickly, keep an eye open for what else might be happening (she's overreacting; the group is making her feel unwelcome; she's feeling unsure in her job in general…lots of things)

            1. Trout 'Waver*

              Who precisely should be apologizing here? Unless someone is specifically tasked with making sure everyone gets in a taxi, that’s something you just expect people to handle themselves.

              1. Kate*

                Kind of anyone I think. The OP mentions a planning committee, so maybe there was someone who organizes the whole thing. Or someone in her group. As a new employee, it’s not unreasonable to assume others realize you’re still figuring out the ropes of the company or maybe even of the town if she had to relocate. I remember when I started my old job, I had an HR meeting over lunch, and my colleagues still waited for me because they wanted me to feel included. It was a simple kindness that meant a lot at the time. So, assuming that the new employee really just feels hurt rather than irrationally irate, I think anyone reaching out to her acknowledge that it was a crappy thing to happen could help make her feel more included.

                1. Trout 'Waver*

                  I don’t understand this sentiment. Why would my coworkers be responsible for making sure I get to meetings?

                2. Kate*

                  It’s just kind. For a meeting, I think it actually should be someone’s responsibility to make sure the new employee knows where and when to go, particularly because one of my contract sites is super confusing and practically requires a map to find the conference rooms, so I would never expect a new employee to find them on her own. But for a social event like lunch, it’s just kind.

              2. Amber T*

                I’m all about not apologizing when you’re just doing your job, but in a social situation where everyone over looked one person, then everyone should offer an apology. I mean, it was a mistake, and crap happens, but everyone should say “I’m sorry we left you behind, Susie, we were all rushing and we didn’t realize you were still in the bathroom!” That’s just a social nicety that has a place here.

                But I agree with the above commenters – there’s something else going on here.

              3. rldk*

                Her supervisor should apologize on behalf of the group – not so much taking responsibility for the mistake, but letting her know that it was a mistake that made her feel excluded and that shouldn’t have happened. It’s offering empathy for a situation that has obviously made her feel badly.

              4. EditorInChief*

                I agree. I do not understand the responses here. Did OP tell anyone she was stepping into the bathroom and not to leave without her? Instead of being furious did she say to the organizer, Hey you guys left me behind?
                I had something similar happen to me at my very first job, through a series of miscommunications I thought my ride to a work function forgot about me (we were at different ends of the block and didn’t see each other. It was before cellphones). I got in a cab myself, because I’m an adult, and walked into the event without a second thought. It never occurred to me to be embarrassed or humiliated. The co-worker who was supposed to pick me up and I had a good laugh about it and life went on.

              5. Candy*

                The manager or organizer should do the apologizing.

                Years ago I started a new job the same day as an all-staff meeting. My manager didn’t introduce me and no staff asked who I was or introduced themselves to me so I spent the whole time feeling very conspicuous and nervous (I was a very shy 20-something at the time in a room full of 40-year old architects). After I really felt like it was on my manager to apologize to me for not introducing me to everyone, not on the rest of the staff to apologize for staring and wondering who I was because they were just following his lead and not mentioning the elephant in the room (me).

                1. Candy*

                  Note: he didn’t apologize and I did eventually get to know everyone and completely forget about that first day until just now. I think getting furious about something like this is def a symptom of something bigger (the employee’s own insecurities or the team’s treatment of her or whatever)

        2. Pollygrammer*

          And if there is fury, it’s the kind of fury you should keep a lid on out of professionalism. If, in a general sense, you feel unnoticed/undervalued, you don’t make a huge angry deal about it. She’s allowing herself to look oversensitive and hotheaded. (Not that I don’t understand where she’s coming from).

            1. AMPG*

              Well, “furious” is a pretty specific word, and it was obviously chosen for a reason, so I don’t think it’s overstepping to analyze her reaction based on the descriptor used.

        3. Akcipitrokulo*

          I wonder if she is feeling hurt/rejected/unwanted (and I’d be devastated if that had happened and no-one cared!) and the manager is interpreting it as furious?

          1. Brandy*

            I would soo feel hurt, angry and devalued. I would try not to let it show but I think ive heard the phrase “you cant tell me how to feel”. And everyones leaving out about the taxi, I notice Renamis mentions this as well, I have to pay for my own taxi but everyone else free ride. What if I don’t have the money or don’t want to spend it. Nope Id just eat my own meal and stew about it. Im petty I know, but so be it.

            1. Akcipitrokulo*

              When I’d just started a new job there’s no way I’d have had spare cash to splash out on a taxi…

              1. Specialk9*

                This, not to mention she likely didn’t know where they were going and was just following along.

            2. Vesty McVestPants*

              It’s a work lunch so I’d assume she should be able to get reimbursed for the taxi.

              1. Symplicite*

                No. We have work lunches where I am, but we find our own way there. The company doesn’t pay to get us to the work lunch. If you miss the carpool, you find your own way there and pay for it yourself, no reimbursement.

              2. Decima Dewey*

                On reimbursable expenses, there’s often quite a gap between spending the money and getting reimbursed. I’ve checks for expenses I made so long ago I couldn’t remember why I was getting the check.

            3. Ceiswyn*

              She might also not have actually been sure where they were going.

              While I’m sure all the organisational emails mentioned the location, there might not have been enough information for a new employee. For example, at my previous company my first offsite event was at the ‘X hotel’; but there were two of those in the town. Everyone else, of course, knew which one they always used and had almost forgotten that there was even another!

          2. Luna*

            Yes it is unclear to me whether furious is a word the employee actually used herself, or whether that word is something the LW chose based on her own interpretations.

            1. Ex-Academic, Future Accountant*

              This is a good point — see, e.g., the letter about the “exaggerator” boss (Fergus tells Mary “hey, there’s a problem with this software update”, Mary tells everyone else “Fergus was furious about the software update!”, Fergus gets a reputation for freaking out over minor things).

            2. EvilQueenRegina*

              Or even a Chinese whispers thing, someone else said she was furious and it got back to OP as though she actually used that word herself.

              1. This is late, but...*

                the term “Chinese whispers” is pretty insulting. I know it’s a common term in the UK, but I hope there’s a shift to finding a way to describe this that doesn’t rely on making Chinese synonymous with confusing or incomprehensible.

                1. CdnAcct*

                  I’ve never heard that term, and I think ‘broken telephone’ conveys similar nuance without the negative connotations.

                2. sstabeler*

                  Um, it’s more caused because Chinese comes from the Sino-Tibetan family of languages, wheras european languages are from the indo-european family. What that means is that Chinese is seperated by a gap wider by an order of magnitude than the european languages themselves- so it actually IS incomprehensible unless you learn it, at least more than other languages that people would have been aware of when the game was invented.

        4. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*

          I’m wondering if the fury is more due to the response (er, non-response) of the manager (not the OP, but the manager that didn’t seem to think a basic apology was warranted). It’s not an excuse if the employee is at the point of “fury” where its unprofessional, but that’s where my mind went with this whole situation.

          I mean it seems like basic decency to issue a simple apology for overlooking an employee – a new employee at that. Of course it wasn’t intentional, but saying you’re sorry for an actual oversight on your part… well that’s just common courtesy…

          There have definitely been times when someone did something that minorly upset me, but refused to acknowledge or apologize for it, and it’s always turned into a bigger issue than the original thing because of the non-response, not the the thing.

          Also – this might be totally out there (I know I’m speculating here, but I’ve had this happen in personal relationships), but I’m also wondering if there might be a bit of a gaslighting-esque behavior going on. Perhaps the employee is more frustrated that the manager seems to be negating her hurt feelings (again – I know this is leap, all we know for sure is the manager did not apologize), rather than at the original oversight.

          Maybe none of this is true and the employee is a total drama queen. Totally possible! Just saying – if this employee otherwise seems reasonable (though that might be tough to tell bc she’s new), and the manager can be cold/aloof/iffy – this might be the root of her fury.

      2. Renamis*

        This. If I came into a new job, I’d be upset to be forgotten. Particularly as apparently she’s then expected to pay a full taxi fair to get there, on her own, when everyone else got to share. I would be upset and frustrated, but not furious. Accidents happen.

