how to help an employee in crisis, I vouched for my friend and he’s terrible, and more

It’s four answers to four questions. Here we go…

1. How to help a suicidal employee

I was a mentor for a student who I then hired after he graduated. He’s sharp, articulate, and full of raw potential. We’re several months into our working relationship now. I manage him, and still act as a mentor.

In our one-on-one this week, he shared that he’s struggling with specific suicidal urges. After the meeting, I talked with HR, and followed procedure to get him professional assistance.

HR would like my involvement to end there for liability and optics reasons. However, I know my employee has no support system to rely on (I’m one of two people he’s been open with). He has a history of mental health struggles that have gone untreated, and I see him getting worse.

I care about this individual professionally and personally, but the line between work and life is blurry for me here. What is an appropriate level of involvement when I’m both his manager and mentor? How can I help him as a friend without betraying my professional responsibilities?

Because you’re his boss, you can’t really help him as a friend. That risks really blurring the lines in a way that could be harmful to both of you down the road. For example, if he starts to see you as more friend than boss, he could end up revealing information to you that isn’t in his best interests to reveal to a boss. Or if he has performance issues later on, he could miss cues that his performance needs to improve in order for him to stay in his job, because he assumes his friend will cut him more slack than his boss can.

But because you’re his boss, you’re positioned to help in ways that no one else in his life can! As his manager, you can ensure he’s getting time off he needs it, a kind and supportive environment at work (or just a normal one, if normalcy is what he needs), and some understanding if he needs to push back deadlines, reassess priorities, or otherwise get some space right now. Focus on the ways you can help as his manager — no one else around him can do that, and you are uniquely able to help in that way.

2. I vouched for my friend and he’s turned out to be terrible

When my friend was applying at my company, I vouched for him and my company made him a pretty comfortable offer. As soon as he started, he began complaining nearly non-stop about everything work-related. At some point after being in the position for only a few months, he checked in with our boss on what it would take to get a promotion to the next title, even though he has been doing nothing extraordinary with his day-to-day responsibilities and accomplishments (our boss quickly shot him down for being too junior with the company and needing more experience).

Since then, my friend has actively shit on our customers and has snuffed every team event we’ve had. He’s also indicated he doesn’t intend to stay with the company any longer than necessary, regardless of what we do to help him cross train or pick up new skills.

I’m pissed because we made the promotion path and the day-to-day responsibilities very clear so as to not oversell anything. At multiple levels, we attempted to set expectations so this type of scenario wouldn’t happen. In hindsight, I’m starting to see a pattern that’s increased in frequency for him recently in which he stays with a job for a year or less and then moves on, trashing the last place, and even outright bragging that he disrespected his last manager (again, all issues which didn’t come up until he started with our company).

What’s the best way to go about this? As his friend, I’m concerned about this pattern he’s been repeating and it’s obvious he’s unhappy with some core issue, but blames it on the job before moving on to the next one. As the person who recommended him, he seems like a terrible fit for the company’s culture.

I think you’ve got to do two things. First, talk to your friend and tell him he’s putting you in a crappy position — point out that you put your reputation on the line by vouching for him, and he needs to pull it together at work for your sake if nothing else. Tell him that if he’s going to leave, it would be better to do it sooner rather than later so that this comes to an end, but that while he’s there, he needs to clean up his act.

Second, talk to your boss and say something like, “I want you to know that I didn’t foresee these issues with Bob when I recommended him. I’m mortified that I vouched for him — I had no idea it would turn out this way, and I’m really disappointed. If you’re cutting him any breaks on my account, please know there’s no need to. If you conclude he’s not right for the job, that won’t be an issue on my side.” The point here isn’t to throw your friend under the bus — it’s to do some damage repair since you recommended him.

And really, what he’s doing to you is not the behavior of a good friend — if he chooses to be this kind of employee, that’s his business but he should have kept it out of your workplace and out of your friendship.

3. Can I charge double for a dog-walking job I don’t want?

I’m currently in my first semester of an MA program. I recently took a contractor position with a local dog-walking company to earn a little money and to let me stretch my legs outside on afternoons when I’m otherwise stuck inside studying. I was really clear in all of my application materials, my walker profile, and at my interview and orientation that my highest priority was not spending more than a couple minutes driving between walks because they obviously don’t pay for travel, because I already spend almost two hours a day commuting to and from school, and because I just hate driving.

Right out the gate, they assigned me a client with a 20-minute commute each way for a 30-minute walk. I come home stressed and frustrated and needing a break. I’ve told them 3-5 times with increasingly strong language that I don’t want this and can’t sustain it but they reply that they are desperate for walkers, they don’t have anyone who can cover it, can I please just do at least two more weeks, etc. Their commission is more than 50%, and with all this time spent traveling I’m earning just barely minimum wage and less than half of what I charge for freelance before you count gas.

Should I truthfully tell them that the only way I’ll continue is if they double what they are currently paying me for that walk (which would leave them with a margin of about $1/day on the walk, and I suspect would definitely help keep the arrangement on the very short side of short-term), or should I just give them a firm no? Is there language that would help me remind them that this is a business relationship and that the first two weeks is not the appropriate time to start pressuring me for favors?

If you’d truly be willing to do it for double the pay (and won’t find yourself just as stressed and in need of a break even with the higher pay), then yes, tell them that! You could say, “I’d love to help out, but I made a point to stress during the hiring process that I wouldn’t be able to take on jobs with this long of a drive. The time I’m spending traveling is canceling out much of the money. If you’re able to raise my rate for that walk to $X, I could continue doing it until you’re able to find someone else to take it over, but otherwise I really can’t continue doing it.”

I wouldn’t get into trying to remind them that this is a business relationship (the language above will make that clear anyway) or that they shouldn’t be asking for favors in the first two weeks (hard to do that without being combative; it’ll be better to just set the boundaries you want and stick to them).

But if you really don’t want to do this regardless of the money, it’s fine to just say, “I was willing to give it a try because I know you’re in a bind, but I really need to stick with what we agreed to previously about distance, so I can’t do this one after tomorrow.”

4. My manager abruptly resigned on my third day

I just recently started a new job and three days after hiring me, my supervisor abruptly resigned (without notice), effective immediately.

My coworkers aren’t really talking about it and everyone has been told, more or less, to not ask. But I’m curious. In every other job I’ve worked, if someone resigned effective immediately (with a fellow coworker to clean up his/her/their desk), this means that they were let go or that there was some kind of bad blood. Should I worry about what this says about my new place of business?

On its own without other signs of problems, no. You’re right that it might mean that your manager was fired, but that on its own isn’t inherently cause for alarm. You don’t have any of the back story, but there are lots of reasons it could have happened — anything from long-running performance issues to watching porn at work, who knows. (In fact, if she were fired for those reasons, it’s actually a good sign about your company, to the extent that it indicates they address problems rather than letting them fester.) Or it’s possible that she resigned and left immediately because she was going to a competitor or had a family health crisis or lots of other possibilities. Or yes, there could be some kind of bad blood between her and your company, but that’s probably the least likely explanation — and even if it’s the right one, it doesn’t mean your company is a terrible place to work. (I mean, maybe it does but it could also mean your manager was volatile or it was just a personality conflict or so forth.)

Or sure, it could be someone fleeing a terrible, dysfunctional place — but that’s really just one possibility out of many others, so I wouldn’t let it rattle you. If you start seeing other signs of trouble, then yes — but not just based on this.

{ 222 comments… read them below }

  1. Aphrodite*

    OP #3, I wouldn’t offer to do it for twice the money. You’ll still hate the drive only more so because if they agree to your terms you will feel there is no way you can quit specifically because of that. And they probably won’t have good feelings about you either. (They won’t either way, but why make yourself miserable in addition to that?) Just tell them no, you can’t help out any longer and if they want to continue to work with you they will have to stick by the limits you told them, no exceptions at any time for any reason. This is especially important with the holiday season coming up where petsitting needs increase. Draw the line firmly now or this may get worse.

    1. Tau*

      Yeah, it does not sound like you’d actually be happy to do it for the extra money, and instead are hoping the demand will make them drop it of their own accord. What if they agree and keep it long-term? What if they then hold this over your head as a favour they did you? Make it simple – say “no,” and also say no to any other unsuitable work they try to foist on you.

    2. Sherm*

      It sounds, though, that twice the salary is worth it to OP3. I think actually the drive would be more bearable if OP3 believes it’s for the best. Quitting at any time is still an option. If they feel resentful, well, they shouldn’t: OP3’s concerns are all legitimate and were repeated to them from the start. And as this isn’t OP3’s career goal, things like letters of rec are less of an issue.

      1. Aphrodite*

        I disagree, Sherm. She doesn’t want more money, she wants out. If you reread the OP’s first two paragraphs, you’ll see she says she hates driving, hates her already two-hour commute to school, is annoyed they ignored her requirements (by making her first assignment with them a 20-minute commute), is feeling more stress and hassle with this job & knows she can’t sustain it, and are going so far to guilt her with mildly bullish behavior (“but the dog … no one else …”)

        Tau is right.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          This sentence makes it sound to me like they would very possibly be okay with the trip with higher pay: “with all this time spent traveling I’m earning just barely minimum wage and less than half of what I charge for freelance before you count gas.”

          1. ExcelJedi*

            That sentence made me feel like she was looking for justification beyond “it makes me miserable.” Sure, if she made more money she wouldn’t have THAT complaint anymore, but she’d still have every other complaint. And oftentimes, even after getting a huge pay bump, “this makes me miserable” is still enough of a complaint to make people leave a job.

    3. Lily*

      I’d try to negotiate for paid travelling time and reimbursed gas cost. If they need you that badly (and promised service to that client), they should be willing to consider that, just as they expect you to consider serving this client though it’s outside of your previously negotiated boundaries. Also, if they are so short on dogwalkers, what are they going to do? Fire you and have one less?

    4. Dragoning*

      If they’re really so desperate for dog walkers, you think they’d be falling over themselves to keep OP happy and should have plenty of ability to keep them happy.

      1. EllS*

        OP here- one of the things that’s frustrating about this is that my sense is that they really are desperate and in need of all the help they can get, but also that they would probably walk past me if I were bleeding in a ditch because I’m just a contractor.

        1. Jennifer*

          I think that answers everything for you. They’re not going to do shit to please you. If you hate how these people work, then just quit.

        2. blackcat*

          Maybe they’re desperate because they don’t treat their contractors well!

          I’d cut them loose. If they do this, they’ll do something else crappy down the road.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          If they’re unwilling to pay fair wages and compensation, then they’re not really desperate. I suspect they would have better staffing if they weren’t always shafting their contractors.

          I vote for quitting and possibly exploring a gig economy shift through Rover/Wag (I have no idea what their labor practices are like, though, so I defer to folks who have experience working for them).

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#3, have you considered going solo? Professional dog walkers often make more money when they work independently (instead of going through a service). I imagine there’s a large potential clientele on/near campus, although I recognize that not having to manage the logistics or build up a client base is a huge plus. I think you should reiterate the conditions you disclosed when they hired you when making the “double the rate” argument. But it sounds like you’ll need to be prepared to walk (no pun intended).

    1. Maggie*

      OP3, I worked for a tutoring company just like this. Same commission rate, same “we’re really desperate for tutors,” same miserable half hour drive assignment that amounted to minimum wage. I initially stayed because the child’s previous tutor had quit and the tutoring company didn’t want the clients to feel ‘abandoned’ again. But eventually I wised up and quit because none of that is my problem as a minimum wage independent contractor working this as a second job! Shame on my old employer and yours both for recruiting clientele in an area where they can’t actually provide service, not shame on you. Hang flyers in the radius you usually walk and ditch the commission and yes, you’ll be better off.

      1. WS*

        +1, it’s a classic. “But how can you abandon the client?” With extra pathos if the client is a kid or a pet! But it’s not the minimum wage contractor who promised this service, it’s the business.

          1. Psyche*

            Exactly. If they cannot find someone to do it for the terms they are offering then they need to make it more attractive. Or tell the client that they are unable to do it.

          2. Schnauzerfan*

            I employed a service to care for my mother. They often had problems keeping staff. Last straw for us was when we found out they kept the”travel time” money we paid. The employees didn’t get milage and their shift started when the walked in our door. Grrr

            1. boo bot*

              Oh, how extra gross that they actually charged the “travel time” money, thus demonstrating that they knew it was reasonable (and that they *had* the travel time money) and then didn’t pass it on to the staff.

              In addition to the whole wage theft and moral bankruptcy of it all, the workers are being paid poorly, while the customers think they’re well-compensated – it’s incredibly frustrating to be a worker in that position, especially when it’s an ongoing, close-relationship kind of job (like a care service).

              1. MassMatt*

                Huge agreement with your 2nd paragraph. Getting home care is expensive, in my area VERY expensive, yet quality is spotty at best because the agencies keep such a large cut. These are demanding jobs, both physically and emotionally, and you want good people doing them, it’s not likely to happen when the employees could make equivalent wages with less hassle working retail.

                Our population is aging and the need for good people in these jobs is only going to skyrocket.

