should I tell my replacement about a cranky team member, coworkers devise bizarre solutions to simple problems, and more

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

1. Should resigning managers share info about team members with their replacements?

I’m preparing to leave my job (by choice), and am training my newly-hired replacement at the moment. This position supervises several folks, and one of them in particular is … quirky. He is compassionate, customer-focused, and dedicated to our clients, but when dealing with other coworkers, he can be cranky (the word “curmudgeon” comes to mind). He also really hates change, and it takes a lot of convincing to get him on board with any changes that impact his particular processes.

Should I give the newbie the heads-up on this? I was not given any insight into his behavior when I started here, so I spent the first few years that I supervised him frustrated and, frankly, unsure why our clients loved him so much. I think that having some background knowledge of his quirks might make things go a little smoother for my replacement; on the other hand, I don’t want to “poison the well” for him by giving his new boss a bad impression.

Yes. When you’re training a replacement, it makes sense to pass along institutional knowledge and context that will help them do their job better, and when you’re training a manager, context about the people she’ll be managing is part of that. That’s why new managers generally get access to team members’ past performance reviews, etc. New managers shouldn’t have to start from scratch figuring out team members, when long histories exist that will give them helpful context. It makes sense for new managers to come in knowing things like: Jane regularly hits her goals out of the park and so we’ve given her as much flexibility as we can, Bob has been talked to repeatedly about missing deadlines and shouldn’t have much rope left, and Lucinda really wants to move into client work next year and has been working on demonstrating she’s ready to do it. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t observe things for themselves and make up their own minds — they should — but without that context, you get situations like Jane bristling because the new manager isn’t giving her the autonomy she’s earned or Bob acting like his deadline problems are new ones.

Of course, you should should keep the info you relay calm and factual — don’t start ranting about how frustrating Bob is to manage, but do calmly explain what challenges you’ve seen and what you’ve learned does and doesn’t. And you can explicitly say, “You might end up with a different take on this and you should get to know him on your own terms, but this is context that might be useful to have.”

2. My coworkers come up with bizarre solutions to simple problems

I am a 25-year-old woman working in payroll in a construction company among mostly men in their 40’s. The other departments in the company (other than my accounting department) are very lax. We have processes in place for how information is communicated from these departments but often these processes are not followed, which leads to disorganization and mistakes. Plus, once the information reaches me to complete the next step, I have to stay late or push other tasks aside to meet the deadline that others had no respect for.

I believe that the solution is for people to follow the process and complete their base line duties. When I bring these issues to our company meetings, I communicate that A is the problem, B is the outcome, and C is the expectation so this can be prevented in the future. I try not to get too specific with situations in the meetings because it would be directly pointing the finger at another coworker and I want to avoid that. But everyone takes it upon themselves to come up with ridiculous and crazy solutions. For example, problem: we paid a vendor late because the invoice wasn’t forwarded to accounting. Crazy solution: “Why don’t we just pay the vendor $1,000 in advance so that if we miss a payment, we are still okay!” (NO! Just send the invoice over! It’s not that hard!)

I am all for brainstorming and creative thinking, but these crazy ideas and “obvious” solutions make my blood boil. They are suggested in pompous tones that make me feel like they think I am an idiot for not thinking of it and for asking my coworkers to follow well thought-out processes. It is so difficult to bite my tongue and not walk away from the meeting furious and feeling steamrolled. How can I communicate that I am interested in enforcing a ready-built solution, not looking for a new one? Am I being close-minded to new possibilities? Am I being too sensitive as a lone woman in a male-dominated industry?

Stop bringing this stuff up in meetings and instead address the problems one-on-one with people as they make the mistakes. That will let you be very clear and direct, rather than trying to be vague so you’re not publicly criticizing people. That way you can use language like, “Bob, because you sent me this invoice one day before it was due, we paid the vendor late and were charged a late fee. We need you to submit invoices at least a week before they’re due.” (And if people repeat the errors, then you escalate and talk with their managers.)

If you instead rely on group meetings, people won’t always know what applies to them and what doesn’t, especially if you’re being intentionally vague about specific situations; some people will tune out because it’s a meeting, and some people will (apparently) think you’re looking for a discussion rather than just conveying instructions. (And gender dynamics can exacerbate that one.) One-on-one conversations significantly up the chances that people will feel more responsibility to pay attention to what you’re saying and do what you’re asking, and they’re less likely to think it’s an invitation for a group brainstorm.

3. Employee chats on the phone with a coworker under guise of work

I have a non-exempt employee who is friends with an exempt coworker in IT. They are often on the phone with each other, with my employee’s work status in “Support” (purportedly she is reporting or resolving an IT issue). However, overhearing her conversations, it’s clear they are chatting. While I feel adequately prepared to talk to an employee making obviously personal phone calls on their cell phone, how can I express to this employee that this behavior is inappropriate? It’s under the guise of work, but happens far too often and she doesn’t have that many IT problems.

Be straightforward about it! “Jane, from what I’ve occasionally overheard, it sounds like you’re having pretty frequent, lengthy phone calls with Bob that aren’t about work. If I have that right, can you scale those back? I’m concerned about how much time they’re taking away from work. If I’ve misunderstood, I’m open to hearing that too.”

I’d include that last line if you’re not positive that you haven’t just happened to overhear the the two-minute social snippets in legitimate support call. But if that’s not the case (like if you sit near enough to her to hear most of it), you can leave that part out.

4. I’m not getting the interesting work I was promised at my new job

A little over a year ago, I took a new job I was very excited about. During the interview, I asked why the previous person in my position had left, and I was told that this was actually a new position that had just been created. My responsibilities were to be a combination of tasks that had not been performed previously and tasks that had been done by others. I was hired for my skill set, not for my knowledge in this particular industry, so I knew I would have a lot to learn and was excited by the challenge.

At first I was busy just learning how the new company worked and looking for opportunities to help out wherever I could. But now that I have become more comfortable and proficient, I am running into problems. Some of the work that falls under my newly created job title was handed off eagerly, but the more interesting, hands-on portions have yet to be transferred. My fellow employees are already skilled in these tasks and seem to have zero interest in either training me or relinquishing these parts of their jobs.

However, I would not have taken this position if it had only included the dry, tedious tasks that I am currently spending most of my time on. How do I approach my boss about expanding my current tasks? And is there any way to assume the workload I thought I was going to be given without alienating the people currently doing the tasks (and doing them well)?

The fact that it’s been a year of this might make it harder to address, since your boss now might be used to seeing your role the way it is. Ideally you would have spoken up earlier — like no later than six months in — but you still can and should speak up now.

Talk to your boss and say something like, “When I was brought on, the things I was most excited about doing in the role were X, Y, and Z, which we’d talked a lot about in the interview. I’ve been focusing on learning how the company runs and doing things like A and B, but now that I’ve been here a year, I want to finish getting those pieces moved over to me and wanted to talk with you about the timeline for that.”

You don’t say whether you’re explicitly told your coworkers that you’re supposed to be taking those items on, or directly asked you to transfer them. Ideally that would have happened with your boss’s involvement much earlier on, but if no one’s done that, it’s possible that they don’t realize it’s supposed to. Because it’s been a year, it would be weird to just announce it to them now without your boss’s involvement — but you should absolutely try to get the ball rolling with her now.

If your boss doesn’t seem on board, you could say, “I want to be transparent that these responsibilities were the reason I took the job, and it’s important to me to be able to do the job I signed on for. Is there any way to make that happen, or is the way the role is currently configured the way you expect it to stay for the foreseeable future?” If your boss has any savviness, she should know the subtext there is that you’re considering whether it makes sense to stay — reflection that would indeed be the right next step at that point.

5. Should I wait to update LinkedIn with my new job?

I started a new job with a new company a few days ago. It seems to be a great fit, awesome boss, collaborative environment … the whole package.

I’ve read in multiple online forums/blogs/career sites to wait “X” amount of time before updating with a new role. Some attribute this to a probationary period (N/A for me), making sure fit is right, making sure you have a good manager, etc. What do you think?

I think you’re fine updating it right away.

That said, it’s true that if you leave so quickly that you won’t want the job on your LinkedIn at all, it can be potentially awkward to have connections see that you started working there but left within a few months. Frankly, you can just remove the job at that point and most people won’t notice, but some people probably will and you might not want to deal with that. And if you do decide to wait, you can input the correct dates at whatever point you add it.

I think the risk is relatively low, but there also aren’t any huge benefits to updating it immediately (other than maybe some congratulations from people who see you have a new job). So if you’re more comfortable waiting, do.

