my boss asked if I felt “threatened” by a new hire when I complained about her

A reader writes:

We recently hired a new employee in my office, who is really not working out well. She was hired in at the same job title as me about two months ago to work on the project team for which I am the lead. The longer term goal is to train this hire to lead her own project teams. We both report to the same manager, who is based out of a different office. I’ve been in this position for four years and am the most senior person in our office.

Unfortunately, this new hire, “Jane,” is atrocious—at least from my perspective. This is her first job out of graduate school and I think she hasn’t adjusted yet to working life. She works from home without permission, fails to show up to meetings, gets in late, leaves early, and has not been meeting my deadlines. For context, we do have some schedule flexibility but are generally expected to maintain 9-5 hours. The quality of her work has also been poor, which I would normally consider part of the learning curve, but I also don’t feel like she listens very well. On top of all of this, she can’t handle direct feedback very well at all, and starts tearing up even over minor criticism. None of these things are seen by our mutual manager, because he isn’t based out of our office.

I finally had a chat with our manager this week. I told him I was very concerned about Jane. I cited her absences, and told him that on more than one occasion she had told me she had his permission to work from home. (As a side note, we are occasionally permitted to work from home, but must obtain prior permission, and we can only do it occasionally.) He told me that she has never requested, and he has never granted, permission to work from home.

My problem is that after I laid out all these issues for him, asked me, “Are you certain you don’t just feel threatened by her?” and pointed out that she came in with an impressive academic resume and shows a lot of promise. I had thought she was the perfect person to add to the team. And I can unequivocally state that I don’t feel threatened by Jane. My office has plenty of work and project leadership opportunities to go around. Frankly, if she could outperform me, I’d welcome the opportunity to offload some of the things on my overloaded plate.

My manager went on to say that he has never micromanaged my hours and doesn’t understand why I would expect him to micromanage hers. I do usually appreciate the hands-off style my manager has, but I am generally good at self-governing. I feel like that flexibility is only okay if you are responsible enough to manage yourself appropriately.

I got the sense from him that he feels the problems with Jane can’t be as significant as I think they are. I feel insulted that he didn’t seem to take my concerns seriously, and specifically that he would accuse me of feeling “threatened” by her (!!). On top of all of this, I have work that isn’t getting done because Jane isn’t doing the job. I’m so upset by all of this I’m now considering leaving, but I have really loved this job up until now.

I need a gut check. Is two months long enough to know that someone isn’t working out? Surely the fact that she has missed my last four scheduled meetings is a real problem, and not something that should be brushed off? Is there something more I should say to my absent/hands-off manager? I’m just baffled by his reaction. Was I somehow out of line to bring these complaints about a coworker to my boss?

Two months can absolutely be long enough to know someone isn’t working out. And yes, it’s a problem that she’s missing scheduled meetings with you (unless you’re scheduling tons of unnecessary meetings and ignored her attempts to decrease their frequency and this is her final resort — but it doesn’t sound like that’s the case). And no, you weren’t out of line by raising your concerns to your boss.

But here’s what I think happened when you had that conversation: It sounds like you focused on Jane’s absences and working from home without permission, and those aren’t things he cares a ton about. You gave him the impression that those were your major concerns, and he responded by telling you those things aren’t as serious as you think they are and by questioning why you’re making such a big deal of them.

There are lots of other reasons to be concerned about Jane, though — and it sounds like they might not have been the focus of your conversation. If you left him thinking you were just scrutinizing her hours, and he assumes she’s generally doing fine work aside from that, that might be why he went looking for another explanation. It’s obnoxious that he landed on “are you sure you’re not threatened by her?” — really obnoxious — but I bet that’s where it came from.

I think you need to go back and have a second conversation with him where you clarify what your concerns are. Leave out the stuff about the absences/lateness/working from home without permission, since it doesn’t sound like he’s too bothered by those things. Instead, focus on her actual work quality — she’s missing deadlines, turning in shoddy work, not retaining feedback, etc. That’s the crux of it anyway.

So go back and say something like this: “I wanted to talk with you about our conversation the other day. I was pretty taken aback that you suggested my concerns about Jane’s work stemmed from being threatened by her. I hope we’ve worked together long enough that you know that would be really out of character for me. I was excited about bringing her on and thought her background was great — and if she could outperform me, I’d be thrilled about that because I’d be able to offload some projects to her, which I very much want to do. So I’m thinking I must not have clearly conveyed the problems I’ve seen. When we talked the other day, I think I took us off-course by talking about her work habits rather than the actual quality of work, which is my real concern. The actual quality of her work has been poor. (Give a couple of examples here, and make sure they’re compelling.) She’s also missing deadlines, not showing up for meetings, and not retaining feedback. My sense at this point is that she can’t do the work we’ve hired her for. That’s not about me being threatened — that’s me trying to flag serious issues in her work quality that we need to address in some way.”

See where that gets you. If he’s still unreceptive, then you can say something like, “I won’t keep bringing this up if you don’t want to hear it, but can you help me understand your perspective? I would have thought you’d see work quality issues like X and Y as serious ones since it means (insert consequences for your team’s work here). You obviously see this differently — can you tell more about how you’re looking at this, since it sounds like I may need to adjust my thinking?” (You’re not necessarily volunteering to adjust your thinking; this is a non-defensive way of learning more about where he’s coming from.)

If he blows you off again — or, worse, doubles down on this being a “you” problem — then I’d think about what you know about him that might shed light on his response. Is he someone who’s painfully reluctant to deal with problems? If so, that type will often jump to an interpersonal explanation (“they just have a personality clash” or so forth) in order to avoid dealing with substantive issues. Or is he bad at reading people and their motivations — have you seen him dramatically misunderstand the dynamics of a situation before? Does he have a special aversion to people saying anything that sounds critical of others, even if they’re raising a legitimate problem? There might be nothing that sheds any light— but if his reaction does fit in with things you already know about him, that’s something you’d want to factor in going forward.

{ 344 comments… read them below }

  1. Jack Be Nimble*

    Ugh, your boss’s response was super obnoxious! I hope that he’ll be receptive to your feedback about her performance, and I second Allison’s final paragraph. If he blows you off or suggests it’s a “you” problem again, he’s given you valuable information about how he operates.

    1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      Flash back to the woman who wrote the letter explaining that she was concerned because she’s going to be working full time with woman who was a problem employee as a contractor. Her previous boss felt that any issues between women was a personality conflict.
      I see the part where the boss can read too much into the issues OP listed. New employee is turning into OP’s JEC.* I think it’s important for OP to stress the things that she hoped OP would be doing already, the projects she’d hoped to turn over. Explain that you want to, but you can’t because X, Y, Z.

      *Jerk eating crackers. Don’t want to derail.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Although if the new employee has been there for two months, the manager is going to tell her to be patient WRT turning over projects to this new hire.

    2. Tequila Mockingbird*

      I would add to Allison’s advice that OP should start documenting the problems with Jane – concrete examples of her underperformance, dates (missed meetings/deadlines), absenteeism, all the easily quantifiable details. This will be immeasurably helpful if HR has to get involved at some point, and OP’s boss is still insisting that it’s all in OP’s head.

  2. Roscoe*

    Totally agree with Alison. I think part of the problem is that you are listing a lot of issues you have with her, a few of which are, frankly, not your concern. I think because of that, it seems like you expect him to micromanage her because of your thoughts on her work. If you want to go complain about a new hire, I’d really focus in on how her work or lack of good work, effects your output. Like, it probably really doesn’t matter if she works from home, but skipping important meetings doesn’t let you and others get what you need.

    1. Lance*

      In this case, I’d say it should matter about her working from home, insofar as she’s violating SOP in just deciding it for herself (and is she actually working while she’s taking such days? I’d be curious about that, but given that she isn’t working well regardless, well…). I suppose the fact that the boss doesn’t care, though, is fairly telling about his hands-off approach… but yes, hopefully he’ll take the rest of the concerns seriously.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        But if they’re truly peers, it’s typically not something OP could raise more than once. It’s not really your business what arrangements others at your own level have – it’s for their managers to decide if they’re satisfied. It’s only because OP feels she has team lead authority that this issue becomes hers to manage really.

        1. Roscoe*

          This is exactly my point. I work in a remote office with no manager on site, and my colleague doesn’t always follow the SOP, but I’m not his boss, and it has no effect on me, so I feel like its just petty for me to go to a manager about that. However, if he was doing other things, like flaking on our meetings, that would be fine to bring up.

        2. buttrue???*

          But OP is the team lead appears from the letter to give her work, feedback and deadlines.

          1. Emily K*

            I’m not totally well versed in corporate title, but she says that she’s the lead of a project team – that to me would suggest that her supervisory authority is limited to assigning and giving feedback on work related to that project rather than the employee’s work habits/attendance/general stuff.

            1. AnnaBananna*

              Team leads often also do minor management tasks such as manage/approve timecards, etc. It depends on the company. As a former team lead who also had the authority to hire and fire, I would say since she’s basically her working supervisor during this onboarding, so yes she would have the right to report her absences, especially seeing as she’s getting so little done. It’s unfortunate that Boss heard that New Girl straight up lied about getting approval to work from home and he *still* defaulted to ‘personality conflicts, amirite?’. ERGH.

              1. Emily K*

                Right, I was keying in specifically on her using the phrase project team lead instead of just team lead. She did in fact clarify further down that her lead role is limited to a specific project and that other projects she also works on are led by other individuals – which sounds like what at my org would be called a “project manager” whose authority is limited to the projects they’ve been assigned, and would often be considered at peer level with others who work on the project and their role is to basically traffic work and set deadlines more than it is to supervise the work of the peers on the project (which is what the parent comment above was debating, whether she’s in a peer role or a supervisory one).

        3. KimberlyR*

          I work from a tiny remote office and we have had issues with people that they hire on in our office. We have no managers here so you have to be self-motivated. As such, you do have to flag stuff like this to your manager, at least once. That manager doesn’t know when or if Jane is actually in the office and sometimes this is an important data point in an underperformer. We had someone who would “work” from home often but didn’t actually do much work. The problem was the lack of work, not the working from home, but that was still something that needed to be considered. So I totally get why OP mentioned it.

          1. OP*

            This is exactly right. I’m not interested in being a busy body. There is no line manager in our office, and no other way for my manager to know when there is a problem. The frequency of her being unavailable is outside of our norm. She isn’t getting the work done. I felt justified in mentioning it. At the same time, I see how this derailed us.

            1. KimberlyR*

              In our case, it took 6 months and for the underperformer to lose clients (and therefore money) before she was fired. But although her frequent absences were the annoying day-to-day issue, overall job performance was what management focused on. And I get it. If she were doing her own thing but performing well, it would’ve been a different story. So yes, focus on the performance and the issues with her work (and how it affects your clients/customers/coworkers) and you’ll get more traction with your manager. But I definitely sympathize with your frustration!

      2. DaffyDuck*

        Yeah, I worked with (not supervisory) a young lady who was always telling me she was busy in “other facility” and telling “other facility” she was always at my place of work. Turns out she was spending lots of time at the gym, running errands, and at home. She was an information hoarder, her major professor’s golden child, and would kick up HE hockey sticks if staff went around her to get what they needed. She was a PITA and significant reason why the decision to leave (no one wanted to cross her major professor) was easy.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          For equal opportunity offenders, I heard of someone fired from a two-location company because told people “I’m working at the other site tomorrow” … he logged on for a few hours at home and claimed it as a full day. And he got away with it a few times before the managers started comparing notes.

    2. cmcinnyc*

      I think it matters that she’s working from home in her first two months. That jumped out at me. I have not worked in places that do lots of remote work, so maybe that’s normal for many workplaces, but I’d find it odd to have a new team member using a lot of flexibility in her first 90 days without explanation. The missing meetings part sounds like she thinks those meetings are suggested, not mandatory. Even if she was doing great work, that would be a red flag to me. With great work it’s a tiny flag on a distant hill, but with poor work? She’s *new* so expecting great work isn’t truly reasonable but expecting her to show up is.

      1. Arctic*

        But her manager now knows she’s doing that and isn’t concerned.

        It may or may not be a red flag but it’s not something that the LW should be so focused on. It’s the quality of work and how it impacts her that she should solely be focused on from now on.

        1. myswtghst*

          Agreed. As a peer, OP doesn’t know what type of arrangements coworker may have worked out with their boss, and since OP approached the boss once and was told, essentially, “MYOB and don’t worry about it”, the best thing OP can do is exactly that. If it helps, OP can assume coworker has made an arrangement with boss that is none of OP’s business, and carry on as if that were true and confirmed, but continuing to bring it up is only going to hurt OP, not the coworker.

      2. Just Employed Here*

        I don’t think working from home in the first two months is bad per se, but she apparently

        a) does it without permission, and
        b) lies about having permission for it.

        Which are both really, really shoddy things to do in the first two months (or ever!).

        That kind of behaviour will really annoy other team members who are following the policy as stated, even if there were no other issues with this coworker.