                1. Paquita*

                  Yes! We finally found two wonderful ladies to care for my dad during his last few months. They worked for the hospice. But people like them are very hard to find and keep.

    2. [insert witty username here]*

      Dog walking for a friend or neighbor on occasion is one thing; to do it semi-professionally can often require a business license and more importantly, insurance. Truly, when it comes to dogs you don’t know, insurance should be an absolute MUST. The dog walking company probably provides that for their walkers (PS – if they don’t, LEAVE IMMEDIATELY) and getting it on your own would definitely cut into your profit. So if this person only wants to do it a little bit as a break from school, it might not be worth it to try to do it on their own. It’s a good thought for sure, but in anything dealing with someone else’s animal, you really need to protect yourself (what if you’re walking the dog, a biker comes by too close with no warning, the dog jumps out and bites the biker? You could be liable, not the owner)

      1. [insert witty username here]*

        PS I say this as a HUGE dog lover and owner! I would never hire someone to take care of my dog if they weren’t insured. Not trying to be a Negative Nancy – not all dog owners would be responsible enough to tell you all of Rover’s quirks and triggers. I’m the last person that wants more bureaucracy involved but sometimes, you need that extra layer of protection!

      2. Pet Sitter*

        +1. Doing this professionally is great but not really that easy.

        PCBH, I believe your professional experience is in the legal field?

          1. Pet Sitter*

            Sure. I think you mean to help the OP, but your advice was a bit off-base and didn’t seem based on experience in professional pet care. I wouldn’t advise someone in medicine, computer programming, or accounting.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I’m always happy to be corrected, especially by people with more experience and knowledge of a specific industry. I push back on the idea that we should never advise people in other fields because oftentimes advice can be applied across the board. But it’s always helpful when people who are more expert in an industry weigh in on why generalized advice may be unhelpful or flat-out wrong.

      3. ZK*

        Yeah, the company is likely licensed, insured and bonded, which should protect OP and the client. But I’m actually curious. OP states they’re a contractor and while I am no lawyer, I would swear that dog walkers/sitters aren’t really supposed to be contractors because the position fails the IRS’s narrow definition of independent contractors. (I looked at working for a pet sitting company a few years ago and ended up running the other way after I looked in to the regulations/laws.) Which means the OP and the business could be up a creek should anything go wrong.

    3. EllS*

      OP here! I really thought about going solo, but I went with an agency because I don’t plan on sticking around over semester breaks and I wanted the organizational support they could provide. At this point though, it’s clear to me that they’re in chaos and I’m right on the cusp of giving up on them and changing my mind.

      1. EllS*

        Or just stopping and doing something else for excercise. The money is really good for nothing except enabling my coffee habit, and I have two other jobs for that.

        1. Clorinda*

          Quit, and go for walks by yourself whenever and wherever you want. The situation you have now is worse than not walking at all, because it’s just stressing you out and making you angry.

      2. Agent Diane*

        Hi OP3. Their disorganisation is their problem, not yours. And their business is to profit from connecting dog owners with dog walkers: they are not going to pay you more for this job and are hoping to exploit your willingness to do these “favours”. Wish them luck, but say this isn’t working for you.

        Maybe look into walking routes on campus / around town? I live in an old English city so I walk around the old walls (around 40min walk) at lunch to get myself some air etc.

        1. EllS*

          The old city walls—that sounds lovely! I live in a major US metropolitan area with extremely high income inequality so one of the things that has actually been a draw about dogwalking for me is the chances to go and walk around neighborhoods with beautiful homes and lots of green space. But you’re right, I could do that without the dogs.

          1. Gandalf the Nude*

            Are you looking for gigs near home or near campus? My alma mater (also in the rich people neighborhood of a major US metro area with extreme income inequality) had a job board and listserv for students and neighborhood residents to hook them up for these kinds of jobs. A lot of my classmates made their coffee money nannying, mowing lawns, and walking dogs through that. Maybe your school has something similar.

          2. Bunny Girl*

            If you just want the company and really don’t need the extra money, you could look at volunteering at an animal shelter. A lot of the ones around here offer the opportunity to walk dogs who are waiting for new homes. You’d get your exercise and a shelter dog would get some more love.

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, this is awful—I’m so sorry. I agree with Alison’s approach. Put your friend-who-isn’t-behaving-like-a-friend on notice (like, CTJ-level notice), but definitely try to clear the air with the powers that be. You don’t want to get dragged under by his riptide of suck, and the sooner you can distance yourself, the better.

  4. Jessica*

    I disagree with the advice on number one. The reasons that Allison gives for not getting more involved all have to do with long term and relatively minor implications for the employee. But if this is really as serious as suicide, there will be no long-term. I don’t have experience with helping suicidal people, but if there is anything you can do to help, I think it would outweigh the other concerns about how it might affect your boss/employee relationship.

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      I agree. You need to be aware of the line, more so here than in other situations possibly because of the seriousness of the situation – but normal rules don’t always fit abnormal situations. It may be best for person not to be friends – but that should be a call looking at the situation as a whole, not because of a, generally excellent, rule which may not apply here.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        To be clear, I didn’t offer that advice because of a general belief about managerial boundaries. I offered it because I genuinely think it’s what is best for both people and because the OP is uniquely positioned to help in other incredibly supportive ways that no one else can. But I would love to hear people with expertise in suicide prevention weigh in if we have any here!

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          No, I understand that! I’m sorry that it sounded that way.

          I think what I was trying to say is that while it may be for the best, there has to be a bit of wiggle room in this situation. This is from having some pretty bad (but not suicidal) mental health issues in the past, and my experiences at work.

          Just not a one size fits all situation.

        2. Hazelthyme*

          Former volunteer crisis counselor here, with some general info:

          * I think Alison’s overall advice is spot-on. Most people who feel suicidal at some point in their lives WON’T be suicidal forever, and the OP’s job is to be a good, compassionate manager now and for as long as the employee reports to them. The best thing they can do to help is to encourage the employee to get treatment, be flexible about time for medical/counseling appointments, cut the person some slack if their work is a little off while they get this under control, etc.

          * In terms of blurring the boundaries between manager and friend because you’re afraid there may not be a next time otherwise … if the person is actively talking about their suicidal feelings, it’s OK to ask some more detailed questions to find out how imminent the danger is. Do they have a plan/method in mind? Do they have access to the means (e.g., gun, pills, jumping)? Do they have the means right there, i.e., is the gun or bottle of pills in your hand? Are you standing on the edge of a bridge? It sounds morbid but what you’re trying to do here is gauge whether you need to intervene right now in the moment. If you’re thinking about suicide but don’t really have a detailed plan for when, where, and how, I’m going to encourage you to seek counseling. If you’re feeling pretty desperate tonight, and don’t know if you can hang on till morning, I’m going to encourage you to go or maybe even offer to take you to the ER. If you have a weapon in your hand or are sitting on the edge of a bridge, I’m going to call 911.

          * It may help the OP determine what’s an appropriate level of involvement from a manager and what’s too much if they think about how they’d respond if an employee had another serious medical condition (e.g., heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer). If the person suddenly had an acute episode at work and needed medical attention, you’d call an ambulance. You might even go a little above and beyond in getting them to a medical facility if they weren’t at work, especially if they lived alone and/or might have a condition that can impair your judgment. (For example, I can imagine intervening if an employee called in sick, but sounded sufficiently unwell or described symptoms that made me think they might be having a stroke or heart attack.) You might ask, while they’re going through treatment, if there’s anything they need in terms of their workload, like a different schedule or duties that might need to be reassigned for awhile. However, you wouldn’t ask for details about their treatment (beyond confirming that their health care provider has OKed their working, or a general “how did it go?”). You also wouldn’t (I hope) feel like you had to walk on eggshells around this person, or that you couldn’t ask them to do any work at all, or that cutting them some slack for a little while while they got their health stabilized = letting key parts of the job go undone indefinitely with no clear plan for or signs of improvement.

          Hope this helps.

          1. Almost Academic*

            Suicide researcher + clinician-in-training who manages actively suicidal clients here.

            I second everything Hazelthyme said, and agree that Alison’s advice is on-part with what I normally give to friends in this situation. You can also reach out to a local organization (e.g., NAMI) for resources on how to handle it from your end.

            Another step I would add is making sure that they have some resources to reach out to. It’s appropriate to say that you want to support them however you can from a work perspective, and are concerned and care and want them to stay safe. Give them some resources they can reach out to after hours if they’re struggling with these thoughts, like numbers for professional crisis lines. They can be hit or miss depending on who answers the phone, but often people report positive experiences with them. The volunteers there can also help the suicidal person make a safety plan, evaluate the level of danger they are in, etc.

            For the US, good resources to give out include 1-800-273-TALK (national suicide prevention lifeline), Crisis Text Line (text 741741; Canadians can text 686868), and for a crisis chat service run by a different provider than the lifeline. There are also some more specific services, like translifeline in the United States. In the UK, I think Samaritans is the group to reach out to.

            1. Tired*

              Crisis Text Line is now in the UK, as well as the US and Canada, although I don’t know the shortcode for the UK.

        3. misspiggy*

          I only have personal expertise in dealing with these kind of mental health issues for loved ones. But I think you’re right, Allison. Having an absolutely solid boss who sees you, who backs you in all the right managerial ways and does so just because they’re a good boss provides enormous reassurance.

          Then the person doesn’t have to worry that the boss’s support will waver if the personal relationship wavers, or if their work performance dips. I don’t mean there should be no consequences if performance drops – it’s just that knowing your boss sees your mental health issues and still treats you with respect and fairness is a huge boost, and sadly all too rare.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            Also from Hazelthyme’s post above, if there’s a situation seems like urgent or emergency, maybe be prepared to call 911 or take them to ER.
            Ask how they’re doing and listen carefully to see if they need a little more, like checking in with them after hours, or helping with life stuff – if that would be crossing boundaries too much, maybe find someone to help them…

            1. Chinookwind*

              At the same time, don’t decide on their behalf that they can’t handle something. Give them the choice to do assignment X instead of thinking it would stress them out too much.

              The number one reason I don’t tell my employers about my mental health issues is that I am worried that they will decide I am incapable of doing my job or handling my own workload. because you know what is gong on, you can keep an eye out to see if your employee is overwhelmed, of course, but then you can ask what they need to do to get back on track. Don’t decide for them.

    2. LilySparrow*

      No, the crisis intervention is already done and the employee has been connected to the help they need to get through the moment (which isn’t a buddy, it’s professional help). Obviously, if another crisis occurs it shouldn’t be ignored, but the same thing applies – get the person connected to help.

      Dealing with depression is a long-term situation that requires ongoing support on multiple levels. I think Alison is spot-on to encourage the LW to give the unique type of support that’s appropriate to their position. Because those are the things nobody else can do. And if LW compromises their credibility by getting too enmeshed or being vulnerable to charges of favoritism, etc, they will lose the ability to give good managerial support.

    3. TootsNYC*

      Here is what I would do as the manager, beyond what Allison has said.

      I wouldn’t get involved in talking about feelings.

      But I -would- be clear about how much I value their work, their tasks and accomplishments.

      And every day, at the end of the day, I’d have a check-in in which we laid out the tasks for the next day’s work, specifically, and visualize them together, and I’d try to be clear about how much I was looking forward to having those tasks accomplished by them, without creating a lot of pressure.
      Something specific, and something achievable without great mental difficulty.

      And I’d say, “I’ll see you tomorrow, right?”

      In my depression, a woman from my church would call me every night, and every night she would say, “Now, I’m going to call you tomorrow about this time–you’ll be there, right?” It took about 4 days for me to realize she wasn’t just checking my schedule; she was getting me to promise that I would be there to answer her call, and that she had me on a suicide watch.
      I didn’t really need it, it turned out, but I could see that it would be valuable to set up a situation in which your employee could say: “I can’t kill myself tonight; my boss needs me to put those files back in order before she can do anything tomorrow.”

      1. TootsNYC*

        Also, a manager is uniquely positioned to help create the “I did something, I accomplished something, I’m not worthless” dynamic. Just by being a manager, without any “feelings” stuff.

        Now might be a really good time to survey his tasks and accomplishments, and make it a point to clearly point them out, so that you don’t take them for granted.
        If his work is normally sort of hypothetical and “do a little now but finish a lot later,” this might be a good time to mix in a little bit of “move the file cabinet over” kind of stuff, so there’s a feeling of accomplishment that arrives frequently.

        None of those are things you need to talk about. But you can do them.

        1. TootsNYC*

          In fact, given a point someone made below, you probably shouldn’t talk about them. To be most helpful, this needs to become organic and feel natural.

          But being a manager who points out successes, and one who is clearly and CONFIDENTLY counting on them to show up tomorrow, and one who confidently counts on their help–that can be very helpful, I think.

        2. lobbyista*

          Gosh this is such good advice. I can’t speak to the professional relationship element of this, but these are all things I would have found so helpful on my worst day.

    4. Nonsensical*

      You can’t save everyone and a boss cannot be an employee’s lifeline. I keep a healthy distance from my boss and I do suffer from bouts of suicial ideation. I have never carried it out nor have I been hospitalized for it. It is something I am working on – but the person with the suicidal thoughts is ultimately responsible for their own mental health.