{ 152 comments… read them below }

  1. Fortitude Jones*

    OP #4, I sympathize with you. I had something similar happen to me, though my position wasn’t newly created, but was added because business was supposedly growing – 17 months later, I’m leaving for a newly created remote position in my field. My current manager wildly overstated the amount of work my team was going to get with this new growth, and I wasn’t willing to wait years for her to stop assigning her work friends all the more interesting, complex work while I did the stuff nobody else cared about. I spent 85% of my time not doing what I was hired to do – it was a mess. Unlike you, I spoke up and asked what was going on three months and was told, “Well, you’re new and still in training – I don’t want to overwhelm you.” Girl, bye! It’s a writing job, I’m a highly accomplished writer, and this shit ain’t rocket science. Then we went through this talk again three months after that where I specifically said, “I’m bored.” She still kept giving me the runaround, so I came up with my own projects that allowed me to work extensively with another team and write all of their boiler language, but I was becoming increasingly upset that the job I thought I was hired for didn’t appear to be the one my boss wanted me to do.

    I don’t think these people realize that boredom is almost as bad as being in a hellish, dysfunctional environment – at least it is for someone like me. So I stopped essentially begging for scraps, dusted off my resume, and now I start a new job on the 13th doing more high-level technical writing and editing and content management. And the best part? I got this job partially based on the projects I created for myself at my current company. Who knew my manager’s neglect would actually work out for the best? (I’m getting a 26% salary increase at the new job.)

    OP, try to find some projects you can tackle on your own while you wait for your manager to address your concerns. These projects don’t even have to be flashy (mine weren’t) – they can be things that just need to be done that no one else thought to do. If after you talk to your manager nothing changes for you, do your side projects and job search in the meantime. Your resume will thank you later.

    1. Zona the Great*

      Good for you! And I’m with you. I’d rather clean toilets than be bored.

      1. Lauren*

        I don’t want to overwhelm you is the worst. I’m here to work! Overwhelm me! I can’t tell you how many jobs I’ve sat at doing nothing because no one could figure out what to give me to do. So stupid.

        1. Blue*

          Ugh, I hate the “we don’t want to overwhelm you” thing. I got that when I started my current job over the summer, and the inadvertent result was that they didn’t share key information I actually did need because they didn’t see how it would be immediately relevant and therefore thought it would just be drowning me in information. Nine months in and I’m STILL finding out that there’s various pieces of documentation I had no idea existed.

        2. Samwise*

          It’s insulting, actually. Unintentional subtext: you’re too stupid or too slow or too incompetent to be trusted with work.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            That’s EXACTLY how I took it, which was doubly insulting because she knew I came from a much more demanding career before taking this job (I was a paralegal for nearly three years and then an insurance claims adjuster for four) – lady, I was managing litigation cases and negotiating high dollar claim settlements. This is a basic job where I’m writing responses to RFPs and copying and pasting boilerplate language into a template. Bye, lol.

            1. Mockingjay*

              That happened to me once. I thought I was being hired as a Project Analyst to develop and refine business processes across the company. Instead it was writing and updating endless rote task orders. Tons and tons of boilerplate. It was SO BORING. I lasted 4 months — this was the one time I job-hopped.

          2. SOAS (NA)*

            Oh no, is it? Shoot, I’ve used this a few times with new people but only b/c 1. the workload is very heavy volume, and we have a lot of processes that take at least a few weeks/months to get caught up with. I know I tend to get overwhelmed with new things and would have loved a slower training period. I was looking at it from that lens, but didn’t really think it would be insulting to say that to a new person.

            1. mlem*

              I think it matters how you’re using it. If you’re assigning them things and telling them that it’s an abbreviated workload because the full set right away would be overwhelming, that’s one thing. Especially if you follow through and ramp them up appropriately. If they’re *asking you for work* because they’re bored and you push them off by telling them they would be overwhelmed by more/”real” work, then you’re telling them you know their needs and capabilities better than they do. And maybe you do — but be very, very sure of that! Because they’re trying to point out an existing problem to you; don’t be too quick to write that off.

              1. SOAS (NA)*

                Oh thank you for the clarification. Usually if someone asks me for MORE work, I will give it to them gladly cz there’s enough to go around. It’s more common that people say please don’t give them more work. At that point I will evaluate the situation and act accordingly, and hte context of the situation matters a lot I think.

            2. Green great dragon*

              It depends whether it’s followed by a full stop or by a question about what they can take on.

        3. Lance*

          I’m in that situation right now (coming in from no real work experience/history, so I need something out of this), and I can agree it’s the actual worst. Sure, I don’t share the skillset of those around me; sure, I don’t even know much of what it is they do. But I can learn, I can adapt, I’ve shown this with what tiny projects I’ve been given so far. Please let me do something.

        4. smoke tree*

          I had an internship once where I spent 90 percent of my time staring into space because the department was under so much strain, no one had time to train me or find things for me to do (this wasn’t the kind of work where it’s possible to make your own projects). At least they were transparent that the situation wasn’t what they intended, and it was a paid internship, but it was such a waste of time (for me) and money (for them).

        5. TardyTardis*

          Ha, no one, but no one has ever said that to me–they just threw a thousand invoices a day at me and then told me I was too busy to do anything interesting. Not joking about the number, either.

    2. rider on the storm*

      I previously held a newly created role wheresl sometimes I ran out of things to do by 10 am. I was studying for my degree part time at that time so I did some university work. Anyway, in my exit interview I explicitly said that the role was underutilized – it partly came about because the manager was part time and had lots of work but not enough to sustain a pt and a ft person and also the manager couldn’t delegate certain work because it was only meant for grade x and I was grade n (it was a university role).

      Bring it up now and also your annual review time to set goals for the year ahead.

    3. Cindy Featherbottom*

      I sympathize as well. Like Fortitude Jones, I spoke up about my situation and it worked out for the better. I was trained to do a specialized task and had that task assigned to me A LOT for an extended duration. Out of nowhere, I wasn’t being assigned to it anymore. At a check in meeting with my manager, I asked if if there was a reason that I hadn’t been given the specialized task anymore and he told me no! Some people get burnt out taking care of said task and he figured he’d give me a break so I wouldn’t get burnt out. I wasn’t burnt out from it at all! I actually love doing said task and he didn’t realize it. So…now I’m back to being assigned that task more frequently. There might be a hundred reasons why they haven’t give you the kind of work you were signed on for. But the only way you are going to find out is if you ask.

      1. Lance*

        I’d put that pretty heavily on the manager, myself. Trying to help is one thing; trying to help in a way that might be against someone’s will, without even talking to them, is really counterproductive. What if you’d talked to a coworker that had been newly assigned these things (assuming it was a coworker, and not the manager himself), and then nobody knew what was happening? What if a coworker that had been assigned it talked to you first, and now you’re hearing about it second-hand with no clue what’s going on? It’s just a recipe for confusion and resentment.

    4. lnelson in Tysons*

      I feel you.
      A few jobs ago, myself and the HR Generalist were itching to both move up and take on new tasks/responsibilities. However while the VP of HR recognized that the department could use one more person, he kept thinking that bringing in a new person instead of moving us up was a smart move. Hence why I left, with him in charge the only way to move up was to move on. People were not pleased as I got along with many of the folks there. My boss was very happy to explain to everyone that money was not the issue and she would not insult me just by offering me more money and no added responsibility.

      1. Lance*

        Wait… so you’re saying, in a way, that your boss might see raises as insults? I… can’t even comprehend that line of thinking…

        1. JJ Bittenbinder*

          I can see it in a sense. Throwing money at the situation only helps in the short term, and that person is still likely to leave if the dissatisfiers of the position aren’t resolved. That said, money is frequently one of the dissatisfiers, so…really depends on the situation.

          1. Lance*

            Yeah, reasonable points. But then if the boss can’t really offer anything else, I’d think the least they could do would be to give a bump in pay.

            1. JJ Bittenbinder*

              Oh, I totally agree! If I can’t be happy, at least I’d like to be well-paid while I look for a new role. And while it’s now illegal in my state, most of the time the issue of current salary was brought up in interviews or discussions with recruiters, so that bump was helpful in scaling up at the next role.

        2. lnelson in Tysons*

          My direct boss understood exactly why I was leaving. She knew that just raising my salary would accomplish nothing. Don’t misunderstand I like getting more money. But what was more important to me was career advancement, which wasn’t going to happen.

    5. (Former) HR Expat*

      Yes! I’m in this position right now. I just started a couple months ago in a newly created role, but the role isn’t what I signed on for. The tasks I’m being given are way below what I was told my role was supposed to be. Haven’t spoken to my boss yet, but when I have mentioned other things, he’s told me to stay out of it. I’m planning on speaking to him next week when he’s back in the office, but I’m not hopeful that anything will change. This culture is pretty toxic (which I was brought on to help change, supposedly), but the big bosses don’t seem to want what they say they want and don’t see anything wrong with the culture. But alas, that’s a whole other issue.

  2. Lena Clare*

    I’m glad that Alison clarifies to say “you might end up with a different take than me”. That’s so important!

    When I started at the place I currently work about 8 years ago, I was told by two different people that a team member, ‘Sarah’, was “difficult” and to be “careful” around her.

