the person I was hired to replace won’t leave

A reader writes:

I was recruited by a company, in a situation where a director was looking for a new job and wanted someone in place to take over his role once he left. The big bosses were fine with this and appreciated his advance notice and planning.

The director created a new assistant director position for me and brought me on with a sense of urgency, indicating that he’d probably be gone in the next few weeks and wanted to make sure he had time to train me. He said he was interviewing other places and had things “in place” to be leaving shortly. He pushed HR to fast-track my materials so I could start ASAP. It was a lateral move for me, and I only agreed to it because he would be leaving so soon, and I’d soon get a promotion into his director role. This was all discussed in advance — this isn’t speculation on my part.

Fast forward 10 months, and the director still hasn’t left yet. I never wanted to work for him or in a #2 role, and I can’t shake the general annoyance I have every day that he’s still here. We have very different working styles and are driving each other nuts, so that’s adding to my annoyance. We work extremely closely, as our job duties are identical — he just made up the assistant role as an excuse to bring me on board.

Now that I’m approaching my one-year mark with the company, do I bring this up with him somehow? As in, asking whether he’s still job searching and planning on leaving soon? Perhaps in my annual review? Do I just try and find a new job? Or do I stick it out silently as to not make things awkward between us? I’m frustrated and want to leave (this isn’t what I signed up for!), but I’m not sure if I’m being too impatient.

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

{ 68 comments… read them below }

      1. Arctic

        All things being said, I think the manager handled it the right way by getting the OP started and trained in case he left soon.
        It created some awkward tension for those overlapping months. But, in the end, OP was well placed, trained, and ready to step up for an easy transition.

  1. Pilcrow

    I’m wondering what would make sense for a candidate to ask during the hiring/interview phase since this director was hiring his own replacement. Should a timeline and transition plan (or at least the idea of one) be brought up then or is that too presumtive?

    FYI – there was an update to this letter:
    update: I was hired to run a department — but the old boss is still there, 10 months later

    1. BRR

      I think I would inquire about a timeline if I was the candidate and would ask for it to be included in my offer letter. The problem is they don’t have to stick to it. I’m a bit skeptical of plans to hire someone and then promote them in a short period. It would take a fair amount of convincing if I was the candidate. I feel like a better plan for a candidate would be if an employer was hiring a director and stating that it will overlap instead of hiring an assistant director with a promise of a promotion

  2. Just Another Manic Millie

    This sounds like a bait and switch to me. I say this because it’s happened to me. On my first day as an admin, I was told that the receptionist was on vacation, and I would have to fill in for her until she returned. A few days later, I was told that I was doing such a good job that I would be the permanent receptionist, and that when the receptionist returned from her vacation, she would do something else. A few days later, I found out that there wasn’t any receptionist on vacation. What had happened was that TPTB didn’t care for any of the applicants who answered the ad for a receptionist, so they decided to advertise for an admin and have her work as the receptionist. An admin started at that company a week after I did. I had a feeling that she had applied to the same ad that I did. She left a week later. I asked if I could have her job and was told no. I gave notice a couple of weeks later.

    I bet that in this case, they didn’t like any of the assistant director candidates, so “the big bosses” decided that the director would pretend to be in the process of leaving the company, meaning that the newly hired person would soon become a director, thinking that they would get a better class of candidates. And it just never happened, because it was never going to happen. I didn’t see anything in the OP’s post to indicate that “the big bosses” ever questioned the director as to when he would be leaving the company.

    1. Grace

      Actually, the update was just that the director had found it more difficult than expected to find a job that he was happy with, and that he moved on a couple of weeks after the letter was written.

      1. Yikes Dude

        From the job he ended up taking, it sounds like it was a mixture of not liking his external options and the parent company dragging their feet on creating a job for him. My gut tells me that from his POV, he was actually in a very similar situation to the LW himself – his timeline and reality’s timeline was out of sync and it was the uncertainty driving them both mad, not necessarily the wait.

      2. Just Another Manic Millie

        I had no idea that this letter and its update had been posted ages ago. I thought that it was a brand new letter. Live and learn!

        1. Someone Else

          All the Inc letters are old letters, hence the “revisiting” blurb before the link.

    2. Kathleen_A

      That’s not an unreasonable interpretation, but it turns out that there really was no bait-and-switch – the director simply had a harder time finding another job than he had expected. JJJJShabado has posted a link to the update above.

      I’m sorry about your situation, though. That’s just not right. I’m glad you got the heck out of there.