        1. Natatat*

          As someone recently promoted from an individual contributor role to a management level, I am perplexed by the manager’s response in LW’s case. Yes, the coming in late, leaving early, and unapproved working from home are not directly LW’s problem/business. but as someone recently in LW’s employment level, I know that having inconsistent application of policy (such as lateness and working from home being brushed off) feels unfair to those who follow the rules. And feeling like something is unfair/unequal can lead good employees to feeling unhappy about the job as whole and could eventually lead them to leave the company. I hope the manager in LW’s case will ultimately address the arriving late/leaving early and unapproved work from home behaviour rather than brush it off.

          1. pancakes*

            An employee who gets very pissy about a fellow employee working from home without having announced permission for it isn’t, in my opinion, a great employee. If their own work is being compromised as a result that’s different—and that’s very much an issue to be raised with someone higher up—but if it isn’t, getting huffy & looking for a new job is being a melodramatic busybody with poor judgment.

        2. Human Sloth*

          @Just Employed Here: You perfectly expressed the thoughts I wanted to comment on. Behaviors a and b are an indicator of her future work ethic. This will probably only get worse. Some commentors are suggesting that working from home or work hours should not be OPs concern, but at the two month mark I feel these are huge red flags, because when you take learning curves of a new job into consideration, behavior/habits is the one thing a new employee has direct control over and this employee is failing miserably.

      3. Roscoe*

        Again, but thats should be her manager’s thing to handle, not hers. If her manager knows and doesn’t care, complaining just makes her look petty

        1. Lance*

          Sure, but the manager (themselves remote in some way, from the sound of things) isn’t likely going to know about it unless somebody tells them. In this case, the manager didn’t know before OP brought it up, so I don’t think it unfair that it was a point initially brought up.

      4. Skeeder Jones*

        My whole team works remotely 90% of the time, but not in the first few weeks. When I started, I was going in to the office every day (even though none of my team members were there to see me) and I soon learned that a previous person in my position was hard to find, never started on time, ducked phone calls, etc. Once they knew my work ethic, it was not a problem to work from home. But, if someone is making up her own rules in the first few months, (when we are usually trying to show off how great we are, aren’t you glad you hired us?) then it doesn’t bode well for their ability to conform to requirements later on. If I was a manager, I’d want to address these problems in the first few months or else I would soon have an employee who knows they can get away with everything.

    3. ursula*

      It also sounds like she straight-up lied about it, though, which is also a pretty serious issue I think? She said explicitly that Boss had given her permission when Boss never got a request. Kind of surprised that isn’t being made more of an issue here (unless I have misread).

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        There are plenty of workplaces that may have a “formal” policy for WFH and hours, etc but that in reality don’t enforce it or care. Mine is technically like that–It’s written somewhere that you can only work from home one day a week, but I let my people wfh as much as they like and it works for everyone.

        So I agree with Alison, focus on the actual work quality, ignoring your meetings, etc..

      2. Skeeder Jones*

        I cannot fathom why a manager would not be concerned that they have a new employee telling lies. I would want to address that so they don’t continue to push the limits. It’s a lot like being a parent. Have clear rules, enforce the rules. I would be frustrated after talking to the manager.

  3. Falling Diphthong*

    I think this can happen a lot when you have a litany of problems with someone–you have to narrow in on the right 1-3 things that most impact the work, or it sounds like you’re nitpicking a smaller issue. When someone has a dozen smaller issues, they can be awful to work with but each thing taken individually isn’t that big.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      Yeah you can pretty easily unconsciously project “BEC”-stage annoyance when you think you’re calmly working through your list of concerns. People are good at detecting subtext.

      1. Jack Be Nimble*

        I know I do that! When I’m frustrated, I tend to focus on the latest occurrence of the annoying behavior, which tends to be something relatively minor. The end result is me ranting and raving that Fergus left the reports on my chair while I was in the bathroom, instead of ranting and raving that the reports are always a month or more late.

      2. JSPA*

        this! So essential to make a list of the true essentials and not get blown off course bye style issues and “technical misdemeanors” if they don’t actually impact the final product.

        I’d also answer the bosses question (esprit de l’escalier style) by saying, ” I don’t think I’d even feel threatened by somebody excellent, but I’m certainly not going to feel threatened by somebody whose work is borderline at best.”

        1. CM*

          That sounds defensive to me — if I were the boss, it would confirm my suspicion that this was an interpersonal problem.

        1. stump*

          BEC = Bitch Eating Crackers

          Comes from a Somee Card that said something like “Look at that bitch eating crackers like she owns the place.”

          Basically, it’s the point of irritation with somebody where EVERYTHING they do irritates you, even if the behavior itself is innocuous.

        2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          “Bitch eating crackers.”

          It’s a reference to a longer quote — I’ve seen it as a someecards thing, but I don’t know if it predates that. “When you hate someone, everything they do is offensive. Look at this bitch eating those crackers like she owns the place.”

        3. Sloan Kittering*

          Oh sorry it’s a phrase meaning you’re at the end of your rope and now every single thing the person does drives you crazy even if it’s insignificant. The origin is from “b*tch eating crackers” which is why it’s never spelled out here – as in, “look at that jerk over there just EATING CRACKERS what an a*hole.”

        4. DaffyDuck*

          B#$%h eating crackers. Someone you have had so many bad interactions with even actions which wouldn’t bother you from other people will drive you up the wall.

        5. BEC Misogyny*

          It’s an acceptable misogynistic term that people here love to throw around meaning b*tch eating crackers, to denote women who are just going about their own business and living their lives but the person saying it seems to have an issue with that. It’s hypocritical that it’s acceptable on this site where people are commanded to be nice to each other.

          1. Nope*

            This is a reach. Especially since I have seen it used (on AAM and elsewhere too) for all genders.

          2. Ico*

            I’ve always wondered about this, since more than once I’ve seen commenters say that any use of a gendered slur is inappropriate, regardless of context. That _particular_ context does seem to get a pass.

          3. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

            I’m with you on the word b*tch being misogynistic, but the phrase BEC does not denote what you’ve described. At all.

            It is reflective of the person saying it. It is acknowledging that one has such a problem with someone that even the most mundane activities they do annoy you. It is about the behavior and attitude of the person speaking. It is an acknowledgement that your perspective might be skewed if it has reached that level. And it is applied evenly across genders in the uses I have seen.

          4. Archaeopteryx*

            The entire point of the phrase is to check yourself- that even though you have legitimate grievances with someone, that can make you annoyed at totally innocuous things and lose perspective on which is which. This is a pretty wide misreading of the connotation of the saying.

          5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            It’s frequently used (in real life, and in this forum) to refer to a specific phenomenon that affects people of all genders, and there’s no denotation that it is limited to women.

            While the “B” is certainly misogynistic, because the term describes the person who has a problem with the offending person, it’s essentially shorthand for “do some deep introspection and check yourself before determining if the ‘offenses’ are actually worth intervention.”

          6. Où est la bibliothèque?*

            “Bitch” is well on it’s way to becoming gender-neutral–all of the Gen Z-ers I know use it that way. It has a slightly different meaning than “asshole,” but is used in pretty much the same context.

            If there’s a gendered term I get to vote of the island, it’s “drama queen,” and I see that here all the time.

          7. JSPA*

            Trying again for right location / threading:

            It’s a nod to the original described cumulative, past-last-straw situation, which pushed an otherwise – reasonable person to bad language and irrational anger over totally normal behavior. If you lose the “B,” you lose an important aspect of the concept, which is that your own reaction can become a massive professionalism problem in its own right. Usage has nothing to do with the gender of the person who’s on your last nerve. You can reach b.e.c. stage with anyone. Nor does it even necessarily imply that the focus of your ire has doing something objectively wrong– you can reach be easy with someone primarily on stylistic grounds / incompatible communication patterns / ask vs guess culture mismatch etc.

    2. Zip Silver*

      Yeah if I had an employee come to me with a laundry list of things that I wasn’t seeing from a management POV, my first thought would be that it’s just an interpersonal problem.

      It pays to be concise.

      1. Clorinda*

        “Don’t bury the lede.”
        So, say the most important thing first. She’s missing deadlines and that’s making OP have to do extra work to catch up … that’s a problem. It’s not a problem for her manager yet, though, because she IS making up the new hire’s work. I guess an eventual next step would be to stop covering for her, but that seems premature, because it has only been two months. Maybe it’s time to be very, very clear (written-memo-level clear) about what the new hire is personally and solely responsible for on the next project.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        This might be a dumb question, and I’m not a manager, but why wouldn’t a manager ask about this? Like, “I’m hearing you complain about X but is this actually causing problems with your actual work?”

        It’s like an episode of Three’s Company where the manager turns into Jack Tripper and just sees one tiny snatch of a moment and never tries to find out more information. Why does nobody ever seem to ask questions like this?

        1. Zip Silver*

          Personally I zone out if somebody writes a treatise on why they have a problem with a coworker.

          1. Lance*

            I’m genuinely curious why, then. Have you seen a history of people coming in with a list of complaints that don’t mean much, or do you simply want them to get to things that interest you? Because even longer lists can have very legitimate complaints, even if others on that list may not be.

        2. Hiring Mgr*

          I like that analogy, though i think Mr Roper would be the manager, the OP would be Janet, and the new employee would by Chrissy, though not as lovable.

        3. Magenta*

          It isn’t my job to police other people’s interpersonal relationships. There are a lot of people I work with that I don’t like, but I get on with things and do my job, I expect my team to do the same.

          I generally won’t listen to my team moan about each other, I will usually cut them short and ask if anything they are about to tell me is to do with work or could be considered some kind of discrimination or harassment.

          That being said I will intervene if I think a poor working relationship is affecting the wider team or productivity.

        4. CM*

          I think a really good manager would try to get to the root of the problem, and would assume that if an employee is coming to him with an issue, it’s probably a valid one. But this manager is making a snap judgment.

          Also, while I would also be infuriated if this happened to me, I can kind of see where the manager is coming from. It’s not a coworker’s responsibility to monitor her peer’s comings and goings. The OP took the wrong approach here by focusing on that rather than the impact on her work, which makes it seem like she’s out to get the new person. I like Alison’s script to course-correct.

          1. JuliaF*

            But wouldn’t you be concerned that an employee was lying about what you said to them? (She’s telling her team lead that she asked and you said OK to her working from home.) It would really bother me.

        5. Emily K*

          I think it’s because a lot of managers have no management training and are not especially thoughtful or strategic about their actions as a manager. They answer questions, they assign work, they give feedback, but they never really step into their role as “leader who is shaping the department and cultivating its staff.”

          So if an employee comes to you with this problem and you’re thinking of it in a big-picture sense of what this means for the department and how you should handle it for the good of the whole department, you would want to probe further.

          But if you’re an IC who was promoted into a people management role and mostly views people management as something that takes you away from your “real work,” then you’re not as likely to be looking at the big department picture, and more likely to be narrowly focused on the fact that one employee has brought you a complaint that you need to address/respond to before you can get back to work.

    3. the_scientist*

      Definitely. For me, personally, I think it’s helpful to identify *patterns* because 1) it clearly indicates that something is ongoing and 2) it can help you prioritize which issues are most important. I’ve found that the approach of identifying patterns rather than individual occurrences is helpful both as an employee and as a manager!

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Yes; like Jack Be Nimble I will find myself very focused on the latest RIDICULOUS THING which, on its own, seems to be a really small issue I could shrug off. As a one-off from a competent person, I WOULD shrug it off. I have to drag myself back to an objective distance and realize how touchy I will sound ranting about latest ridiculous thing.

    4. Stranger than fiction*

      The saying “why didn’t you open with that” comes to mind here. Unfortunately, Op opened with the stuff boss didn’t care about and probably lost his attention.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        We don’t know about that — it may have been where OP *ended* — and boss didn’t retain the first half of the conversation.

  4. Sloan Kittering*

    I’m adding this to the list of letters that came up when someone is “team manager” but not supervisor :( I frequently see this come up on the site and I honestly think this style of office organization is rife with this type of issue. If you are peer to someone (you report to the same manager) it’s difficult to say “they don’t meet my deadlines” or that you’re providing feedback that makes her cry, or that you’re in charge of deciding if her work output is good enough, without it coming across a little oddly.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      In a well functioning organization with a decent manager, though, you can do that stuff easily without it coming across as odd. The problem is when orgs give people half-authority and then don’t listen to them when they raise problems.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        I guess it seems to me in this letter that OP *thinks* they have some kind of half authority, but it’s not clear to me that they really do – actually I guess it seems like they don’t, based on the bosses response. But I’m sure that OP is responsible for the final work product in a way that would not be possible without some kind of peer authority.

        1. OP*

          I think you are right that this set up can be pretty problematic. I am the team lead– so I am supposed to set deadlines and oversee the work, but don’t have managerial authority (not a line manager). I am consulted when it comes to review season, but I really don’t otherwise have a lot of impact on others. I’ve (rarely) elevated project issues to my manager, and these issues were addressed, but, thinking back on it, these instances regarded individual team members not meeting deadlines. Allison may be correct that I went in too many directions rather than discussing the impact on the work.

          1. Justin*

            Yeah I was a project lead to an underperformer and it took me way too long to figure out how to manage that situation.

          2. LaDeeDa*

            Leading without authority has become a big topic within my organization, as we have flattened to the point that a manager couldn’t possibly lead the huge teams they are responsible for, so they are creating more and more “team lead” roles. If you google “leading without authority” you will find a ton of resources, and many will include how to address issues when you don’t have authority to correct those issues or hold people accountable.