    I got on really well with Sarah and liked her a lot. I suspect that she was deemed “difficult” because our boss, who was incompetent, didn’t like having to manage someone who had their own opinion and highlighted areas in the organisation that needed improving.
    Sarah was very good at her job and out boss didn’t like that.

    I think it’s important to let the new person inform themselves about the current ‘curmudgeon’, but keeping it factual and letting them know their mileage may vary will help a lot.

    Good luck!

    1. insert name here*

      I had a similar experience. In the handover from my predecessor I was told Cersei had been placed on a PIP recently and was a plodder at best. While Jamie had received a good rating in his last performance review and was the one to rely on. It only took me a couple of months to discover that Cersei was by far the more capable but wasn’t been given any challenging work. While Jamie was barely competent in my opinion but kept information secret allowing him to appear to deliver solutions nobody else could. Took me a while but eventually Jamie got the message and quit – then contacted me a few months later to ask if he could come back. The challenge of the new job was too much for him! Meanwhile I kept giving Cersei new challenges and while there was the odd hiccup mostly due to excessive workload she never let me down.

      1. Busy*

        I have definitely seen this play out time and again. In my experience, it was the whole “old boys club” thing (in a male dominated field)- where they pick other dudes they can manipulate and who won’t question their decisions ever.

        What a nightmare that ends up being for everyone else!

      2. Minocho*

        I had a coworker that had an issue with me. I didn’t understand the issue, I respected his knowledge and ability quite a bit, but this was obviously not reciprocated (I was trying to keep things low key, but his treatment of me was bad enough that other coworkers witnessing it complained to management). Another coworker who worked with him a lot was also quite competent, but had an attitude some found intimidating to work with.

        Both of these employees left, and suddenly, I am being given responsibility and interesting work – and about a year after they both were gone, I got a promotion and a lot of kudo from management for my “growth”. While this recognition is greatly appreciated and I have been working to improve myself professionally, I feel frustrated that people are so “surprised” at my abilities and/or competence. Nothing fundamental has changed here – only incremental.

        I am trying to see if I can figure out something I did during the period these coworkers were at the job that I could correct that would mitigate being overlooked / underestimated going forward.

        1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

          That’s tough, because the truth is “Coworker undermined me and mistreated me,” is a loaded statement.
          Well, Coworker was the established employee, known quantity with no complaints (except by people who left because THEY were not “good fits”) so it must be you.

        2. Alternative Person*

          It’s often quite difficult, in my experience, because you’re often butting up against about three different fronts, at least one of which is related to perception, not reality. It seems like in your case, once the people weren’t there to maintain the negative perception, it went away and management was able to see you without the cloud of negativity. When there are people there actively against you, the only ‘defense’ I’ve found against it is pushing myself to be that bit more forceful in discussions, a little more vocal in my achievements, and a little less caring of the other’s ego (YMMV of course, there’s a certain risk here, you do have to learn how to pick your battles). It’s difficult and can take a long time to achieve results.

          For me, the upside is after a little over three years, my manager and others on that level recognise I super double dog know what I’m doing and if I don’t, I’ll find out, in a way my co-workers really don’t. The downside is that it hasn’t translated to being able to make anything better, (there’s a whole lot of other toxic cultural and workplace issues there) and I’m still stuck with two peers who are embedded like ticks in the company’s workings. The only move for me is to move on, which is a work in progress.

          Congratulations on getting promoted, you deserved it.

    2. Lusankya*

      I have a subordinate who my old manager had a low opinion of. After I took on old manager’s position, I actually ended up defending her to the regional head, who had heard my old manager’s assessment and not seen her work to assess himself (this is fair enough as he’s based in a different country).

      I basically said that she’d been given a giant shit sandwich at the beginning, looking after a difficult customer, and while she couldn’t handle that, she’s hardworking, dependable and works well with the team. She might not be a rockstar, but we can’t all be that, and anyone should be happy to work with her.

      I have another subordinate who my former manager loved, and who got a promotion from former manager (still reporting to me), however I feel that while she did good work in the lower role, she doesn’t have the right temperament for the role she got promoted into.

      I think that old boss liked people who reminded her of herself, and often overlooked people who were solid, but didn’t quite meet her standards.

      I know I have very different priorities. My favourite employee is mercurial, argumentative, and rude when I point out an issue, but she also only makes any mistake once (she actually listens when I pull her up on something, she just argues the toss at the time), and is the best in the office at solving problems with minimal guidance. Plenty of people would hate managing her, but luckily for her, I’m not one of them.

    3. Triplestep*

      Agree. I would go so far as to say that the employee is not being given the chance to make his own first impression if you are making it for him. Getting a new manager can be anxiety-provoking, but it can also be an opportunity to re-brand oneself.

    4. Washi*

      I think that’s also why it’s so key to stay factual. Just saying someone is difficult isn’t really that helpful. It’s better to say something like “Joan can be very vocal in voicing her frustrations when she disagrees with something, but she’ll still follow the procedure to the letter and is a very conscientious worker.” I think this is true in general at work or in performance evaluations, so the same sort of language should be applied here – not blamey or gossipy, just observations that stick as closely to the facts as possible.

      1. Lance*

        All of this: context is key. That way it’s not pre-empting feelings; instead, it’s pre-empting actual, useful bits of knowledge that the new manager can take how they will.

      2. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        Not, “Bob is the office grump. Give him a wide berth, let him do his thing and just go to anyone else when you need something.” Cuz eff that.

      3. CMart*

        Agreed – facts are good because even the exact same behaviors and attitudes can be interpreted differently by different people.

        I for one get along famously with curmudgeons. I attribute it to bartending at a run down bowling alley on league nights for years and really getting to know Grumpy Stubborn Dudes and develop an affection for them. So attitudes and behaviors that frustrate the heck out of one perfectly reasonable person might not bother me and I’d be able to work around it and develop a good rapport.

        So “Bob often responds in X ways and takes a while to respond” is good intel. “Bob is a miserable grump who is good with customers but hard to work with” isn’t helpful.

        1. Asenath*

          I suspect I’m becoming a curmudgeon! But I come by the tendency honestly. When I was a child, my mother commented that I got on best with my most difficult relatives. What I liked about them was that although they were sometimes gruff and sarcastic, they didn’t mind if I gave as good as I got when I disagreed. I suspect I still have trouble with people who rely on more, umm, subtle social cues to get their point across. I often miss their meaning or even the fact that they’re trying to tell me something.

          When instructing a new manager, there’s got to be a balance between plain information about what the worker does and how, and impressions based on personality conflicts (or the reverse; it’s easy to overlook faults in the work of someone you really like).

        2. JSPA*

          Curmudgeon has become a functionally-neutral descriptor for me, too, even though the dictionary definition is definitely negative.

          Some people so-labeled may be a seething pool of bile, but that can be true, under the surface, for Mr. Kissy-assy-smiley-face, too. Some few are of the “lovable curmudgeon” sort, so overused in movies. Most are competent people who are unthinkingly honest and have either no ability or no willingness to assess, curate and regulate the tone of their interactions. So long as good work happens, they’re reliable, and there’s no actual rudeness, vituperation, discrimination, bullying, picking on particular people, etc. I’m generally fine with harumphing, shrugging, cynicism, suspicion that changes are going to be more disruptive than helpful, and a certain amount of eye-rolling.

          The 45 year old computer system is down again? Or there’s an hour long required seminar to kick off a new wellness program that requires us to sit an extra 20 minutes at our desks, weekly, to track how we’re being more active?

          Curmudgeon, feel free to vent about the designers and the powers-that-be (they can’t hear you) and flip the bird at your terminal (it doesn’t care) if that’s what keeps you sane. Just do it quietly enough that the rest of us, who deal differently, don’t have to be part of your process. I’m gonna laugh at the universe, Jill’s gonna Zen out for a while, Brad’s gonna hit the water fountain, Amy’s gonna check sports scores on her phone.

      4. LJay*


        When I started my current position I kept on getting warned, “‘Cheryl’ is a pain in the ass.” Without much context.

        Honestly, ‘Cheryl’ is the least of my problems most days. Cheryl is blunt, and will push boundaries at times. However, Cheryl knows her job, gets it done well, and is open to being reined in when she pushes past a boundary. She also isn’t afraid to communicate when an issue comes up and help to solve it.

        Being given that information, rather than just, “She’s a pain in the ass,” would have been much more helpful.

      5. TardyTardis*

        I know, I was told someone I dealt with every day just fine was a grumpy older woman, which she was, but since I was older, too, I got along with her just fine (all it took was admiring the rack on the deer she brought down, is this so hard, people?).