        I’d be furious, however, to find no one actually gives a crap they forgot me. And in a round about way blames me for not just finding my own way. How do they know she could actually afford the taxi on her own? And that’s not assuming they got along great before. If I felt dismissed before, I would actually view it as a sign I’ll never be valued and look for another job.

        If I where OP I’d check if it’s the straw that broke the camel’s back, or just a touchy incident.

        1. Name Required*

          100% agree with all you wrote. I’d add that it could be pretty embarrassing to grab that taxi and head to the restaurant alone, walking in alone. It’s highlighting the fact that everyone forgot about you, which wouldn’t feel good at all.
          Also, at what point did they realize they forgot her? Did they realize at the restaurant, at which point they could easily have tried to contact her? Or did they just say “meh, that’s too bad and she should have gotten her own taxi”? The whole thing, except for the LW’s perspective, seems really dismissive.
          As for fury – some people express their hurt as anger. Some people think any expression of upset = anger and anger is bad and, therefore, anger = fury. I had a boss who viewed any type of upset, even if it was warranted, as fury and was bad, bad, bad and likely indicated poor mental health. She was whacko.
          Obviously, there aren’t enough details to get a handle on what this workplace is like, but the image that entered my mind was one that tends to be cliquish and possibly approaching mean-girl.

          1. Renamis*

            This too. I’ve had people (women more often than not) be clearly upset over something, and once they’ve left had someone say to me xyz wasn’t bad enough to be that furious. I don’t know if it’s an upbringing thing, or a gendered thing (I notice it more with women than with men, but that’s not proof), or just people being bad with emotions, but I notice it.

              1. Name Required*

                and funnily enough, when it happens there are feelings of anger in response to being viewed badly for having what used to be normal, healthy emotions. Again, provided upset was the appropriate reaction.

            1. Name Required*

              I tend to think it veers more towards being a gender thing. I’ve seen men get upset and people respect that, provided it was the appropriate reaction. But I’ve noticed that a lot of women, particularly the more passive or passive-aggressive, tend to be very wary of people who express feelings of upset. I specifically say “upset” because anger tends to be a word people are very reactive to/about. I hate generalizing about this, but I haven’t seen the same pattern in male colleagues. (Or perhaps is the part of the country in which I reside; it is well-known for being very passive aggressive.)
              I had a situation where one person gave me crucial information to pass along to a colleague on the road, then sent a public email stating she didn’t know where I got that information and it was wrong. Outright lied. I asked her about in person, very calmly. She went to my manager and made a complaint. Of course I was upset after that, but my manager thought it was a very weird reaction (her words). I moved from that team asap.
              *Caveat here: I realize that not every woman is going to fall into the generalization I made above. I am one of those that don’t and know others who are also quite direct.

              1. Luna*

                Huh, that’s funny because I have the opposite experience. The problems I’ve had are always with people who claim to be direct, and are always saying things like “if there’s a problem just tell me!” And then when I do bring up a particular problem, no matter how calm and non-accusatory I am about it, they just completely freak.

                1. Name Required*

                  Unless I misread your comment, it sounds like we’ve had similar experiences – though I realize that you didn’t speak of gender here.
                  I wonder if we are in same or similar areas of the U.S. Because I have that experience as well. Speaking directly is praised in theory and highly encourage, but when you do they can’t handle it. At a seminar we had last year, we were doing group exercises. I was actually told by one of my team members that I was too direct and they couldn’t handle it. I asked how I should approach the conversation instead, should I be more roundabout and fluffy/feely? The response was yes, I should make my language fluffy/feely because it was easier for them to absorb. To each their own, I suppose. I just like directness because I know where things stand and I don’t have to interpret what is being said (thus perhaps getting it wrong).
                  As far as my communication style, I’m far more at ease on the east coast.

                2. Ex-Academic, Future Accountant*

                  Then there are people who preface any feedback with “Now, I’m not saying this to put you down, but…” Which, if they’re not, then why prime the addressee to think about that at all? If you have authority over me, you can just tell me plainly to “make sure to do X and not Y” without this preemptive shutting down of whatever emotion I might have about it. (And assuming that giving me this feedback will cause a negative emotional reaction is kind of insulting in itself.)

                  The person I’m primarily thinking of (someone I used to have as a teacher) also prided themself on being “direct” and “telling it like it is”. *sigh*

          2. TootsNYC*

            also–what if she didn’t really know for sure where that restaurant was? I often don’t absorb that, especially if someone else is driving/navigating. And if there was no email or calendar invite w/ the name of the restaurant on it….

            1. Tipcat*

              Why didn’t she call? Even if this is an old letter from the pre-everybody-has-cellphones days, she could have called the restaurant.

              1. Specialk9*

                She could easily not even know that. Someone is organizing it, the new kid just knows to show up in at lobby at 11:30…

              2. Ceiswyn*

                Which restaurant? Has she even been told where she’s going? If she was, was what she was told unambiguous or could it have referred to more than one location?

          3. Mike C.*

            Yeah, I was thinking the same thing.

            “Oh gosh, she expressed an emotion when she should have acted professionally”.

          4. Anonymous Ampersand*

            Also depends how many people were there. If it’s a group of five, you’ll notice. A group of 30, less so.

              1. Anonymous Ampersand*

                Depends. (Helpful, I know.) I would certainly keep an eye out for the new person but if it’s a big crowd and everyone thinks she’s with someone else, I could imagine it. Doesn’t make it right.

        2. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

          I completely agree. Not only that, as a new employee I know I wouldn’t even consider it a possibility to get my own taxi – either because I can’t/don’t want to pay for it out of pocket, or because I wouldn’t know whether the company would approve the additional expense. A good company would pay for the third taxi in a situation like this, but new employees don’t always have a clear sense of what will and won’t be covered.

          Plus, are they certain she even knew where they were going? I can imagine a new person just knowing that it’s a “team lunch” but not necessarily where or what the address is. If I were in her shoes I would certainly be embarrassed and upset, and honestly, would probably be on the verge of tears and not wanting to be around my coworkers at all.

          1. Name Required*

            Where I work now, when I first started my boss would always come by my desk if we had a department meeting or get together during work hours (we have a lot of those) to see if I was ready to go. She would always walk with me. I suppose that is part of what makes her a great boss; she’s caring and considerate and goes out of her way to make sure her new employees are comfortable and included.

        3. K.*

          A version of this actually happened to me. I was left out of something important when I was new to a job. And I was really stung – but what made it better was that the person who forgot to tell me about the thing was mortified and profusely apologetic and my boss was mad at him for leaving me out (to the point where I was like “Okay, let’s not pile on [name], it was a mistake”). Being forgotten is one thing, but being forgotten and having the response be “Meh” would be really hurtful. I’d think, “Okay, I’m going to continue to be excluded and I’ll have to see how much of that I can take.”

    2. Luna*

      Yeah the dismissive responses of the manager and other staff is a red flag that something there is off. There are a lot of reasons the employee might have decided to not just get another cab (maybe she didn’t have enough cash on her, maybe she didn’t know the location of the lunch).

      I agree that “furious” sounds like an overreaction but I’m betting there have been other things going on and the employee’s reaction is probably about more than just this one lunch.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        “No one told me they were leaving.”
        “Well you could have caught a taxi!”
        (Not the exact conversation, I do realize, but it’s reflective of an overall attitude.)

        There is such a lack of inclusiveness and lack of concern going on here. She’s the new hire. The company could have sent someone back to get her. Or they could have called, “I am sending a taxi for you and I will meet you at the front door of The Restaurant.” Why it is up to her to remedy the problem?

        An established employee MIGHT have been able to laugh this one off, but I can’t see a new hire automatically knowing how to navigate this situation. And their assumption that she would just follow along seems to indicate she should have ESP.

        Taking OP at their word that “she is furious”, like others have said what else is going on here. Is your company good at on-boarding people? Do you have an on-boarding plan that is used with each new employee? Does she have a trainer who is directly responsible for her day-to-day? If yes, why didn’t the trainer ensure she left with the group?
        To me this sounds like a person who is having a bad launch at their new job.

        I know for myself, I may not have said too much at work but I would cried on the way home. After that I would start considering that the company was not a good fit for me. A decent workplace always checks to make sure the new hire is aware of what the group is doing next. If the place does not do this, it’s a red flag to me.