        2. Yikes Dude*

          I had the same thought. The vibe I got is that the boss’ response was another way of saying “Why would it be your job to care about this?” when the boss suggested that the LW was “threatened” and the LW took the question literally instead of giving a specific answer about how this impacts *their work.*

    2. Samwise*

      It can work when you’re working with reasonable people. So I have a supervisor and I also have a team leader who is not my supervisor. Team leader (functional team) has the responsibility to ensure the team is accomplishing its goals on time and with a high level of quality; if I’m falling down on any of that, team leader speaks to me about it, and if it doesn’t resolve then speaks to my supervisor. My team leader happens to be a level up from me, but is not my manager. My team lead also happens to be stellar, as are my other team members — I *love* my team, best work team I have ever been on. My manager (new) seems like a reasonable and effective manager so far.

      If you don’t have reasonable or competent people in these leadership roles, however, it’s a nightmare.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        I could see it more if they’re a level up from you, because at least then the hierarchy is better established, but I’ve only seen it fail with “peer” managers who are at the exact same level and report to the same manager. This may just be my run of bad luck though. I honestly think companies do this to get “managers” without having to pay managers so perhaps that’s why I’m extra cynical out of the gate.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          Ding ding ding. I’m in that exact situation. I’ve been basically managing a team whose manager left two and a half years ago, but they just slapped “lead” on my title and gave no raise or promotion because “sales are bad”. Well guess what, so is morale. And that’s why I’m leaving.

        2. Emily K*

          I’m sure that’s certainly part of it, but for what it’s worth, in a healthy company a manager does a lot that a team lead/supervisor doesn’t, so they aren’t just underpaid managers.

          I co-lead a team that has two primary functions that sit under the same umbrella and overlap somewhat. Think llama boarding and llama day care. My colleague and I are each in charge of a primary function. She has three reports and I have two. We both assign work to all five of the reports under us – the person who mucks out the llama stalls reports to my colleague in the llama boarding group, but they muck out day care stalls for me in addition to the boarding stalls for her – but the two I manage take up a lot more of my time and energy compared to the three I just assign work and deliver feedback to. I would honestly be strongly tempted if my counterpart wanted to manage all of them, because it would take so much work off my plate.

      2. Jl*

        I think OP needs to find out when she can let this little bird fly on her own. Let her fall on her face.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          My highly unprofessional, schadenfreude-loving side wants to let her drop right now, and when the work fails to get done, feel the boss, “Is something wrong? You were so clear that Jane had a stellar academic record and we had every reason to expect that she could do the job that I figured she’d be fine!” I know, of course, that this is not going to work out… aside from it being unprofessional and bad for the team, it would also make the project lead look bad to have made that kind of a misjudgment about the capacity of their new team member… even if the boss was *also* making a mistake in judging the abilities of the new team member.

          I wouldn’t do it, but I am enjoying imagining it. The way it ought to go, not the way it actually would if it were attempted.

    3. Not In NYC Any More*

      This. I can almost imagine the new employee’s letter to this site – “I recently joined a team and one of my peers thinks she is my supervisor. She’s been here longer but we’re on the same level. She sets arbitrary deadlines and expects me to meet them just because she said so. She schedules 8am meetings when she knows I don’t get in until 9am. She thinks she has the right to criticize my work, etc. etc. She is so frustrating I sometimes find myself tearing up. She’s not my manager so I’ve decided to just ignore her.”
      The new employee could very well have very real problems, and the letter writer probably does have the soft authority to set schedules and oversee work – but an org structure that makes one person think they are superior to another, while the other feels they are peers, is a recipe for disaster.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        +1. “Then I found out she complained to my boss about how I manage my hours, which is none of her business.”

      2. OP*

        I understand how you got that from the letter, but we aren’t set up like that. We have project teams– currently I’m leading several projects, but I’ve also had a role where I’m simultaneously leading one team but am simultaneously a support to another project lead on another team. Sometimes I have worked for a project lead who is junior to me. They can set my deadlines, and I’m expected to meet them, or notify ahead of time that something won’t be possible. Issues are then elevated to management.

        Regarding meetings, I have a once weekly standing meeting for Monday at 2pm. I’ve asked Jane if she would like to find a time that works better for her, but she has told me that she’s just forgotten. Each time, she has been extremely apologetic. I don’t get the sense that she hates me or is missing them on purpose.

        1. Sloan Kittering*

          Thanks for the context! Do you feel that Jane truly understand that you are her de facto supervisor? Has her boss made it clear to her and reinforced that she will be evaluated based on your feedback?

        2. EPLawyer*

          From your first paragraph I can see how someone new might not get the structure. Sometimes you are lead, but sometimes you are not. So a new person doesn’t quite understand what that means. That a standing appointment with the team lead is equivalent to a meeting with a supervisor. She just thinks you are a peer who wants to talk about the work. Since she might not realize how important it is, it doesn’t make it on the calendar.

          She could just be flaky and not working out. But make sure she understands the structure too. If nothing else, it will help her on her next job hopefully.

          1. Yorick*

            But I can’t imagine someone thinking it’s ok to not show up to a meeting with a peer who wants to talk about the work.

            Sure, they could say “let’s cancel the meeting/reschedule it/meet less frequently,” but not just blow it off.

            1. Clorinda*

              She’s straight out of school. I bet it feels to her like a peer-to-peer study group or some such thing. Jane needs some serious mentoring and she might not be in the mindset to accept it.

              1. designbot*

                or it’s like a group project, where the people who always show up naturally wind up complaining about those who never do.

            2. TechWorker*

              W.r.t the thinking she had permission to work from home I wonder if the companies policies don’t actually match up to how all mgrs treat it? Like if someone during the recruitment process sold it as ‘you can work from home when you need to, we’re pretty flexible’ and she translated that into ‘I have permission to do it whenever I want’? I also think it’s super easy for annoyance with someone’s work or output to get caught up in ‘urgh why are they late *again*’ or whatever when actually if they were constantly late but otherwise great to work with you’d probably overlook it.

        3. JSPA*

          House thoroughly and explicitly is this project-specific, shifting chain of command explained to new hires? If she’s giving to woolgathering, is this something she could have missed? Basically, is it possible that she’s not entirely clear on the concept?

      3. Stranger than fiction*

        Idk, I’m thinking more she’s fresh out of school and has no concept of office norms. Someone should coach her on this, like the manager. But he seems to think an “impressive academic” is all it takes for someone to succeed.

    4. Not Today Satan*

      Being “team lead” was absolutely the worst role I’ve ever had. Just looking at the term made me cringe. I basically had all the bad parts of supervision with literally no authority or respect from my team at all.

  5. Detective Amy Santiago*

    I think some of this issue could potentially be chalked up to the fact that you are not Jane’s supervisor. She may feel like she doesn’t have to “meet your deadlines” because you’re not her boss. And your tone here is coming across as rather disdainful of her in general, so she may also be picking up on that and not terribly inclined to want to work with you. If she was told that she was being hired so she could be trained to lead projects, there may also be a disconnect in expectations of the position.

    Basically, I think there are likely legitimate issues with Jane’s work, but I also don’t think your boss is completely off base by thinking that this is at least partly a you problem.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      It’s true, reading between the lines it doesn’t sound to me like Jane thinks she has to answer to you, and TBH based on your bosses response, it sounds like Jane is right.

    2. Natalie*

      Yeah, I have to agree. The letter writer’s bar for atrocious honestly seems a little low to me, which certainly can’t be helping their working relationship. Leaving the schedule stuff aside, as that isn’t LW’s concern, the bulk of the complaints are just as easily explained by a combination of Jane being new and thinking of you as a peer who feels like they get to set deadlines and give a bunch of critical feedback.

      1. serenity*

        I mean, sure, some of this could be subjective and OP is over-emphasizing attendance/punctuality, but this:

        On top of all of this, I have work that isn’t getting done because Jane isn’t doing the job

        That seems hard to argue with, no?

        1. designbot*

          It seems easier to argue with when it’s “on top of all this” instead of the central point of the thing.

      2. JSPA*

        The schedule stuff is an issue when it intersects with missing scheduled meetings and deadlines, though. Once someone has missed a couple of internal deadlines it makes a world of difference to know you can stop by their desk in advance and rubberneck for an instant, to see if they’re doing a final proofread, or still in the compose/build stage. Ditto if there are any things needing to be handed off, picked up, or signed off on physically, such that the co-worker’s self – assigned “work from home” is delaying those handoffs.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          I wonder if the working from home thing was a condition of her accepting the job or is some sort of FMLA accommodation given that Boss didn’t seem concerned about it at all.

            1. Stranger than fiction*

              And still brushed it off! I’m wondering if she’s some family friend or something.

              1. starsaphire*

                That shocked me, too.

                Where I work, the fact that someone lied (especially about hours worked) would BE the lede. And would be a serious disciplinary offense.

                1. Pomona Sprout*

                  Yeah, any place I’ve ever worked (which is quite a few places), something like that would have been a Very Big Freaking Deal. Especially for a brand new employee. It really does seem odd that this manager was so unconcerned about it.

          1. JSPA*

            I wondered that as well. Managers can get hung up on non-disclosing to the point where they don’t even disclose that an accommodation exists. But OP has added that hours are theoretically flexible, and that other team members are able to successfully work non-standard hours (IT guy). Could be that the boss intends there to be great general flexibility and uses that as a recruiting tool, but that OP and most of those on the team have defaulted back to an expectation of “generally 9 to 5.”

            In which case OP and boss need to have a serious conversation about rules versus norms so the boss is not misrepresenting the office and so that OP and team are not de- facto assuming rules that don’t exist (and norms that shouldn’t exist).

            That said a 2 p.m. meeting is not an 8 a.m. meeting.

            It might be very useful for o p to specifically ask boss if it’s reasonable to ask a new hire to commit to being on-site at least 20 hours a week, including at least 2 hours daily between 8 and noon, and at least 2 hours daily between 1 and 5 pm. Or 10-4 MWF. Or whatever. Boss may say no. More likely, boss will be startled that the self-granted WFH has become so extreme as to require this rule.

    3. Jimming*

      I’ve been a project manager before and the whole role was to keep people on time without having direct authority over them. If the LW has been doing her job for 4 years, I give her the “benefit of doubt” and believe she knows what she’s doing in regards to her role.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Exactly. I had a very similar thought process as Not in NYC did as to Jane’s likely take on this situation.

          1. dontremembername*

            Interesting comments. Additionally boss might have been looking at it from a well she just recently graduated from school sort of thing. Managing isn’t easy. But, it might do Op a service to look at where she was after graduating from school because it can be easy to forget. And, further where a lot of people are at that time. Sometimes those people need HAND Holding.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              It’s really hard to hold someone’s hand if they don’t show up to the office!
              (I’m a HUGE proponent of flextime and telecommute – but when I worked for a company with flextime & partial TC, I always posted my core hours and my onsite-hours.)

            2. Just Tuesday*

              Jane just graduated from GRADUATE school. She never performed paid work before? Or was required to attend meetings (that’s what Outlook alarms are for). Sorry, but no handholding for Jane. Orientation, yes. Reviewing expectations, yes. But Jane is accountable for work she is getting paid to do.

        2. Autumnheart*

          Then it’s the manager’s job to step in and clarify things to Jane, making sure she understands.

          If this manager is the type to delegate all his managing responsibilities to the team lead, that’s not a good position for the OP to be in.

  6. voyager1*

    I pretty much agree with AAM on all of it. But two small things I want to add:
    1. You sound like an awesome coworker/lead. I think some managers if they get a awesome employee or two or three, when they finally get that one who doesn’t work out… they don’t know what to do. They fall into well everyone else is awesome Jane must be too… because she has to be because everyone else is. They don’t see the issues that Jane has because someone having issues isn’t something they are used to. We humans are resistant to change and having a employee not working out is well a change. How your boss handled the working from home Jane does made this jump out at me

    2. I think you need to have that second conversation with your boss and focus on the work issues too, but I wouldn’t add the line about not bringing this up again. To me that is bad for two reasons:
    #1 It boxes you in to not bringing up any issues with the boss.
    #2 It seems passive aggressive to me.

    If your boss doesn’t seem concerned about Jane you are going to have to decide how much of her work you are really willing to do. I think this situation really stinks for you and you may have to consider that this is a sign that is might be time to move on.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      Yeah I don’t think OP necessarily has a “Jane problem” in the end, she might have an organization problem.

    2. Someone Else*

      Yeah I’ve seen this too at orgs that pride themselves on hiring “best and brightest”. Those people don’t need a ton of managing. They just show up and do great. You make one bad hire and suddenly it’s A LOT more work for the managers to actually manage, and they may have enough other things on their plate (because they previously had a team that ran itself, well) that the one new not great person needs time they don’t have. They could make time and really manage the person (what they should do, but not what they usually do) or they could leave it and hope she comes up to snuff magically…or via help from peers…or who knows what else. And that rarely actually works. And the existing high performers get grumpy and a formerly well functioning team is suddenly very much not.

    3. designbot*

      yeah the promise not to bring it up again seems dangerous to me, because I think that’d be hard to keep. I do think a full reset is important though, to be like, “I can see now how I approached this the wrong way before, and was letting myself get distracted by things that were really not the point. These are the real core issues.”