    5. RabbitRabbit*

      Not regarding a supervisory role, but in a previous position, I had the same experience with a patient who transferred from another site. The people referring him to us found him very offputting and almost scary at times. And sure, his appearance was very imposing. To me, he was just the personality type who appreciated being told things straight-up, and was lightly sarcastic. He’d grouch about having to answer questionnaires, I’d tell him “yes, this is some BS but they want to compare answers over time, just give me your best responses and this’ll be over soon,” and he’d sigh and finish up. He and I got along well because I didn’t sugarcoat or act sunshiney, which he appreciated.

    6. Aphrodite*

      Oh boy, can I relate to that but from the employee side. I was considered a “difficult employee” while working under three different women (though I do NOT attribute the difficulty to their being women but rather super-duper micromanagers and one, in particular, being a Pollyanna-on-Steroids who insisted that anyone not exactly like her was negative). When I was transferred to my current manager at a different outlying campus about a year and a half ago, the change was so dramatic as to be almost indescribable. My reputation did precede me but Ken makes up his own mind. And he, and I, have been so happy and productive and increased our standing that he routinely calls us “the dream team” to anyone who will listen. I am developing leadership qualities, responsibilities and goals–and meeting them. My annual evaluation is actually today–and I am looking forward to it.

      And, though it matters less, I am a popular co-worker. Not overly social by any means, but I make people laugh, enjoy their interactions with me, and much more. Sometimes it’s not the employee but the manager who is difficult.

      1. CMart*

        Yep – personalities and working styles have a lot more subtle sway than I think we’d like to think. I’m generally well liked and agreeable, but there is a pattern to the people who I’ve really butted heads with. They are also often well liked and generally agreeable, but you can’t have two Insufferable Know It Alls in one room, we repel each other.

      2. Janie*

        Something similar happened to my mom. She was getting warnings and even got suspended under her old manager. That manager quit and suddenly she’s gotten a promotion and is one of the most valued employees in her department.

        Turns out, people don’t work so good when you try and force them to do the workload of 3 or 4 people and pitting your employees against each other and playing favourites isn’t a great business tactic.

    7. JSPA*

      Or at least, frame it as positively as possible, or use “I” statements:

      “I found Bartleby much easier to manage after I realized that he relies strongly on process to ensure he serves customers with his reliable excellence, and is primarily customer-focused, rather than team-focused. I now give long advance warning of any procedural changes, and discuss them exhaustively with him, so that he’s not blindsided–and I really have come to appreciate his take on how to best serve our customers. You may even want to tap him for institutional knowledge of how things have been done in the past. His work interaction style borders on ‘curmudgeon,’ but he’s absolutely loved and trusted by our customers, so he’s doing the most essential thing right.”

      1. Triplestep*

        Excellent example. There is more positive here than negative, and while it mentions the curmudgeon piece the LW feels she needs to tell the incoming manager, it’s almost an afterthought to all the positive things.

        OP#1, if you feel you must impart this info to your replacement, for your quirky staff-member’s sake, please consider doing it like this.

      2. M&Ms fix lots of Problems*

        I asked this below, but what about:
        I have noticed that Bob finds comfort in routines, so if a change is coming I try to give him some extra notice. Also he’s great at trouble shooting with clients, but can sometimes get too into what he is working on and be a bit short with coworkers.

        1. Triplestep*

          Notice how your “but” is followed by a negative and JSPA’s is followed by a positive? Important difference, and responsible for making the curmudgeon piece NOT the focus of the JSPA’s whole paragraph. There’s a reason we tend to hear “but” as the other shoe dropping and say things like “I hear a ‘but’ coming” when people list a bunch of positives and then pause. Follow “but” by a positive and that is less likely to happen. My 2cents.

          1. M&Ms fix lots of Problems*

            Hence why I asked the question (no, I’m not that OP, but I worked with a “Bob” and that was why he was thought to be a curmudgeon – he would just get too deeply involved in what he was working on to fully interact with the rest of us).

    8. Anne of Green Gables*

      I agree that the “you might end up with a different take” is important. When I came on as a manager of 7, I was “warned” about three different employees: John, Paul, and George. John and Paul were pretty much as described and I agreed with where the challenges were with them. George was not a problem at all. She does like routine and it is helpful to play to her strengths, but is a reliable employee who cares about doing good work. I have since completely changed my manager’s mind about George, and my manager has said as much to our higher-ups with me present.

      Ringo, however, was not mentioned as a possible problem AT ALL and was easily the…most challenging employee in the department. He was good at being two-faced, which is part of why it wasn’t seen before, and he was very sly and manipulative. It was also pretty clear that he did not like being managed by a woman and my manager (who was managing Ringo previously) is a man, so that particular element hadn’t come up previously.

      I did appreciate having some background, but even with it, I was given the time to make up my own mind and the respect from my managers to listen to what I had to say, even when it differed from what they had seen previously.

  3. Gir*

    #3 – I have what appears to be lengthy conversations with IT that appear to be social on a fairly regular basis (once a month if I’m guessing correctly). It’s because I often have issues with my printer being rerouted to our head office for whatever reason (they fix it, three weeks later it’s back at it), and they need to remote into my computer, but I need to stay on the line in case a log in/password is needed. So we chit chat while they’re remoted in. Obviously not super personal conversations, but if someone wasn’t aware of what was going on, they could interpret it as a social call.

    I also seem to have more computer/printer troubles than anyone else in the office (it’s a running joke between my boss and I as I always ran into issues at our last job too), so I am on the phone with IT the most. My boss also laughs because I am the most tech savvy person in the office.

    So definitely use AAM’s last line, just in case there’s an ongoing IT issue you might not be aware of.

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      Agreed. Absolutely address it if you’re concerned… but as someone who does take occassional support calls that require calling one of our remote support guys… we’ll often have a small part of conversation about issue, and then do social chats for a lot of the rest of call while waiting for something to run, then work chat, then wait again and back to whatever…. if you heard snippets as you walk past, it would be easy to conclude we’re not working.

      Also social chats matter. You get more work done with colleagues with a bit of social interaction on calls.

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          Oh yes. Be nice to support. You want them to remember you as nice when you call.

          1. Cindy Featherbottom*

            YES!!! +10000000000
            We were having some **awful** IT issues for a bit and the poor IT guy had to come to our location wwwaaayyyy more often than he should have. After about a week of IT madness, I brought in some cookies I made for him to thank him for all of his awesome/hard work. He was very thankful (and never seems to have an issue coming to our location).
            Plus, if you’re on the phone with IT for a long time due to a complicated/lengthy issue, who just wants to sit there in silence? Having a friendly conversation is a much better time killer than just….sitting there

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              Never underestimate the power of inviting IT team to department social events…especially when they’reunderstaffed and isolated behind banks of servers, to boot.
              I’d also suggest remembering admin & facilities.

        2. Human Sloth*

          +100. Thank you for this. I am upper tier IT, but still maintain great relations with the ‘techs’. The techs hold the power!

    2. Antilles*

      This is a really good point. In many office jobs, when you have to call IT, there’s little to nothing you can do anyways. They’re controlling your mouse/keyboard, so you can’t do something else on the computer. You need to stay on the phone, so you can’t go discuss things with colleagues. Unless you happen to have a hard copy report or similar item to work on, you very well might have nothing whatsoever that you can productively do.
      So while it might seem useless that they’re chitchatting about TV or sports or whatever, your employee is exactly as (un)productive during the time IT is fixing the computer as if she was sitting there in silence or playing a game on her phone or whatever.

    3. kittymommy*

      I immediately thought of this. Some of my conversations with colleagues would probably come off as chit-chat but it’s normally because one or both of us are multi-tasking on a work issue that the call is actually about. I was talking yesterday on the phone while she looked through her email and forwarded something to me that we needed to go over together. While she did that we were talking about weekend plans, etc.

    4. Corky's wife Bonnie*

      I was just coming here to say this. My computer is set up differently from most of the company, and because of that something comes up about once a month (or more) and they have to remote in and fix it. Sometimes they are un-installing or re-installing something that takes time and we can’t do anything until it’s done so we chat a bit.

    5. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      This. If there is a legitimate reason, you should be able to explain it in two sentences. If the only solution is a once a month extended phone call, instead of say, giving you your own printer because once a month you have an issue, then that should be something your boss knows.

    6. Cici*

      Hi! I’m the OP – thanks for all the comments – I definitely should have clarified in the post – they are *best friends* and get lunch together every day and hang out every weekend. For example, I watched them make several calls back and forth to plan to see the new Avengers movie after work. No tech issues were reported (all tech issues would be escalated to me).

      I totally understand chatting with IT when they are working on something (we all love our IT department!) but this is definitely a situation where she is treating this like a personal phone call.

      1. LaDeeDa*

        Does it prevent her from doing work? Does it prevent her from receiving incoming calls? Is the conversation disruptive? Are they chatting while a process is running? Or something is uploading/downloading?
        I have a hard time with things like this, because I am of the mindset that if people are doing their work well, it is done on time, and they are available when/if I or a customer needs them- then I simply don’t care. I don’t know what her work is, or if this is impacting her work, these were just the questions I had when reading the letter.