        1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

          I think you’re spot on, especially in the differences between how an established employee might react vs. someone brand new. It’s like Alison’s advice whenever something seems off with a new hire – it may be nothing or indicative of a huge problem, but when someone is new and there are so few data points, these issues weigh more heavily than they would for someone with a long track record. For a brand new employee who’s presumably been there for only a few months, one event of being casually left out (especially if it comes in the context of other not-so-welcoming behaviors) will have a much greater impact on their morale and feelings about the workplace.

        2. Specialk9*


          “Well why didn’t she just…” Because she’s new, possibly broke, uncertain, and likely feeling a big emotion?

          I don’t usually feel like this board has such a collective empathy gap.

    3. Angela Ziegler*

      That was my first thought as well. It’s one thing to make a mistake and leave a new employee behind, but it sounds like they’ve been completely apathetic about it and don’t care. All it would take is a tiny ‘Sorry about that, we didn’t realize anything until afterwards.’ But it sounds like they don’t care and won’t take responsibility. I would definitely get frustrated in that situation, because I find it rude and unprofessional. Dismissing it with ‘Well, they could’ve found their own cab, it’s not our fault,’ just sounds like they can’t own up to such a simple mistake.

    4. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Since it’s an old letter, I can’t help but wonder if it was from the ‘unmanager’ back in the day.

        1. jaybh*

          If it’s the letter I’m thinking it is, search for “is the work environment I’ve created on my team too exclusive?”

    5. EAC*

      As someone else suggested, maybe she didn’t know what restaurant the group was going to. It’s more concerning that no one recognized that she was missing once they arrived at the restaurant and apparently, no one thought to call back to the office, and make arrangements for her to meet up with the rest of the group. Did everyone just blithely arrive back to the office after lunch and act like nothing was amiss? At the very least, I would have felt a tad bit hurt.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        Yeah – call to office – if don’t get her say to receptionist/whoever “Put NewEmployee in a taxi and send her here please!”

      2. a1*

        Why would you call the office if you expect her to show up shortly? It sounds like they expected to get there on her own (whether that’s reasonable or not is debateable), but if that’s what you think you don’t call back. Then as time goes on you do start to wonder, but it becomes diminishing returns in that if we call now, by the time she gets here we’ll be done. Or maybe you think, hey she changed her mind. Or maybe you feel she’s snubbing you. Basically I can see lots of reasons not to call back.

        1. Ceiswyn*

          Why would you expect her to show up shortly if you know all the taxis went without her?

          That whole set of assumptions that you’re making there – that being left behind by your new team is NBD, that she has all the information she needs to direct a taxi, that she has the money to pay for that taxi, that walking late into a group of strangers that you need to impress (because new) is also NBD – that set of assumptions is THE PROBLEM.

    6. Lynca*


      It seems to me from the letter it was a mix of people that either drove to the lunch or took taxis. But it sounds like she went to the bathroom, came back, and everyone was gone. That would make me feel very insecure especially since no one has expressed feeling bad about that. I don’t think I’d be furious, but definitely insecure and wary about it.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Agree – as someone who was THE unpopular kid in school, it would bring back all the memories. To me it would feel a lot like, everyone was getting ready to leave, I went to the bathroom, and all the cool kids were, “ok she’s in the bathroom, quick, let’s go before she comes back!” I would not be furious, but I would think that I must be a very bad fit with the rest of the group.

    7. Vesty McVestPants*

      Personally I’m not a fan of mandatory fun at work so I wouldn’t mind missing lunch! But I’m also outspoken so if I knew lunch was planned and it was close to time to leave, I’d give someone the heads up to wait while I take a pit stop.

    8. Lucky*

      With my current team, I was the one who was left out of a few things in the first few months. It wasn’t infuriating, exactly, but it sure didn’t help me feel like part of the team. And whether it was intentional or not, it stung. Fast forward a couple of years and it doesn’t happen to me, though I’ve been the one who has made sure new people are added to the meeting invitation for events and make sure they’re included. I think some on my team are just clueless about these things – one coworker recently asked me if I was going to “the happy hour for Becky,” an event I was not invited to for a person who actively disliked me.

      1. Julianne*

        I had similar experiences at my first job out of grad school, I think largely because most of the staff had been there for ages and so to them, it was all old news and routine (including the non-routine things). It never really got better, and was one of the major reasons I had no hesitations about leaving when I got a way better job offer after just about a year there. (That the new job – my current position – doubled my pay and actually offered benefits was certainly a bigger reason, and would have enticed me to leave regardless. But, not feeling like I was welcomed or belonged in the workplace made it that much easier to peace out.)

    9. Serin*

      Nobody needs to say “I’m sorry” in the sense of “I did wrong and I regret it.” But absolutely everybody needs to say “I’m sorry” in the sense of “That must have felt awful and I wish it hadn’t happened to you.”

      Primates are very sensitive to social exclusion. It doesn’t have to be intentional to be really painful.

      1. AMPG*

        Yes, I never understand people who have such a high bar for apologies. It’s OK to say you’re sorry that something happened, even if it wasn’t technically your fault. It doesn’t cost you anything, and it can really help a situation.

    10. weho*

      I agree, and if I were the left-behind employee I would have a hard time believing it was accidental, especially if no one seems to be concerned about it. I’d be reconsidering this workplace if I were her. This is bad, really disrespectful – a slap in the face.

    11. Anon.*

      I once got left behind because, as the only one with math skills, I was given all the money and went to pay the bill. I just chilled and waited until they figured it out and came back for me. Took about an hour.

    12. Fergus, Stealer of Pens and Microwaver of Fish*

      I hope she ordered a pizza and booby-trapped the office, in case of burglars.

      Merry End-of-Quarter, ya filthy animals.

      1. Day Late Dollar Short*

        Haha! As long as she doesn’t release the CEO’s pet tarantula by accident, she’ll be fine.

    13. E.*

      Yeah, I’d be super embarrassed if this happened to me as a new employee. I’m not sure if I’d get my own taxi or not – I’d be embarrassed to show up late/alone, but also embarrassed to not go at all.

  2. Boo Berry*

    I’m wondering if it’s less the fact the employee was left behind (which has got to feel crummy) and more the shrugged shoulders and lack of an apology that’s rubbing her raw.

    I agree with the suggestion of making her feel special. A one on one lunch might go a long way to not only make up for what happened, but also make her feel an acknowledged part of the team.

  3. ExcelJedi*

    OP2: I can totally empathize with the new employee. I would probably tend toward depression or pulling away from a group that left me behind (as opposed to anger), but I’d certainly feel unimportant and unwelcome. If no one apologized to her, that’s probably exasperating the situation.

    I agree that taking her out to lunch would be a big step, but I think the OP should offer some validation (“I can understand why you found this upsetting”) and an apology.

    1. Brandy*

      Next group lunch “are you coming employee?” (as I sit working as they get ready) “ohh so Im invited this time?”. But im soo petty.

      1. Brandy*

        ExcelJedi, my pettiness would come from pulling away and hurt feeling and I would be so in my own head on this.

        1. K.*

          Me too. But by that time the coworker who had left me out and I were cool, and I said it with a smile on my face. (He still winced and re-apologized though.)

      2. weho*

        It’s not petty. They’ve made it clear she is not welcome. I would say simply, “No, I won’t be joining you.”

        What are they going to do, object?

    2. Akcipitrokulo*

      Yes – acknowledging “this was wrong and we’re sorry” is a big thing.

      At the moment I think I’m confident enough that I’d be able to get over it and start looking for a new job – a few years back it would have had a very bad effect on my mental health. Getting missed out, and then a call to office with a “oh we’re sorry! get cab, we’ll pay when you get here” is one thing – just being left behind and a “oh well…” is pretty callous.

  4. Mazzy*

    #3 – I would give a recommendation. I have no idea what you mean by her “being fussy” because you don’t give any examples, but I do no that in my experience, the better someone has been at their work, the “fussier” they have been. They were more free to be themselves and speak their minds and do things to make themselves more comfortable, that people with less clout wouldn’t have the confidence to do.

    Of course, there isn’t a direct correlation, because some people are fussy and high maintenance but not great at their work, but if they are good at their work, them being a little high maintenance is fine, as long as they are nice about it.

