my employee is constantly hyping himself — but his work isn’t good

A reader writes:

I recently hired a new administrative employee in my office. His job is to answer phones, greet guests, and complete various reports and tasks I assign to him. His customer service skills are strong, but his attention to detail is very weak on the other tasks. I have given him a lot of feedback and guided him through processes, but he continues to make spelling errors and basic Excel calculation mistakes and misses almost every deadline I give him.

But he is constantly telling me how great of a job he’s doing. He routinely tells me things like, “You are going to be so happy when I show you what I’ve done for you!” or “You are going to LOVE me, I am making your life so much easier!” and then hands me a report that I have to spend a half hour correcting. Yesterday I told him I need him to follow up with me when he completes tasks because I would rather he proactively inform me than wait for me to ask. His response: “As you know, I always complete tasks immediately (this is untrue) but I didn’t know you needed me to remind you of that. No problem at all!!”

I am probably stressed about other things and it’s affecting my view about this employee, but this behavior is really grating on me. His work product hasn’t improved and I’m starting to feel like he’s trying to manipulate me into not giving him corrections. I’m starting to struggle giving him feedback because I feel like he ignores me and I’m letting that affect my interactions with him.

Have I already arrived at the “this needs to improve or else” conversation? He just started two months ago. I want to give him time to learn and grow, but my patience is zapped.

I’m sorry, I laughed out loud at “As you know, I always complete tasks immediately (this is untrue).”

This employee has gumption.

You probably do need to have a “this needs to improve or else” conversation. You’ve giving him very basic feedback over and over, he’s not improving, and he misses almost every deadline you give him.

His strange overhyping of his own work makes this more concerning. If you could see that he was taking your feedback seriously, he understood that his work isn’t where it needs to be yet, and he was working hard to incorporate your feedback, I’d say sure, give him some time to work on mastering the job. But when he’s ignoring your feedback and telling you his work is superb when you’ve clearly told him it’s not … that’s a serious problem, and not the sort that “time to learn and grow” usually helps with.

However! There’s potentially some room for hope if you haven’t been completely clear with him. When you’ve given him feedback and talked about mistakes, have you been clear that the work isn’t at the level you need and that the pattern of mistakes is serious? And when he misses deadlines, have you held him accountable for that and told him clearly that it can’t keep happening? (For example: “This was due yesterday — what happened?” … followed by, “It’s really important that you turn in work by the agreed-upon deadline or tell me ahead of time if you’re worried about your ability to do that.”)

If you haven’t done those things, it’s possible that doing it could turn this around.

A lot of managers in your situation think, “But I shouldn’t need to do that! He should know that missing a deadline is a big deal, and that he needs to take feedback seriously.” And indeed, he should. But many, many employees miss the cues that managers think are obvious — and when you’re frustrated with someone, the first step is to make sure that you’ve been really clear with them about the expectations you need them to meet. (In fact, whenever you’re feeling frustrated with an employee, that’s a flag to check how clear you’ve been.)

If you’ve done those things and this is still happening, then yes, it’s time for a serious conversation where you explain you can’t keep him in the job if you don’t see significant improvement on these fronts quickly.

Interestingly, I think you can do all of this without directly addressing the “I’m amazing” comments. By addressing the crux of the problem — his work is not what you need it to be — he’ll probably get the message that his self-hype isn’t in line with the reality. If he doesn’t, I’d suspect that’s not a great sign about how well he’s processing your message. Or who knows, maybe this is just his manner, even when he’s struggling!

That said, if you want to address it, you can! You could say, “I was surprised to hear you say you always complete tasks immediately when I’ve shared my concern about a number of missed deadlines recently.” Or you can take the hype as statements of his intentions rather than what he’s actually done. For example, with his “I am making your life so much easier!” comment, you could refer back to that later with something like, “I know you want to make my life easier and I appreciate that — that’s what I want from your role as well. When you give me a report with errors that I have to spend half an hour correcting, that’s not happening. I need you to double-check your work before it comes to me so that you’re spotting and correcting your own errors and I don’t need to fix anything when it comes my way.”

But I think if you keep the focus on the gap between the work he’s producing and the work you need — and just consider the self-hype a strange and even amusing eccentricity — you’ll figure out pretty quickly if he can succeed in the job or not, and that’s what really matters.

{ 312 comments… read them below }

  1. Jennifer*

    I think I know this guy. He’s not going to change, but go through the motions before letting him go if you must.

    1. Jamie*

      I worked with this guy. He once knocked over two of my monitors by kicking a beach ball into my office.