      2. Mr. Shark*

        I would go back to what Allison says about things like this. Is it affecting their work? Are they supposed to be on other calls, or are they working and getting things done even with these calls going on?
        If they are getting everything done they need to get done, do they need more challenging work, or more work?
        I know that there is a lot of visiting going on at different times with co-workers, especially with big events like Avengers or GOT, or March Madness, and it may seem like there’s a lot of talk, but if all the work is getting done, I don’t think you should begrudge people the chance to socialize.

    7. Czhorat*

      I’d probably start off and say that I noticed frequent IT support calls and ask if there’s any ongoing issue.

      This gives the benefit of the doubt, lets them tell you if there IS an issue without having them feel accused, and sends the message that the length and frequency is noticed if they are primarily social.

  4. WS*

    LW #2 – it’s much easier to think of a crazy solution (that someone else will do) than pull your own socks up and do your job in a timely fashion! I’ve found it useful to have automated email messages – things like “Today is the 15th of the month. If you have invoices dated XX-XX they need to be sent to me now or they will not be paid.” People wanted personalised reminders for every little thing so that I don’t “nag” them, and nope, that’s not my job (except for my actual boss, where it is part of my job!)

    And you are definitely not being too sensitive!

    1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      +1 to sending out reminders. These people have proven that they can’t be trusted to remember, so, respond accordingly. Personalized reminders are way too much work, but if the invoices tend to follow a specific schedule then it’s appropriate to send out a generic “The deadline to submit invoices is BLAH” reminder email.

    2. JSPA*

      This is good.

      I’d also frame it as, troubleshooting the existing process. Insist that they first solve “Why.”

      “I need to know what factors lead to invoices getting delayed.”

      If there’s an upstream blockage (invoice should be e-mailed? Invoice was emailed, but spam filtered? Invoice mailed separately from shipment? Invoice discarded with packaging, retrieved from recycling? Invoice put in wrong person’s inbox?) you don’t want to automatically lay blame on the last person in the chain.

      And in meetings, it’s fine to say, “There’s no problem on the payment end of our process; it always takes 3 working days from my receipt of the invoice, to their receipt of payment. This is not a recurrent charge that can be automated. It’s an accounting and accountability nightmare to get creative with pre-payments. I’m bringing this to a meeting because when invoice A, with a late fee of $1000, gets to me 24 hours before payment is due, we WILL be paying thqt late fee. Dealing with the last person in the chain doesn’t tell me where the delays are. If the company does not want to pay late fees, we need to troubleshoot the physical process of how the invoices get to us, how they are processed, who needs to sign off, who’s job it is to move them through the process, and what can be done to prevent blockages.” Then, listen.

      Maybe there’s an actual, unavoidable reason. Maybe it’s a process that can only be changed above your (collective) pay grades. Maybe the company would rather pay the late fees than change the number of people who have to sign off, before the invoice gets to you. Maybe it’s as simple as empowering every single person to send you a cell phone snapshot of every paper invoice, instead of putting it into an interoffice envelope, or scanning and sending it. Maybe it’s a problem with the company’s spam filter–or people are filtering all conversation with a certain company to a sub-mailbox, and not noticing when the invoices go there, too–and people are finding things in odd mail boxes at the last minute, when the nagging sense that an invoice should be there, reaches a certain pitch. And, yes, maybe it was under bob’s old sandwich bag for 2 weeks, and he found it when he cleaned his desk, and the solution is that Bob doesn’t get to take invoices to his desk.

    3. GreenDoor*

      #2, I work for the government, so we’re bureaucratic by nature…but it might help to cite the specific rule, policy, handbook, etc. Framing it as “Per the Accounting Manual, Section 2, Paragraph 4, invoices are to be submitted to Accounts Payable at least 7 days before payment is due” It sounds overly…heavy handed to non-government people , I know, but sometimes it helps if people are reminded over and over that it’s not you personally making up some silly rule, but it’s actually the policies estabished by your organization (which may also imply some kind of discipline if they’re not adhered to).

    4. Pennywise*

      It feels like people are missing the whole “we’re all in this together to not waste money on stupid/preventable late fees” mentality. I used to state that it’s just money that would come out of the bonus pool (assigned as a percentage of profit on each project, and everyone knew I didn’t have any actual control over the bonus pool amount), and it seemed to remind people that superfluous spending/fees add up. Is it lots of extra work to show how much is wasted in penalties, even including $$ for your time?

  5. Akcipitrokulo*

    LW2 – I think the crazy solutions might be a result of your deliberate vagueness in group meetings…

    What you hope to communicate is “Not following X process including Y step causes Z issue – how can we ensure step Y happens?” but people are hearing “so we have an issue that Z happens… any suggestions?”

    But also not a group discussion unless it’s something like a *supportive* retrospective.

    Specific and private sounds like your best bet :)

    1. EPLawyer*

      From the letter I don’t think the LW is even mentioning there is a process in place. Given the laxity of the place, they might even be aware there is a process. So when you say, the invoice was paid late and we got charged a fee, they think they need to come up with a process to avoid it.

      If you have to bring it up in meetings because the one on one chats don’t work nor does going to the manager, be explicit. We have policy Y, it is not being followed which results in X. We need to follow Policy Y. Can anyone explain why Policy Y is not being followed?

      Or your company sucks and isn’t going to change. Not your job to save them from themselves if they don’t want to be saved. You can always start looking for a new job.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        Yes. Be specific.

        And it’s not throwing colleagues under a bus if you talk calmly about the PROCESS and how to fix it. So “Jane never gets abc form in on time so (issue)!” can become “If we don’t get abc form in on the time agreed in the process, it causes (issue). How do we ensure the abc form process is followed?”

        1. ket*

          But as Alison says, sometimes you need to be direct with a person, and that’s also not throwing them under a bus.

          “Fergus, you were late with the invoice and so we were charged $1000.” Without being direct with some people, you’ll say, “If we don’t get abc form in on time….” and Fergus will say, “Yep, some people!” You’ll say “How do we ensure this process is followed?” and Fergus will say, “Well, that’s a process! Too bad some people don’t follow it! Maybe we should change that process ’cause it looks like you have a problem with it!” Fergus will never see it as his problem if you don’t say his name and look into his eyes — it will be ‘a problem’ with you and ‘a process’.

          1. Akcipitrokulo*

            Absolutely! But even then – “Fergus, the form was late. I need you to do it by date” is better than “Fergus, you put the form in late. I need you to do it by date.”

            That’s more for an individual conversation as well.

      2. Leanne*

        Hi- LW #2 here! I didn’t mention it in my letter, but we do have written processes and I have been bringing it up in meetings because it is a small office and generally every single person there is a part of the problem. I agree with Alison and many other commenters that talking one on one in specific terms is the way to go and will be my new method. It is also difficult because the one and only supervisors of all those individuals is the owner of the company and he does not hold anyone accountable.

        1. TardyTardis*

          You may end up having to leave when it becomes clear that nobody cares about late invoices but you, though. Been there, done that…

    2. Red Carpet Red*

      Also bringing it to a group meeting gives the implication that OP is looking for ideas from the group as opposed to a email when it occurs to let everyone know how we are handling it going forward.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*


        To be honest I don’t see the suggeations as being bizarre in that context! “When we don’t pay in time we get a fine… can we discuss how to stop that?” could reasonably get an idea of “oooh, why don’t we pay them in a pot in advance each month?”.

        1. Someone Else*

          Right the other thing is, if she wants to ask a question as part of this, I think she’s been asking the wrong one. So it’s more like “We have X process, which was designed to ensure we do not incur late fees. It’s not been followed and we have incurred late fees. Moving forward, everyone needs to follow X. Does anyone have concerns about X or reasons that have prevented them from following X recently? If so we should discuss that.” or whatever.
          I mean, it sounds like the processes she’s talking about are really simple, but it’s hard to tell if they’re just simplified examples. So in theory “turn in your stuff by the known deadline” should be easy, and if people are told “yo, the deadline matters, get your stuff together” they should just…do it. But who knows, maybe there’s some other thing causing a domino effect whereby they need something from someone/somewhere else and THAT’s been delayed and prevents them from turning in their thing on time. That would be useful to know because it affects the process. But if it’s just “hey people deadlines matter” calling that out directly should solve it.

    3. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      Exactly. OP doesn’t want to point fingers by saying “Company paid vendor a late fee because Accounting didn’t get form X from Tea Pot Paint department until the day it was due.”
      And I support that. I also support creating an official message to departments that are late, stating “Your invoice was late and Company paid Vendor $X late fee. Going forward, please have your forms in by DATE. If you cannot, please contact ME in Accounting to work on a plan to expedite payment. Thanks.”