      The best way I’ve seen it is when a veteran suicided, his wife posted that he ‘lost the battle’. Because that is what it really is. It is a battle and sometimes we are too tired and we lose it. That is not anyone else’s fault nor is it their responsibility to save us.

      I told my ex once no that I wouldn’t promise to call him the instant I was suicidal because I needed to be responsible to myself that I wouldn’t kill myself. I could not displace that responsibility on someone else’s shoulders like that.

      Suicide is not pretty, there is no cape and easy fix to it. Sometimes we lose the battle.

      Keeping boundaries is important for any future with this employee. You can’t save people from themselves.

    5. InfoSec SemiPro*

      Its not about the boss/employee relationship. Its that the relationship is UNIQUE. You basically only have one boss. There are things that ONLY your boss can do for you, can do with you. And you need that from your boss, more than you need friendship.

      This is one of the clearest pieces of advice I’ve really enjoyed. “They only have one boss, you have to be that for them. They can have other friends.” Its not useful when things are good, it extremely useful in crises.

    6. Thor*

      It’s not just about impacting the boss/employee relationship though. Imagine if she has to give him criticism or extra-work or bad news. If the employee is viewing their boss as a friend, it can be damaging to their mental health to have harm put on that relationship.

  5. Be Best for real*

    Removed for the reasons discussed below (i.e., the risk that it’s actively harmful and contrary to what’s recommended in suicide prevention). I’m leaving the replies in case they contain info that’s helpful to others.

    1. Ex-parrot*

      Actually Alison should remove your comment because it is never okay to pressurise anyone to feel responsible for stopping someone else from acting on suicidal feelings. Yes, you can support someone, but you cannot take on the responsibility of saving them.

      I work in a related field and we would advise employers not to try to become someone’s sole support system but to help them within the appropriate boundaries of a working relationship. Your advice here is in contravention to good practice in suicide prevention. You’re not actually helping.

      1. Rosemary7391*

        Thank you. I was a bit uncomfortable with this comment but couldn’t articulate why! I don’t know much about it, but feel like crossing boundaries is akin to building a house of cards here – okay now, but not very stable…

    2. Foreign Octopus*

      Okay, first of all, Alison doesn’t censor comments so your last line is unnecessarily aggressive.

      Secondly, I was once suicidal. I was in the deep, dark depths of despair and I was on a constant treadmill of the best way to kill myself – my preferred method was to throw myself off a bridge because it seemed the easiest way.

      When I was in the depths of those feelings, my workplace knew and my friends there rallied around me. They were kind and loving and fantastic. My boss knew what was happening and he remained kind and supportive but he kept his standards for me high and he didn’t blur the boundaries. If I called in sick, he didn’t question it or make a big deal about it and that was his concession to my illness.

      It was perfect.

      Work was my escape. Work was the one period of the day when I wasn’t dragging myself through the most awful of feelings. I wasn’t treated like glass, I was treated normally and that helped more than anything else my manager could of done. Work was a haven for me and, five years later when I know longer work there, it remains my favourite job because of the sanctuary it offered me.

      After I got better and I had therapy to work at the root of my suicidal thoughts, I was able to continue working there without feeling embarrassed at what had taken place because my manager had remained professional, which had helped me remain professional.

      Your advice is not great and really confrontational here.

      The employee is being helped through HR and they’re putting them in touch with services.

      And let me be clear – no other human can save another person’s life when they’re suicidal. The change and the willingness has to come from within. Help can be given as the OP has already done but it’s really on the employee to take advantage of that and work towards healing as I had to do.

      1. Chinookwind*

        This bears repeating:

        “I was able to continue working there without feeling embarrassed at what had taken place because my manager had remained professional, which had helped me remain professional.”

        Mental illness involves an aspect of shame for many of us. Having a place where you don’t have to feel that shame or embarrassment and where you feel like a professional, competent person is vital on the road to recovery. Being treated professionally can give you an external sense of worth that can’t be dismissed easily by your inner demons.

    3. Not A Manager*

      I disagree with this, and I wonder if the poster has any first-hand experience with suicidal people. “And here, where the boss is literally one of two people who can SAVE A LIFE…” In my experience, no one can SAVE someone else. The best you can do is help them see their situation and their options more clearly. If they choose to commit suicide, that choice is theirs, and no one FAILED at SAVING them.

      If the OP becomes over-invested and crosses boundaries with this person, it could well make them feel more distressed rather than less. I think the OP should provide the resources and support that a boss can provide, which are a lot. The employee needs professional help, not laypeople with a savior complex.

      1. Alton*

        I feel, also, like suicide prevention is often framed in terms of showing people that they have things to live for, but that’s not always going to be enough. It can definitely help some people, I’m sure, but one thing I’ve struggled with is accepting that “hanging in there” isn’t going to naturally lead to a depression-free life, even if I end up getting the things I want. I’m not saying it isn’t good to feel supported and appreciated–it just doesn’t always solve the actual problem, which might be caused by brain chemistry. In that case, getting medical treatment is what might save the person’s life.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t remove comments just because I disagree with them. I do remove them if they are rude, hostile, violate commenting rules, are bigoted, etc.

      But I will remove this one if others with expertise in this area agree that it’s actively harmful, as was suggested above, given the seriousness of the issue.

      1. Ex-parrot*

        It is. It’s putting unreasonable stress and pressure on the letter writer. If the employee does take his own life, they won’t be to blame – let’s not feed the idea that actually they could be.

          1. ElspethGC*

            Thank you for removing this. I lost a close friend to suicide when we were in our mid-teens, and although we all did what was recommended – reported it to the school and so on – it didn’t help. I think we all felt that it was ‘our fault’ for not ‘saving’ her for a very long time, even though the inquest triggered a serious review of social service provision in the area (reports not acted on etc).

            The parents’ statement at the inquest that people with friends who talk about suicide should report it “and not just think ‘it’s X being X'” majorly screwed us up because we felt like we, a bunch of fourteen-year-olds, were being blamed for not doing the jobs of social services. I’m glad this was removed before I saw it. I don’t think I would have appreciated reading it.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I did not see the post so I can only guess at what the post said. But I am in total agreement with what people are saying here.

        I worked with adults with disabilities of all types for a decade. Please understand two things here, OP:

        1) Any one or even two people are not going to “save” a person. It requires a team of people. I always use the random number of 15 to emphasize that the person needs several different types of help all at the same time. These are people with different areas of expertise.

        2) From personal experience with my own family, I can say that one person WILL be effective in helping for the short term. It is very easy to under estimate how much help and how much time is necessary. You can end up exhausted and in the hospital yourself. You see where I am going here, this isn’t just work advice this is life advice: encourage the idea of bringing in more and more resources to help. The good part here is that many people bring in a flood of ideas that eventually can be very helpful. We see a much tamer version here on AAM. People write in with a problem and many people comment with all kinds of ideas to ease or mend the situation. This is more of that, your employee needs the inputs of many people. If you try to do too much then you might accidentally block someone else from getting in and making meaningful changes.

        Here’s what I did with people:

        1) I listened to the problem. I heard them through.
        2) I assumed because they were talking about that meant they wanted help.
        3)I worked the conversation toward an action step. Usually this meant picking a resource or person to investigate. Encourage them to chose wisely, chose something that is actually doable.
        4) Tell them if they want, they can come back and tell you how that action step went. (Most of the time they will come back and tell you.) Keep in mind, while you are on this step that you are their boss. They might feel some sense of accountability but they also might have a sense that you tend to be visionary and you see them as having better in life. In short, your words will have weight in ways that you may not see right now.
        5) It’s fine to offer little helps here and there, such as time off or a jump start for a dead car battery. Little helps can be just as powerful as big helps, sometimes more so.
        6) Be fair as a boss. There is a difference between covering for people and helping them. Don’t cover for people. Let them know that you will help but you cannot put your own job at risk by covering things up. This means make a good attempt every day to do a good job. With this I would go into how we can use our jobs as a “time out” from life issues. We can use work time to think just about the work itself. On the give side of the equation, I knew that some days were better than others. I had a willingness to look the other way as necessary. I could not make that a long term plan but I could do it for a while. You have to think about your other people and your company. It’s wrong to volunteer others to carry one person’s workload, so you have to be fair to your people and to yourself.

        7) We don’t get to pick who allows us to help them and who does not. My old boss and I had a running conversation about this. We’d encourage people and they would start to help themselves then quit. Other folks would not even start. Then some folks who looked like they would never try to help themselves all of the sudden they would pull themselves together and blow us away with how much they accomplished. We’d end up shaking our heads because we just never knew how the story would play out and we never knew what to expect from a situation.

        1. TootsNYC*

          There is a difference between covering for people and helping them. Don’t cover for people. Let them know that you will help but you cannot put your own job at risk by covering things up. This means make a good attempt every day to do a good job.

          In fact, covering for someone may very well make the situation WORSE!
          Everyone’s depression is different; mine was very much tied to my competence. And if I accomplished things, genuinely accomplished them, I felt better about myself.
          And the mental struggle to do a good job kept my brain weasels occupied, and kept them from gnawing at my psyche while they were busy.

          And it gave my therapist something to use when he was pointing out to me that I was NOT worthless, and when he demanded that I list 5 things I’d done that someone else would say were good.

          If anything, I’d thing a boss could help by creating opportunities for genuine accomplishment and success. And perhaps by pointing out successes and accomplishments, matter-of-factly, when they genuinely occur (with evidence–no bullshit, because people can see bullshit, and bullshit is lying, and lies don’t help people).

  6. Ex-parrot*

    You can’t help your employee as a friend. And if you try to take on too much – like taking responsibility for being his support system – it could end up being very difficult for you (which would be true in a friendship, as well as in a working relationship).

    Maybe talk to a suicide prevention / crisis line and ask their advice?

  7. chi type*

    Yikes, I could have written #1 except my employee hasn’t said anything to me this time (last time he was out on a medical leave he let me know why). He is very obviously sliding into a deep depression over the last week or so. It’s hard to watch. He is a great guy and a great worker. Would I be out of line saying something similar to what Alison recommends?

    1. chi type*

      I should add that I don’t think I’m as emotionally involved as the LW. We have a friendly supervisor/employee relationship but it’s hard to just stand around watching a man drown.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Do you have decent rapport with him? I think you could first ask how he’s doing, and then depending on how that goes, could say that you’re concerned about him and ask about ways you can help support him (which could be time off, flex schedule, help with workload, referrals to EAP, etc.).

      1. chi type*

        Yes, we have a good rapport. What has stopped me so far was that the last time he took medical leave there was a lot of drama around who was allowed to know the reason. I am his supervisor but not really “management” so they were hesitant to tell me what was happening.
        But, that said, he did more or less tell me himself once he was back. (Not an offiical diagnosis or anything, just that he had been struggling with his mental health.) So I think (hope) that gives me more of an opening to say he seems off lately and ask if I can do anything…

        1. Gem*

          I’d ask, if he’s openly told you before. He might be glad someone is noticing something. It can be odd to go through something massive/be ill in someway and no one notice. I find it easier to cope with work and people treating me like normal if one person knows.

          1. chi type*

            Yes, this was my thinking. It’s so obvious he’s struggling and if everyone just ignores it I think I would feel unseen/uncared for.

        2. Shelly574*

          I’d reach out. I know that when I’ve had “bad” periods in my mental illness having a boss ask sometimes makes me comfortable sharing when I might not be comfortable otherwise. When you do ask, make sure you have some idea of what you can offer if he says, “Yeah, I need some help.”

          Is there an EAP? Flex-Schedule? A few days off? What can you provide? I think knowing his options will probably help him and I am glad you are noticing.

          1. chi type*

            Yes, I have occasionally been depressed myself and feeling like no one sees and the world is just happily going along without you can be very alienating.
            His schedule is somewhat flexible and I think I’ll go over to HR and see if they have some flyers about the EAP.

    3. Drop Bear*

      Perhaps you could check out the ‘Are you OK’ website – it has tips on how to handle these sorts of concerns and conversations. I would also encourage employers/managers to consider suicide first aid training – our staff undertake the training as part of their OHS training, and some positive outcomes have been:
      1. demystifying the issue of suicide (eg; there is a common misconception that if you ask someone if they are suicidal it will ‘give them the idea’)
      2. it has given people confidence to ask the question ‘are you ok?’ and the question ‘are you thinking of killing yourself?’
      3.people have information on what signs to be aware of, but also know that it is ok to just trust your gut – no harm will be done if you ask the question but have read the signs ‘wrong’ (see myth above).
      4. people know how to follow up if the answer is that the person is thinking of killing themselves or is not ok – as an employee/manager (we have policies, health and safety reps etc) and in their non-work life.

  8. Undine*

    OP1, I really feel for you and your employee. It can be so hard to watch someone go through this. I’ve was suicidal on and off (mostly on) for about 35 years of my life, and I’m grateful to all the people who supported me in all their different ways. I do think keeping professional boundaries is helpful — depression is dark and messy, and depressed people often have trouble with boundaries and “containment”. And structure is helpful in and of itself. Even if it’s burdensome in some ways for him to have to go to work, it’s better to get up and get out of the house.