  7. AMPG*

    OP, I think you’re in a tough spot now, because I suspect your boss thinks of your complaints as “tattling,” and that can be a really hard impression to overcome. I agree that his response was ridiculous, but it is what it is, and now you have to work from where you are. I think Alison’s suggested language makes the best of a bad situation, but I think that from now on if you’re going to raise any issues with Jane’s work, you need to stay far, far away from her schedule or work location. Future conversations can only be about missed deadlines or sub-par output (and it has to be sub-par according to your boss’s standards, not yours).

  8. ItsAllFunAndGames...*

    I feel (and have seen) supervisors/managers/etc who view “coworker seems to come and go as they please and are not reprimanded for it is not your issue workerbee” leads to dissension in the ranks.

    Sure, in the grand scheme being held accountable for being where you are supposed to be when you are supposed to be is management’s business and not that of those who are equals, however when everyone else can seemingly be in the office for the required hours and follow the rules of remote work, having a coworker who seems to get a free pass on coming and going as they wish causes resentment and lots of side-eye.

    Many managers take a “eh not important” view on things that don’t directly impact them, the manager, which can cause things to fester among those they manage.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      Especially common in offsite managers, as in this case. If OP has been putting in 50 hours weeks and finds that he’s just as satisfied with an employee who puts in 30 hours and works from home whenever she feels like it – because he’s not the one watching her stroll in at 10:30 – he’s going to find that everybody wants to take this schedule (or leaves) and then wonder why work stopped getting done.

    2. Legal Beagle*

      Yep, I so agree. People always say “MYOB” to these types of complaints, but the reality is that coworkers notice these things, and it does impact morale when someone seems to be taking advantage and getting away with it.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        The problem is that there may be a very good reason for this and Jane may not wish to disclose it. Maybe she’s getting chemo and working from home when she’s sick or tending to an ill family member. To be fair, I think that a general “there are accommodations in place” from the boss would help clear that up, but my point is that just because it appears that Jane is taking advantage doesn’t necessarily mean she is.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          But then the manager above both of them should have told the OP that it was an approved situation (without disclosing medical or other information). And he didn’t.

        2. voyager1*

          Fair enough Amy, but the manager specifically stated to the LW that she didn’t have permission. Additionally Jane lied about having permission to the LW. Personally the untruthfulness is a bigger problem and the manager should address that with Jane.

          1. serenity*

            This also doesn’t address Jane missing or forgetting about attending standing meetings. I’m seeing a lot of comments speculating on Jane getting covert permission for working for home, but that does not seem substantiated and there seem to be other issue at play here.

          2. Detective Amy Santiago*

            But the boss didn’t seem terribly concerned about it either. Makes me feel like there is some kind of context the OP is missing.

            1. Sloan Kittering*

              That’s the issue to me. If this was a big deal, the boss would have reacted more or at the very least talked to Jane about it – so apparently at least to the boss, this is not a big deal. Unfortunately, OP can’t really decide that it *is* a big deal if the supervisor doesn’t agree.

              1. voyager1*

                The working from home isn’t probably a big deal in reality of the work… but the boss had a rule against it without permission. Now when Jane breaks said rule boss is saying “no biggie” because he has decided it isn’t worth (or is too lazy) to enforce said rule/ correct Jane. This is how the belief in favoritism of Jane and the corresponding resentment in LW (and everyone else) starts.

                1. Detective Amy Santiago*

                  I definitely see where you’re coming from.

                  The thing I keep getting stuck on is that Jane pretty much flat out lied about having Boss’s permission to WFH and based on OP’s retelling, Boss didn’t seem to care. Even if I didn’t care about working from home, I would be really annoyed that someone lied, which is why I keep thinking maybe there is more to the situation that OP isn’t privy to.

            2. Electric Eel*

              You don’t think maybe he just doesn’t care that much?

              Sometimes there isn’t hidden context.

  9. MsClaw*

    I *really* hope your manager is willing to listen to your list of legit concerns. Right now, his response comes off in a very icky ‘girls, girls, you’re *both* pretty’ way that is really gross.

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      I wasn’t sure of the OP’s gender, but this is exactly where my mind went too.

      In my career, every single time I’ve had a female coworker who is my equal and a male boss, that boss, for whatever reason, will not step in or acknowledge there’s conflict between two women who report to him.

      The last time it happened, everyone in the staff meeting saw I was being bullied and my boss claims to this day he just “doesn’t see it”‘ and “isn’t sure [he] want[s] to know more.” Oh I’ve seen him bark at two of his male direct reports to knock it off.

      The worst example I know of is two women who got into a physical fight at my old job and not a single man left his office to deal with it. Another female employee from across the office broke them up. All the men said nothing.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        There are some weird expectations of female solidarity even though based on statistics it’s unlikely that a group this large is going to agree on everything. We’re just people, yo.

        1. Snarkus Aurelius*

          Thank you! I recently complained about a new hire, and my male coworker immediately said, “I knew you two wouldn’t get along because you’re two strong, independent women who say what’s on your mind!” Uh no. I don’t like New Hire because she thinks she’s my boss and she takes five single spaced paragraphs to say one thing and she talks like everything is on fire all the time.

          1. Sloan Kittering*

            Yeah think how ridiculous it would sound to be like, “John, I expect you and Chris will get along because you’re both men,” or “John, I am going to hire another man on the team, I realize that can be an issue because you’re both men.”

          2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Ah…he must have been stuck around those “I don’t like other women, I make friends with men so easily though! I’m just one of the boyssssss” mouth pieces. Which makes me cackle and roll my eyes all at once!

            Thankfully the only place I worked with other women we were all strong independent women who also enjoyed each other and didn’t have any question of who the boss was.

        2. Stranger than fiction*

          Or the men were worried they’d get in trouble for touching them if they tried to break it up

        3. TexanInExile*

          My boss, who is otherwise great, said the same thing to me about my new co-worker (whom I had said he should not hire because she cannot write well and writing is part of the job). He said I was threatened by her and I replied that no, I was not threatened by her, I was annoyed by her.

          I was especially annoyed because new co-worker, who is at a different site, complained to my boss that I had not made an effort to spend alone time with her when we were both at corporate for a week. I told my boss that if New Co-Worker were a man, she never would have said anything to him about it. I also said that a man would not expect any level of immediate intimacy and solidarity. And that NCW could have scheduled a meal or coffee with me just as well as I could have with her.

      2. CmdrShepard4ever*

        I would not get involved in physical fight between two coworkers no matter what gender they are. I am normally a very curious person and if I saw/heard a fight break out in my non-work life I would check it out. But if a fight broke out in my office I would not want to be even remotely connected to it, as a witness or a participant who broke it up. In most situations something like that would involve an investigation by HR. In a bigger office, Jane Smith broke up the fight and was interviewed by HR about it can turn into Jane Smith was the cause of the fight.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Cool…just let people be assaulted and don’t even call for help or holler at them to break it up because oh now, you may have to testify. That’s why people die in the streets being brutalized and nobody calls 911. Jeez, ick.

        2. CmdrShepard4ever*

          Yes I would call for help from Big Boss/Security/911 as appropriate, I didn’t say I wouldn’t do anything. But I would not try to physically intervene in a fight between two coworkers. I have seen/heard of people who end up seriously injured when they intervened in a physical fight. If someone is crazy enough to start a physical fight especially at work that is not someone I want to mess with.

          No I would not be responsible for “let people be assaulted” the only person responsible for that is person who initiated the actual assault.

      3. MatKnifeNinja*

        I don’t blame any man not stepping in for “here’s my earrings” and using a shoe as a weapon woman on woman fight.

        You call security or 911. Nothing like someone screaming “I’m calling 911” to stop two people brawling.

        Though I did see an aggressor get cold water splashed on her head/face during a fight. Slowed her down enough that the other woman could get away, and security handled the rest.

        1. Close Bracket*

          “here’s my earrings” and using a shoe as a weapon woman on woman fight

          I beg your pardon? If you want to describe a physical altercation, call it a physical altercation. The description you chose is grossly sexist.

      4. Totally Minnie*

        A workgroup I supervised worked closely with another group. One of my staff and an employee from the other group had serious difficulties working together, but I couldn’t make any headway, because the supervisor of the other group just kept handwaving it as “girl drama.” He assumed that women will snipe at each other no matter what, so he decided not to step in. It made it so much harder for me to manage my employee, because she could see that I was trying to hold her to a standard that the other supervisor would not attempt with his own employee. It was a disaster.

    2. HR Ninja*

      I came here to say the same thing! I’m assuming the OP is a woman and the manager is seeing this as maybe being a little bit catty.

      One caveat though. Quite often we think we’re being clear when communicating difficult feelings or problematic behaviors of othera, but whether we mean to or not, we hedge what the underlying issues are by voicing surface concerns.

    3. Kettles*

      Yes. I also feel like Jane’s being very juvenile. Crying over feedback? Ignoring deadlines? Skiving off work without permission? This is a teenager’s attitude to work.

      1. Bostonian*

        Yes. OP definitely needs to cite “tears up when given reasonable constructive feedback” and as a specific example of her not being able to take direction/listen. That would give me pause as her manager.

        1. Yorick*

          Maybe not if you were a bad, sexist manager, which I suspect is the problem. He’d probably think “my two female reports are having a tiff and getting emotional.”

          1. The New Wanderer*

            Ooh, I agree. I can only see that going badly for the OP, as in having the manager respond “Are you being mean to her?” instead of “Are you giving her completely reasonable feedback that happens to be negative because her work is crap and she’s reacting poorly to it?”

            Stick to: her work product is terrible and she blows off meetings and ignores feedback.

            (Also caveats for people who tear up because it’s a natural reaction to unpleasantness or strong emotions and they’ll take the feedback just fine, not because they’re attempting to deflect criticism and plan to ignore everything you said, you big meany)

    4. UpMyTree*

      Yup. This is where my head went too. I read the letter twice to see of there was any indication of the LW’s gender (there’s not), but if LW is female, I think this has to be part of the analysis of the situation. Does the boss have a history of chauvinistic attitudes?

      I worked for a sexist who would assume that any concerns I raised had an emotional component behind it. He was always looking for the hidden emotional driver behind anything I said. It was infuriating. I had to learn to adopt a very placid, unemotional demeanor.

      To be clear, the reason I suspect this in this case is that he should have been upset by the fact that the employee lied. She said he had given her permission to work from home, and he said he hadn’t. Which indicates to me that his focus was already elsewhere when that came up.

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        I don’t think OP’s coworker has claimed they have permission to work from home, but they have just done it. But even so to Big Boss it does not seem to be that big of a deal.

        1. Ms. Taylor Sailor*

          OP said in her letter: “I cited her absences, and told him that on more than one occasion she had told me she had his permission to work from home.”

          1. OP*

            Ms Taylor sailor is correct. I think part of the reason I got derailed is that I could not believe my boss would approve working from home more than 50% of the time. It turned out that she did not have the approval and was apparently not telling me the truth.

            We have had FMLA or personal situations before, where my manager has told us they’ve permitted someone to work from home for a couple of weeks, etc. I believe he would have said that given my questions.

            1. Ms. Taylor Sailor*

              Best of luck with this situation, OP. Obviously, we as the commentariat (sp?) don’t know Jane personally, but regardless of any possible explanation for her behavior, I can’t imagine NOT being frustrated in this situation and at a loss for how to handle things with a boss who is acting like this. Alison’s and J’s advice is spot-on, so I hope you’ll follow it and that everything turns out alright.

    5. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      Yup this is what I heard, “Why can’t you ladies get along with each other?”

    6. Maya Elena*

      It’s funny, but I read the OP as being male, and his boss’s question implicitly asking if his issues with Jane were just low-grade sexism or double-standards, not actual problems.

      1. OP*

        I’m female. I’m not sure if the response is motivated by sexism. I thought it was a weird way to treat someone who has successfully managed a large number of projects for years and has fielded issues before.

        1. Totally Minnie*

          I’m guessing it’s not motivated by active, malicious sexism. But sexism is in the air all around us, and people don’t have to be trying to be sexist in order to be acting on sexist assumptions. I don’t think it’s something you should bring up when you go back to readdress your concerns with him, but keep it in the back of your mind when he’s responding to you. If you lay out the seriousness of her work failings and he still tries to smooth it over or act like you’re overreacting, when you’ve never been cast in that role in your previous work with him, I think that’s an indication that his view of the situation is gendered.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            “…sexism is in the air all around us…”

            This is a perfect way to say it. I get told that I see sexism everywhere but that’s because it is everywhere. Like you say, even if no one is thinking they are being sexist or misogynistic (women included, internalized misogyny is a hell of a drug), even people who are shocked(!) and appalled(!) to be called sexist or have inherent sexism pointed out to them, it’s still right there, in everything we do, everywhere we are, all the time.

        2. Wednesday*

          I definitely read into the “girls, please!” sexism in your manager’s comment.

          I’m also curious if the new hire is notably younger than you? (I’m assuming she is, since she’s a recent grad and has the work ethic of a teenager, but can’t say for sure.) I’m sensing the additional sexist/ageist assumption that you would be more threatened by a younger woman.