  6. Green great dragon*

    #1 It can be useful to hear an outgoing manager’s views even if you don’t agree. Like if Sarah is used to being deemed prickly for speaking up appropriately that’s likely to affect her approach, but knowing the background gives you a chance to reset the relationship.

    1. Everdene*

      Very true, also it’s good for the team to know information will be passed on so consideration of advanced study or an absense management programme won’t have to start from scratch.

    2. Mookie*

      Yes. I’ve also seen incoming managers view this measure of interpersonal and procedural background information as a challenge (sometimes in a negative way, like they’re going to prove the outgoing person both wrong and an incompetent leader), and framing it as Alison suggests will be helpful for anyone training a conscientious replacement. When the team dynamic changes, sometimes those patterns can fall away pretty readily, and if a new manager is armed with this information they can help facilitate that with people like LW’s “curmudgeon.” Probably not possible in this case, but often a newcomer in a leadership role can refashion or reorient bad habits into something resembling productive or useful, or at least mute rather than ignore or further enable them.

        1. Triplestep*

          It could very well be that the earliest comments typically come from posters outside the US (in other time zones) who have the day off for May 1st. I guess time will tell!

          1. MayLou*

            No day off in the UK – that’s next Monday. All our Bank Holidays are shifted to the nearest Monday. Maybe it’s the anticipation.

    1. ContemporaryIssued*

      International worker’s day/May Day means a day off for some of us Euros. I usually read the site at 6am on the bus, today I didn’t even open the laptop until until 9am. Bliss is a mid-week day off.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        It’s a public holiday in France, Germany, Austria and Belgium today, and I don’t know about other mainland European countries.

    2. Elizabeth Proctor*

      I’m in the US and my train and my bosses train were oddly empty today…

    3. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

      Attorney General Barr is testifying today? Though I wouldn’t skip work for that.

      1. Mr. Tyzik*

        I work from home and have it on in the background. I’m going to have to turn it off soon before my blood pressure gets too high.

    4. AngelicGamer, the visually impaired peep*

      There was a late Cubs game (sportsball) due to them being on the West Coast. Last out was around midnight and it took me a good hour to a hour and a half to calm down. I am dragging today.

      Maybe a lot of floating holidays happening today? I know my aunt took off next Monday due to working in the UK for so long that she likes having the day off.

  7. Who Plays Backgammon?*

    I’m shaking in my shoes at the thought of my current “manager” telling her replacement about me (and her replacement is coming soon). I’ve worked under her for years and she still hasn’t bothered to even get to know me. She makes snap judgments and if she doesn’t LIKE you on a personal level, you’re toast. I’m no more perfect than anyone else, but thank heaven my previous managers in the company had positive things to say about me, if my new manager is going to judge me going in by previous evaluations. My last one was just a trasher by a boss who doesn’t listen to questions or anything else, and shows precious little understanding of people. Strong view, I know, but I’d like to think a new manager would at least meet me for themselves and rely on their own judgment. If they begin with negative ideas about somebody who might simply be the boss’s unfavorite or the one who caught the boss’s serious mistake, it doesn’t sound good.

    1. Washi*

      The thing is, hopefully these conversations are a two-way street. If the person I was replacing said to me “WPB is annoying” (or whatever) I would ask for examples of that. If she couldn’t come up with anything specific and was just giving me a bunch of vaguely negative adjectives, I would definitely take that with a huge grain of salt.

    2. Vixy*

      Your current manager might not even update a new supervisor. Giving a pass down of reports isn’t always done and some managers leave before the new one is in place with zero overlap. Besides, any good manager will always take feedback with the expectation of forming their own opinion. When I received a pass down for my people, the current supervisor told me how difficult this one person was, but it really was a clash in communication styles for the two.

    3. Ah, curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!*

      If your boss is how she says she is, there is a really high chance she’s going to say “Backgammon is annoying, ( or X, Y, Z)” and not have much data to back it up or bring up really minor things that 97% of people will wonder what the real issue is. It might trigger them to keep a slightly closer eye on you in the beginning, if you are competent and pleasant they’ll figure out pretty quickly it was a personal problem (on your bosses end) not a professional one

      Plus people like your boss come with a reputation, it’s impossible not to notice when someone makes snap judgements and refuses to change their mind. I’m positive that carries over into other areas then just over their reports.

      1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

        Thanks so much, y’all. Reading back now, my comment sounds pretty defensive, but this lady has had me on the defensive since dot. For years I was a wreck every Friday, because I was sure I was going to get the ax. Looking back (I think I was her first hire after she became manager), I think she was totally at sea in her new role and as a newbie in her dept., I was an easy target because everyone else there had been friends for years. Boss hasn’t gained much people sense and a bunch of her hires left soon–like a couple of months, a year or maybe 2. After 2 years I started sending out resumes. The right thing hasn’t come along, and now common sense says see how it goes with New Boss. Funny–it got so intense this year that I firmly told the universe I need a new boss and started looking more seriously. So I’m getting a new boss, only at the same company. :)

  8. sherlockstea*

    #3, Is there a problem with either of these employees work? Social chit chat (as searched for by networking and team building) is an effective way to build relationships which lead to faster and more effective work getting done. In itself it isn’t a problem, unless you are looking for an office full of robots doing and thinking about nothing but work.

    1. London Calling*

      It depends how long this ‘social chit chat’ is taking up during the day. Ten or fifteen minutes – fine. An hour and a half when we are on tight deadlines and everyone around you is working to meet those deadlines – not fine.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I suspect the biggest problem is social chat while status is set to show the employee is on a support call. If they track performance by # calls answered and a social call is logged as a work task, I would be concerned too.

  9. Jennifer Juniper*

    OP1, age dynamics could be at play as well. Since you’re 25 and these coworkers are in their forties, they may resent you telling them what to do as well. Not saying that it’s right, of course.

    I’m surprised Alison didn’t mention that.

    1. Asenath*

      Or you simply don’t have the standing to ask for the information, which I swear is what’s behind one of my routine issues – except when I think it’s just that a certain proportion of the workforce is terminally disorganized and unable to recognize a deadline even when it bites them.

      One of my more tedious jobs, which comes up like clockwork, involves collecting information from a lot of people and collating it into reports, which have a final deadline that I don’t set or control. This happens every two months. EVERY SINGLE TIME two or three of these people don’t complete the work until my superior nags them personally. Of course, it’s always the same two or three, and I know from the minute I see their names on my list that they’re going to do, or rather not do until the very last minute, the work. I don’t think my superior, who is a very sensible man, blames me for not being able to get these people to do their bit, but I know it’s part of my job. And yes, I agree, it is really important to address the defaulters personally (but politely), by several routes (email, phone, messages left with secretaries etc) rather than making vague and general comments to meetings of the entire group. But there are always some who are going to cause problems for no fixable reason.

      Can you tell I’m almost halfway through my current nagging period on this task?

      1. EPLawyer*

        Stop nagging them. If you know they won’t do it without your supervisor nagging them, just go right to that step. Explain to your supervisor the pattern, ask for your supervisor’s help. Think of the work hours you waste nagging only to then have your supervisor have to nag.

        1. Asenath*

          The supervisor knows. I think another aspect of the problem is that some of the people are, well, it’s complicated unless I want to be too identifiable. Let’s say, their affiliation with our organization isn’t their major one, and although technically they’re part of our group, there’s not much we can do if they don’t help. We need them more than they need us, and so don’t have the clout that might be indicated by those neat charts of responsibilities. It’s annoying, though. Especially the one who is so obliging when it comes to almost all our requests – but not with the documentation.

    2. Aisling*

      Even if that was an issue, what is your advice to get around it? Alison gave advice on how to deal with the issue. Thinking that the older workers resent her, even if that’s the case, isn’t going to help her get the work done.

  10. Boomerang Girl*

    OP2, It might be worth investigating at which step in the process things are getting delayed and the causes. There may be an opportunity to address the key blockers or simplify the process. However, you may also find that there are genuine issues delaying the invoices.

    Another thing I have done in the past is create a dashboard to show people the time it took to get things through the pipeline and dollar impacts. In this case, average time from submission to payment. The cost of invoice late fees by person or Dept. Average number of days between submission and due date, etc. If people see data on what’s happening, they may be more supportive. Best to get senior support for the dashboard if you can.

    1. Anon, my co-workers know this story!*

      LOL, I did this with my husband once when planning a vacation. Many years of putting off deciding what days to take off, it drove me crazy because I made all the arrangements (if he did it, we’d never go anywhere). One year I decided, I will not nag. I will ask for the info, remind once a month until I got it.
      Looked up plane and hotel prices. Checked them once a week and watched them go up. And up. He finally gave me the dates he could go on the trip (no, he was not waiting on approval, he’s a professor and it was for a summer vacation — he can do what he wants!), I made the purchases, told him the amounts — he said, that’s a good price, I answered, it was $500 less three months ago.