      1. Just Another Manic Millie

        As I said above, I had no idea that this letter and its update had been posted ages ago. I thought that it was a brand new letter. I doubt if I will ever post again here. It’s very embarrassing for me to think that I am commenting on a new situation, only to find out that it’s very old and has actually been resolved.

        1. Frank Doyle

          There’s a note at the end of the post where Alison says that it’s an old letter from the archives . . . but you shouldn’t be scared off from commenting! The point of advice columns is to address situations that people might find themselves in. Your comment could be helpful to a person in a similar situation where it *is* a bait-and-switch.

        2. Kathleen_A

          Oh, no – you don’t have anything to be embarrassed about! We comment on old letters all the time. The only twist here is that it was actually resolved, but even so, no big deal. This particular situation has been resolved, but they usually haven’t been, and in any case, even if the specific instance has been resolved, the issues discussed will continue. You have no reason to feel bad or to be embarrassed.

        3. alphabet soup

          No need to feel embarrassed. That happens a lot with these kinds of letters.

          There just also happens to be a lot of long-time AAM followers with amazing memories. :)

        4. The Man, Becky Lynch

          It’s a very common error, even though it’s noted at the end of the post by Alison, many people just click the link and read it on the other site without seeing everything on the actual blog posting itself.

          We often selectively read as well, it’s normal human behavior. Nothing to be ashamed of! Many people respond in kind like you did.

          1. RUKiddingMe

            For real. Comment. I embarrass myself in comments here and pretty much everywhere on a semi-regular basis. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    3. Cheesesteak in Paradise

      I thought this was an interesting personal story! Thanks for sharing.

      I’m curious: in your situation, was the salary more in line with being an admin or being a receptionist?

      It seems like the problem for a business of the “bait and switch” is not only an unhappy worker but also overpaying for a position.

      1. Just Another Manic Millie

        The salary was more in line with being an admin. But even if I had decided so what, so I’m a receptionist, at least I’m earning more money than I did at my last job, I still wouldn’t have been happy. The company was toxic.

        1) The office manager gave me a list of four people and their telephone extensions. There were way more than four other employees at the company. When I asked about them, she said that I didn’t need to know their names or their extensions, because they weren’t supposed to receive phone calls.

        2) She refused to give me Fergus’ last name. After I said, “But what if someone calls here and asks to speak to Mr. Blahblah? I won’t know if that’s Fergus’ last name. Do you want me to say ‘you have the wrong number’?” She thought it over and very reluctantly told me Fergus’ last name.

        3) After she said that I had to put postage on the outgoing mail, I said, “Sure! Do you have a postage meter?” She glared at me as if I had asked her what color underwear she was wearing.

        4) She told me that only Cersei could relieve me when I needed to go to the restroom or out for lunch. No one else! She was still so angry at me for having asked about the postage meter that I didn’t ask what should I do on the days that Cersei was out.

        5) Cersei ignored me when she passed by my desk and I asked her to cover so that I could go to the restroom. I had to resort to leaping out of my chair and grabbing her and screaming in her face. She kept insisting that she didn’t hear me. When I called her to ask her to cover me, she either said, “Can’t talk now!” and hung up, or she just ignored the phone. Once she started ignoring the phone, she didn’t answer a single call I put through to her, because she was afraid that I would ask her to cover for me.

        6) One morning, the office manager ran out of the office. We had no idea why. Did she just quit? Did she have an emergency? Did she have a family emergency? We didn’t know. After Cersei went to lunch, she hid from me so that I couldn’t ask her to cover for me, because she knew that the office manager wasn’t around for me to complain to. Luckily, she walked by my desk at about 4:00 (I was supposed to leave at 5:00 PM), and I grabbed her and screamed at her to cover for me so that I could go to the restroom. When she sat down, I told her that I was going to lunch, because I was entitled to a lunch hour, and she hadn’t covered for me before. She gave me a sheepish smile. She didn’t even bother to say, “OMG! I forgot! You should have reminded me!” And I told her that I wasn’t coming back, because by the time my one hour lunch break was over, it would be time for me to go home. So she had to sit at the front desk until 6:30 PM (the time she was supposed to go home) without anyone to relieve her, and she couldn’t access the stuff in her computer from my computer, and I just didn’t care.

        I gave notice a couple of days later.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch

          I renew my pledge to never work anywhere that requires perma-coverage, that sounds like an absolute nightmare.