          I would follow Allison’s advice, and seriously consider how your manager responds to this second conversation. Might be time to look into an internal transfer (or a new job).

    7. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

      I thought the same thing, and wondered if he would ask a male project lead bringing these issues to him if the new hire made the male lead “feel threatened”

      It feels like casual sexism in a way I bet the supervisor isn’t even aware of

    8. Jl*

      Ugh, yes. “Girls are so competitive” was one I used to hear in my old Mad Menesque workplace. Dude, that girl can’t even compete with me. We are like night and day. It’s like saying Serena Williams is competitive with Aly Raisman… both are good at what they do but totally different skill sets and qualifications and ultimately different career paths.

  10. Rainy days*

    Ugh. Sounds like the boss may be the one feeling threatened—he may feel like you’re implicitly criticizing his management style.

  11. Lara Cruz*

    See, I’d be ready to bail on any boss that treated a personnel problem as an excuse to insult me like that. Even if I was 100% in the wrong, it’s telling that the boss is treating a work complaint as a sign of personal weakness.

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      It’s the nicer way of calling someone jealous, which immediately flatters the “victim” and erases accountability for individual actions.

    2. Sloan Kittering*

      It is crappy and feels vaguely gendered to me also. I doubt OP can really get at the issue but they should keep it in mind that this manager is kind of crappy with this stuff. A good employee bringing real concerns should have received more leeway even if their report had some tinges of emotional investment.

      1. Lara Cruz*

        It did feel potentially like a gendered insult to me, but I stopped short of suggesting that because I don’t have the context and I know my thought on it is colored by a bad boss who once accused a female co-worker of “emasculating” her supervisor when she raised a legitimate complaint. This guy trips that red flag for me (“har har, women problems!”) but I don’t know enough about the situation to say for certain and wanted to focus on the manager taking a clear work problem that needs to be resolved professionally and trying to make it go away with a personal insult to the complainant. To me, that indicates manager is *not* a manager you can safely bring problems to, and if that is the case, you need to give serious thought to whether you can work with someone that will treat you this way.

        1. Sloan Kittering*

          Yeah I don’t think we even know OP is female so we may be totally off base, just mentioned it in case it raises other issues in OP’s mind about how this boss has reacted to other issues.

    3. WellRed*

      My first thought when I read his response was, “oh, is he sleeping with her?” Not very charitable of me, but it felt personal.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Ugh, no, please don’t do this. I’m sure you don’t intend it this way, but that kind of speculation with so little grounds is so often rooted in harmful tropes about women. There are lots of other reasons that explain the boss reacting this way, like the one I presented in the post.

        1. Craving Lemon Meringue Pie*

          I understand your concerns, but I came here to surface that possibility as well, based on past experience in a similar team lead situation. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why my boss wouldnt address documented issues with my peer…until they became an item. I wont comment further but this unfortunately does occur.

            1. Lara Cruz*

              Yea I’d like this to stop too, I did *not* insinuate anything like this and am really uncomfortable with a thread I started taking this kind of swerve.

          1. LaDeeDa*

            Their manager is working in a different office.
            OP focused on things the manager doesn’t find to be a problem, working from home, coming in late
            After only 2 months the manager hasn’t had the opportunity to really assess and evaluate her work, and if OP or anyone else is taking up the slack he won’t ever be aware of it.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Sure, it happens on occasion. But it’s far from the most likely explanation; this blog is full of accounts of managers who just don’t manage because they’re conflict-averse.

        2. Maria Lopez*

          But I would suspect that Jane may have some kind of relationship (like friend or relative of the manager or upper management) that OP doesn’t know about, causing the manager to not want to deal with any negativity about her.
          As always, OP, document, document, document. Send an e-mail for every meeting and an e-mail when meetings are missed, and keep track of all deadlines missed and work that has to be redone because it is shoddy.

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            That’s what I commented too. She may be the pastor of their church’s niece in law or something.

      2. Undine*

        The logistics don’t add up — he’s working out of a different office, and rarely comes in to this one.

      3. LaDeeDa*

        Seriously. Don’t be that person. If women “slept their way to the top” as often as they are accused of doing so, there would be a heck of a lot more women in positions of power.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          And while society thinks poorly of said women, there is nary a peep about the males who would give opportunity to those obviously “unqualified to do anything else” women…funny that.

  12. Cat*

    Another option that I’ve used before is to ask your manager from the angle of professional advice – so rather than, “I’m here to hand off a list of complaints,” it can be, “I am having X, Y, and Z issues [the performance issues, not the absence issues] with Jane, could you share some advice with me on how I can address these?” I’ve found this can actually be helpful because it can give you more engagement from them, e.g., “If Jane doesn’t respond to an important email, let me know and we can figure out next steps” – and now you have an open door to follow up on it in the future.

    1. Triple Digit Texan*

      I had that thought and then felt bad for having it. BUT in the broader sense I wonder if there is some reason boss is particularly blinded by Jane: she’s his boss’s niece, her degree is from a school he thinks is fabulous, she’s somehow already great in his mind before she does anything.
      I’d rather not assume she’s participating in creating that bias.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I posted this above, but please don’t do this. I’m sure you don’t intend it this way, but that kind of speculation with so little grounds is so often rooted in harmful tropes about women. There are lots of other reasons that explain the boss reacting this way, like the one I presented in the post.

      1. RandomU...*

        Thank you… I really am scratching my head why we have two people going in this direction.

        1. JSPA*

          Boss seems a bit star-struck, to the point of threatening to disbelieve a trusted, reliable part of the team. This is a problem whether he’s overly taken with her resumé, intangibles, or tangibles. No need to assume an affair.

          That new-hire being in tears from feedback / being apologetic / having anxiety about the job actually argues she’s probably not “in on” the misplaced favoritism urge.

          1. OP*

            Yes, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. She interviewed fantastically and I think he can’t come to terms with her not being as good as he thinks.

            You’re correct also about her being unaware of the “favoritism” (or whatever we should call it). A lot of people are reading a power struggle here, but there really isn’t one. Jane definitely sees me as the team lead and has even asked me a lot of things she should be talking to our manager about. I don’t think Jane is vying for power, I think she doesn’t know how to self manage her time, or how to work in a professional environment. In short, she doesn’t “get it.” But, she’s also not malicious.

            1. Qwerty*

              If Jane recognizes you as the team lead, can you just sit down with her and raise your concerns? Or was that what all the meetings were for that she didn’t attend? When I’ve been a team lead, even though I didn’t fill out the performance reviews, I was still able to give people hard feedback (ie, you need to show up to meetings, I’m concerned about the quality of your work, the standard in this office is to work 9-5 until your work is up to par, etc). Even though I didn’t really have any teeth to enforce those conversations, most team members still see it as important feedback, or at least a chance to fix problems without the manager having to learn about them.

            2. JSPA*

              There’s no way she can’t be aware of the disconnect, so the question becomes, is there any way you can approach her to tell her that you think she does indeed have the potential makings of a superstar, but that the two of you need to be determinedly on the same team, for her to reach basic reliability and competence, before she can reach for higher rungs? And can you similarly tell your boss that she has the potential to be a superstar but at the moment she’s not even reliably minimally competent, and that her metamorphosis is going to need more coaching and guidance then you alone can necessarily provide?

            3. Observer*

              This makes me wonder – does she have academic credentials that you don’t have? Maybe a degree from a more prestigious school or something like that?

            4. Just Tuesday*

              It’s like standardized testing, which measures in good part how well a person takes timed tests. Interviewing can sometimes simply tell you how good a person is at interviewing. Particularly when the interview is not well planned, and is not structured to match the candidate with actual position requirements, there can be a real mismatch no matter how starstruck an interviewer is. Let your manager rest with this for a while, and try other possible solutions.

              Some of Jane’s deficiencies are fixable, and she may amenable to your help if her attitude is not bad. Inform her of Outlook alarms for meetings (assuming you use Outlook). Let her know she is an important part of these gatherings and her absence impacts results. Friendly, non-judgemental feedback about her other unprofessional behavior might stimulate changes and would be doing her a solid.

              Find out if Jane has a probationary period.

              Good luck, I can tell you want to do the right thing and are surprised that Jane is having so much trouble. It doesn’t help you for her to fail, and your manager needs to know that.

          2. Observer*

            Yeah, he sounds start struck all right, but not “affair partner” star struck. More like “wow, such fabulous credentials! She MUST be phenomenal!” star struck.

          3. Yorick*

            Right, it sounds to me like maybe she’s from Harvard or something so he thinks she must be great and OP must be intimidated

          1. JSPA*

            Eh, could come from an anti-male stance, assuming a boss would try to “personally experience” any woman who knocks his socks off. Either way it plays into archaic memes that don’t deserve to be promulgated. Not unless there were anything actually pointing in that direction. Not to dismiss the problem–I’m sure the “casting couch” remains in some places, and may pop up in, say, Community Theater even after it’s officially extirpated from Hollywood. But bringing up “they’re making it” ad (very much) nauseum implies that it’s a likely answer. Not merely an answer that we’ve been conditioned to supply, based on too many TV and movie plots, and workplace predator-prey behavior from 40-50 years ago.

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              It’s absolutely never an anti male stance. We never, ever hear anything negative about those types of males but we do hear all the standard negativity about those women suspected to be sleeping their way up the ladder.

              “But bringing up “they’re making it” ad (very much) nauseum implies that it’s a likely answer.”

              I’m not sure I understand this comment. Are you saying that if it keeps getting said a lot then it’s likely to be true?

              1. Working Hypothesis*

                Looked to me like what it meant was, “By bringing it up as if it might be a possibility in this kind of situation, the people who suggested that idea are implying incorrectly that this kind of thing actually happens frequently. It’s much, much more rare than is often assumed, and if you keep bringing it up as a suggested reason for cases of wonky behavior that are probably actually caused by something else, all you will achieve is to teach people to keep believing, subconsciously, that it does happen often, because we are wired to believe what we hear repeated frequently. Don’t do that. We don’t need yet *more* people who are taught to think sexual affairs and consequent favoritism happen in every third office.”

  13. LKW*

    Allison’s script is perfect. However I think it’s missing one component- which is while you are responsible for setting and managing timelines, your manager is accountable for the results of his team.

    So the follow on paragraph to the one Allison has suggested is:

    “Given my concerns, how would you like to me to communicate delays or other issues that prevent the work from being completed to the level of quality you expect and to the set timelines?” Basically, he owns the task to understand why something wasn’t done and how Jane is going to get back on track.

    If pressed, you need to state very clearly that while you will take the time to review her work, she is new, you do not have time to correct it without it impacting your own work timelines. So he has choices to make to help you prioritize. You may want to show him explicit examples of poor workmanship. You may want to copy him on the emails outlining the date something is due, reminders of due dates and the lack of progress or quality and the lack of questions coming to you for help (or the same question coming over and over and over).

    I work remotely from my team – I know 99% of what’s going on and whether they’re working up to expected levels or not. I don’t care where they are working, but I do care if they are meeting expectations.

    1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      I agree. Keep doing your own work and just keep the boss updated on everything…”Here is part ABC, I’m waiting on Jane to give me D and E before I can finish XYZ.” or “Here is an update of what the team has completed so far — Fergus and Wakeen have finished ABC, I’m adding D and E, and Jane has completed X,” and then let her work just speak for itself. Don’t fix it or analyze it.

  14. rubyrose*

    I’m in somewhat the same situation right now. I’m a team lead and have someone with the same job title (senior level technical) reporting to me for 2 projects. He is not functioning at all at a senior level. Add to that his ignoring update requests, not documenting meetings with the customer, not reading emails, and most recently telling me I was disturbing him…. All of this after he missed an important deadline and I had to help bail him out.

    I’ve had a discussion or two with our manager. I started adding the manager on emails. I’ve decided to let him (the worker) sink or swim on his own. My manager? I’m waiting to see if he gets the worker turned around. That is his job.

    You can lead the horse to water…

  15. The Photographer's Husband*

    I mean, if all else fails and your boss really refuses to listen to any of the concerns you’ve flagged, then just go ahead and move ahead as if Jane were performing her duties well – offload your projects onto her, let her lead her own teams etc.

    Then your manager will see her problems for himself and she won’t be shielded by you cleaning up after her. And if he says ‘You trained her, why do these issues exist?’ then you already have documentation that you attempted to raises these issues with him and he did not think it was a problem then.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      Definitely take more steps before doing this. Have the conversation Alison advised before pulling a stunt like this, and maybe a couple more.

        1. rubyrose*

          Agreed, not a stunt. It is an attempt to get the manager to do their job, the one they are getting paid to do.

        2. ArtsNerd*


          A coworker and I were driving ourselves to medical issues trying to keep our department going smoothly when our boss wasn’t doing his job. GrandBoss ended up hiring a consultant at one point who immediately looked at us and said “You need to let it fall apart. No one is going to fix the bigger issues if you keep them from becoming issues for everyone else.”

          It was a little bit life-changing.

      1. The Photographer's Husband*

        Oh, of course. I meant doing this after all other methods of resolution have failed. Sorry for not being clear.

  16. Kettles*

    I don’t think this is an issue with OP as some people have said.