      Now our deal is: I ask him for his dates, I give him a deadline, I remind him one week before the deadline, I ask on deadline day. Doesn’t have the info? He can make the arrangements — which hasn’t happened yet. Best $500 I ever wasted.

  11. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #1

    Yes, please share this information with your replacement. It’s incredibly frustrating to come into a situation like that with no heads-up. It has happened to me before and I wasted a lot of time and energy. Had I know the issues upfront, I could’ve hit the ground running.

    Thankfully my new boss gave me the heads-up on someone I supervise, so rather than spend a lot of time trying to figure out what’s going on and being overly frustrated, I can spend the time trying to figure out how to move forward. Don’t get me wrong–I’m still incredibly frustrated by this person, but at least I have all the context as to why things are the way they are with that person and what has worked and what hasn’t.

    1. insert name here*

      Yes, my comments above that I found I disagreed with the view of my predecessor doesn’t meant it wasn’t a good thing to have the information. Maybe the difference was just me and the different dynamic I had with them both. I gave Jamie opportunity because I had been told he was the top performer and found him wanting. I worked closely with Cersei, partly because I wanted to see the problem for myself, and found her to be more than capable of doing more.

  12. Duck Duck Goose*

    LW #2: I’m also a woman working on the administrative side of a construction company (I mainly do purchasing for the entire branch, but I also naturally work with vendor invoices for the material I’ve purchased).

    The two things that have lessened problems for me have been 1) coming to them every time they’re in the office when there’s a problem. I went into one PM’s office literally twenty times within three hours when I received invoices that had no record of the materials being received. He has gotten much better about actually handing me receivers from when he picks up material around town. 2) Allowing the costs to just hit the job for late invoices, therefore monetarily penalizing the PM who was not responsible enough to get you this material. It took two quarters of commissions for another PM to understand that fees were serious

    Obviously I don’t know what branch of construction you’re in, whether you’re working for a GC or a subcontractor or something else, so the “allow costs to hit” approach might not be feasible or effective. It’s also possible you’re not paying late fees and it’s just damaging vendor relationships. I don’t have a good answer for that one because I’ve learned that administrative stuff just isn’t taken as seriously by people who haven’t been in it.

    I know that it’s hard for me, both as a woman and having the personality I have, to not just take care of everything and try to smooth it over later, but it leads to a LOT of unnecessary work and stress on our part. These men are grown adults and they need to start realizing that administration is just as essential to running a company as what they do.

    1. Samwise*

      I had a job like this in my early 20s. What made the difference was getting my supervisor, the head manager, in the loop early on — he made sure that the slackers knew their non-compliance (that’s what he called it) was hurting their reputation with *him*. Definitely get your boss into the process earlier. It costs your employer money when you’re wasting time nagging people — they’re paying you to do a low level and what should be an unnecessary task rather than your actual work.

  13. Antilles*

    #2: “Am I being close-minded to new possibilities?”
    Based on the example you gave, I wouldn’t say this because that pre-payment idea is really dumb. Like, completely dumb. Let’s break it down:
    For example, problem: we paid a vendor late because the invoice wasn’t forwarded to accounting. Crazy solution: “Why don’t we just pay the vendor $1,000 in advance so that if we miss a payment, we are still okay!” (NO! Just send the invoice over! It’s not that hard!)
    1.) This wreaks havoc on the cash flow. People tend to focus heavily on the bottom line profit-vs-loss (and fairly so), but cash flow is an important factor for many businesses as well. A few specific vendors, fine, whatever, but paying every vendor in advance isn’t good for cashflow and therefore isn’t a good standard practice (unless there’s some quirk of your industry where that’s how everyone does it).
    2.) Just cutting a flat $1,000 check introduces issues because presumably the actual invoice will be notably different. If the invoice is much bigger than $1k, then guess what? They’re still expecting the remaining amount on May 1st and would almost certainly charge interest/fees on that, so it’s not preventing the problem. On the flip side, if the invoice is much smaller than $1k, then you don’t have to worry about interest/fees, but you effectively are giving interest-free loans for that additional amount.
    3.) This actually makes the process more onerous, because it’s adding at least one additional step (cutting that initial check) and possibly more in order to reconcile the project budget.
    4.) Most importantly, even if your company is big enough that #1 and #2 aren’t relevant and they don’t care about your extra effort…this doesn’t even solve their problem! You’re still going to need the invoice anyways, right? So if the issue is that they’re too lazy / busy / forgetful / whatever, that’s still going to be an issue.

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      Yeah, it’s not a practical or good idea. But it’s not outrageously bad when person has the (wrong) idea that we’re looking for solutions and they don’t have the knowledge to know why it’s a bad plan.

      In this case, it’s not necessary to look for solutions. You have one! (Send the invoice in time.) So just communicating that may cut down the impractical ideas.

      Don’t ask for solutions when you have one :)

      1. Lance*

        That last point is the most important one to make here. To OP: it’s fine to want to appear collaborative, and supportive, but the fact is, you already have existing procedures. You’re not looking for solutions, because they’re already there; people just aren’t following them. So go ahead and be direct: ask/tell (depending on your level of authority/comfort) people to follow those procedures as you lay them out, and hopefully the issues will start to decrease.

    2. London Calling*

      As an AP person I’d have to say why we are paying the supplier out of the payment run and if my reply was ‘we are pre-paying because X department didn’t send me the invoice and suggested we do this to cover us for late payment’ then once my manager had picked herself off the floor laughing at even the THOUGHT that that’s a solution, she’d just tell me to get the invoice and pay it on the next run. In fact, I wouldn’t even be stupid enough take that to her as a solution – I’d just tell department X (in fact I DO tell department X) get the invoice to me in time, because if I don’t know about it I can’t pay it.

      KISS. Always go for the easy and obvious solution rather than re-invent the wheel.

    3. Lora*

      Coincidentally, one of my colleagues just now, while reading his emails, turned to me and said (sarcastically), “how come nobody ever says, ‘that’s a really stupid question’?”

      I said, dude, even when I bite my tongue and only lose my poker face long enough for people to see that I am re-calibrating my thought process to their disappointing mental capacity before I answer, it tends to go really badly.

      The correct answer to “why don’t we do a stupid thing when we already have a solution in the form of an existing, useful, functional process?” is, “Bless your heart hon, here is the process which we follow, which I am now reminding you of and I’d hate to have to do something draconian to enforce it.”

      1. Psyche*

        I would have been very tempted to respond to his question with “That’s a really stupid question.”

  14. kwagner*

    LW 4 I feel this so hard. I’m in it right now. I was hired to write articles and profiles, yet I’ve only fully done one each in the 4 months since I’ve been hired. My boss has allegedly “run out” of stuff to write for the moment but promises it’ll pick up in July. I was told I would have 5-7 projects a week, including various research projects, but I have yet to have more than one at a time. I’m getting tired of waiting around, especially because my boss thinks that my ‘down time’ at work means I can play assistant. The other day I made copies for him and input grades for a class he teaches. I think I’ll take Allison’s advice on this one too

  15. LaDeeDa*

    #1 I caution you to be very careful with this. Your relationship with people are your relationship, the way you communicate with them, the way they communicate with you, your perception of them, and their perception of you is between the two of you. Be very careful not to influence the new manager’s relationships. What you state needs to be based in facts and evidence you have to back it up. “Bob often needs guidance and help in prepping to meet with a new client for the first time- we do this by making sure I see his PPT and offer feedback, and giving him a chance to practice first.”
    “Joe is adored by long-standing clients, he doesn’t have as strong relationships with his colleagues.”
    Please be careful of this — I have seen employees be excited to have a new manager because they didn’t have the best relationship with their old manager, only to have the old manager influence the new manager so much they employee never had a chance.

    1. Triplestep*

      I have seen employees be excited to have a new manager because they didn’t have the best relationship with their old manager, only to have the old manager influence the new manager so much they employee never had a chance.

      This cannot be emphasized enough. I mentioned “re-branding oneself” above as one of the benefits of getting a new manager, but this really hits the nail on the head. I don’t think it’s enough to simply try not to make it personal as others are saying. Comments about an employee’s demeanor, personal style, tone, etc ARE personal. So if you’re going to share them, understand you are taking quirky employee’s chance to make his own first impression.

  16. Hiring Mgr*

    On #1, yes it’s good to review the current team with the new manager, but the new manager should take all of this with a big grain of salt and not be overly influenced by the outgoing mgr.

    Also, and this may be a tangent, but if heard from someone I was replacing that it took a few YEARS for them to figure out a quirky employee (Who is actually a great employee it seems?) , that would make me wonder more about the manager than the employee and think that that if they’re that bad at reading people, well then maybe I’ll jsut come to my own conclusions..

  17. I'm A Little Teapot*

    #5 – my experience is that a group of people update promptly, a group updates within a month or so, and a 3rd group may not remember indefinitely. Linked in use is all over the board.