    Look at it this way, would you not want Miranda Preisley working at your magazine, because she didn’t say hi when passing people in the hallway?

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Finance is definitely a role where “they’re rather anal retentive” is a plus. (I recall this being said about a staff accountant in a dismissive way, and a bunch people jumping in with “the last accountant wasn’t, and that was nothing but trouble–thank heaven Wakeen is uptight about decimals and where the money went.”)

    2. Triumphant Fox*

      Exactness can be read as fussiness. I’m sure my last graphic designer thought I was super “fussy” and other less generous words when I insisted, again and again, that things align correctly, actually be in brand colors, have the same font size, etc. In that case he really was just terrible at the details of design, but I could see him rolling his eyes on the inside. I’ve seen the same reaction from some people when I edit their writing or ask for revisions on a project “Why do you care so much about details” is an attitude I’d take it with a grain of salt unless someone had was behaving with unusual rigidity in an area that actually impinges on work (I’m thinking of the manager who would go and rearrange everyone’s desks and files at the end of the day, or the person who can’t adapt to changes in workflow based on new circumstances because the PLAN didn’t allow for it).

      Also, women tend to be characterized as fussy or high maintenance, so there is a gendered component here as well.

      1. Tardigrade*

        Ah, yes. I’ve been labeled as picky for refusing to accept work that wasn’t punctuated or, bizarrely, did not include articles, which was too “me Tarzan, you Jane” for me to abide.

    3. PieInTheBlueSky*

      OP3 mentioned that others complained about her former coworker being “fussy”, but apparently OP3 didn’t have the same concerns herself. OP3 may have had other good reasons not to suggest her former coworker (as she mentions, she was very new to the company), but I think she should consider whether she is giving too much weight to secondhand complaints when making that decision. (I’m inferring that OP3 was not supervising the former coworker and didn’t have direct knowledge of the fussiness being complained about.)

      Also, I don’t think suggesting a name is in of itself a recommendation. OP3 could mention Former Coworker, and then hedge her comments with something like,” I haven’t worked with her closely”, or “I didn’t supervise her work”, etc.

      1. Samata*

        i thought the same thing about this one. And she says she was treated poorly at her old company, so does she relaly want to go on the words of what people who treated her poorly are saying. I think if the co-worker does good work the script Alison provided would be perfect, especially since she knows ex-coworker is looking for a job.

    4. Mints*

      Yeah, at my last job I had a lot of expenses on the company credit card and had to reconcile monthly and submit receipts, which was tedious but not a difficult process. And later on I heard from a few people “Accountant is the worst”/ “She’s so mean”/ “She always rejects my expenses.”
      And I was like “I think she’s really nice?? Whenever she rejects something she explains why and then I fix it. That’s her job.” (Internally: Why are you so bad at tracking expenses?)

      I could see those complaints getting around, but I would recommend her if the opportunity came up, with the explanation.

  5. Grumpiest Grump*

    If I were in a new city at a new job with people I barely knew, taken to a restaurant I didn’t know, and then abandoned, even unintentionally, I’d be furious, too.

    On the one hand, in these days of ‘smart phones’ it is a lot easier to find and get a taxi/uber/lyft/whatever, and look up the address of your company (if you don’t already have it memorized), and even pay for it if you don’t have the cash.

    On the other hand, not everyone has a ‘smart phone’ or carries cash or lives somewhere where all cabs can be paid for by credit/debit card.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      She didn’t get left at the restaurant, she got left at the office.

      It’s entirely possible she didn’t know where the restaurant was. And since this is an older letter, it may pre-date the ubiquitousness of Uber/Lyft.

      1. TaylorMade*

        What’s interesting is that I read is like Grumpiest Grump did, she got left at the restaurant when they were leaving. I didn’t see any clarification on if she got left at the office or the restaurant.

        1. Someone else*

          This sentence: Our manager only said, “Why didn’t she just get her own taxi to join?”
          is what makes me think she was left at the office, not the restaurant. If she had gone to the restroom in the restaurant and been left behind, I think the manager would’ve been saying she should’ve gotten her own taxi to come back, or similar.

          1. Dot Warner*

            Yes. The first time I read the letter this didn’t click, but when I re-read it, I realized that if she’d been left at the restaurant she wouldn’t have been able to get back to work without getting her own taxi.

  6. k*

    Would choosing to say you quit instead of being fired impact your ability to collect unemployment? I’m not that familiar with unemployment benefits, but always wonder about that when I hear of these situations (as well as with the classic “You can’t fire me, I quit!”).

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      It depends. It’s possible that you could negotiate that the employer wouldn’t contest a UC claim, but typically if you voluntarily quit, you are not eligible.

    2. Bea*

      I would assume if given the choice they’re not cold blooded enough to hit back with a “HAZZAH and now no unemployment!”. But yeah that’s why so many places try to force someone’s hand at quitting because often UI is allowed unless you’re fired for extreme negligence.

    3. Ann O'Nemity*

      My state usually awards unemployment compensation in a “resign or be fired” situation. But it would probably depend on the demotion job. If the salary was lower or the duties were substantially different, my state would probably still award UC.

    4. Safetykats*

      It probably also precludes them having to pay severance. Everywhere I’ve worked that has a severance policy will always offer you another position (in the case that they are eliminating your position or just want to replace you in it) if they aren’t terminating you for cause – because if you turn it down you aren’t eligible for severance. So quitting instead of making them lay you off can be a really bad decision two ways – since quitting can make you ineligible for both severance and unemployment. And even if you find another job the next week and so don’t need unemployment, they would owed you the severance.

    5. Margo's Eyepatch of the Week*

      I went through this at a job many years ago. I was terrible at it and miserable, which only made me worse. I was give the option to resign, where management could then provide a reference, or wait to see how yr end results went and risk being fired, with nothing. I resigned, much happier since, but I could not collect unemployment because I had resigned.

  7. lost academic*

    #3 – A lot of the advice we’ve seen boils down to “don’t do it” or “don’t do it without full disclosure and any potential negatives” but the latter isn’t seeming as good an idea to me. If problems occur with that person after they are hired, it is not likely to matter that you had a lot of caveats and nuance in your recommendation to your professional reputation – what gets remembered is that you provided the reference/recommendation – even if you put those concerns in writing. That’s a risk to be more cognizant of, I think – you may still choose to do so, but being aware of that additional risk is important.

    1. Mike C.*

      it is not likely to matter that you had a lot of caveats and nuance in your recommendation


      1. WannaAlp*

        Because people are simplistic and remember the bare bones of things.

        In order to ensure that people really did remember the caveat, you’d have to make way more fuss over giving the caveat than it warranted.

        It’s not fair, but it’s how people are.

  8. Q*

    1) I’d let them fire me and then they can pay me unemployment while I job search.
    4) I actually was downsized last June but didn’t start job searching until November. I was prepared for the what have you been doing question but I didn’t get asked it all.

    1. MLB*

      I found it odd that the question was asked of #4. I’ve been laid off twice, and the only thing I’ve been asked about was the gap on my resume. When I answered “I was laid off due to downsizing”, nothing more was said about it. I guess if you’ve been to classes to educate yourself further that would be something to add, but honestly if you’re laid off, the question to me is unnecessary. Ummm, I was looking for a job…duh! :-)

      1. Lauren K Milligan*

        Actually, not ‘duh’. Employers ask this question of people who have been out of work for a more than a few months to see if that candidate has stayed on top of industry updates, or is engaged enough in the industry to attend conferences and development opportunities even if they aren’t sponsored by an employer. I coach ALL of my clients on the right way to answer this and if they haven’t done these activities during their employment gap, we get them scheduled for something ASAP.

          1. Lauren K Milligan*

            Elizabeth, I don’t know if you’ll see this or not because it’s been awhile, but you don’t have to spend money to keep up with your industry. Join LinkedIn groups (always free) and other online groups (usually free). Most fee-based networking groups let you attend your first event with them for free. If there is a conference coming up, call the organizers to ask if they waive fees for those who work in the field but are unemployed. This has worked in my clients’ favor almost every time and has worked EVERY time when the attendee offers a few hours of volunteering for that event or a future event. All they’ve had to pay is their lunch fee, which is usually about $15. Take online classes to keep your skills up to date. Lynda courses are excellent learning tools, and are free with a membership to your local library. I could list out a dozen other free resources but if you just do the things I’ve mentioned so far, you’ll stay busy and have plenty to discuss in an interview.