    Alison mentions time off, and that can be more than just a few days here and there. There are intensive treatments like partial hospitalization programs, that require nearly a full day commitment for a period of time. Knowing what you could do for your employee in that situation and, if possible, letting him know that he could take time off for something like that would be a huge help. (But even that doesn’t work for everyone. Depression is a brutal disease, and it can be fatal.)

    Best wishes for both of you.

  9. Kathlynn*

    Lol I feel for you, I’ve been there, as a coworker. And I’ve been the struggling depressed worker . On one hand I don’t know how you can help as a friend, but still be the boss. On the other hand, my manager is someone I can approach about my perception of thing because in the past we’ve skirted that line (I’m an over sharer, and other managers left me in a panic, she helped straighten that out.)

    I guess that’s one line, be understanding. And make sure he knows that he knows what help is available. Like, if things get too much at work, if he’s allowed to go home. Or what will happen if he has to go for impatient treatment. Or what about accessing treatment, does he know if there’s any health insurance coverage for therapy or prescriptions. Or schedule flexibility to receive the care he needs.

    Most of all, I hope that you are able to find the balance you need, and that he receives the help he deserves.

    1. Kathlynn*

      that was supposed to be LW1 not lol.
      I would also suggest to remember how you frame things and tone of voice. That may help too. Because acceptance of struggles means we have one less source of stress. And a calm “hey, this is slipping through the cracks?” is easier to handle then a angry or wtf “why didn’t this get done, omg!”

    2. Michaela Westen*

      My mind keeps going to his life help outside of work. I think because he only told two people – it sounds like he doesn’t have people in his life to support him.
      Of course you can’t just recruit his friends or colleagues, that would be all over the boundaries!
      Maybe find out, or help him find out, if there are volunteers or services who could help him go to treatments, do errands, help at home.
      Or even reminding him of grocery delivery, food delivery services in case he needs them. Then he could get his favorite food even if he doesn’t feel well enough to go out. :)

      1. Shad*

        If he has an emergency contact listed, would you suggest calling them about it?
        My fiancé has struggled with depression, and his boss called me one evening when he was worried that my fiancé was in crisis, and I’m wondering how you’d see that as a broader recommendation.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          I think it would be very easy to overstep doing this. I wouldn’t do it unless the employee was headed for ER.
          But I don’t have specific training in this – anyone else?

          1. Chinookwind*

            I an conflicted on this as someone who has suffered depression and has moved often so has few people around as a support system because everyone is different.

            For myself, if my boss had called DH about me being depressed, I would have been so embarrassed that it was noticeable at work that I would be second guessing everything I did there, causing myself even more stress. If my boss had known that I missed a day of work after overdosing (I just called in sick – turns out I suck at killing myself, thank goodness), boss would have been better off calling 911. But, because boss didn’t know, I was able to go in the next day without the added humiliation of everyone knowing what I did.

            This happened when I had my most excellent boss and work was my mentally safe place because no one knew what was going on and treated me professionally but also were friendly with me (or as friendly as a bunch of older computer programmers can be). They treated me “normally” and that helped me transition back to a “normal” head space.

            Now, if I hadn’t shown up for work and didn’t call in, that would have been different. I have made that call to make sure that that person was alive and didn’t need anything immediately. I have even called the emergency contact when someone didn’t answer their phone (turned out heavy duty cold meds means you don’t hear a phone ringing) but I was also willing to call the police for a wellness check if the emergency contact was unavailable. At that point, their immediate personal safety is more important than any embarrassment.

            1. Chinookwind*

              For those who want to respond that calling the police can do physical harm to some, in Canada, wellness checks are routine for the police here and are, sadly, often the only way to find out if someone has died at home while they were alone.

  10. Green great dragon*

    #1 I’ve been in a very similar situation where employee was quite keen to tell me about it. As his manager, you can do all the things Alison said, and be really explicit about telling him that it’s OK to take time off for mental health if he needs it, or to go walk twice round the block after a difficult customer, etc. And that you value him as a person and as an employee (I think in my case it was very important to employee to see himself as a good employee/contributor to society).

    And with the caveat that I’m no expert, I felt in a good position to give a push towards him getting support by asking him to talk to his doctor and to let me know the next day when he’d be needing time off for the appointment with the subtext that of course this deserves medical support and of course we expect him to prioritise it (UK based here). Worked in this case, may not be appropriate more generally.

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      Yes, this!

      Encourage mental health days. Let your employee know that he won’t be penalised if he has to take a mental health day every now and then.

      1. Nita*

        I’m sorry if this is a stupid question, but do mental health days help? Asking because a couple of weeks ago, I had a really bad day and one of the two main reasons I didn’t do anything drastic was, I knew I can’t just take the day off work without letting a bunch of people down. That expectation kept me in line more than once.

        Ironically, it’s having to be in two places at once that’s setting off my mental health problem, but that’s complicated, has been going on for a few years, and will not be solved by a day off here and there. Trying to work out a long-term plan to stop ending up in this situation…

        1. Shelly574*

          For me, my anxiety is triggered by stress. When I feel overwhelmed, then I am on the road to a panic attack. So, sometimes I take a Mental Health Day, because I know I just need alone time. I’m an introvert. Alone time is soothing for me. However, I make a point of never taking these days when I know I would be causing a problem for other people if I did. I make sure there’s nothing “major” I would be missing if I was out.

          Other times, mental health days help when I am too tired, too depressed or too anxious to get out of bed/deal with work. I see those days just as a sick day to treat a chronic illness, just like someone who has migraines. I don’t even like to call them “Mental Health Days”. They aren’t. They are sick days. I have a disease and I have every right to treat it. I do, however, try to make sure I’m not taking a day when (for example) I have to give a presentation to 200 people.

          1. InternWrangler*

            +1 I too don’t like the term mental health days. Depression is an illness; it qualifies under sick days. I think calling it “mental health days” perpetuates stigma around mental health.

        2. Green great dragon*

          Telling them that they’re sufficiently valued, and their work is sufficiently valued, that *of course* their employer will support them in whatever way they need is worth doing, even if the specific help isn’t needed, though.

    2. Shelly574*

      Knowing I can take time to go to my psychologist and psychiatrist appointments is everything when you have mental health issues. This is so crucial.

    3. TootsNYC*

      I felt in a good position to give a push towards him getting support by asking him to talk to his doctor and to let me know the next day when he’d be needing time off for the appointment with the subtext that of course this deserves medical support and of course we expect him to prioritise it (UK based here).

      And the subtext, “I’m going to be checking up on you–I expect an actual answer with dates.”

      My mother and SIL have at times said, to me, “Do [X things that is necessary for your wellbeing] tomorrow. I will call in the evening to check that you have done so.”

      A boss can’t do that, but your “bring me a list of dates tomorrow so that I can adjust the schedule” is the boss equivalent. Good for you!

  11. Susan B.*

    Having been on both sides of the suicide prevention thing (both offering support and needing it myself) *by far* the most helpful thing to do is to just show that you think of the person in small ways every day,in some sort of regular, predictable routine. It doesn’t have to be anything deep– just send a silly picture a day, or have a sports thing or TV show you discuss every day at coffee break? Surely there must be something like that that still maintains professional distance.

    The point is that it gives the suicidal person a sort of touchstone, like, if I killed myself so-and-so would be sad if I didn’t show up for the thing. When you’re suicidal, thinking about the realness of other people you care about is really hard, and the regular contact helps punch through that.

    1. Anon for this*

      Oh yeah, I think the touchstone idea is a good one. I was sort of … passively suicidal a while back, but whenever I thought about how I actually wanted to kill myself, I always ended up thinking, “But if I died, what would [online friend] think if my blog stopped updating?”

      (Doing *so* much better these days, btw.)

      1. Myrin*

        Yeah, my sister is what she calls “casually suicidal” (very similar to Allie Brosh’s characterisation of her depression where she doesn’t necessarily want to kill herself, she just doesn’t want to be there anymore) and apparently what has stopped her from taking those final few steps several times was the thought of how devastaded my mum and I would be, and also that someone would find her and that she doesn’t want to do that to anyone.

        (I’m glad you’re doing so much better now, Anon!)

      2. SignalLost*

        Who would take my needy cat who has been abandoned multiple times? I promised him he would never be abandoned again, and it helps to know I made that promise. Even though it was to a cat who doesn’t understand and can’t hold me accountable.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          Cats (and dogs and small children) understand more than we realize! I’m certain my cats would have understood this. (they got old and passed naturally)
          My cats made it clear they understood and appreciated what I did for them. I expect yours does too. :)

          1. SignalLost*

            Well, if he understands English, rather than hugs and pets and tolerance and care and love, then I need to be more careful when talking about doughnuts with my partner, because the cat loves old-fashioned doughnuts and the grocery store we go to has stopped making edible ones. (They taste like metal now – wtf?) :)

            1. Michaela Westen*

              Yes, he might catch on! :) I’m guessing it’s preservatives that make the metal taste. Or bad water?

        2. Nita*

          Yes! To me it feels “more” accountable if it’s a dog or a cat. I’ve thought, whether rightly or not, that a human would get the idea that sometimes living is harder than not living. My dog wouldn’t have understood any of that. I kept on going if things got bad, basically because I imagined he’d just wait and wait for me to come home, and have no clue what happened.

          Oh, and he was the only one who even noticed I was having problems – my then-family had no clue at all, because I was the kid who always had it together. Turns out there is such a thing as a little too much trust in your kids.

        3. Perse's Mom*

          +3 for needy cats (because that’s how many I had when I wanted to drive myself off a high bridge a decade ago, and they’re why I didn’t).

      3. Gaia*

        I was suicidal a few years ago. What stopped me wasn’t worry about friends or family and their reaction (I was too far in, I assumed they would have been relieved. Of course, I know now that isn’t true) it was “who would care for my dog?” He had specific medical and behavioral needs and I knew he’d end up in a shelter because no one else could take all that on. I couldn’t do that to him.

        Thankfully, I’m much better now and I realize what brought on those thoughts and feelings and have sought the needed treatment. But I’m forever grateful of the one additional way my dog saved my life.

        1. boop the first*

          I’m also way too far in to care about what other people think (I can only think of one person who would even notice right away, but only because we live together lol), but for me I think it was a strange online forum that I stumbled across a decade ago. It was a forum specifically for people who were sharing information about suicide plans and “tips” on how to make it “work”.

          Sounds really counterproductive, but the website was crawling with people whose plans didn’t “work” and who told their graphic stories. What it ultimately did was demonstrate how risky suicide really is. How difficult it can be. My anxiety makes me super risk-adverse, so knowing that you can’t just [insert “beautiful” hollywood suicide] has turned it into just another “impossible goal” that I would never reach. I don’t think I would ever dare try it.

          (please excuse me if this comment crosses risky boundaries, I’m trying to be as vague as possible, but you never know)

          1. Ermintrude*

            I don’t know you Boop but I care and I’m sorry you’ve been suffering. I wish I could offer you a hug. I do hope you’re in a better frame of mind than you were a decade ago.

          2. wherewolf*

            It makes me sad to hear you have been suffering. I hope you are doing better now.

            If anyone else is lurking and reading this comment, here are internet hugs if you want them.

        2. Oranges*

          I think of it like a balancing scale. There was my pain on one side and the amount of pain my death would cause my family on the other side. When that balance tips enough that I would do anything, anything for the pain to stop, that’s when I’ve attempted. I’m much better about recognizing my signs and not letting it get that bad nowadays. It’s interesting on how we each think of it. The similarities and the differences.

          Anyways, back to the letter. What you can do is not penalize them for being less productive but still hold them to some standards. Eg. I came into work x out of y days. I was 50% productive on those days. Right now I’m in a bad place* and just…. going to work. Being in my desk is helpful even if I’ve only worked 25% of the day.

  12. MarieAlice*

    First off, I’ve been working in suicide prevention for a couple of years now and I can tell you this: you are not responsible for saving your employee’s life. I know you feel you should do everything you can to help him, I know you want to save him and make him all better, but the though reality is that you *cannot* do that for him. So if he takes his own life (and I truly, truly hope he doesn’t!), you have not failed him. You are not to blame.

    You also cannot be his only support system. I get it, he has no one, you like him, but even if he weren’t your employee, that would be an impossible situation for you and for him. Suicidal people can be draining, even though they don’t intend or want to be. They are in pain, suffering from having too many things to carry and often too little ways to carry them. You will want to offer solutions and see them turned down or not having the effect you wanted them to have. The worrying takes its toll on the people around them and while that’s not a reason not to help someone, it is a reason not to carry that burden on your own. Especially when you are his boss. And when you look at it from his perspective: you will disappoint him, not because you’re doing things wrong, but because he is genuinely in need of more than you can offer. He needs a support *system* not one pillar. He needs help for his untreated mental health struggles that probably only a professional can give him. And if he’s getting worse and worse, he might eventually need a place where he can catch a break and be safe from himself. But that would be up to him, or up to the professionals to decide.