  18. 41256437*


    Wait with it. I’ve been in the situation twice that I updated my profile after two or three months but then discovered the place was quite toxic. I stayed with the company the first time and I will probably stay the second time, but I would have less stress knowing that if the situation gets really bad I can just give them my notice and write “sabbatical” into my linkedin profile.

  19. Observer*

    #2 You’ve gotten some good advice. I’d add something here, though. The idea to prepay is not a good one, but in the context that this is happening, and with lack of understanding of how this part of stuff works, it’s not such a bizarre suggestion.

    On the other hand, it may actually be harder than you think to get you the invoices in time. We used to have a rather picky process for submitting some invoices. There were good reasons for it, but it did make it harder for those invoices to get submitted in a timely fashion. We’ve simplified a lot of stuff and now invoices and receiving are timely most of the time.

    So it could be worthwhile asking people why the invoices are late, for instance. Don’t say “When invoices are late we wind up paying fees. What can we do about that?” But “hen invoices are late we wind up paying fees. How can we make sure that the invoices are submitted on time?” Not in group meetings, but directly with the offenders or their managers. If you get “I can’t be bothered” type responses, you do need to loop your boss in.

  20. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    OP#2: I have experienced this so many times, and it generally goes like this:

    There is a process to follow, but employees don’t follow the process.
    (1) There are no consequences for non-compliance– the employee is not held accountable for not following the process.
    (2) The top management doesn’t really care about the process, doesn’t communicate about it, and doesn’t hold anyone at a management level accountable, so there is no support from above, and no accountability flowing down from the top.
    (3) The person trying to enforce the process (you) does not have sufficient authority to impose consequences or hold employees accountable in any meaningful or motivating way.

    Employees suggest “solutions” which typically have one purpose: shift the work to someone else so that the employee doesn’t have any responsibility, or reduce the employee’s work in this process.

    If the above factors are true, and you are unable to change them, I hope you are a very persuasive person who can get employees to do want you want by sheer will and force of personality. You can try to educate employees on the process, which is good– make sure everyone is aware. You can try to optimize and automate the process as much as possible, to increase the efficiency and make it easier for employees to comply. Some people respond better to that personal face-to-face request– the psychology of personal confrontation (in the nicest possible way) does sometimes work. But in the end, if there is no accountability and no consequences for non-compliance, this can be a difficult road to walk.

    1. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

      Just wanted to add a strategy for getting management to care and hold employees accountable, which I have seen work in certain circumstances: If you can make a convincing case to management about why this compliance is important, you may get management support, and management may start holding employees accountable. For example, if the late payments are resulting in a large amount late fees, or causing delays in work, you can use that to make your argument. If you can quantify it, in impressive dollars, or examples of significant impact to the business, then great, use that to try to effect positive change in accountability.

    2. Lucy Lucy Apple Juice*

      ^^^ This. 1, 2, and 3 are staples in my workplace. If we try to insist that our sales reps follow documented processes or if we allow them to feel any consequences of not doing so, then it will mess with their productivity, they will bring in less revenue, and it’ll supposedly hurt us all. It’s a very slippery-slope mentality, but unfortunately upper management subscribes to this as well. At first I thought that maybe if I tried hard enough and nailed down the right approach, I could get everyone to see the light, but nope. There was nothing I could do besides accept that part of my job is to make up for their shortcomings… or leave. Like LW #2, I was incredibly frustrated for the first few years, but I guess I’m just used to it now. (PS – Is this normal? I figure every workplace has someone who’s stuck in their ways and doesn’t follow the rules, but is amazing at their job. We just have a whole department like that.)

  21. That Would be a Good Band Name*

    #2 – A huge help is having all invoices routed to accounting first, preferably in email. You said construction, so I know that means sometimes they are being handed the invoice as they pick up materials, but anything that you can have come directly to accounting will help. Then you can know that you gave Bob an invoice for approval that didn’t get returned. If you have specifics on how this hurts them to pay the late fees (lower bonus, etc) that can push people in the right direction.

    1. That Would be a Good Band Name*

      Also, be sure they understand credit hold. I’ve found that even the most stubborn at getting things turned in become super helpful if I tell them the vendor isn’t going to let them buy more stuff because of non-payment which happens because I don’t have invoices.

  22. workerbee2*

    #1 – You can mention some techniques that seem to be particularly effective in managing employee X without making sweeping generalizations about his personality. Mention the things he does well, then matter-of-factly state that he can be resistant to change and you’ve found the best way to work around/through that is by doing Y. Let the new supervisor make her own judgments about his overarching personality.

    Alison has a good point about making sure that a new supervisor knows that Jane has earned A, B, and C perks and why. I got a new grandboss a few months ago who revoked several of my perks. I’m honestly really good at my job and it killed my morale (and thus productivity) to have flexible hour and WFH perks taken away, with reasoning given that I’m a just-OK, not outstanding, employee. I half-heartedly started job-hunting but I’m pretty specialized and it would take a while to find just the right opportunity. Part of that was punitive on my part – “let’s see how just-OK I am when I take my skill set and 8 years of institutional knowledge with me.” Grandboss is starting to see the value I bring to the team so things are getting a little easier, but I’m still mourning the unbelievably great job I had vs. the fine-I-guess job I have now. It’s mostly a difference in management philosophies: my actual manager is very “I don’t care what you do as long as the work gets done well and on-time” and grandboss is “butts in seats for exactly 8.5 hours, no exceptions.” My company has an official policy of flexible hours for employees in good standing. I have been permitted flexible start and end times – 7 to 3:30 – and I think grandboss sees that as a HUGE privilege. Leaving early doesn’t impact my work at all, and I’m perfectly willing to stay later when there is a business need to do so, but there almost never is. I feel like there’s an assumption that I’m useless and lazy until proven otherwise.

    #2 – People have one of two reactions when you make general comments like this in meetings: 1) everything is about me – time to panic! and 2) nothing is about me – whatever. The thing is, you’re almost never aiming what you’re saying at the type 1’s. This is why you bring issues up one-on-one as they occur.

    1. workerbee2*

      I suppose I should also mention that my WFH perk was rescinded for an actual reason – I was violating the company policy around WFH, with the knowledge and endorsement of my immediate supervisor. I think the revoking of the other perks was, in part, punitive in response to that. For a while, every meeting I had with grandboss eventually descended into how egregiously I had been violating the rules and I was lucky to not face a harsher punishment, no matter how unrelated to the discussion at hand. My view was that my manager was fully allowing it, so your beef should be with her, not me (though of course I didn’t say that outright). After 2 months of that, she seems to have finally moved on, thank goodness.

  23. Yvette*

    OP #2
    I think Alison’s advice of “Stop bringing this stuff up in meetings and instead address the problems one-on-one with people as they make the mistakes. That will let you be very clear and direct, rather than trying to be vague so you’re not publicly criticizing people.” Is the best approach.
    You say that “They are suggested in pompous tones that make me feel like they think I am an idiot for not thinking of it…” You “… communicate that A is the problem, B is the outcome, and C is the expectation so this can be prevented in the future.” Maybe this come across to them as vague and overly simplistic, perhaps to the point of talking down to them as though they were a class of children? And that they resent that, hence the attitude? That they know these solutions are silly and it is more of a sarcastic “Really, when we pay an invoice late we get hit with a penalty, I had no idea.”

  24. Lygeia*

    It can also depend on what your job is/industry you’re in. Some companies encourage people to update asap so that they are visibly part of the company. I work in recruiting, and we tell new hires to update their profiles right away since so many clients and candidates look at our profiles.

  25. Someone Else*

    I think for OP2 it might be helpful to reframe the situation. One or more of the following is happening:
    1) There is a process, but people do not realize it exists, so they don’t follow it, and problems occur.
    2) There is a process, but people don’t want to follow it, and there are no consequences to them personally for not following it, so there is no incentive for them to follow it, and problems occur.
    3) There is a process, but people misunderstand it/find it too onerous/there are problems with the process itself they’ve not shared, which make it difficult/impossible for them to follow it, and problems occur.

    If it’s 1&2, you should approach it (yourself if you have the authority or with whoever does if you don’t) as “this is the process for doing A. Moving forward, this is a requirement” or whatever, but make it clear it is not optional.
    If it’s 3, then re-examine the process so it is not a hindrance to itself, and then enforce the new process.

    OP seemed pretty confident the existing documented processes were well thought out, so I’m guessing 3 may not be much of a concern, but it’s worthwhile to be open to the possibility while tackling this.

  26. M&Ms fix lots of Problems*

    Question for all, could you phrase the coworker run-down like this:
    Jane has earned a bit of flexibility with blah and blah, justification for that is in her reviews.
    Bob is amazing at trouble-shooting for clients, and sometimes gets too deep into that and can seem a bit short with coworkers. Also he is very into routine, and I have found giving him some extra notice about upcoming changes helps him process them.

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