    2. Phin*

      I agree with you on #1! Although, I’ve never been in that situation. Does getting fired make it tougher to find work later? I’ve always kinda felt that if someone wants me gone they’re going to have to throw me out. I need a job, and I’m not resigning and screwing up my change to collect unemployment.

      1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        But then you’ll always have to check “yes” when an application asks if you’ve ever been fired. I’m sure many employers will give you a chance to explain, but I would feel a lot more comfortable saying “I left because the role wasn’t right for me for XYZ reasons” rather than “they fired me because the role wasn’t working out” – the latter invites a lot more, and tougher, questions

      2. Samata*

        My understanding is if a company gives you a choice they are extending an olive branch so to say so that it’s easier for you in the long run finding a job. In companies I’ve worked at they would offer this to good employees who were just a poor fit – give you all but just can’t get it types. They also would not contest when you filed to collect unemployment – but I don’t know how unemployement works in all states so I don’t want to say that will always work.

    3. Bea*

      They can fight your unemployment because you refused their offer of a job in this state at least. Unless it’s sending you to a whole different planet or slashing your role substantially, the employment division doesn’t let you turn down employment offers within your scope.

    4. TootsNYC*

      I wonder if the company thinks that if they “fire” the OP, instead of just “laying her off,” that they can refuse to approve unemployment.

      In a lot of states, that doesn’t work unless you’ve been fired for -egregious- cause (in NYState, you get unemployment even if you were fired for most performance issues).

      Because otherwise, why wouldn’t they just say, “we’re going to part ways, we’ll call it laying you off (but we won’t tell people who were a successful manager, since that’s not a skill for you”?

      It’s easier to describe!

  9. Akcipitrokulo*

    Left-behind new employee may actually be very upset and hurt, and it’s being interpreted as furious. I’d have been very stressed and unhappy and panicking because I wouldn’t know what to do! And then no-one noticed when they got to the restaurant that I wasn’t there – or noticing and not calling back to the office to make arrangements to get me there… then not actually seeming to be bothered or apologise – yeah, that’s giving a pretty strong message.

    I think it’s also unreasonable to expect anyone, especially a new employee, to have random spare cash to spend on a taxi. Depending on time of the month, I often simply wouldn’t have been able to afford to join them off my own bat.

    So yeah, apologies and a make-up meal (that she doesn’t pay for) would definitely help!

  10. CynicallySweet7*

    So I actually have a similar experience to #2 and honestly I can understand the intense emotion. When I was new to my department I was accidentally not invited to a goodbye party for a co-worker. My entire floor ended up leaving early to get there (at one point a manager was walking around asking why people were still in the office, I hid in the bathroom). I am 100% sure it was just an oversight and if I’d shown up no one would have thought anything of it and it wasn’t personal, but I still found it to be really really humiliating and hurtful, and I can see how that would turn into rage (not that I don’t think you shouldn’t make sure something else is going on). I think taking her out with your group would be a good move here.

    1. CleverGirl*

      I started a job where my group went out for everyone’s birthday and everyone pitched in to cover the birthday person’s meal. Except, when my birthday rolled around 2 months after I started the job… nothing. I still went to all the other birthday lunches and helped pay for everyone else’s lunch but I didn’t get one of my own, and my resentment grew and grew. I was upset about this for a LONG time, especially since the manager (who planned all the lunches) never realized and said anything to me about it. It made me feel unwelcome and like I wanted to quit the job, which I did shortly after my next birthday which was remembered but combined with another guy’s lunch since our birthdays were within a couple weeks of each other’s. So I can totally understand how upset being left behind / left out can make someone.

      1. Jennifer*

        I had a milestone birthday this week. It also happens to be my manager’s birthday. We normally get pizza and eat as a group in our conference room. Everyone enjoys these lunches. My secretary decided that since manager couldn’t do lunch on our bday, it would be pushed to the next day. Frustrating, but ok. And then it was never mentioned. To get over my frustration, I will buy everyone pizza on Monday and if they want to chip in, so be it.

    2. Helena Handbasket*

      I had similar experiences when I first started my current role – I would actually be invited to things like goodbye parties/happy hours/etc, but everyone would leave as a group early and when I got up to go, I had no idea even where it was happening. Even if I found out the location, walking in late by myself would be a little humiliating, so I didn’t attend a lot of those social events my first few months. Got a great rep for having a good work ethic after working late nights in my cube while everyone else was at happy hour though!

      1. a1*

        Another honest question. Why is it humiliating to walk in a little late on your own? You know these people, you’d recognize them and just be able to walk up to them and join in.

        At one of my first jobs out of college the company was still feeling the effects of a merger, so there were a LOT of farewell happy hours. Whether I was invited directly, or hear in passing, or have someone say “you should join us” on their way out, if I knew where they were going, I went. Even if I showed up later than most people or had to leave early. I was new in town (I had moved several states for the job) so it’s not like I had any other plans, usually. It was great. I got to know so many people that I am still in contact with, professionally.

        1. Mikasa*

          I think it’s because they are a group already, and you’d kind of be the odd one out. Even though they’ll let you sit with them if you came on your own, it feels weird and like you’re interrupting a group of people that are already friends and don’t care if you come with them or not.
          And it is similar regarding the other question. It can be humiliating when people forget you exist. You just want to hide. If the manager saw me there and asked, “why aren’t you out with everyone?” it can be hard and embarrassing to respond that I wasn’t invited. And being new doesn’t really make it any better when you’re forgotten about. It can make you feel even more alienated. I can really stink.

        2. Merida Ann*

          I don’t know if I would say humiliating for me exactly, but I always feel pretty awkward trying to find a group I’m supposed to meet at a restaurant if I haven’t already confirmed with someone from my group that they are already seated and, ideally, what section they’re sitting in. I can’t be sure I’ll automatically see them when I walk inside and I feel like it would be strange to ask the host if I could just wander around the restaurant until I find them. And I don’t know whose name they booked the table under, so I can’t just tell them that. And what if I look like I’m just trying to jump ahead of other people who might be waiting to be seated? Plus, what if I got the location wrong and I’m not even in the right place?! Or if they had car trouble or stopped off somewhere or something like that and I’m actually the first one here and I’m now wandering around looking for a group that isn’t actually there yet?! Not all of those are rational fears, but I’d always rather arrive at the same time as someone else from my group and walk inside with them so that nothing goes wrong. Add in the factor of being new to that job and I might not even recognize the group immediately if I don’t spot the right person because I’m not great with faces and… yeah, it’s definitely enough to make me uncomfortable and maybe even consider just not even trying.

        3. CynicallySweet7*

          I didn’t think walking in late would be humiliating. But, I’m a little socially awkward and trying to force my way into an already established group kind of brought me back to high school and those feeling of anxiety came rushing back in (if that makes sense). Especially when I knew I looked like I had been upset (unfortunate side effect of being pale).

    3. a1*

      Honest question. If you know it’s an oversight and you know you’d be welcome if you showed up, why is it humiliating or hurtful? As you said, you were new.

      1. CynicallySweet7*

        There are a couple of different working parts to that. A big part was surprise. We were in the middle of a couple of big deadlines, so people weren’t really talking about going, so when everyone started getting up to leave I was really confused. And then the guy who works next to me asked if I was going to the party as he was leaving, and I had no idea what he was talking about and froze a bit. Part of it was my own anxiety and experiences with things like this. We moved a lot when I was a kid, so I was forgotten pretty often for all class type things and this brought a lot of those old feelings back (think only kid w/o valentines day cards and the like). And partially it’s a little bit of a fit thing. I’ve worked for my company for a really long time, but in a different department where we were close and worked with people who shared a lot of my interests (think computer nerds). I had recently switched to a large department where the conversations tend to revolve around sports (which I know almost nothing about), so I was already feeling out of place and this just temporarily magnified that feeling to a point of paralysis

        1. CynicallySweet7*

          I should probably add. For me, the feelings of hurt and humiliation were pretty much gone by the next morning (once I cried it out a bit, ate some ice cream, and gave logic the opportunity to work it’s way back into my head). But that could very well be a tenure thing. I know I’m liked, and I had a 9 year reputation of working hard and well to fall back on when I made the typical new person mistakes. I could see this being much harder for me to get over if I was less confident in those things / didn’t have that fall back.