    I don’t think you can be his friend, but you can be compassionate and empathic.There are some things you can do, as Alison mentioned. You already went to HR, and he got some help. You can ask him how he’s doing. You can do little things, like asking if he wants a coffee if you go get one yourself, or tell him that you appreciate him putting in the effort he can. You can get him time off when he needs it, and explain how things would be arranged if he were to need inpatient treatment. You can explain the health insurance coverage for treatment. You can listen to him and try to offer solutions for work-related things, but no quick fixes for his emotional problems. You can have a discussion about what would work for him (eg. working in blocks of 45 minutes, having a checklist of what to do, not having to do phone calls), set up really detailled plan and a backup plan for when he notices he will not be able to complete what he needs to do. Offer some structure. Be clear on what he needs to do, what you can offer and who else might be able to help him, but don’t overwhelm him with options, because sometimes having to choose a pair of socks can be too hard already. But think things through first. You wouldn’t be the first boss to offer things out of sympathy who later starts to resent an employee because the plan isn’t feasable after all, but he feels he cannot change the plan anymore because ‘what if that causes him to kill himself?’

    You can make sure you don’t get overinvolved. He’s (probably) not your only employee, they need a manager too. You have work that needs to be done. You will not be able to support your employee if you lose the support from your colleagues, bosses or employees, because you aren’t doing your job anymore. You will not be able to support him if you’re overwhelmed and exhausted yourself. Maybe the suicide prevention lifeline could support you. They could offer tips and resources and you wouldn’t have to worry about anonymity, so the advice could be more specific.

    I think you are a really kind and good person, and I wish you and your employee all the best.

    (Sorry for my bad English, by the way)

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      This is such a wonderful reply and so important.

      Thanks for taking the time to write it out.

      (And I’m an ESL teacher – your written English is absolutely wonderful)

    2. Holly*

      I don’t have anything to add here re: substance of your comment because it was excellent all around, and thank you for sharing. I just want to say that it was also *really* well written and I would have never guessed that you were not a native speaker (in fact writing better than most).

    3. Shelly574*

      This advice is so good. I just wanted to second it. As someone with mental health struggles, the sorts of things you are suggesting the manager provide are the things my best managers have provided me when I have been at my worse.

      I would especially emphasize the importance of structure. One of the kindest things a manager ever did for me was to agree to let me email them Monday morning with a list of the things I was planning to complete over the course of the week and then let me know if the list was correct or needed adjustment. I was barely keeping my world together and just knowing I was “okay” at work if I got this list done was a comfort when nothing else seemed to be achievable.

    4. Gaia*

      Amazing advise, and so very important.

      And I’ll pile on and say that I am hyper-focused on poorly written English (it jumps out to me due to years of studying language and literature), and yours is absolutely amazing. Be proud of yourself, I’d have never known you were not a native English writer.

    5. Anoon*

      A close family member was depressed and suicidal and I was pretty much their only support. Everyone else was either too far away (location) or not close enough (relationship-wise) so that left me. It was hell. Things came to a breaking point and I had to take them to the ER. That was one of the worst days of my life. I still have nightmares about it sometimes. Don’t underestimate the emotional toll it can take on you.

      The only bright spot was that their boss knew that they were having trouble (not the full extent but enough to know it was a serious issue) and was very accommodating with time off for therapy appointments and making sure their workload was at a level they could manage. My family member could focus on treatment and healing without worrying that they would be fired, which was a HUGE help. I can’t emphasize enough how much that mattered. As the boss, you can give them that comfort. You can remove that one stress that nobody else can. I’m not advocating letting your employee do whatever and not work, but being very clear about expectations, ensuring they’re not overloaded with work, and cutting them a little slack when need be can go a long way. Address problems early and make everything as transparent as possible so the employee isn’t blindsided by anything. You can’t “save” them, but you sure can make it much easier for them to get help and save themselves.

  13. thankful for AAM*

    OP #1, my son has been suicidal in the past. It is so frustrating to be the observer, often it feels like there is little we can do. But all the things AAM said really are a help.
    NAMI, the national alliance for mental health is an excellent resource and you can learn about signs there that you may be uniquely placed to see.

  14. LGC*

    LW1 – there is one more thing you can do, since you’ve already helped him get professional assistance: provide space for him. By that, I mean – you can’t be his therapist all the time (and I get where you’re coming from – you mentored the guy as well!), but you can listen once in a while if he has issues at work.

    It’s one of the things I’ve had to learn myself – and I literally work with counselors. I joke about knowing more about my employees than I ever wanted to know, but…sometimes, you might be the most convenient person available.

    Finally, let him take the lead on what he needs. (I mean, LW1, you sound awesome and thoughtful and I would love to work for you – but I feel like it needs to be said.) Within reason – FMLA isn’t an option now (if you’re in the US), but you can still give him a reasonable amount of time off. (And reasonable varies!)

  15. LGC*

    …I swear I’m not LW2.

    But seriously:

    1) your friend needs to work out for himself what he wants. Like, I’m not going to lie – my best friend was like this for years, and while it thankfully didn’t hurt me too much, it made things awkward. After a certain point where he’d cycle between thinking he had an AMAZING opportunity and then feeling like his job was terrible and unappreciative, I just…kind of stopped giving in to his whims. I’d listen blankly, and be like, “Well, that sounds tough.” I just emotionally detached myself from his follies.

    (This was after we worked together. And I got promoted. I tried to stay as much out of his affairs as possible, but it was awkward because I technically did have authority over him.)

    Hopefully, he’s in a better place now – he seems to like the current job he’s in (this is his fifth in the past three years). To be honest, though, I’m still wary that the cycle will start up again.

    2) I mostly agree with apologizing to your bosses…but I don’t know if you need to say verbatim that you’re mortified by his behavior.

    I mean, it is mortifying. And you did vouch for him. But a) this is why recommending your friends to your job is a bad idea (I didn’t do it in my case – another coworker he went to high school with did) and b) at the end of the day, as long as you guys aren’t engaging in shenanigans together, his behavior reflects mostly on him. You do need to acknowledge that you made a bad call, but bad hires happen all the time! It’s just that you happen to be good friends with this one!

    Thinking through how it’d be if I was your boss, I’d probably be sympathetic…but also, I’d be more wary about recommendations from you going forward. So keep that in mind.

    1. MLB*

      While what you say is true, I still think she needs to confront him. Sometimes when you’re in a bad cycle, you may not realize it. At my last job my toxic manager told me that others on my team had asked her why I was still there if I hated it so much. That comment was the kick in the butt I needed to make my exit – I knew I was unhappy but didn’t realize I was complaining so much and that others noticed, outside my circle of friends.

      Friend may not be receptive to a reality check from LW, but it may be one of those things that makes him think about things and make changes for the better. Or he may just be a self-centered, blame everything for all of my problems type person. But she stuck her neck out for him and he’s being a bad friend, on top of being a crap employee.

      1. LGC*

        I thought I submitted this earlier, but as usual I typed it up and then forgot to submit. Which is good because it was trash anyway.

        But to bounce off of Dr. Pepper and to be a little more blunt (which is really uncharacteristic for me) – I think confrontation would be more for LW2’s sake than for Fergus’s sake. She’s definitely entitled to give him a tongue lashing (multiple ones, at that). And honestly, if she tells Fergus he’s embarrassing and he needs to stop it or get out, I’m behind her on that – because he is embarrassing to her (and quite honestly, to me as well, and I don’t even know him) and he does need to stop it or get out.

        But also – yeah, confrontation could backfire really easily. A lot of times, confrontation works best when the recipient is self-aware enough to be able to recognize the message through the tone, and it doesn’t seem like Fergus is there yet. (Or ever.) I mean, definitely don’t entertain his antics. But also, you can’t force him to see his own jerkish behavior – you can lay it out for him, but it seems like guys like that are just incapable of seeing it.

        (Also, LW2, I swear to God if we are talking about the same guy I will eat my hat. One of them, anyway.)

    2. Dr. Pepper*

      I too am not sure exactly how confronting the guy is going to help anything. By all means tell him that you’re disappointed that he’s behaving badly and you’re unhappy that it reflects poorly on you since you recommended him, but you’re not really in a position to *demand* anything. I think you’d be more likely to piss him off than anything else if you go in telling him he needs to shape up because blah blah blah. He already doesn’t have realistic expectations or good professional etiquette, so it’s unlikely he’s suddenly going to develop those things just because you told him to. Tell him how you feel, but then drop it and leave well enough alone. This is his problem to solve, or not solve as the mood strikes him.

      Your problem is that you recommended someone that you should not have. It happens. Definitely talk to your boss. Admit your mistake, apologize, and understand going forward that your recommendation is going to mean less that it would otherwise. Try to display better judgement in the future, be more discerning who you endorse, and you can re-build your reputation. Just understand you took a bit of a hit here. It’s not the end of the world, it’s just a mistake that you can learn from.

  16. MommyMD*

    If someone truly states they plan to commit suicide, call the police. They need help and to be admitted to a psychiatric facility. Plans of suicide are not something to mess with and not something the lay person should attempt to treat.

    1. MommyMD*

      If the person is amenable take them to the emergency department. Plans of suicide, especially if the person has chosen a method, is always an emergency. Once someone has crossed from generalized “suicidal ideation” to an actual plan, it’s critical they get help, whether or not they want it. That’s what a psychiatric hold is for.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        It’s hard to know from OP if it’s a specific action plan. I have a family member who has struggled with suicidal ideation and there was a grey area for him where it went beyond “I wish I was dead” but wasn’t at “what I’ll do is…” It was stuff like “maybe on my way home I’ll have a fatal car accident… that wouldn’t be so bad.” He was never eligible for any sort of hold because his plans weren’t active, and we didn’t think a hood would have been the right step for him – the psychiatric unit near us is notoriously awful.

        Also, I’d like to modify the “call the police” advice a little. If there is a mobile mental health emergency service in your area or if the person is already working with a therapist, and they have an emergency line, those may be better first options. Police involvement can be scary and traumatizing (and stigmatizing if they end up called to a workplace.) Plus, they often have very specific circumstances under which they can take action, and “my employee told me he might X after work” doesn’t always meet those conditions – sometimes the threat has to be imminent/active (pills or weapon in hand, standing on the bridge, etc.) before police are permitted to respond.

        Sorry for the long read! I just wanted to articulate that in my personal experience the situation was a lot more complicated and calling the police probably would have been far less effective than the steps we took.

    2. Temperance*

      Oh my gosh, absolutely not. If someone mentions that they’re struggling with suicidal thoughts, point them towards the EAP, follow the amazing advice upthread, but do NOT haul them off in your car to the psych ward. That’s a great way to traumatize someone who trusts you, and to teach them that they must hide their feelings or else they’ll be hauled off. Can you imagine how humiliating it would be to be taken from your work and delivered to the ER for something like this?

    3. Marthooh*

      LW 1 already “talked with HR, and followed procedure to get him professional assistance.” They’re not messing around or trying home remedies here.

    4. pleaset*

      Don’t call the police. It’s a health problem, not a criminal problem. Police are not well-trained in dealing with mental illness.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Right. Unless there is an action involved, the police really can’t do that much. They generally come in at the crisis moment to stop the crisis.
        Additionally, a friend got his friend to go to the mental health clinic when he was threatening suicide. They held the friend for a set period of time (24 hours?) and released him. He went home and ended his life.
        Go through as many options as you can as a boss before you go to these options, OP.

    5. Harper the Other One*

      I’ve already commented but it appears the comment was eaten – if this ends up popping up twice, my apologies!

      (Note: I am not in any medical/psychiatric field but have some experience/knowledge from dealing with a family member.)

      Suicidal ideation is more complicated than your comment would indicate. There is a whole spectrum, from “maybe I’ll just lie here and hope it ends” to “if I got hit by a car on the way home, that wouldn’t be so bad” to “*IF* I decide it’s too much, I think I’d prefer to…” to “when I get home I’m going to…” (My family member experienced all but the last.) These all have different risk levels and they all need to be treated differently.

      Involving police is often scary and traumatic, and many police departments don’t have mental health training. Psychiatric holds are also often scary and traumatic, and the wards are often ill-equipped to do more than literally hold someone in a room. (No criticism of those working there is meant by this – psychiatric services are often woefully underfunded.) Even if someone would “qualify” for these responses, it’s not necessarily the right call – and in the case of my family member, none of his thoughts qualified because our jurisdiction requires so-called active threat status, meaning the person is currently holding a weapon/standing somewhere they could jump/etc.

      An alternative to look for is emergency mental health services – some areas have them and in some cases they even have mobile units that can come to you. If the person is already working with a therapist or counselor, there may be an emergency line through them that you can encourage them to call.

      1. Oranges*

        As someone who deals with depression, you are totally correct in the fact that there is a gradation to suicidal-ness (it wasn’t a word before, it is now). And the reaction should be different depending upon where you are on the scale.