          She got mad that you asked her about a postage meter? Like all she had to say was “It’s over there” or “We use stamps, they’re in the safe” or whatever. It’s seriously such a petty thing…did she just expect you to magic up some stamps and hopefully just pay for them too? I cannot even…

          1. Just Another Manic Millie

            Ha ha! No, I don’t think she expected me to pay for stamps. The company used stamps, not a postage meter. But there wasn’t a postage scale! Fergus would use his judgment as to how much postage should be put on oversized correspondence. Cersei called him “the human postage meter.” Every so often, mail would be returned to us because of insufficient postage. For some reason, the owner didn’t care.

            The office manager got angry over everything. She told me that I had to write down everyone who called and whom they spoke to. Then she got angry at me because I wrote down that Rufus had called her. How was I supposed to know that Rufus was her boyfriend? She never told me!

            1. The Man, Becky Lynch

              I mean I come from a background of just estimating stamps at times but that’s because I’ve done it for so long, I would never expect someone else to do it! I also err on the side of too much postage, add an extra stamp, ef it, better than having it come back.

              I loath postage meters but only because they have no use here [not enough mail going out to justify paying their monthly ransom fees, they’re ridiculous!]

              Perma-angry person in charge of managing the office, sounds like a great choice! No wonder they thought lying to a new hire was the way to go. What a sad life, I’m just glad you quit that thankless pit.

        2. Elizabeth West

          Wow. This is bad enough I wouldn’t have bothered giving notice. I would have just packed up my stuff and said “I don’t think this is the right fit for me; my last day will be today.”

          I actually did this at two jobs–the first one, the manager screamed in my face on my third day. And they also expected me to do some of the accountant’s work, without telling me that when I was hired (it was a receptionist position).

          The second one, I was supposed to do one job but ended up covering so often for another that I hardly ever got any of my own work done–I couldn’t access my stuff from her computer either. They lied about the amount of sales involved, too, even though I asked about it in the interview (this was the job with the Coworker from Hell). I ended up quitting after a couple of months.

          Neither job never went on my resume, since my tenure there was so short.

          1. Just Another Manic Millie

            This job didn’t go on my resume either. I don’t know why I bothered to give notice. I was there for a total of five weeks. I never found out why the office manager ran out of the office that day. She came back the following day, but she was late.

            After the incident of my walking out the door at 4:00 PM, Cersei was always careful to relieve me so that I could go to lunch. I think that she was afraid that if she didn’t, I would just walk out the door at 4:00 PM without telling her. But she still refused to answer her phone, always fearing that it was me asking her to cover the desk so that I could go to the restroom. I had to take messages for all of the business calls she missed.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch

      That’s so shady, I’m glad you bounced out of there. I wonder if they learned that lying to applicants because you don’t like the applicants when it’s listed as what it is [reception vs administrative assistance] isn’t going to work either. So foolish.

      My resignation letter would have read “You tried. Bye now.”

      1. RUKiddingMe

        Right! I would have bounced the second they told me I was going to be a full time receptionist.

        1. Just Another Manic Millie

          As soon as I found out that it had been planned all along that I should be the receptionist, I decided to quit, but not immediately. I had been out of work for a couple of months, and I wanted to earn some money before I left.

          1. RUKiddingMe

            I get that! I may have stayed fir a couple paychecks too depending on my financial situation. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Definitely would have quit though.

    5. TheseOldWings

      I had something sort of similar happen to me. When I was in college, I took a summer job working at the Starbucks inside a grocery store. The manager told me that they were hiring others and would be doing a cashier training class in about a week, so in the meantime I had to work as a bagger/cart collector. Well, that week turned into several weeks, which turned into a month+ and every time I spoke to the manager I asked when the training was happening, then asking if someone could just show me how to use the register because I had used one before, and being told no. I finally got to the point that I realized there wasn’t going to be a cashier’s training and I told the manager I was quitting because I was going to be starting school again soon, and he acted shocked and said he thought I was commuting to school and that there would have been more time for me to be trained…He never said so outright, but I always suspected they were just short on bagger/cart collectors and didn’t really need me to work at the Starbucks, but I never would have taken the job had I known I would be bagging. I still get annoyed thinking about it!

      1. VelociraptorAttack

        I had this once but backwards working at a bookstore with a coffee shop inside. I was hired to work in the store but was consistently scheduled to work in the cafe. I eventually quit and made it very clear it was because I applied to work with books, not coffee.

      2. LJay

        This happened to me, too! I was hired to be a cashier, but put on bagging and cart collecting until they could get a training class together.

        It was at an Acme.

        They also started having me do janitorial work, then got mad at me for cleaning the floor with the wrong stuff after they didn’t provide me any training on doing that correctly.

        I just stopped going eventually.