    Cutting to the key points – Jane misses meetings, produces poor work and tears up when she gets feedback. This wouldn’t – and shouldn’t – be acceptable in any office. The site has had letters about exactly these issues. And peer feedback / deadlines are absolutely a thing, especially when you are a new hire. I’ve had to give and receive these on project work – usually minor stuff, like hey “I need that by Tuesday, or hey can we use different wording here.”

    No-one cried. No-one ignored the deadlines. No-one turned in poor quality work.

    We just got it done, because that’s how teams work.

    1. Ms. Taylor Sailor*

      Yeah, I’m with you and don’t get how people are perceiving this to be even remotely a problem with OP. Her worst offense was not getting to the root of Jane’s worst problems at her meeting with their boss and I feel like she laid out all of Jane’s issues very objectively and matter-of-factly. She also sounds like she was pretty respectful and willing to work with Jane to make things work better. Maybe she is showing some disdain in the letter, but it seems fairly warranted. The scheduling stuff may not be OP’s responsibility and wouldn’t be awful on it’s own, but it could still be fairly demoralizing to other co-workers and it’s clearly having some impact on her productivity and availability.

      1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        I do, and it’s because the manager likes to shoot the messenger. I’ve had managers like that, who if you’re the person who identifies the problem, you ARE the problem, because by looking to address the issue instead of ignoring it, you’re rocking the boat.

        1. Ms. Taylor Sailor*

          Ugh. Those managers deserve to have issues catastrophically blow up in their faces after waving off (or even PENALIZING) people who bring issues to them earlier, like it’s not a problem until it’s THEIR problem.

        2. Just Tuesday*

          Unfortunately this is a part of group dynamics. I have had this happen in a church.

        3. Stranger than fiction*

          Yep, that’s how management is here. I’m seen as a pot-stirring disruptor because I want things to go smoothly for the customer. Silly me.

        4. Kettles*

          This is a common Captain Awkward theme. “Why am I, as a young queer person, being pressured to invite racist / homophobic uncle to my interracial gay wedding?” And the answer is always that everyone knows evil uncle is unreasonable. So rather than muster up the energy and courage to deal with him, they’d rather bully the person with less power into handling it. Often to that less powerful person’s detriment.

    2. LKW*

      Tacking on to this, when you deliver constructive feedback and she cries, DOCUMENT it.

      Dear Jane,

      As we discussed blah blah blah. I am sorry that this feedback upset you to the point of crying. If there is a particular communication method that enables constructive feedback without causing you emotional distress, please let me know. If you feel it would be better to do this in a team meeting with manager, I will work to schedule that as a recurring meeting.

      Document that she cried when you noted A B and C but that you are open to managing these communications a bit differently.

      You shouldn’t have to do this – but you need to document what you said that made her cry so that you are covering your ass.

      1. Overeducated*

        I don’t know, that seems kind of aggressive, like pointing it out and rubbing it in more.

        1. LKW*

          As someone who has been in OPs shoes – I stand by this. I was a team lead with someone who with any critique would burst into tears. Sobbing. I would give this feedback in private. She would come back to the team room, sit down with the team, crying.

          I discussed with my manager – who brought in another mgr to “handle this better” – guess what? The nicest most considerate person, when giving constructive feedback, made this person cry like her cat died. But before that, everyone was assuming that I was telling her she was the worst thing to happen to the team.

          This translates into “Constructive criticism is part of the job. Crying isn’t going to stop that from happening. But I’m open to listening to suggestions if that will stop you from crying at work.” It creates a record that acknowledges the situation “I made you cry” but gives it context “I made you cry when I told you that your calculations were done incorrectly and that this work requires following SOP 123 and using template SOP123 template.”

        2. Yorick*

          I agree, it seems pretty harsh, and this email doesn’t prove that you weren’t super mean and she wasn’t justified in crying

        3. Kettles*

          Maybe don’t send it to Jane but definitely document it. Also while I appreciate that not all crying people are manipulative (as said below) tears and other ‘soft’ behaviours can absolutely be a form of aggression. Consistent and regular crying in front of other people is really, really unusual. If I had a colleague who did it I would be seriously *worried* about them, outside of any issues with their performance. And the crying in this context impedes OP’s ability to provide Jane with the feedback that will improve Jane’s poor performance.

      2. Marthooh*

        God no don’t. If Jane cries about getting feedback, that’s a problem she should work on and embarassing for OP, but not something to be documented like poor work and missed meetings. Your example sounds punitive, or even like the writer is boasting about it.

    3. TootsNYC*

      I wouldn’t dwell on the “she cries”–that’s not as substantive.

      But “she doesn’t take in feedback and improve based upon it,” or “she argues over feedback, and I see that she hasn’t taken it in bcs the things she submits still have the same problems.”

      1. CM*

        Yes, thank you — as someone who was a crier in my early jobs, I was always mortified when that happened, I WAS listening and accepting feedback even though I might also be tearing up, and if my manager then sent me a letter like LKW’s, I would look for a new job because I would be utterly humiliated and feel like my manager now hated me.

        So whenever a letter comes up about a crying employee, I’m here to say: crying is not necessarily about emotional manipulation or inability to take criticism! Even defensiveness isn’t the worst thing. Some people react badly in the moment and it can take a long time, like years, to learn to be calm in these situations. Focus on the person’s ACTIONS, not their immediate reaction — do they actually take the feedback and improve?

        1. Kettles*

          It’s not always emotional manipulation or inability to take feedback. Sometimes it is though. And to me there’s a huge difference between getting upset because you’re under pressure / there are layoffs etc, vs routine crying over mild feedback. Plus there has literally been a letter on this site from a manager worrying how to manage someone who did this without seeming heartless. If OP can’t ask Jane to amend a typo without her sobbing, that’s a legitimate work issue.

        2. LKW*

          I’m sorry that you cried at work. My intent isn’t to humiliate anyone. It really is to cover the OPs butt in case someone is like “And OP makes Jane cry all the time at work!” or anything of the sort. It puts down a record – and communicates a willingness to work with the person. It also provides context of the feedback that gives Jane a means to correct or corroborate. “Please let me know if I’ve misstated anything.” blah blah blah.

          But given the other issues, inability to listen, inability to follow up, inability to communicate…. I’m of the opinion that Jane has always been “the smart one” or has been able to hide her issues by crying. It wouldn’t surprise me if Jane brought out the tears to get extensions on a few of her undergrad and graduate projects.

        3. Mockingdragon*

          Saaaame. My anxiety disorder expresses itself in having zero fuse before visible emotional reactions start to happen. A reasonable and helpful solution to this problem is to ask for criticism in written form, so I can process it alone and not derail with my reaction. I can then discuss productively when I’ve gotten past that hurdle. There are ways to deal with this for people who aren’t being manipulative.

          1. Kettles*

            Exactly! And I presume, as a non manipulative person, you’ve said, “Sorry I did x. It’s not within my control. I’m happy to get feedback and written feedback will circumvent this automatic response.”

      2. Sloan Kittering*

        “I explained that we need to do X process and confirmed that in future, the Y report would use X data. She confirmed but continued to use Z data to complete the report.” No need to bring crying into it.

        1. Kettles*

          Except that’s a lie. Jane crying over basic feedback is knowledge a manager needs for all sorts of reasons. Is Jane going through a personal crisis? Does she need EAP? Does OP need to modify her feedback style? Any half decent manager would be interested in this, rather than dismissing it as jealousy.

          1. LKW*

            Exactly this point. This doesn’t need to go to the manager. This can go to Jane directly -peer to peer. But the point being, I asked you to do this. I’m sorry that made you upset. Please let me know if you have a preferred way to receive feedback.

            It doesn’t have to say she cried. But it should note that there is an acknowledgement of the person’s reaction to feedback and an offer to change style but retain the need to provide feedback. The goal isn’t to humiliate at all. The goal is to show the absolute LACK of aggression on the part of the feedback provider.

    4. OhBehave*

      Agreed. There’s a bit of OP bashing on this one. I am hopeful OP can speak with their manager further about this using the advice Alison provided. Perhaps some clarity needs to be given as to the power OP can wield. Being a project lead should give OP permission to expect meeting attendance (I get missing one but more than that? Nope. Jane managed grad school and she can’t make a standing weekly meeting?), deadlines being met, etc. If OP is covering for Jane, it needs to stop. Do not let tears dissuade from giving feedback. Again, grad school Jane!
      I really hope we hear from OP with a great update!

      1. Kettles*

        Yes. This is about professional courtesy – and getting the work done! I find it really odd that OP is being painted as some sort of overstepping martinet for expecting Jane to follow basic workplace norms.

  17. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

    I have worked at places where co-workers (not even in my department) decided to have issues about when I was or wasn’t in the office. My managers always set my hours and always knew where I was. So that issue is a pet peeve for me. However, however, if you are the team lead and she is missing mandatory team meetings, missing deadlines and turning in shoddy work, those are huge problems. Those negatively affect the output of the entire team. And, frankly, it does sound like your boss is kind of MIA. He doesn’t see these issues with Jane because he literally isn’t there to see them. However, I completely agree with Detective Amy Santiago; it’s possible that Jane isn’t following your directions because she believes she doesn’t have to. Has it been made clear to her that, for now, you are her team lead and she does have to do what you say?

    1. OP*

      Thanks. Yeh, I can see why that could be a pet peeve. Honestly, it wasn’t until reading these comments that I realized I sound like the office police. The fact is– I also don’t actually care where or when the work gets done. I have another team member that occasionally pulls all nighters and then is off during the day (a programmer, ha) and his work is awesome and I could not care less. The real issue is Jane’s work, and this has helped me clarify that with myself.

      The funny thing about all of this is that, ironically, Jane seems to see me as her manager. In her first month she would email me about her time card and help with setting up her benefits. I had to lay out for her that while I’m happy to help, those are the types of things to email our manager about– I’m just a technical lead ;)

      1. JSPA*

        She may have gone from thinking that you were her manager to thinking that she has no duty to report to you at all if you’re not her manager.

        And now she’s possibly super confused and avoidant because the person who is her manager isn’t managing her work, and the person who is managing her work — or trying to — isn’t her manager.

        That’s the sort of thing that would have thrown me for a loop at her age. I know it’s so easy to clarify if you just ask for the clarification. But I can’t be the only person who would have found it mortifyingly difficult to ask for that clarification.

        So let’s rewrite her letter: “the person who I thought was my manager isn’t.” Dear ask a manger: I don’t seem to report to anybody at work, and it took a month for them to tell me that the person giving me deadlines and setting meetings for me was a colleague, not my manager. The colleague continues to act like a manager while insisting that they’re not my manager. I believe they were told to train me but I’m not sure what I should be prioritizing. I assume some of what I’m doing is a training exercise that duplicates the work of others, but maybe it’s not! I’m also not completely clear what level of polish my work needs to be at before I hand it off to the next level and I’m finding that paralyzing. I was told that I would lead some projects and help on other projects but I don’t even know where to start as far as understanding who I really need to be reporting to. I find myself staying home a lot, to avoid the growing awkwardness. I was a real star academically, where the projects were defined and I knew exactly what I was being graded on, how, and by whom. Work isn’t like that, and I’m not sure I can continue to fake it to make it. Help?”

        1. RandomU...*

          If this is the case (and I think the OP is dealing with a crappy employee) then she (and anyone who is confused about their role or reporting structure) needs to ask! This knowing how and when to ask is not some super secret office skill, it’s something that children are taught.

          I kind of don’t have sympathy for people who don’t ask for clarification when they aren’t sure.

            1. Just Tuesday*

              Sorry for the double post. Does Jane have a position description? Is there an org chart? If yes, these documents need to be provided to her ASAP.

          1. JSPA*

            Sure, but if she’s new to the work world, she may have the practical knowledge and coping skills of a teenager. Despite being far older in calendar years. And an advanced degree from a fancy school can definitely instill the misapprehension that you will look silly if you ask basic clarification questions. Of course she needs to get over that! But it would be a kindness for the OP to nudge her in that direction. I mean…I think we ought to assume for now that there is some universe where this person can be a good hire. So ideally there’s triple goal: get the boss to listen to the warning; make it possible for the new hire to succeed if that can be done without too much agony; and document everything in case even the best of intentions and efforts don’t fix the situation.

            Note: I didn’t mean to imply that the new hire is doing everything right and is being failed by the existing structure! When Alison gets letters like that, she generally says, yeah, you’ve got to ask for clarification until the words make sense, and the sooner the better.

      2. Madeleine Matilda*

        OP – I wonder if your attempts to clarify your roles as your describe here led Jane to think that as a team lead instead of her manager, you had no authority? Perhaps you need another conversation with her to clarify your expectations.

      3. dontremembername*

        You don’t have to always be ‘that office person. Sometimes for whatever reason, and I don’t know at all why, You just do not like one person.

      4. Close Bracket*

        > Jane seems to see me as her manager. In her first month she would email me about her time card and help with setting up her benefits.

        Some of that is also “senior person mentoring new person” territory, esp in an office where she doesn’t get face time with her manager. I suggest looking closely at *all* of your interactions to see what kind of message you might be sending and see what can be adjusted. Being generally helpful is not just the right thing to do, but also sets the stage to be seen as an authority.