        When I stub my toe, I’m not given opiates. When I have intrusive thoughts concerning suicidal ideation, I don’t need to have the police called on me. However I do if I tried to get my hands on specific thing*, please do call someone in my life who can help me. And if I do have the specific thing in my hands go ahead and call for an ambulance. It will be an emergency at that point.

        *Specific thing censored. If it’s not clear, it’s an item for a specific method that would mean I’ve gone to “actively trying” rather than “passively hoping”/”daydreaming”.

    6. Yella3*

      This seems very contrary to advice I’ve heard from medical professionals who are knowledgeable about suicide prevention. I’m not sure if you’re really an MD or someone pretending to be, but the confidence in your ill-advised statement makes me very nervous.

    7. Liet-Kinda*

      Jesus Christ. This is breathtakingly crappy advice. I have no idea how any reasonably aware person who has lived through the past 5 years in America is convinced that calling the police on someone with mental health issues is a first-line plan of attack. But what really flabbergasts the shit out of me is how someone who claims to be a medical professional thinks this will result in anything but a dehumanizing, traumatizing, manifestly unhelpful, potentially violent encounter with people who are not trained to deal with mental health issues. What the hell are you thinking?

        1. Frank Doyle*

          Seconded. I have my doubts that they are an actual medical doctor, I have yet to see any reasonable advice from them.

      1. SignalLost*

        Mmm. I don’t disagree with the substance of what you’re saying, and I don’t agree at ALL with the idea that someone saying they’re suicidal should instantly be committed, but I did call the police once to do a welfare check on a student who was clearly in crisis. (As he later credibly threatened to rape and kill me, showing up at his house would not have contributed to a positive outcome for me, so I’m very glad I didn’t do that, but he badly needed help.) I think it’s important to consider that the police are a tool in a spectrum of tools, and I would and have hesitated to get them involved in a situation where the other party was black, but in a moment of active crisis, discounting them as an option can also be very much the wrong call.

        Hilariously, when events with that student came to their eventual head, I was the one let go because they were worried he would sue if they expelled him … despite the fact I had a phone and email box full of messages from someone having a violent, threatening, dangerous psychotic break.

        1. Bea*

          Well checks are important tools, absolutely agree.

          Well checks are a far cry from trying to get someone committed! We had to use them when a family member decided to leave distressing messages and then proceed to throw his phone away.

          1. SignalLost*

            Agreed. I was reading L-K’s point as “never, ever involve the police in a mental health problem” and wanted to temper that a little.

      2. Tammy*

        Seconding this. Especially if you’re someone other than a white cisgender heterosexual person, calling law enforcement to “help” someone who’s dealing with mental health issues and in crisis is at best unhelpful, and at worst actively harmful.

        There have been recent news stories of police being called for a suicidal person and responding by shooting them. There have been recent cases of mentally ill people dying in police custody. A friend of mine who was detained on a mental health hold told me how she felt after the experience of being locked, essentially naked (paper hospital gown), in a room for 72 hours and then discharged with no actual help offered. Another friend of mine was raped three times during her 72 hour hold. The odds of tragic outcomes, unfortunately, increase if you are a person of color, LGBTQ, etc.

        And even if you get the best possible outcome, you STILL are left with the emotional aftermath of a profoundly disempowering experience, one in which all of your agency and control over your life and decisions, has been forcibly taken from you. That’s NOT helpful.

        1. Temperance*

          I might tweak your comment to say “white cisgender heterosexual man” rather than “person”. Women are unfortunately all too often targeted.

        2. Chinookwind*

          “There have been recent news stories of police being called for a suicidal person and responding by shooting them.”

          Can’t speak to the US, but in Canada this sometimes happen because the person is distress has opted for “suicide by cop” and have drawn a weapon on the police officer. There was one case in the media here where the girlfriend out and out said that that was the plan. It is a good cop’s nightmare scenario.

          In Canada, the cops are slowly getting trained in mental health issues and some forces even have mental health backup when they are going into an issue that they know involves a possible suicide attempt. It isn’t perfect but, until we have some type of “suicide first response team” that are also trained in disarming people, police may be the best response to an emergency situation that involves a weapon of some type because not all attempts are safe for bystanders.

      3. Jemima Bond*

        I assumed that the MD indicated she was from Maryland, as opposed to being a medical doctor?

        I hope I’m right – firstly because I agree her advice is terrible and it would be worse coming from a doctor – but secondly because I’ve never been to the US and don’t know half the abbreviations used for the states so I was really proud of myself for working it out!

    8. Kathenus*

      While I understand this advice I don’t agree with it as an absolute. I have a family member who has been suicidal including one failed attempt. Once he was rightly put on a three day hold when he told my mom he was going to kill himself in a phone call, when he was in another city. But later when in treatment for alcoholism and depression he told his psychiatrist that he still struggled with suicidal thoughts and was committed again. He has never been honest with a therapist again and it has negatively affected his ability to get effective treatment because he doesn’t have any trust in psychiatrists or psychologists. He has nowhere he feels he can talk these things out without risk, so he lies and hides things. It’s been a terrible result of an arbitrary decision to report/commit for even trying to talk about this in therapy.

    9. MarieAlice*

      Please, please don’t do this!

      If someone is standing on a bridge, pointing a gun to his head or standing on the rail roads, okay, then you call emergency services. If someone calls to say goodbye, or you find a farewell note and you can’t reach them, sure go ahead. If they threaten to also take the life of their spouse, child,… by all means, call the police!

      But thinking about suicide is really common and planning to commit suicide is a process. What laymen consider a plan, often isn’t considered a major threat by professionals. Many people in the early stages of the suicidal process may have a vague idea of how they would do it, but it’s like saying “I want to go to the UK, so I take the Eurostar”, but not having thought about booking a ticket, the price, departure time, how to get to the station etc. Many people stay passivly suicidal. Other people have a detailled plan, but are still very ambivalent, have strong family ties, a feeling of belonging,… and despite their wish not to keep on living the way they do, they still have hope there is another way to accomplish that. It’s not only about having a plan, it’s so much more complicated.

      Besides, if you call the police or rush a person to the ER, you’re going to need more than “He said he considers killing himself and he thinks of doing it this way” to get him committed for more than 24 hours or even committed at all. There has to be really serious danger for other people, the absence of ambivalence, loss of controll, a detailled plan or one has to assume that the person is psychotic or under the influence of some substance. (at least in Europe, at least when there is no long list of previous TS, but from what I know, it’s not that different in the US)

      Of course you should never promise to keep it a secret or to never involve emergency services and you can definitely offer to accompany them to the ER or try to convince them to seek therapy. Suicidal ideation *is* a serious matter. But just calling the police or rushing them to the ER will possibly only make them feel like suicide is The Big Taboo, like they will get punished for even thinking about it. Their problems might seem bigger, embarrassing. As Lance said already: you would be needlessly escalating a situation that needs de-escalation. They might feel like you’re trying to get rid of them, or like they are a burden to you. They probably won’t confide in you again.

      So, call emergency services if there is an immediate danger, or if there’s a danger to other people. Listen, support, try to convince someone to seek help in all other cases.

      1. Anoon*

        When I took my family member to the ER for threatening suicide, they’d already begun the process of actively trying. They needed medical attention and since we live out in the sticks, it was faster for me to drive them there than call emergency services. It was a very traumatic experience for both of us and was most definitely NOT something I did lightly. If I could have not done that I would have but as it was medical intervention was necessary.

      2. anon for this*

        I can attest from personal experience that in the US – at least my part of the US – it is actually very easy to get someone taken to the ER against their will.

        A former boss did this to me when I was very upset that he’d fired me and I said that I was tired of being a burden on my family or something to that effect. He construed this (possibly maliciously) as meaning I was suicidal. After I’d left – when I was back at my apartment – police and EMTs came to the door purely on his say-so, with no specifics. I told them I was fine, that I was not suicidal and also did not want to go to the ER, but they didn’t believe me and carted me off in an ambulance anyway. Apparently they believe a male authority figure about how a woman feels rather than the woman herself.

        I was uninsured, so I ended up with a $900 ambulance bill.

        I am also seconding everything everyone else has said about how traumatic and horrible psychiatric holds are and the very real and deadly danger of getting the police involved (especially for a person of color or someone who is visibly not cisgender and hetero). When I was involuntarily hospitalized, a psychiatrist deliberately publicly humiliated me in front of all his colleagues while smiling and laughing; I tried to report him (and other problems) but the human rights number they were required to post in the unit went to a dead line.

        Do not do this to anyone.

    10. NotAnotherManager!*

      Police intervention is very unlikely to have any sort of positive effect. It is not a one-way ticket to effective psychiatric treatment, and many places don’t have enough psych beds for people who are a danger to others, must less a danger to themselves. You’d have better luck presenting at an ER than calling the police, and, again, lack of mental health resources, particularly for the un-/underinsured.

      None of the advice in this post/comment thread suggested that OP1 provide treatment, either.

    11. Gaia*

      Police are not trained mental health professionals. And I think we’ve all seen too many news reports where this move ends in the death of the suicidal person (at the hands of the police).

    12. MarieAlice*

      Please, please don’t do this !

      If someone is standing on a bridge, pointing a gun to his head or standing on the train tracks, okay, then you call emergency services. If someone calls to say goodbye, or you find a farewell note and you can’t reach them, sure go ahead. If they threaten to also take the life of their spouse, child, . . . By all means, call the police !

      But thinking about suicide is really common and planning to commit suicide is a process. What laymen consider a plan, often isn’t considered a major threat by professionals. Many people in the early stages of the suicidal process may have a vague idea of how they would do it, but it’s like saying ” I want to go to the UK, so I take the Eurostar” without thinking about booking a ticket, the price, departure time, how to get to the station etc. Many people stay passivly suicidal. Other people have a detailled plan, but are still very ambivalent, have strong family ties, a feeling of belonging, … . It’s not about having a plan, it’s about so many complicated things.

      Besides, if you call the police or rush them to the ER, you will need more than a vague suicide plan to get them admitted for 24 hours, or even admitted at all. There has to be really serious danger for other people, the absence of ambivalence, loss of controll, a detailled plan, or one has to assume the person is psychotic, manic or under the influence of some substance before someone gets admitted against their will. (at least in Europe, and if there’s not a history of TS, but I don’t think it’s that different in the US. )

      Of course you should never promise to keep it a secret or to never involve emergency services and you can definitely ask if they want your help or offer to accompany them to the ER or try to convince someone to seek help. But just calling the police or rushing them to the ER will possibly only make them feel like suicide is The Big Taboo, like they will get punished for even thinking about it or sharing their thoughts. They might feel really ashamed and embarrassed. And they probably won’t confide in you anymore.

      So call emergency services when there’s immediate danger or danger for other people, but talk, support, try to encourage someone to seek help in all other cases.

    13. MassMatt*

      I disagree with this advice, there have been multiple news stories recently of police being called when people worry someone is suicidal and they wound up getting shot. Those they arrest and put in jail are not likely helped much either. The police are law enforcement, not mental health professionals.

    14. AngelicGamer, the Visually Impaired Peep*

      NO. Do not do this. The one time I had suicidal thoughts – JUST THOUGHTS, not a plan – that ex-friend I told did call the police on me. It is humiliating and I had to jump through a lot of hoops to not be committed. That person is now cut out of my life and the life of others. I truly believe she is the reason that another friend of ours, also suicidal and attempted, told none of us because she was afraid the same thing would happen.

      Also, it’s easy enough for the plan to change from “hey, I’m just thinking about this” to “i’m grabbing the police person’s gun and doing suicide by cop”. Don’t put the police in that position either.

  17. Czhorat*

    The biggest lesson to take from LW2 – obvious in hindsight – is that it’s not a good practice to vouch for people if you don’t know what kind of employee they’d be. If my friend were applying to a job and my boss asked, I’d be comfortable saying, “they’re a good friend, I like to hang out with them, but I have no idea how good they’d be at this job.”

    You usually don’t know them in that context; I understand the urge to help a friend, but it’s too easy to put your professional reputation in jeopardy by vouching for friends even if you have no idea if they’d be any good.

    1. The Doctor*

      This is exactly why I never vouch for anyone to my superiors. I’m willing to tell people about a job vacancy notice, but it’s up to them to actually apply for the job and hope for an interview.

      1. Minocho*

        I had a friend who I hang out with socially who is in the same field – but even with that, we don’t talk shop a ton, and I have no idea what kind of employee he’d be. So I didn’t recommend him, but I did hand his resume over to my manager, with the clear explanation that I know him socially.

        Anything further than that is too big a risk, in my opinion – and I wouldn’t even be willing to do that if I didn’t trust my manager to be able to look at things professionally.

    2. LilySparrow*

      Yes, I got burned once when I was leaving a job on good terms, and referred a friend who was looking. I did tell my boss that I hadn’t worked with her, but that she was bright, energetic, and motivated.

      I didn’t know that a) I found the job easy, and seriously underestimated the level of skill it actually required, and b) I had not seen this friend in contexts that brought out her inner wackadoo. Apparently, “work” was that context.

      My ex-boss didn’t hold it against me in terms of future references, but I was humiliated and it certainly brought down his personal opinion of me, which was painful.