    6. Camellia

      My daughter just got herself out of a bait-and-switch. She was laid off and was having trouble finding jobs at her level – assistant director/operations manager type roles, with 10 years of experience in those type of roles. Finally, at the beginning of December last year, she was offered an ‘operations manager’ job. On her first day she was told, oh, it’s really an operations ADMIN role, at $22,000 less – did she still want the job? It paid more than her unemployment so she took it. And then they had her doing, guess what, operations manager-type work, such as hiring, and so forth. In the mean time she continued to apply for jobs and she called me today and has received an offer! Yay!! She will be out of there soon.

    7. cncx

      this happened to me too, i was hired to do paralegal work, and they told me at hire that because it was a new team, they didn’t have an admin assistant, so if i could do some admin stuff until that person got hired, great.

      Then they hired a paralegal with way more experience than me- they wanted me to be the admin assistant all along and thought giving me a paralegal salary would be enough. nope.

  3. Tara S.

    The stock photo over at INC has the same woman from the meme! The “dude whistling at/distracted by woman while his girlfriend is disgusted” meme!

    Idk, that made me happy.

    1. fposte

      Oh, wow, I think you’re right! Now I’m wondering what else I’ve seen her in. Is she somewhere laughing at salad?

      1. BRR

        I just spent too much time looking into this and she’s done several stock photos with Antonio Guillem. Unfortunately no laughing at salad (…yet).

    2. Bulbasaur

      The photo in general made me chuckle. I think they did a good job matching it to the story.

  4. JeanB in NC

    I don’t know what the deal is over at Inc. I always get some kind of audio even though I have adblocker, and I can’t find anything that’s actually playing so that I can turn it off.

    1. Rhymes with Mitochondria

      Same. And clicking off the audio is disabled. I rarely click over to Inc because of it.

    2. Zephy

      There’s a video somewhere below the second article that auto-loads when you scroll far enough down the page. It’s stupid.

  5. Fortitude Jones

    OP should just throw the director a going away party – maybe then, he’ll get the hint.

    1. AnonAMouse

      LOL the petty in me lives for solutions like this but the non-lizard brained me would probably just hope and pray that the director leaves

  6. We all scream for ice cream

    I can understand the director taking longer than he thought to find a new job, but why was the company OK with basically paying two salaries while the original director job searched?Wouldn’t they have just let him go after they hired the new person?

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch

      Since he eventually went to their parent company, I doubt that they had any interest in actually pushing him out. So it sounds like they were trying to appease him while he either found a new job he wanted or they created an internal position.

      They were so open ended with it all, it sounds like an organization that would rather spend twice the salary than push him off the plank eventually.

    2. Kathleen_A

      I used to work a place that would routinely hire two people for the same job and then just wait to see (1) who worked out better for the advertised job and/or (2) who worked his/her way into an entirely different job. They’d do it every time there was a difference of opinion as to which of two candidates was a better fit, and that happened pretty often. In fact, it actually happened to me: I was the one who ended up working out better for the advertised job while the other hiree ended up getting canned. But double hires occurred at least three other times during the year that I worked there. (Hey, I said I worked out “better,” but that didn’t change the fact that it was a pretty disfunctional workplace.)

      That’s different from this situation, of course, because for one thing, at my former workplace most of the double-staffed jobs were fairly low level, so the salaries were fairly low level, too. But still, some companies are OK with paying two salaries for a while, and in this case, the not-quite-gone director was apparently someone they really valued. Which is kind of nice, really.

        1. Kathleen_A

          It was *ridiculous* – and as you might imagine, it caused a lot of trouble and stress for all the double-hired people as well. I mean, imagine interviewing for what you’re told is a single position, getting it, and then walking in on the first day to find that two people have been hired for that one job. Way to go, Former Employer Who I Do Not Miss At All, Inc.!

          In my department’s case (not sure what the deal was in other departments), there were two different people who had input on hiring decisions: the head guy and a his thoroughly entrenched long-time henchwoman. They frequently disagreed on who would be better for any given job. And rather than, you know, making a decision that HeadGuy’s or EntrenchedHenchwoman’s vote was the one that most mattered, they’d just hire HeadGuy’s top pick and also EntrenchedHenchwoman’s top pick. Then they’d push the two hirees into the pool and see if one or both managed to flounder to the side without drowning.

          Funnily enough, three years or so after I left that job, I was interviewing people for an opening at my subsequent employer, and one of the people who applied mentioned that she had just started a job a couple of months earlier, but she didn’t feel good about it because – dah dah dah daaaaaah! – they’d hired two people for one job! I said, “You know, that happened to me once,” and dang if it didn’t turn out to be Former Employer Who I Do Not Miss At All, Inc.