  18. Kiki*

    I definitely agree that you need to talk to your manager again to see where he’s coming from and make sure your most important points are getting across.

    Is it possible that Jane has been talking to your boss about you? Because if she has been talking to your boss and framing it as you being very harsh, micromanaging, and making her cry, that may be coloring his perspective.

  19. CatCat*

    I don’t understand why the manager isn’t seeing the quality of her work just because he is based in a different office.

    1. OP*

      It’s because of the way we are set up. My manager rarely sees the work itself. He is the people manager. Although it’s not my title, I function like a project manager, or a senior technical person. I ensure all of our work is QA’ed by either myself or another SME, and then I send the work to the client. My manager almost never handles it.

      1. CatCat*

        This is a really weird set up. So the actual manager has no responsibility for the quality of work going in? That makes no sense to me.

        Like you couldn’t send your manager examples of Jane’s work. “Here is an example of Jane’s work. At her level and after the training she has had, it should include A, B,C, D, and E. As you can see, it only includes B and C and those do not meet the standards I have provided her. It is taking me # hours to get her work finalized. This is beyond the norm. It means that [other important work things] are not getting done or are delayed.”

        1. LQ*

          But if the manager doesn’t routinely see the work he might not even know that the work is substandard. I’m thinking of a nontechnical manager being sent the worst of the worst of code. It wouldn’t matter how actually bad it was if the person looking at it couldn’t tell.

          1. CatCat*

            This is putting OP in a really bad position. All of and none of the responsibility at the same time.

        2. Autumnheart*

          My team is set up in a pretty similar way. I think that if one person were failing to hit quality benchmarks, it would be fed back to the manager, and it’d be their responsibility to make sure the person improved, but the manager is not involved in producing the work. He’s not coding, editing, or proofing anything. If he works hands-on with anyone, it’s mostly the project managers in order to help them prioritize and keep things on schedule.

        3. Close Bracket*

          > This is a really weird set up. So the actual manager has no responsibility for the quality of work going in? That makes no sense to me.

          That’s standard in companies with some level of matrixing.

      2. LKW*

        Then start finding the piece of information that is important to your manager. Is it client relationships? Project cost management? Meeting timelines and agreed to deadlines?

        If you have to QA the work before sending to the client -and that impacts the cost, timeliness or overall relationship with the client – that’s the focus.

        “We are going to miss this deadline because Jane did not complete this work on time.”
        “We are going over budget because I am spending too much time correcting Jane’s work.”
        “The client is not pleased with the delays”

  20. MaureenC*

    You stepped on your own foot there. You started with the petty stuff, and if I were Boss, I’d be less inclined to listen to your substantive complaints. Do you have evidence of Jane’s substandard work? If so, loop him in and explain that you believe this work isn’t up to standard, but you want to make sure that this assessment is fair, so you’d like his opinion on the work. If not, do that the next time Jane turns in substandard work.

  21. Chinchilla5*

    It sounds as if the manager doesn’t actually get to see the quality of Jane’s work directly, only after it’s filtered and fixed by other team members. You concerns might be more clear to the manager if he had specific examples of work she has produced or the total amount of time other team members had to expend to make up for it or how many days a project was delayed. Saying something specific, like, “Jane has missed 13 out of 15 project deadlines in the last 2 months. Those missed deadlines held up the project by 12 days.” is harder to blow off than a generalization, like, “Jane never does things on time.” On the down side, you have to be the one keeping scoring, and that’s time consuming and exhausting.

  22. J*

    Allison’s advice is great, as usual, but I wanted to provide some additional perspective that (hopefully) contributed to your boss’ (awful) reaction, as a manager who recently went through a similar situation (as in, I was the boss in the scenario).

    When my reports come to me with concerns about other reports, I think–because they have already spent quite a bit of time trying to resolve the issue themselves–they’re usually quite frustrated at that point, and it’s very easy to fall into providing a laundry list of “things this person is doing wrong.” As a manager, this is unhelpful (and frankly, frustrating) for me; my instinctual response is to evaluate whether the concerns are valid and warrant the frustration that accompanies them. And I think by virtue of not being in the situation, it’s easy to say “oh, (s)he’s just frustrated, this isn’t a big deal, (s)he’s not responsible for his/her output so why does (s)he care, (s)he is just nitpicking this other person’s process….” and dismiss it. Or, I do take it seriously, but I go into investigation mode and end up in a quagmire of (s)he-said/(s)he-said.

    So what I’ve started to do is guide my staff to come to me framing problems in terms of how they impact their own work and the overall project. So rather than, “Jane is working from home all the time without your permission and as a consequence she is blowing deadlines,” saying, “Jane has been consistently missing deadlines and scheduled meetings on this project. It’s difficult to get things back on track because she’s remote frequently and unexpectedly, so I don’t always know how to get a hold of her.” That way, as a manager, my attention is focused on the real problem – the deadlines – but I still have valuable perspective on what might be contributing to the issue.

    Because, as other commenters have noted, I AM responsible for my team’s output, whether or not I’m particularly concerned with staff following remote-work procedures to the letter. So it makes it a much more cut-and-dry problem to solve, which, frankly, makes me more likely to spend the time to solve it.

    1. Mockingjay*

      This is very useful reframing! I’ve been trying to do more of this but am not always so eloquent.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This is a great comment.

      I also want to use this time to tell everyone that yes, document everything but know which documentation you need to present at any given time. You can’t just chuck an entire folder of issues at someone, then you start seeing “Jane was 15 minutes late on Monday, Jane missed our meeting on Tuesday about Important Client Issues, Jane didn’t replace the empty tissue box after she took the last one, Jane turned in a report written in crayon, Jane took a long lunch on Friday.”

      You have to remove the “This isn’t necessarily appropriate behavior” from “this is damaging our work product.” at this stage.

  23. Midlife Tattoos*

    You said that this is Jane’s first job out of graduate school – has she ever worked in an office before? If the manager isn’t laying out for her office norms and SOPs, she may not know what she’s doing is really bad. That doesn’t address her poor work output, but it might help to know if she understands what is expected.

    1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      I was thinking the same. I spent time in grad school. I worked the whole time, so I kept a foot in the working world, but there were people who did not have to work. The norms in academia, and especially for graduate students, can be really different. You actually work a lot – but in strange ways. You can ghost your thesis adviser for months or years, if you want. You work in coffee shops, or the library, or in bed in your jammies. Maybe you get your best writing done from 11pm-3am every night, so that’s what you do. Your thesis adviser, in turn, will regularly flake out on monthly meetings or just disappear on field work for an entire year. Emails are things you check every couple of days and have no obligation to answer. On the other hand, there is huge awareness of hierarchy, status, and reputation – which is the opposite of what most people expect.

      Some people have project assistant/research assistant jobs that come with their aid package, but these too can be unbelievably lackadaisical about people showing up. (Teaching assistant jobs, on the other hand, are like being constantly enveloped in a school of grade-grubbing piranha who want an instant answer to the email they sent at 3am asking about something that’s in bold on the syllabus in six places. But I digress.)

      Lab science grad programs are different all over again from this but epically bizarre and dysfunctional in their own ways.

      I was lucky to never get de-socialized from the working world, but I have seen this happen to people for sure. OP’s coworker seems like a classic case.

    2. Kettles*

      I mean… even at primary school you are expected to turn up, go to classes and hand in work on time. Ditto for higher education. And maybe it’s a reach, but surely she’s tended bar, or worked in a coffee shop, or I dunno, interned while at college?

    3. alphabet soup*

      This was my first thought as well, having witnessed the weird grad school culture HarvestKaleSlaw perfectly describes.

    4. Arts Akimbo*

      Ugh, I relate to this! This post reminds me of how, in my first job out of grad school, I kept forgetting/missing the weekly status meeting. I did field work, and it just didn’t seem important enough for me to miss an entire day of field work for! Plus I missed all the subtle hints from my supervisor that this was important and I *needed* to find a way to be there every week– ugh! I curdle in retroactive embarrassment!

  24. Bostonian*

    Ugh. The accusation about feeling threatened is so gross. It sounds like Boss can’t believe that someone with Impressive Degree from Fancy College could possibly be an underperforming worker.

  25. LSP*

    My first response to reading what the boss said is that this is a typically sexist read. I can almost hear the “catfight” noise in his brain when he asked OP if she felt threatened. Ugh! So gross! I’d be really curious to know if he would have assumed the same personal motivations from a male subordinate.

    That might be worth considering, too, OP. Consider if your manager has a history of low-key sexist remarks, because that is good information in deciding if you really want to stay at this job. You might even say directly to him (if you have a strong enough working relationship) that his immediate dismissal as this being a “you” problem, and making it personal rather than professional reads as sexist, and, hey, you’re sure he didn’t mean it that way, so can you revisit your previous conversation?

  26. Hilliary*

    Hope I haven’t missed it in another comment, but how about adding that you focused on the working from home and lies about having permission to work from home because they seemed the simplest to discuss because they are easily quantifiable? But that you see that the real problem is work quality, not retaining criticism, and missing deadlines?

  27. Shirley Keeldar*

    But but but…Jane straight-up lied about having permission to work from home. She claimed she’d asked Boss for permission and received it, and Boss says that’s not true. I’m honestly surprised that Alison didn’t make a bigger deal of this and that Boss is okay with it. Shoudn’t OP bring this up in her clarifying conversation?

    Something like, “I think I gave you the impression that I’m upset about Jane working from home—that’s not the case. I am, however, very concerned that she claimed to have talked to you and gotten your permission when she hadn’t. I need to be able to trust what my team tells me, and when someone lies to me like this, that trust is broken. That’s why I brought up her working from home—not because I want to micromanage her hours.”

    1. Sunny*

      Agreed. I’m surprised the boss is so blase about her lying – and using his name for it!

      1. Où est la bibliothèque?*

        Boss and Jane will probably both settle on calling it a “misunderstanding” if this is confronted.

    2. Sloan Kittering*

      yeah but since boss DOESN’T care, it’s not really up to OP to try and make him care – that would be just trying to “get Jane in trouble.” It was worth bringing up, but apparently the boss isn’t concerned about this and it’s his call to make.

  28. Stranger than fiction*

    I think another thing that happens sometimes is managers don’t want to admit when they’ve made a bad hire. After all, it costs the company money. So instead they just avoid then issue and hope it goes away.

      1. Former Young Lady*

        Sometimes. Sometimes the missing-stair employee gets addicted to the constant mollycoddling, and starts looking for another job that will provide even more of it. If they actually land one, they go on to be some other company’s problem. Sometimes the hiring team learns from history. (Sometimes it’s still too late, because the rest of the team is already poisoned.)

        More rarely, the missing-stair finally does something bad enough that management takes action. Even then, it’s often after several good employees have given up and fled.

        1. Sloan Kittering*

          or occasionally other better coworkers take over and extensively help/train the person or find the right niche on the team for them, even if that niche turns into “person who fetches the donuts.”

      2. Kettles*

        Well, what usually happens is that they manipulate good employees into covering for their bad hires. Perhaps by, say, implying that they are jealous for objecting to the person’s incompetence.

    1. Former Young Lady*

      +A zillion. It’s part missing-stair problem and part “only suckers get fooled, and I’m a Smart Person!” It’s such bad leadership.

      I’ll agree with several replies above that there can be a gendered component to this dynamic. I’ve definitely seen it more often with male bosses who refused to address conflicts between female reports. (In more matriarchal offices, it’s more commonly an inept male report being treated like an endangered species, with his female peers expected to clean up after him.)

        1. Former Young Lady*

          “The copy machine’s broken!”
          “Oh, no! Is there an error message?”
          “I don’t know, where would I look?”
          “The display should say what’s wrong…oh, I’ll go look.” (Beat.) “George, it’s just out of paper. You just have to load paper into it.”
          “How do I do that?!”
          (There is literally an animation on the display that would show George how to do it.) “Know what? I’ve got it. Don’t worry about it.”
          (George returns to his desk to check his email, by typing “Outlook” into his IE browser.)

  29. Madeleine Matilda*

    OP – I have a staff member who frequently misses meetings. She doesn’t have many in a given month, only between 2-4, so she would forget even with reminders from her Outlook calendar. I spoke with her about it, told her it was important that she be at these meetings, asked her to consider what she could do to help her remember and also asked if I could do anything different. This seems to have largely resolved the issue. I’m wondering if Jane’s newness in the work world and lack of knowledge about the professional norms and culture of your office is causing some of these issues. You may want to just talk with her about these things. If she cries, she cries. I had a colleague once who cried very easily due to a medical condition. She told us to ignore it and keep talking with her. As for your boss, I think Alison is right on with her advice.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I’m pretty sure that grad students sometimes have to be at meetings, though. It’s not like she fell out of the sky–she’s had years of needing to show up for classes, appointments with advisors, etc.

      I think she forgot a time or two and there weren’t any consequences, so now she doesn’t bother to show up if she doesn’t feel like putting on pants.

  30. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    It’s peculiar that anyone would jump to feeling threatened by a person fresh to the workforce, I don’t care what their education is, I’ve seen too many PHD dunces in my life.

    Your boss seems like he doesn’t want to be bothered and is not good leadership material.