    4. Samata*

      I am not asking this to be controversial, but why were you hiding in the bathroom? It sounds like your manager was trying to actively avoid what happened to OP #2 and make sure everyone had a ride to the party and no one got left behind?

      1. Mikasa*

        They were probably embarrassed or worried to say they they were not invited. I understand how that is.

      2. nonymous*

        The manager might be striving for inclusiveness right off the bat, but sometimes the dynamics/personalities at the group level don’t support that. If the group is standoffish early on – for example, if they’re recovering from previous dysfunction related to the role or there is some conflict between team and manager – it may cost political capital (which a newb doesn’t have) if the manager “makes” the team include someone.

      3. CynicallySweet7*

        I didn’t think you were (tbh my bf asked me the same thing). For me it was because I knew I looked like I was upset and wasn’t comfortable with my ability to hide it, and so in a panic move I ducked into the bathroom to avoid the question.

  11. MissGirl*

    I’m curious what Allison’s advice would be to the demoted employee if she’d written about should she stay or go. Would it be better to stick it out at the demoted position until finding a new position?

    1. Catabodua*

      When it happened to me there wasn’t really a question – I still needed money coming in each month. So the demotion happened and I job searched like crazy.

  12. Cordoba*

    I see no advantage to quitting vs making them fire you, unless they would tell a reference-checker “oh yeah, we fired them”. Most employers won’t do this.

    My thinking is that forcing them to fire me makes the employer do the emotional work of actually putting me on the street, allows me to collect unemployment, and it is in many ways easier to spin “I got fired” positively in future interviews rather than “I quit”.

    I’ve never had the fired/laid-off/quit distinction come up in future interviews, but if it did I can think of about a dozen ways to handle it without looking like an incompetent even if you were fired for fundamental skills reasons.

    “So, I see on your resume that you worked at Teapots Inc for 2 years. Did you leave voluntarily?”
    “No. They wanted to take that position in a direction that wasn’t a good match for my background, so offered me another role that I was not excited about. When I declined that opportunity I was separated from the company. It was a great place, but over time it became apparent that me working there was not a good fit for either party.”

    1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      I’m curious that you find it easier to spin being fired than quitting – could you explain more about that? I’ve always felt it’s easier to explain “I chose to leave the role for XYZ reasons” (I was looking to work more with a certain responsibility, I had concerns about the financial stability of the company, I found that the commute was too challenging for my family needs, etc) than it would be to explain why you were fired. You can usually find a reasonable, true, innocuous reason to explain why you left a job!

      If I was interviewing someone who said they’d been fired, I know I’d drill down and ask many more questions to make sure I understood exactly what led to them being fired, but wouldn’t necessarily be as concerned if someone left voluntarily. I’m not a hiring manager though, so maybe that’s not usually the case?

      1. Safetykats*

        Part of the problem here is that people egregiously misuse the term “fired.” Were you let go for cause, or just let go? Are you eligible for rehire? Presumable OP would be eligible for rehire, since they offered her another position. That is a very different thing than being let go for cause, which is the connotation I attach to “fired.” At any rate, if you imply that you were involuntarily separated from your job, or if your previous job (in reference check) states that you were, the next question should always be whether you are eligible for rehire. It’s the answer to that question that tells HR/the hiring manager what they really need to know.

      2. Cordoba*

        Firing is something that happens to you, quitting is something that you choose to do. Depending on the circumstances and the interviewer I can see how quitting could sometimes look worse.

        Example of firing (probably) being neutral: “The company cut my department by 50% and I was one of the ones who was cut because I had just finished a major project and not yet picked up a new one.”

        Example of firing (probably) being positive: “My boss asked me to falsify a report and I refused, then they fired me. I couldn’t prove their misconduct so didn’t have any way to pursue a legal case. Before this happened my last 3 performance evaluations were either Good or Excellent.”

        Example of quitting (possibly) being negative: “The long commute didn’t work for me”.

        In this case if I’m the interviewer I will want to know if something *changed* that made the candidate’s prior commute no longer workable, or if they just signed up for a long commute without fully thinking it through.

        Somebody who voluntarily takes on a long commute and then bails on the job because of the commute is a red flag for me. If I hire them are they going to quit that job in 6 months because of some similarly-foreseeable thing they are glossing over or ignoring now?

        In the case of somebody who quit their last job due to the commute and who is now job searching I’d also want to know why they didn’t keep commuting for a few more weeks/months until they found another job.

  13. Lauren K Milligan*

    Yes, as others have stated, I think the coworker who was left behind is acting like she’s furious because in reality, she’s humiliated. She doesn’t know where she really stands with her coworkers. She could also be thinking that this was some kind of prank pulled on her. The OP should still do all the things that Alison mentioned, but do it to let her know she’s valued, and is accepted as a team member, not simply to alleviate her anger.
    And most importantly, this issue should be dropped, not turned into a ‘thing’ that she’s teased about down the road by other coworkers.

    1. Catabodua*

      “And most importantly, this issue should be dropped, not turned into a ‘thing’ that she’s teased about down the road by other coworkers.”


      It would be worse to be reminded at even future lunch of this happening, even if it’s meant in a light-hearted way. “We remembered you today!!” I’d want to never interact with these people ever again.

  14. VioletEMT*

    It’s amazing the little things that can make a new employee feel unwelcome. At CurrentJob, the first day, HR had misspelled my name. As a result, IT had misspelled my name. As a result, my email address was, my business cards were wrong, my cubicle nameplate was wrong, and everyone was mispronouncing my name (the misspelling was omitting an important letter). Add to that the fact that the mentor I was supposed to have meet me on the first morning no-showed and didn’t send a backup, and I felt like I should just walk out because clearly they didn’t actually want me. If a specific person hadn’t taken me under her wing and helped me get everything fixed quickly, I probably wouldn’t have come back for day 2. So I sympathize with this new employee.

    1. CmonPeople*

      I am having the same issue at my current job. I’ve been here for 7 months now, and 75% of the organization mispronounces my name. It’s a very easy name to pronounce, but no one seems to bother to change their pronunciation after I correct them.

      Just to add insult to injury, we had a staff meeting on my birthday. During the staff meeting, the names of everyone who has a birthday that month are listed. I was literally the only person with that birthday month who was not listed. It also took more than 6 months to start getting invited to all staff events because people kept forgetting to put me on the email list.

      I have definitely been very hurt by these continuous slights, and I empathize with the employee.

    2. An Underemployed Millennial*

      This happened to me and I felt very excluded, especially since when I would correct people they’d act like I was being petty or like I didn’t know how to spell my own name. I have the right to have my name spelled correctly. I especially wondered if people were more careless with my name because it is clearly Spanish, I know that people misspell Anglo names too but I doubt it’s at the rate that mine is misspelled. Fortunately my own small workgroup has been great, the exclusion I felt was from the larger division, but I am actively job seeking and will not feel bad when I leave.

    3. Autumnheart*

      One of my early career jobs, I relocated out of state and worked on a two-person team that was part of the larger IT group. Because there was a lack of good seating arrangements, my two-person team was moved downstairs with the help desk technicians while the rest of the team stayed upstairs. Luckily, the company was building a new HQ across town so we would have a larger office for everyone before long.

      I got along well with help desk, but my other team member took another job a couple months later, and the rest of my larger team basically forgot I was there. I ran out of work to do and nobody else could come up with projects. I attempted to attend a conference, but when I arrived at the conference hotel, I was informed that it had been canceled but nobody had told me, so I flew back the next day. A week later, I had to fix some errors on my expense report and went upstairs to find my manager. I interrupted a team meeting where they were discussing the move next day to the new headquarters. They had not invited me to the meeting! I literally would have come in the next day and not had ANY idea where anyone had gone or where the new office was.