      1. Rhymes with Mitochondria

        My son worked at a company that did this, too. They hired two and said they were both on 90 day probation. After 90 days, the best one would stay. My son left after a week because they seemed to be setting up fake tests like other workers claiming “injuries” to see who reacted first and followed protocol best. Protocol they hadn’t yet learned.

        1. Kathleen_A

          Well, that sounds pretty wretched. At least at Former Employer Who I Do Not Miss At All, Inc., nobody was putting new hires into this situation as part of some deep-died plot. There was no calculation. FEWIDNMAA, Inc., did this only because of disorganization and general fumble-fingeredness. Which – I think – makes it a bit less obnoxious.

  7. Spouter of Gibberish

    why would the replacement have to report to the person leaving? Shouldn’t they both report to the same boss? Who do they think will do the new guy’s end of year review if the old guy is (eventually) leaving?

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch

      I think it’s more of the replacement training the new recruit, so therefore it’s a quasi “reporting” structure. In reality the OP reports to the Former Director’s boss but for the day to days or the “when are you gonna get off this pot tho bro?” conversations, you talk to the Former Director.

      In my experience where I’ve had training {which is limited, I’ll say that}, I have always reported directly to the former accountant until they left, then we swerved on over to the actual boss but in reality, my bosses have always just been the ones who are overall responsible for the company and they know I’m doing my work because well, it’s obvious and they see the reports, etc.

  8. Utoh!

    Something similar happened to me in that the person I was to replace was not leaving for 6 months but they wanted to get someone in so he could do their training. It was awful, he would tell me stories about the users that I really did not need (or want) to hear, and turned me off to the whole thing. I left after 3 months.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch

      Awwww, I thrive off that kind of story-telling time. The couple times I’ve had training, it’s because someone is leaving to go back to school so it’s kind of lengthy to say the least. Not six months though, yikes. More like six to eight weeks tops. They had time to tell me stories about customers so that I wasn’t blind sided by them when they eventually did something awful or wasn’t tricked into thinking they didn’t know better, leading to unearned favors, etc.

  9. Klingons and Cylons and Cybermen, Oh My!

    Boss never intended to leave. I hope the LW found a new job.

  10. Lynn Whitehat

    I was the Co-Worker Who Wouldn’t Leave one summer. I was pregnant, and told my boss about a million times that I intended to take six weeks maternity leave and that was it. But he was sure that was crazy talk, and obviously it would be more like six months. So he hired a temp for six months. I stuck to my original plan, and there wasn’t work for two of us. And the temp was mad at me for not being gone like I was “supposed to be”, instead of my manager for assuming Pregnant Women Be Crazy.

  11. Teapot Translator

    I replaced a person who was leaving for retirement. Someone, somewhen decided that she should stay three and half months to train me and continue to do some stuff I supposedly couldn’t do. Let me tell you, three and a half months is way too long for a secretary position, or at the very least *this* secretary position. I would have been happy if she’d left after a month. It’s pretty hard to assume all the responsibilities when the previous person is still there, doing stuff instead of delegating it to you so that you can learn.
    Never again.
    P. S. I’m pretty smart. I would have figured out how to do the stuff she stayed to do.

    1. YouCanGoHomeAgain

      I’m so glad this isn’t going to be me. I’m leaving my position next month (if all goes according to plan. haha). My boss is starting the hiring process now. I’ve been reading this thread trying to get ideas on what NOT to do. :D I’ll be training the new person and then leaving. It’s really not a difficult position and as long as the person is fairly bright, there shouldn’t be a problem. I do have a problem delegating, but since I know it, I’ll be aware of it and hopefully allow them to do the majority of the duties with just explanations. I’ve already written out a comprehensive list, etc.

      1. Teapot Translator

        I think it is important for the new person to get hands-on experience while someone with more experience is still there. Then, they can ask questions.
        And when you do something (instead of watching someone else do the thing), you suddenly think of questions to ask.

  12. Kivrin

    I was hired to replace someone who was to retire but ended up not leaving and just going part-time (40 to 30 hours a week). She determined I needed a *year* of “training” for a low-level development assistant role I already had more experience than her in. It was a nightmare. The person was an extreme micromanager, even though I did not actrually report to her, and began bullying me and caused a lot of distress, to the point of reporting her to HR and my doctor determining that anti-anxiety medication was necessary. I was angry at my boss and the org for allowing her to un-retire. Awful situation that companies really should not allow.

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