    3. Totally Minnie*

      I’ve got a friend who sounds pretty similar to OP’s friend. Short stays, complaining about standard workplace stuff as if it’s completely unreasonable, burning bridges to ash when they resign. They’re looking for work now, but I can’t recommend them for a job at my employer knowing what I know about their patterns.

    4. JS*

      I disagree because I think if these people are truly your friends, and not just acquaintances or people you see socially in your field on occasion then you should know how they will carry themselves at work as far as integrity, respectfulness and if they are a hard worker.

      Also unless you are referring them to a job in your department you probably couldn’t speak to your company’s engineering dept if you are in marketing. At my current company quality of life and structure is even vastly different in the same role but different verticals (thinking marketing manager of entertainment vs marketing manager of news).

      You shouldn’t give anyone a reference whose character you couldn’t vouch for. Ultimately its about character reference because a number of issues that isn’t really anyone’s fault could be the reason why they wont be successful in the position (department restructure, new boss/management style than before, increased workload without increased headcount and inability to put in extra hours, etc.). Much of that you would not know before hand and would have no control over. That wouldn’t reflect badly on you.

      1. TootsNYC*

        if these people are truly your friends, and not just acquaintances or people you see socially

        Ah, the definition of the word “friend.”

        My husband and daughter are very, very careful about the word “friend”–they are the only people I’ve known who routinely use the word “acquaintance.”

      2. SarahTheEntwife*

        “I think if these people are truly your friends, and not just acquaintances or people you see socially in your field on occasion then you should know how they will carry themselves at work as far as integrity, respectfulness and if they are a hard worker.”

        I pretty strongly disagree. Many people have very different priorities regarding what they’re willing to do for a friend versus what they’re willing to do at work. I’d probably know if a friend keeps getting fired or is otherwise a spectacularly bad coworker, but some people are wonderfully loyal friends and whiny flaky employees, because friendship is more important than their kind of crappy office job.

  18. Roscoe*

    For #1 I’m going to disagree here, kind of. If this person truly has no other support system around them, I think you should be a bit more involved, to the point that they would like you to. I do agree with Alison that from an employment perspective, its probably best to leave it alone. From a human perspective though, I don’t think I’d be able to do that, nor would I judge someone for doing helping someone through a tough time. While long term, it may make being his boss more difficult, I do think that as people, we need to sometimes take care of each other in the moment, and worry about later when it comes.

  19. Detective Amy Santiago*

    #4 – I can only imagine how unsettling that would feel, but I wouldn’t treat this as a huge red flag. It’s not something I would completely disregard as no big deal, but I would consider it a potentially important data point and keep my eyes open for similar situations.

    The one thing I would definitely *not* do is indulge in any gossip with your new colleagues. I understand being desperately curious, but life will be so much better if you stay out of any potential drama that exists.

    1. MLB*

      I would say it’s more of a “yellow” flag. As Alison mentioned, there could be any number of reasons she left suddenly, including many things that have nothing to do with the company being toxic. I would definitely pay close attention, but saying something is a huge red flag generally means run far far away, and I don’t think she has enough information to assume that.

      Ditto on the gossiping, which is a good rule of thumb for any place, especially one in which you’re new.

    2. JS*

      I think there is a fine line between gossip and general inquiry. It isn’t odd to ask questions about it, especially since you are new and getting the lay of the land. If coworkers then dip in gossipy/toxic territory you know then to back off but it could also give you an insight to the culture if people tend to gossip too. But getting as much info as you can while remaining impartial and keeping your guard up can only help OP in this situation in case politics or something shady did happen.

    3. MassMatt*

      I agree on staying clear of gossip, and that it may or may not be a warning sign. But IMO the big concern is that the OP is left without a supervisor, and the new supervisor may have no idea who she is or what her role is supposed to be.

      I would stay out of whatever the situation is/was with your former supervisor but do what you can to make sure you are not the baby getting thrown out with that bath water. Try to establish rapport with whatever manager or supervisor takes over. They may have different needs or expectations from the one that hired you. Good luck!

  20. Super dee duper anon*

    Hi OP #1 – this has been mentioned in other comments, but I just wanted to stress it – I think one really actionable thing you can do is make it extra clear that you’re willing to be flexible in terms of schedule for this employee to get whatever help they need. That might be time away from the office, but it also could be flexibility to get to appts midday.

    I can only speak to my experience, but that has been one of my main barriers to getting the help I’ve needed in the past.

  21. Cassandra*

    LW1, I hope you are also being kind to yourself. You’re in a rough situation and you deserve support, in whatever way best suits you. I am hoping for the best for you and your report.

  22. LKW*

    For the Dog Walker : I think it was said upstream, would the money be enough to reduce the stress or is it merely an attempt to make them stop assigning this job? If you open this door, would they give you other jobs outside of your preferred range, expecting that they could simply pay you double and you’d take it on? Could they schedule two walks in the same area roughly back to back and would it be acceptable to pay you one at double and one at standard (because you’re already there)?

    I think you may need to work with a different company.

    1. EllS*

      The money, aside from making me feel less like a chump, is really a litmus test. If they are actually in a major crisis and are willing to pay to get out of it, I don’t mind helping. I like helping people. If it’s just more convenient for them if I do it, then i don’t care at all about their problems. I’m sure they wouldn’t keep me on long term at that rate because they’d barely be breaking even.
      I can decline walks, I only said yes to this one because it was the first walk they ever gave me and I didn’t realize how bad it would be (the commute is all traffic, no distance- I’m on the outskirts of my metropolitan area so that’s only true in some directions, it’s perfectly possible that I could have a walk the same distance away that’s 5-10 minutes instead of 15-20)
      But yeah, I think I may need to work with a different company.

  23. sheworkshardforthemoney*

    LW#2 I referred an acquaintance for a job where I worked. She complained constantly and demanded more hours even though she hired for part-time work. She refused to learn the system and quit without notice after 2 weeks. I apologized to the manager and he said the blame was on the co-worker because people are expected to be adults and govern themselves accordingly. Once your friend was hired, the onus is on him to do his job.

    1. Former friend of a friend*

      You’re lucky your friend didn’t sue the company for discrimination and constructive dismissal. Like my so-called (and now former) friend.

  24. sockforthis*

    Wow. I totally disagree.

    Suicidal people can have specific plans for a long time without following through on them, and this kind of impulse was exactly what kept me from disclosing my feelings for a while. It would have been overwhelming for me to have someone call the police. It’s public and horrifically exposing while I’d already be struggling with the stigma against mental illness, and that’s not even bringing into account that there are plenty of people for whom encounters with the police are already fraught and potentially harmful.

    I agree with Temperance that I would lose all trust in you, whatever our previous relationship.

    1. Anon Accountant*

      Right and it took a LOT of courage for him to talk to a trusted manaher. Others covered good ways to be supportive as a manager.

      To avoid singling him out maybe EAP contact info for services offered can be made readily available? Such as a paper on the break room wall to make others aware there’s resources available if they’re struggling with mental health, etc?

  25. Harper the Other One*

    I replied on another comment about this, but something people should know: some areas have mobile emergency mental health services. You can usually talk to them on the phone or they can actually come to you (and since their vehicles are generally unmarked, it wouldn’t be as stigmatizing at work.) They can be an excellent resource for someone who is not able to engage regularly with a therapist for whatever reason, but who is at a crisis point. For some reason, few people even know to look for these services, so I try to mention them whenever I can.

  26. SigneL*

    #1, have you asked him how you can help him? I understand the need for boundaries, but if it gets really bad, would he want you to take him to the ER? Call his therapist? Are these things that could be done within the boundaries of being his manager?

    1. Michaela Westen*

      To me it seems if it reaches that point he should be ask anyone available to do these things, manager or not, and the person should do them with a cheerful professional attitude.

  27. Bigglesworth*

    OP 1 – I am not a suicide emergency expert and there’s already a lot of great advice from others who have already posted. That said, suicide prevention hit very close to home for me last year when my spouse thought about committing suicide almost a year ago. One of the best things his company did was give him the space to figure out what was going on. He works in the trades, so this was unexpected for us. Not only was HR willing to work with him and let me fill out leave of absence paperwork for my husband, they let him come back to his job with no judgment or repercussions. He’s only been working there 3 months when he was admitted to the hospital. For us, his supervisors, HR, and others have been more than willing to give him the time, space, and resources needed to get his mental health back on track. Alison’s advice is spot-on for what we needed.

      1. Bigglesworth*

        Thanks! I didn’t realize how bad his anxiety and depression was and he hadn’t told me he was suicidal at the time. Fortunately, he realized himself something was wrong and got a hold of his psychiatrist. He was admitted last November, so we really are coming up on a year. We’re still figuring stuff out and may have a new diagnosis of ADD (which would explain so much!), by we’re definitely in a much better place than where we were.

  28. LuJessMin*

    Letter No. 2 sounds like my sister’s friend and coworker. She hounded my sister for a job in her office, but after six months started complaining how boring it was, no room for advancement, yada yada yada. She’s now in a new job at the same company and seems happy, but I give her a year before she starts whining about this job.

  29. Dr. Pepper*

    #3- I have a lot of experience in what I would call the animal service industry where most people are self-employed and manage their own clients and fee schedules. It is very common to charge extra for driving distances out of a certain specified area, difficult to handle animals, and/or difficult to handle people. Often there is a service area and anything outside of that there is a per mile charge to cover both the gas and the time it takes to get there because the drive time takes away from time for other clients. These fees are usually decided ahead of time and stated up front before the first appointment. Sometimes, however, a certain factor will be so onerous that the professional will decide “I will only put up with this for $X.” If the client will not pay $X, they are dropped. I don’t know how working through a service goes, but the above is very common for independent professionals.

  30. JS*

    OP #4 – It all just depends. I would just keep your ears to the ground and be hyper aware of whats going on around you and any politics. It could be something or it could be nothing but as someone new I just wouldn’t assume its all good.

    At my current place of employment immediate resignation is usually because someone went to a competitor and it’s spoken about openly. If its something more hush-hush its likely because they were fired. Lay offs are sometimes immediate, other times not and its not openly talked about to keep respectful of people leaving but its not a secret or hush-hush either.

    However my previous place of employment a person in my job function got fired about a week after they hired me. It came as a shock to others around me but everyone tried to downplay it as no big deal it was just “performance issues”. The person had helped train me and seemed like a good positive worker so I was kind of confused. Ultimately, I was a bit naive and too trusting so I didn’t think much of it although I should have been more hyper aware of the politics behind it as the same thing was done to me, about a year later.

    HR cited “performance issues” as well but couldn’t give me any specifics as to what I was doing wrong and the one example they did have revealed that a coworker had lied to my boss about my not showing up for work (Proof of me working of course were the dozens of emails and communication I had that day but when I told them that they said “the decision had already been made”). It ended bitter sweet for me as due to some other issues I was able to file a compliant with the EEOC and the threat of litigation almost got a half years pay from them to settle. But you don’t want to go through all that OP so I would just be wary and keep your guard up until the job proves otherwise, keep documentation of EVERYTHING.

  31. Karyn*

    For whatever it’s worth, OP1, I just wanted to share this: when I started at my last full time job in 2013, I was only barely started on treating my bipolar disorder (which was undiagnosed for over a decade at that point, so I was really in the hole). I was having constant suicidal urges, and, although I never shared those with my supervisor, I did share my diagnosis and I can definitively say that without his understanding, compassion, and flexibility, I probably wouldn’t be alive today. He let me take off whenever I needed to for appointments, he allowed more mental health days than he probably should have, and he understood when I was switching medications that I sometimes would be out of it for a few days while I was adjusting. It turned out that he’d actually had a mental breakdown himself and was in the hospital for a few weeks because of it – and it was one of his then-bosses that got him that help. It’s amazing what an understanding, kind, and flexible manager can do for a person’s mental health.

  32. Bea*

    #4 I’ll keep it real with you, even in my worst position with actual toxicity and dread, I gave proper notice.

    However I hear the people who tried to replace me, they walked out without notice.

    Do you know how long the manager had been there? Most reasonable people who have been at a job very long will give notice. But as we know some places do ask you to leave immediately.

    I would just keep your curiosity on simmer. Be aware of your surroundings. You’re new now and since they aren’t gossiping that’s a huge sign that it was most likely a strained relationship that’s built over the years.

    I’ve seen a lot of resignations in my life. Some dramatic. Only once has it been because the work place was a mess and any cause for concern.

  33. boo bot*

    OP 3, I learned a valuable lesson from a fellow contractor a while ago. If you don’t want to do a job, either turn it down or tell the client the real, actual number you would feel good about doing it for. If that means tripling your usual rate, go for it.

    The caveat is to be realistic about the rate: the client might surprise you and take you up on it, and you have to envision the scenario where you’re putting up with the commute / bizarre and macabre last-minute requests / enormous quantities of llamas, and you’re still able to think, “Whatever, I’m getting $$$! for this!”

    1. MassMatt*

      This is kind of the flip side to giving an absolute minimum demand for a raise or promotion and threatening to walk, you need to be prepared for them to say no so don’t bluff. In this case you need to be prepared for them to say yes, make sure your figure is one you would be happy with.