  31. LQ*

    I had a Lead (Sally, my level, we were both team leads) who had a big issue with a coworker (Katie) and she always lead with the Katie has been 2 minutes late every single day this week, boss did not care (and was often a few minutes late). Katie felt bullied, Sally felt like Katie was committing wage theft (we were hourly). Sally always lead with the being late issue rather than the ones that our boss would have been much more likely to take seriously. The boss stopped taking a lot of stuff Sally said seriously because she seemed to focus on all the wrong things. (Don’t get me wrong, I think boss holds a huge amount of what the failure was in all this.)

    I think the thing to do before you go in to talk to your boss is sit down and figure out what is the thing that is most likely to really have an impact on him. If he cares a lot about angry clients, talk about that. If he cares about missed dates, talk about that. Figure out what is the thing most likely to make your boss listen.

    The day I went to the boss and said we needed to stay late to redo all of Katie’s work because it had private data, again, was the day her transfer got started.

  32. LaDeeDa*

    Do men get asked if they feel threatened by the new person? I find this kind of assumption just as sexist and harmful as all the people asking if the boss is sleeping with Jane. It is ridiculous.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      My partner was called a bully and aggressive for simply asking a smaller man to fix his mistakes on some paperwork.

      It happens when the men are different sizes or have lower voices etc. But not nearly as much as it happens to women of course.

      But we also tell young boys to “deal with it” and to never complain about the treatment they get.

    2. LKW*

      It does. When a younger dynamic man is on a team and is outperforming some of the older guard, there are often comments about the younger guy outpacing/lapping the older one. “Be nice, soon he’ll be your boss!” kind of jokes.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        I know someone that literally happened to. Someone mentioned friend should have the bosses job, someone overheard and told boss, and boss then proceeded to make friends job so miserable he quit.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        This. They do, it just gets phrased differently. I think it’s usually phrased in terms of either relative youth/”go-getter”-ness, or by impugning the other guy’s masculinity/bro-ness.

    3. Marthooh*

      It’s interesting that everyone so far read LaDeeDa’s question as “Do men ever feel threatened by other men?”

      Whereas I’m pretty sure it’s “Are men ever accused of feeling threatened?”

      1. LKW*

        I think they are -but it’s done in a “don’t be a **** (because you feel threatened that), that guy is going to be your boss soon”. But I don’t think the word “threat or threatened” is used often.

  33. Middle School Teacher*

    I have been in the same situation as OP. Every time I brought things to management’s attention, I got a lot of “she’s a specialist in this area” (she’s not) and “you’re just jealous, you’re going to have to work it out for yourself”. The only thing that changed was that earlier this year she screwed up badly, in a way that had nothing to do with me, and had to be reprimanded by both bosses. Honestly OP, you can tell your boss details until you’re blue in the face, but sometimes the only thing that changes someone’s mind is when they experience it for themselves. I know her missing work is holding yours back, and I don’t necessarily advocate it, but you might just have to turn in what you have, and when he asks for the rest, be honest: Jane was responsible for that part. I completed as much as I could with what I had.

  34. pegster*

    I actually feel bad for both OP and Jane in this situation. OP directly sees the quality of her work and it would be useful for Jane to have that feedback coming from her manager – who she may see in a different light from a team leader. I worry that if her manager, who doesn’t really see the quality of work, gets involved there’s going to be this weird triangulation and Jane’s not going to get the feedback she needs in the way she needs to hear it. I mean, she’s off to a very bad start (lying about getting permission to work from home at 2 months – that take a lot of gumption), but the division of work vs authority really isn’t going to help this situation at all! Add in a manager who seems to not to want to get involved and well, it just doesn’t look like there’s much of a good outcome to be had here.

    Sorry you have to deal with this OP – sounds like your company has an organisation that works well most of the time, except for in situations like this, and the combination of personality types is leaving you stuck in the middle. As usual I totally agree with Allison’s advice, the best you can do is stick to the facts as they affect your work and let the dice fall as they may. Good luck!

  35. Former Young Lady*

    I also wonder, just a little bit, if Jane’s tearfulness speaks to an overall “fragile” persona. It might not even be deliberate on her part, but the “damsel* in distress” routine can be highly effective on a certain kind of boss (say, one who has more ascribed authority than actual leadership skills).

    (*Men certainly do this too; see “Bumbling Bruce who thinks Outlook is ‘for secretaries’ and always needs someone else to read his error messages to him.”)

    1. Autumnheart*

      It could just be that Jane tears up easily, even if she’s emotionally resilient and otherwise fine. Lots of people have that problem.

      1. Former Young Lady*

        For sure! I’m a proud member of the “cry at the drop of a hat” club myself; a curling-iron burn can turn me into a human waterfall.

        Still, I make an extra effort to keep it together when professional life requires it, especially when I’m getting feedback.

      2. Kettles*

        Lots? In fifteen years of employment I’ve seen it once, and that person was a high performer. I find it far more plausible that Jane – who sounds lazy and incompetent – is sobbing on command to get out of tricky situations, such as being asked to do some work occasionally.

        1. Former Young Lady*

          There definitely are some people who coast through professional life using the “wounded gazelle gambit” anytime someone questions their performance. I think actual dramatic talent is less common
          among them than genuine (misplaced) self-pity.

          1. Kettles*

            I guess… as I say, the person I was thinking of was very good at her job. Just prone to tears – in good situations too! So I tend to think of that type of person being one who will cry at getting an award or a bonus, not just at the negatives. I think the fact that it’s so situational gives me pause – but I should clarify that I don’t think all manipulation is conscious either.

      3. Kettles*

        And before anyone says not all criers – I agree! It’s the whole package; she works from home without permission, skips meetings, turns in poor work *and* cries when mildly critiqued. The combination is what makes the crying seem fake.

  36. Autumnheart*

    I have to wonder why the manager hired someone with NO professional experience, to be a peer to LW and to lead project teams. Like…that really seems like the kind of position a person should have to work up to, not an entry-level position.

    I wouldn’t be happy either with having to not only make sure my projects were successful, but also have to train a brand-new worker to workplace norms and deal with the fallout of their unreliability. It also just plain seems crazy to me that a person in their *20s* would not have figured out that you can’t blow off meetings, work from home whenever you want, come in late and leave early, and lie about any of the above to other members of the team when they’re asking why your work isn’t done. Not having had a job before isn’t an excuse–you can’t do any of that in school either, not without it severely impacting your classwork and grades. Those should be the most relatable aspects between work and school, not the ones that require a major adjustment.

    Everyone who’s ever had to do a group project in school has no doubt had group members who blew off their share of the work, and stuck other people with either doing it or taking a hit to their grade. I wonder if Jane chose to be one of these shirkers and has brought that same attitude into the workplace.

    1. Oh So Anon*

      Because it’s fairly common to substitute graduate education for work experience?

      Almost every organization I’ve worked (both public and private sector) at that would hire someone with an undergraduate degree plus five years of experience for a particular role will bring in someone with a masters plus two years of work experience or, quite often, a freshly-minted PhD for the same role. A good number of people I know who went straight from undergrad to graduate school then to the workplace have never worked an entry-level role.

      1. Autumnheart*

        From this letter, it would seem as though that practice needs to be revisited. I mean, here we have Jane, and then recently we had the grad student who wore super-inappropriate clothes to interviews, and wouldn’t take a hint about dressing appropriately.

        Maybe in the past, we could count on students learning professional norms from jobs they had in school, and/or parents who actually raised their kids to be adults by adulthoods. But with the rampant issue of people in their 20s, who come to the workplace not only with zero experience, but with zero adult coping skills and a very child-like approach to both work and authority…it’s a problem.

    2. TechWorker*

      Same title =/= same role or same pay, it’s not clear that the newbie is actually leading projects at this point. You can be a peer to someone who has quite different responsibilities, no?

  37. HappySnoopy*

    In talking to boss again, I’d only add that you got overly focused on her schedule/work from home because it’s directly impacting your training and deadlines. Jane missed our meeting so se couldn’t go over whether to do chocolate caramel or chocolate peanut butter. Also she did not return comments and revisions on the candy lists, so we were not able to give complete spring equinox options and are missing a couple recipes.

    Focus on impact of schedule to work as you segue with Alison’s script.

  38. Junior Assistant Peon*

    I’m surprised “feeling threatened” didn’t give you a magical free pass here. If Jane said/did something you didn’t like and you “felt threatened,” Jane would be guilty until proven innocent at a lot of companies.

      1. Someone Else*

        I think the manager in question meant “threatened” in the sense of OP’s job/authority being threatened by the new person, ie insecure. I think the above turns that around into “threatened” as in physically threatened, as in Jane might be dangerous, but I can’t tell if it’s just wordplay or a genuine suggestion.

      2. Jayne*

        I am guessing that Marthooh is using “feeling threatened” in the treat assessment context. So if Jane is actually “threatening” the OP, the company would be on the OP’s side due to safety concerns.

    1. Binky*

      I think you’re misinterpreting. The boss isn’t talking about OP feeling like she’s being physically threatened. The boss is suggesting that OP is having her status threatened – that Jane is actually so awesome that OP is worried she’s going to be outshone by Jane. In order to prevent this, OP is raising frivolous complaints. It’s a really dismissive thing to say to OP.

  39. NicoleK*

    Is two months long enough to know that someone isn’t working out? I knew during the interview that the new hire wasn’t going to work out. Boss hired her anyway despite my concerns. And I was right. Boss let her go nine months later after she failed to perform.

    1. Former Young Lady*

      I’ve occasionally been tempted to make up a BINGO card in those situations. “Brad will have a meltdown on the last day of the campaign.” “Brandi will show up an hour late, reeking of beer.” “Tammy will be America’s Sweetheart until one day when they’re cleaning out her cubicle and muttering about embezzlement.”

      Sometimes it’s hard to fit all the predictions into those little squares.

  40. Dalainie*

    Dealing with a Jane at work myself–a no show coworker who flat-out lies to cover her luxuriously abbreviated schedule and failure to make deadlines– makes me wonder if Jane has not made a preemptive “OP is picking on me” visit to Manager that Manager failed to mention to OP.

    People who are telling different stories to different people tend to work behind the scenes to proactively generate plausible deniability.

  41. JSPA*

    It’s a nod to the original described cumulative, past-last-straw situation, which pushed an otherwise – reasonable person to bad language and irrational anger over totally normal behavior. If you lose the “B,” you lose an important aspect of the concept, which is that your own reaction can become a massive professionalism problem in its own right. Usage has nothing to do with the gender of the person who’s on your last nerve. You can reach b.e.c. stage with anyone. Nor does it even necessarily imply that the focus of your ire has doing something objectively wrong– you can reach be easy with someone primarily on stylistic grounds / incompatible communication patterns / ask vs guess culture mismatch etc.

  42. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

    OP, can you assign one or more of your team members to start correcting her work and being the liaison for feedback to her? The reason is twofold: 1) if you are the only member of your team who sees or corrects her mistakes, or has the full burden to train her, your criticism of her work will always seem biased in the managers eyes so it’s time to have more witnesses; and 2) this may help alleviate some of your frustration by getting it off your plate. Part of being a lead is sometimes delegating. If she’s only missing 1-1 meetings with you, start making them group meetings. If possible, start reassigning her late work to other people as soon as it’s apparent that she’ll miss the deadline. If you aren’t already, send a team email, “Hey team, I want us all to be on the same page about Project A so here’s a summary: ABC is complete; Wakeen is doing D and E and should have it delivered on Thursday; Fergus has most of F done and G is on schedule; Jane, I can’t seem to find your deliverables in the shared drive. Where are you on HIJK? If you won’t have it ready by the deadline on Thursday, I will have Wakeen take over H and J.”

    I know this sounds like punishing the good workers, but really, if she’s fired tomorrow all of that work will need to be picked up by the team anyway, so make her ineptitude as irrelevant to the work as possible, but do keep track and get proactive about publicly praising the good work you see in others especially to the boss or clients.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      This is at least as reasonable as OP having to manage Jane without any authority to do so or any back-up from the theoretical manager when she seeks assistance.

  43. Jerm*

    I’d let it go and focus on what isn’t getting done. My old colleague thought of himself as my manager, even though I was more senior than he is, and as I received more and more praise – and he hit roadblacks – his time monitoring of me increased. He was a creature of habit, leaving at the same minute everyday no matter the time he came in. I began working in different areas of the building, teleworking, etc., because I didn’t want to be around him. I finally started looking for new jobs just to get away from him and that office. I landed a significant promotion, while he is in the same spot, doing the same work that still didn’t reach the complexity of the tasks I was responsible for. I know my circumstances are different than yours, but my advice: If it isn’t your responsibility, don’t make it your responsibility. It isn’t worth it. While you’re focusing on your own lane, also look for a new job. And don’t dig in or be bitter about it. Trust me, it isn’t worth it.

  44. workerbee*

    I would go back to the manager and reframe it as “I want to help Jane succeed” not “I want to get Jane in trouble.” The fact that OP said in one of the opening sentences that Jane “isn’t working out well” indicates to me that the goal is to get her reprimanded/fired. I think this may have contributed to the manager’s assumption that this is an interpersonal problem. OP’s problems would go away if Jane performed better, so why not try to change tacks and say “I’m having X and Y problems with Jane’s work. What do you think I can do to help her succeed?”

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