      I decided enough was enough at that point, and found a new job back in my home city. My former coworkers informed me that the director announced that “Vanessa” had left the company. My name is not Vanessa. Not even close.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Wait whaaaaat? They CANCELED THE CONFERENCE and nobody told you????? And let you fly there, not knowing!!?!?!?!?!?!

        Oy yoy yoy. I might have had a little vacation on their dime, in that case.

        1. Autumnheart*

          To clarify, the organization hosting the conference canceled, and did not tell me or my company. And yeah, that was an oops. But not nearly as egregious as moving the company to a different office building without telling me.

    4. JS*

      The name thing is HUGE for making someone feel welcome. I have a not uncommon first name and at my last job, there was another person with the same name. My boss thought it would be “too confusing” to have two people with the same name (our emails were firstname @ and she refused to let me have firstname + first letter of last name @, so she required me to go by a shortened version of my name. (Even though no one ever called me this.) I literally had to change my name at work, and it made me feel so miffed for years!

      1. LaLa*

        I have a friend who was told to go by a nickname at work because one of the supervisors has a *similar* name.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        That seems like a very short sighted setup to make the emails just be first name! Was that the first time two people had the same name? I feel like it’s hard to walk into any room and not have there be at least two men named John. We’ve got lots of Sarahs and Brians, so many common names!

        Our email addresses are firstname.lastname@company and the lawyer we deal with has a fairly common first name and a super common last name so her email is firstname.lastname3@company.

        1. JS*

          To be fair, we were a company of less than 20 people. Staff was growing, so it was an inevitable problem that just hadn’t been thought out. When I came on, another person with the same first name had just left. So the company had three people with the same first name (I swear it’s not that common!) in a period of a couple years. I don’t remember what they did before I came on.

    5. nora*

      When I was fairly new at my last job, one day *every single one* of my coworkers (all six of them) spontaneously went out for coffee without me. My office was in the back corner and it took me a while to realize they were gone. I brought it up jokingly a year or so later and my coworkers responded by telling me that never happened. It was just one sign among many that no one, let alone my supervisor, had any kind of respect for me.

    6. All. Is. On.*

      I’ve been at my company for 6 years and neither my first nor last name has ever been spelled correctly by anyone. Granted, I live in a country where my name is pretty unusual, but it’s still frustrating.

  15. GreyjoyGardens*

    Re quitting or getting fired: It’s usually better if you allow the company to lay you off or fire you because then you can collect unemployment unless you are fired “for cause” – and, at least in California, “cause” means “egregious misbehavior, chronic tardiness, etc.” and not “poor fit” or “boss didn’t like me.” However, if getting fired rather than preemptively quitting means a bad reference…that’s a tough choice when it comes down to income stream + poor reference vs. no income but good reference. I’ve never had that happen, though, thankfully!

    Left-behind employee: I agree that she’s upset because her coworkers seem so casual and unconcerned about what happened to her. “We forgot about Jane, oh well, too bad so sad” would make anyone upset because it sounds like she’s being purposely excluded. An apology and reassurances would probably go a long way towards pacifying her.

  16. Matilda the Hun*

    OP3: I’d go ahead and suggest your former co-worker’s name. If the people who found her “fussy” are the same ones who treated you poorly, I wouldn’t put too much stock in their opinions.

  17. Kat*

    Alison I’m very surprised your answer to #1 didn’t talk about constructive dismissal. The same thing was done to me – I was not given proper training and kept being criticized for things I “should have known” even though I was never trained to know that and there wasn’t any company policies to refer to (it was a retail job). I was bumped around to different departments but retained my position and pay so the moves were lateral. However, a new manager determined she didn’t like me and said I would either be written up enough times to be fired or I could accept a demotion. I chose to quit. But because I detailed all of this in my unemployment claim, I was approved for unemployment benefits. Years later I learned that I should’ve filed a complaint with our labour board and I could’ve received a larger settlement because what they did was illegal (constructive dismissal).
    The LW doesn’t provide the same details that I do but I still think it was worth noting to the LW that they may have options to file a complaint if the reason truly was not due to poor performance.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It sounds like you’re not in the U.S. Here in the U.S., constructive dismissal can get you unemployment, but isn’t illegal on its own (unless it’s combined with, for example, illegal discrimination).

      More broadly, though, there aren’t any details in the letter that would indicate that it was constructive dismissal.

  18. Blue Eagle*

    Furious? Being left behind has happened to me before, but my reaction is more along the lines of hurt and feeling like the people who left me don’t like me. But I would definitely be proactive next time and specifically tell someone that I would be a minute (no need to specify anything having to do with bodily functions) and please wait for me.

    When you absent yourself from the area so people can’t know you are missing and don’t bother telling anyone, you then can’t blame them if they don’t realize that you are missing.

    1. Cordoba*

      I’m also unclear as to why she is furious or what she wanted the other people to do.

      Were I part of a plan that included multiple groups and multiple taxis the implication in my mind is “all adults who are part of this plan will be at location X at time Y if they want to join us”.

      I guess I wouldn’t deliberately leave somebody behind if I knew for a fact that they had just stepped out to use the restroom, but I also wouldn’t be counting heads “Home Alone” style to make sure all the adult professionals involved are there.

      If I was going to a group work lunch and happened to look around and not see Bob I would likely conclude one of the following:
      -Bob must have gone with one of the other taxis
      -Bob decided not to join us because reasons that aren’t my business
      -Bob is taking his own car because reasons I don’t care about

      I definitely would not take the absence of Bob to mean “I must stop everything right now and make sure we’re not leaving Bob behind”. This is especially true if I was not Bob’s manager.

      If Bob were “furious” with me as a result of this logic I would be inclined to think much less of Bob.

      1. Brandy*

        She wanted them to apologize and mean it im sure, not a “sorry, not sorry” or “‘sorry but…” which aren’t apologizes and the fury is what OP says not the employee and we’re taking his words and he may not be someone who has ever been left out and knows how it hurts. You shouldn’t blame her but empathize. Not everyone is outgoing.

        1. Cordoba*

          I don’t see why her peers should be “sorry” or what being outgoing has to do with it.

          Absent specific information to the contrary, if a co-worker doesn’t show up for lunch pickup my assumption is that they either decided not to join us or made other plans for transportation.

          I think this is a reasonable assumption, people decline to attend work lunches or drive separately all the time and generally do not explain this to everybody in their department.

          She possibly has some reason to be upset with her boss or the person who was coordinating the event overall and knew the invite responses etc, but I don’t see any cause to be upset with all the random colleagues who were just also in attendance at the lunch.

          1. Brandy*

            I brought up being outgoing because maybe shes a quite type. Someone mentioned above that he is outgoing and would’ve made sure they knew where he was.

            1. Emperor Honorius*

              “Being a quiet type” does not absolve someone from speaking up or failing to be able to improvise when minor logistics go awry. An apology is supposed to mean something. Asking 20+ people to “apologize” to OP is ridiculous because it assumes they were all responsible for her welfare. At best, the manager should say that she regrets what happened. OP should not make a mountain out of a molehill.

          2. Autumnheart*

            It’s not a reasonable assumption for a new employee who may very well not be familiar with the area, and is certainly not familiar with team culture to be able to say what the correct way to address the situation would have been.

            And whether or not her peers should be sorry, her manager and LW, her supervisor, certainly should be, since they are specifically in charge of onboarding the employee onto the team. They certainly should have made sure their new hire made it to the team lunch.

          3. Wentworth*

            She’s brand new. They all left without her. And when they realized she wasn’t there did nothing to remedy the situation. It’s unbelievably callous.

            That they didn’t apologize means there is something deeply wrong with this place.

  19. Meißner Porcelain Teapot*

    OP 1: “I realized that the managing role wasn’t really for me, but they also currently don’t have any other jobs available that I’d be interested in, so I’m moving on.”

    OP 2: As others pointed out, your co-workers “fury” is very likely not actual fury, but bitter disappointment in how she’s been treated (no-one noticed she was left behind, no-one bothered to call back to the office to contact her, no one seems to have apologized to her about this either – all of which are individual acts of unkindness that pile up). I recommend 1) sincerely apologizing to her (not “oh I feel so awful you were left behind” but “I understand you’re upset – the rest of us really messed up there and I’m very sorry”) and 2) offering to take her to lunch to make up for it (frankly, I think your company should pay for that).
    For the record: I understand how frustrating this can be. I’ve been there. Several times.