  34. Suicide (Name Changed for This)*

    OP 1: A long time ago, I tried to kill myself and spent many weeks in a (thankfully) fantastic mental hospital afterwards. I’m one of the lucky ones that didn’t succeed and was able, over years of taking one step at a time and doing a lot of talk therapy, to build a great life on the second chance I got.

    I understand why there’s a lot of vehement disagreement with MommyMD upthread. I’m just one person who can only speak about my own experience, but I will say that I would’ve appreciated if someone (including a boss I had confided in) who was concerned I might attempt suicide imminently:
    1) asked me discreetly if I feared I would harm myself today;
    2) asked me (again, discreetly) if I wanted a ride to the hospital to check myself in;
    3) if I said yes to both, drove me to the hospital *without fanfare or anything that would blow my privacy*; and if I said no to one or both, dropped the hospital line of questioning and encouraged me to call EAP.

    That approach would *not* involve the police in any way.

    For various reasons, I felt suicidal again years later when I was at a job where none of the bosses knew about my struggles. (One of my work friends did; I don’t recommend telling coworkers to anyone because there’s no guarantee your secret stays put.) None of them were kind and concerned like OP, so I wasn’t comfortable admitting any problems to them. I had a good mental health plan through work, but the psych meds I was put
    on made me sleep through all alarms, and I missed every morning meeting for a long stretch. When my bosses confronted me about it, I blamed the medication, but didn’t explain what it was for because I didn’t feel fully safe or supported during the questioning or afterward.

    So I super agree with all the advice above about flex scheduling and time off for appointments. I also suggest:
    1) Being understanding if his arrival time to work becomes erratic (within what can work for his job and your company) as it could be due to meds.
    2) Giving him all his options re: leave, FMLA, and longer stretches of time off, including unpaid options, because he might not know what’s possible. HR can help with this without knowing the reasoning behind your asking. Unpaid leave isn’t financially feasible for everyone, but I ended up taking a 6-month unpaid leave of absence for mental health reasons toward the end of my tenure at my job, and it was one of the best things I ever did for myself.
    3) Seeking support for yourself. Talk therapy, support groups, anything that helps you process the stress of this while underscoring that you are not responsible for what your employee does or doesn’t do.

    Good luck, and thank you for being a boss who treats your employees as humans, not workbots. Sending positive vibes to you both!

    1. Suicide (Name Changed for This)*

      Fwiw, on the day I tried to kill myself, I acted like everything was fine because I didn’t want anyone to interfere with my plan. I called my therapist and said I didn’t need to see her that day because I was feeling good. This was in contrast to all the other days when I felt suicidal but wasn’t acting on it; those were days I was more likely to express what was actually going through my head.

      1. Chinookwind*

        *trigger warning*

        You made a good point that so many people don’t realize – if someone is depressed all the time and then one day is suddenly happy, that is the time to worry. It doesn’t happen every time, but for those who make an active choice to commit suicide, the decision to do so can be like a weight lifting off of them. A sudden, out of character mood change is a sign that doing Suicide’s 3 steps would be a good idea.

        But, they may lie and and still go ahead with it. That is NOT your fault.

        My first attempt involved me getting up from the couch next to my husband, downing some pills and, when DH came to ask if I was making dinner, telling him that I was tired and he could take care of it if he was hungry (we were not a good relationship at that time). He literally had no clue for years about what I did and, though he triggered my actions, they were NOT his fault and there was very little he could have done to stop me short of driving me to the ER.

        OP, know that there are limits to what you can do and that you are not responsible for your employee’s actions. You could yell at him and fire him publicly and his reaction would still not be your fault. The fact that you want to treat him with kindness and empathy will shine through your actions and, even if you aren’t his friend, may be enough to remind him that has value. And if it doesn’t, that is on him and not on you.

  35. Gaia*

    OP 2 – that is not a friend. Alison is right that it is his business if he wants to be a crappy employee, but he let you vouch for him at your current place of employment and then behaved in a way that calls your judgement into question (and ridiculously!).

    Follow the scripts here and then have a chat with not-a-friend and let him know he isn’t only risking his employment, but also your friendship.

  36. voyager1*

    I am not convinced at the advice for an EAP appointment is really enough with the information we have on the employee with his sucidal thoughts.

    Two things jump out at me:
    1. Has nobody for support.
    2. Has a history of not getting treatment.

    I definitely think this guy needs a doctor appointment with someone who specializes/experience in this.

    I am going to agree with MommyMD’s comment under one very important condition. If he starts talking about how everything will be better if he is gone (or something similar), then yeah it is a time for trip to the ER. If it is to that point it is going to be traumatic no matter what happens. I think many commenters are missing that when responding to MommyMD.

    Do you know if the employee has an firearms in that house? Has he ever mentioned owning them?

    1. Harper the Other One*

      Even comments like that do not mean “actively suicidal.” Yes, of course you don’t want to ignore comments like that – but “you would be better off without me” is a very common thought for people with any form of depression. It’s not enough for a psychiatric hold (and as I mentioned in a comment above, a psychiatric hold is often a deeply traumatizing and scary thing, not something that will help the situation.) Police will likely not be able to get involved even if the individual has mentioned having firearms; in many jurisdictions, they could only respond if the person has the weapon in hand. And calling the police or an ambulance will really damage the relationship between this person and OP, and result in significant stigma at work, because either would be very obvious to coworkers.

      In the end, there is a limit to what a person – especially a boss – can do without wildly overreaching. You certainly cannot force an appointment with a doctor who specializes in mental health with this information, and even if you could, that’s unlikely to be helpful without the employee deciding that they want to seek that help.

      Suggestions like the EAP, flexibility for appointments with a counselor, easier availability of “mental health” days or breaks are likely to be far more helpful to the OP’s employee, and they are within the realm of what is acceptable within professional boundaries.

    2. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

      Important counterpoint though. What is the employee’s financial situation like? Does this job offer, and did he take, the insurance? To what extent is mental health covered?

      I am part of a LGBT community group and have seen several un or underinsured people who were suicidal actually feel worse after a crisis intervention. Still suicidal and now they have tens of thousands of dollars in medical debt to boot.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Oh yes! This isn’t mental health, but I still remember the freelancer who nearly went hysterical because the HR person swooped down on our floor, having heard that the freelancer had clonked her head on a stairway to the Highline park, and insisted that the freelancer needed to go to the hospital in an ambulance.

        The freelancer nearly went through the roof–she didn’t have insurance, and it would have been catastrophic for her. Especially because she wasn’t dying–she probably just needed stitches.

      2. Chinookwind*

        Even having good health insurance doesn’t guarantee easy access to mental health support. The EAP may have a way to access that system because sometimes it is just plan hard to find entrance into the mental health system to get the help you need.

        My GP can give me drugs, but it took begging him to get me a one-time psych consult before he learned I needed a combo of drugs but, even then, he told me I was on my own to find a psychologist or counselor. I nearly cried last week when I heard that an Edmonton hospital is finally opening a 24/7 mental health clinic for both emergency and regular treatment that will help you navigate the system to get what you need (and I don’t hold up hope that my GP will point me there, so I will have to go as a walk-in). The only other one I have heard about is in Toronto.

  37. Dance-y Reagan*

    LW #3, this place sucks. Look elsewhere.

    Whenever I’m researching a PT job or volunteer group, I work backwards–as if I were the customer. What restaurant has good food/pleasant servers/a clean establishment? Good place to be a waitress. Which rescue group was helpful/prompt/kind when I contacted them for assistance with strays? That’s where I foster.

    In your case, I’d talk to dog owners and find out what service they use and like.

  38. Never*

    #1: In addition to the things AAM suggested as ways to help him as a manager: 1) Are there additional things you can do to let him know he is valued as an employee? 2) Are there work tasks he prefers or, in contrast, doesn’t like? Can you assign him more of the work he prefers to do and less of the tasks he dislikes?

    We spend a lot of time at work. Having our time there be valued and enjoyable is important to our overall mental health.

  39. Wulfgar*

    Hello, dog walker. I am a dog walker, and I used to work for a company. All schedulers are like this. They disregard the new walkers’ availability and commute limits. You need to set boundaries and tell the scheduler that the commute is too far. If she keeps scheduling you, contact the client directly and tell her that you are unavailable.

    I went out on my own and set my own schedule now and keep all the money I earn. It might be a good idea to look for a client on your own so you can choose the distance and price and work with client directly to set a price that works for you both.

    Pet sitting is my only job, and I was driving 250-300 miles a day, and it wore me down. Now that I’m my own scheduler, I’m more relaxed and able to be more positive with the pets I do visit.

  40. Wherehouse Politics*

    Regarding the dog walking-if the company agrees to paying you more for the long commute walk- be sure to get it in writing. I could see them also quick to agree then your pay deposit is the same, then putting you off later about it. I have some experience with this sort of work.

    1. Wulfgar*

      And, the company will take a cut of the larger rate. I’ve found that being an independent contractor on my own is preferable to working for a company, money wise. Some schedulers take as much as 50%.

  41. Elliot*

    OP2 – I got a job on a friend’s recommendation (which seriously bumped me from a “won’t even interview” for months to a “interviewed and hired). Now I live in fear that I am going to become “THAT FRIEND” for my pal (who is seriously a top dude for helping me outta a bad situation).

    1. Shelly574*

      That means you behaved the proper way when someone helped you out. I also got a job once through a referral and I was the best employee I could be, because I didn’t want my friend who regret taking a chance on me. Op2 needs to seriously think about his friend’s actions as harmful to him and their friendship.

  42. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    OP1, I think there’s a lot you can do that will help this person, while staying out of liability and not overstepping. Like another comment said, a boss can create an “I’m not worthless/I accomplish things” sense in a person through work.

    Not exactly the same thing, but when I was in undergrad, I struggled with some self-harm and suicidal thoughts. Around that time I also started taking classes from a well-known professor. I never asked for his help beyond school and graduate application time, and never told him about my problems beyond a vague “I don’t always feel great about myself and my parents aren’t the best.”

    But, he was and is a very dedicated guy. No family, so he had office hours any reasonable time that he wasn’t teaching. He would tell me that I could talk to him about the work, his subject, or anything, whenever he was in, and followed through on this. He would print extra reading material for his subject for me, and we would discuss it. And, most importantly, he told me that he liked me, valued me, thought I was smart, and was proud of me. Not always in so many words, but he never patronized me, took me seriously, and treated me like an equal in our discussions. He even told me that I should reach for the best grad school I could get rather than let my lack of confidence force me into a safety.

    Of course, being a student to a professor is different. But are there ways you can do things like this for your employee?

  43. Jennifer Thneed*

    OP#4: I haven’t seen any address this issue: your new boss. Do you know who your new boss will be? When you meet them, I advise you to treat them as though you are interviewing at the company all over again, because you have never met them and you might not have taken the job if they been the one interviewing you. And if you leave the job quickly, the gap won’t concern people and “the person I interviewed with left during my first week and her replacement and I just didn’t click” will make sense to everyone.

    Story time!
    I got what seemed like a really good job once, but a little oddly: they were looking for a contract technical writer, but after interviewing me the manager decided to change it to a permanent position (yay!) which meant the whole process to get me into the company took longer, but hey, permanent position, right? After I accepted the job, and before I started working there, the woman who had hired me was promoted and her #2 was promoted into her position. So far, so good. Except for the part where I had never actually met the woman before, and when we did meet I had a visceral reaction of not liking her and finding her fashion sense odd. (She was actually just dressing rather fashionably in a geographic area and part of industry where that was very unusual.)

    So I started a new job, did pretty well, started to build some good relationships … and got fired about 3 months in, truly out of the blue. (I mean, maybe I didn’t “read” my new boss well at the social level because that’s a weakness of mine, but truly there weren’t any conversations, warnings, nothing to suggest that she wanted me gone.) I ended up putting that one on my resume as a contract, since it was so short and had started as a contract, and now it’s long enough ago that it’s aged off my resume as a specific position. And that’s the experience that hammered it into my head that I’m interviewing the company just as much as they are interviewing me. Because I *hadn’t* interviewed that woman at all, and if I had, I wouldn’t have accepted her as my boss.

  44. Elizabeth W.*

    #4 happened to me once in retail–I got a job at a video store, and the woman who hired me left after three days. They said she went to another store, but I think she ended up leaving the company altogether. Her replacement was horrible, one of the worst bosses I’ve ever had. He ended up firing me so he could hire a friend of his. I didn’t mind, as I would have quit soon anyway.

  45. MoreLikeAsworstos*

    #1 – Let’s say you follow Allison’s advice. If I was in the same position as your employee, I think I would benefit from a transparent conversation about what you can and cannot do and the reasons behind it. Otherwise thru the shit-colored glasses that is depression, I would worry that I’d done something wrong and misinterpret it.

    I’ve been a mostly- highly functional depressed person for almost entire life, but this employee is clearly in a different position than me so I’d love to hear some other thoughts on transparent the OP should be about her intentions and boundaries.

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