    OP 3: Be honest! “Personally, I think Jane does great work and would be a really good fit for the role. I know some people think she’s a bit too much into details and micro-managing, but I have never had that problem with her.”

    OP 4: As Alison said, everything except for the mention of job-searching was just fine.

    OP 5: “It’s great to finally meet you. It’s been such a long time since applications were opened, I was wondering if the position had been filled already.” (This puts the ball in their court and very often seeing how they react to it can give you a very good idea of the general atmosphere in that office.)

  20. Autumnheart*

    In regard to Left Behind, I don’t know anyone who would feel anything other than embarrassed and hurt or angry about being ditched by the team during a team event. There can be plenty of circumstances for not meeting up after the fact—maybe you don’t know where the team is going (especially if it’s a chain with multiple locations nearby), maybe you don’t have the money for a taxi, and maybe you’re wondering if it was an intentional exclusion and not a mistake! We’d all like to assume positive intent, but there are plenty of toxic teams who would pull this kind of shit, right?

    So it’s doubly crappy to not only *not* apologize, but then to hold it against the employee for not figuring it out on her own and for being upset. Come on. At the minimum, this is the opposite of team-building on the part of the supervisor and manager. You really need to do better at making sure new employees feel like they’re welcome and valued.

    So yeah, apologize and have a team lunch where the new employee is included. And in the future, send out a team email reiterating the time, date, location, link to google map, and directions to the place you’re holding your team event, and your cell number in case someone needs to text you. Add a line that says, “If you need to arrive separately from the group, take an Uber and save your receipt” or whatever you want them to do, just so they know what to expect if they get separated. Even if you are not on the planning committee, it’s better to over-inform in these circumstances. Don’t just depend on, “Hey, we’re all going to Pizza Luce for lunch, see you there!” and then your team member comes out of the bathroom and wonders if you meant the one on Lyndale or the one on 66th, and doesn’t have anyone to text or ask.

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      You have to remember the management-ego thing.

      For many managers – an apology – is considered too demeaning to execute.

      Autumnheart, the right thing to do is that the manager should just pull the new employee aside, apologize, and firmly state that this will never happen again. The fact that the manager is asking “what to do” is disturbing.

      But some managers can’t bring themselves to eat that little slice of humble pie to make things right.

      1. Dot Warner*

        But she doesn’t know that. She’s new to the company, possibly new to the area, and barely knows these people. If they all take off for lunch while she’s in the restroom, it’s reasonable for her to think that they did so because they don’t want her around.

      2. Emperor Honorius*

        Exactly. You want to see real fury? Try making me apologize to OP or “failing” to do something that was not my responsibility, that I was never asked to do, that was not a deliberate slight, and that a competent adult over the age of 18 should be able to fix quickly.

        1. AMPG*

          I have to say, I don’t understand this attitude at all. Why wouldn’t you at least be willing to say something like, “I’m sorry you got left behind; we definitely didn’t mean it, and we feel badly that you were hurt by it.” People who act like apologies drain their precious life force are a mystery to me.

        2. Autumnheart*

          Uh, it literally would be your responsibility to do exactly those things, as the supervisor of your direct report. That’s what managers are supposed to do. Getting “furious” over being expected to address a situation involving the person you manage is much more inappropriate than a newbie being “furious” over accidentally being left at the office.

  21. Julia the Survivor*

    Re #2, does it seem to anyone else very cumbersome to load two groups of people into taxis for a dept. lunch?
    It would be so much easier to have food brought in and eat in the conference room, and it would avoid mishaps like this – and save taxi fare too!

  22. MommyMD*

    Left behind coworker needs to realize it was an accident involving multiple taxis and coworkers and get over herself. It happens. She could have taken an Uber and laughed about it. Being furious is out there. I would not cater to that attitude. And if she pops into the bathroom while waiting on a taxi and tells no one, that’s on her.

    1. Wentworth*

      A brand new person showing up all by themselves after everyone left without her, saw she wasn’t in the restaurant, and still didn’t bother to call and check is going to feel very subconscious. And that’s even if she knew where they were going exactly.

    2. Dot Warner*

      We don’t know that she didn’t tell anybody she was going to the bathroom, though. And that’s a perfectly normal thing to do before heading out to lunch, especially if you aren’t sure how long it will take to get to your destination.

      1. only acting normal*

        I got left at a restaurant once. On a business trip, in a foreign country, at night, where we’d walked to the place along a canal and through a park. I *did* tell my boss I was going to the loo and “don’t leave without me”.
        The group had all left through a different door, I went out onto the canal path (and found it empty), and the waiter locked the door behind me so I couldn’t back track. A fairly terrifying walk through a pitch black park later I never felt quite the same about any if those colleagues again. (One did call my hotel room to check I got back ok and apologise… Not my boss though.)

    3. Emperor Honorius*

      “And if she pops into the bathroom while waiting on a taxi and tells no one, that’s on her.”


      If it’s your first day, you don’t disappear into the bathroom when everyone else is departing and assume they know about you.

      1. Dot Warner*

        We don’t know that she didn’t tell anybody she was in the bathroom, though. It also was *not* her first day – the letter writer said that the employee started “a few weeks ago.”

  23. Someone else*

    I’m assuming if this were at all a part of the process the OP would’ve mentioned it, and therefore it probably doesn’t apply, but whenever my company does an “everybody go out to eat in a group” thing, the invites are always we will meet in the lobby at x o’clock; we are leaving promptly at x+10 minutes o’clock. So basically, if you’re not there at x+10, we’re assuming you’ve elected not to come. Literally, the email will say that if you’re not there at the designated time we’re leaving without you. That type of protocol is the only reason I can see why the manager reacting the way he did would make sense.

  24. nora*

    Re: the staff member getting left out of lunch. Something very similar happened to me a month ago (one month into my current job).

    The lunch had been arranged a few days before and was supposed to start at 12 following a staff meeting. I missed the staff meeting due to another meeting offsite and planned to meet everyone at 12:15. I got to the restaurant around 12:10 and didn’t see anyone. I texted my supervisor, who didn’t respond (what I didn’t know at the time was from that day forward, cell phones were banned at the all-staffs). I waited 10 minutes or so, then picked up fast food and went back to the office. I ate my entire lunch without hearing from anyone, and then all of a sudden everyone walked by my door (I sit right by the exit) and was sooooooooo apologetic for forgetting to tell me that the meeting ran late. I brushed it off, joking that at least I paid less for my lunch than I would have at the restaurant. I later found out that our CEO paid for everyone. Sad trombone.

    Outwardly I was cheerful about the whole thing – gosh, what an unfortunate misunderstanding! That’s what I get for missing staff meetings! – but inwardly I was deeply hurt. I literally have nightmares about being forgotten and it was like, holy cow, my worst nightmare actually happened. (I was also a little miffed that they didn’t, I don’t know, pick up a slice of pie for me or something.) However, I’m an adult and a professional person and as such I understand it’s my responsibility to manage my emotions at work. Did I let loose a string of expletive-laced texts to my husband? I surely did. But I was not about to risk my reputation on a comedy of errors. One lunch was not worth it.

  25. Emperor Honorius*

    LW3, “being fussy” is a GOOD thing in a finance person. The people complaining about your colleague are probably not detailed oriented people.

  26. Rachael*

    For letter #2 I have mixed emotions. I know what my reaction would be if I was new to a employer and I know what my reaction is now that I am older.

    One thing that I learned is to never to go the bathroom or leave the room when people are making plans to go somewhere unless I have asked someone “do I have time to go to the bathroom? Make sure I’m not left”. I’ve been left and learned from it. It sucked a lot and I felt embarrassed and I did feel the “fury” that the employee felt because I felt that people should have been looking out for me. But, the thing I learned is that sometimes people aren’t going to make sure that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. The OP didn’t do anything wrong (unless, like some commentor said, she acted like she didn’t care when talking to the employee) and the employee didn’t do anything wrong. The whole situation sucked. If I was her co-w0rker I would be upset for her and say “I’m so sorry that you were left!” but I would leave it at that and not feel as if I needed to go any further.

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