      1. ampersand*

        Oof. Unless you work at a literal beach, I would not have been okay with this. And even then probably not.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Eh, we have a beach ball that we bounce around sometimes as a playful “get up and move around” break when we need it. But we’re careful about how/when/where, and have yet to knock any equipment over, so.

        2. JustaTech*

          One year my office gave out company-branded mini nerf footballs for the Superbowl (I have no idea why, the teams playing that year weren’t from any city where we have an office).
          We were in temporary very close quarters at the time and I told my football fan coworker that if he hit me or my desk with a football that would be the end of the football.

          At least it wasn’t a Frisbee.

      2. Hmmmmer Simpson*

        I’m sure he only did that to make your life easier. As you know, he would never kick a beach ball into your office unless you WANTED him to kick a beach ball into your office.

      3. oh so very anon*

        Ooh, reminds me of the (very short term) employee in one company I worked at that turned his cubicle into a Tiki hut, complete with sand on the floor and umbrella. He was convinced his contribution warranted such “creativity.” Ooh, yeah, cleanup from that one was something else.

      4. alittlehelpplease*

        If he was able to knock over a monitor with a beach ball, he should go into professional soccer. That’s amazing!

    2. PJs of Steven Tyler*

      I was thinking “Oh! This must be our old intern!” while reading this. Once gave him a mid-term questionnaire about strengths and weaknesses, and he listed that he was great at the recurring task that I thought he was completely bombing.

    1. Tammy*

      There was a T-shirt that the Mythbusters were selling for a while. It said, “I reject your reality, and substitute my own.” I’m sorry now I didn’t buy a few; I know lots of people I’d have liked to gift them to.

      1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        Karma: Glad I didn’t read that with a mouth full of Diet Pepsi.
        Ron Howard: She did.

      2. Emily K*

        Not this is even the central issue here, but also: Not all tasks should be completed immediately. That way lies madness and full-time-crisis-mode.

        1. Veronica*

          This is a good point, and why it’s ringing a bell: Employee sounds like he’s trying to be one of those people who’s always rushing around doing Important Work, and Jumps on Tasks Immediately, and so on.
          This also reminds me of the type of man who works hard at giving an impression of being On Top of Things, Always Ready To Work, etc.
          To sum up, it seems like Employee is trying to give an impression of being this type of person, instead of actually being competent and hardworking.

  2. Jedi Squirrel*

    Oh, my. Yes, he needs clear feedback, and immediately. As in a sit-down-because-your-performance-is-not-what-you-think-it-is-and-your-job-may-be-in-jeopardy-if-you-don’t-improve kind of meeting.

    Don’t tell me you’re making my life easier—tell me instead what you’re actively doing to make it easy. And then follow through.

  3. BadWolf*

    Are you correcting the mistakes? Or handing them back to him to correct? Sounds like perhaps you need to roll back the “due” date, scan for mistakes, when you hit one, return for him to resolve and review the entire document. Rinse, repeat for awhile.

    1. Allypopx*

      Agreed. Red pen all the mistakes but don’t fix them, or tell him how to fix them even. If he doesn’t know how to do something, make him ask for help. I wouldn’t suggest that approach for someone who was just struggling but it might help him learn some humility.

      1. BadWolf*

        I wouldn’t even red pen all of them. Once I got to 2-3, I’d hand it back and tell him to fix those and re-review the rest of the document.

        If you get it back and he’s only fixed the ones you’ve marked and there are still more mistakes, that’s pretty telling. Then you need to decide if it’s worth the investment of doing some hand holding (going through the doc with him and see if he can start to see the problems himself) or if he’s just not cutting it.

        1. Not a Blossom*

          I agree with this. If there are myriad errors, especially egregious ones (things like obvious typos), I’d stop at the third, send it back, and say I’m not looking at it until he reviews it again.

        2. Glitsy Gus*

          I might say on the first one mark all of them, show him the extent of the issue. After that, after two or three hand it back. This way you know that he is aware of the severity, plus it’ll flush out any miscommunications. After you’ve done that on the first one, then he needs to take the reins on the corrections if you find more than a couple.

          1. Allypopx*

            Yes, this was my thought – make a visual representation of the problem. But I get it’s not worth doing every time.

          2. Bagpuss*

            Yes, I might do it this way – although it would probably depend a bit on how long the document is! Maybe the first page.

        3. Dust Bunny*

          Yeah, this.

          My mom was the toughest editor I ever had, which is why I didn’t need any writing help when I got to college. Once she’d found a half-dozen obvious errors, she’d just give me the work back and tell me that she wasn’t going to read something that sloppy and I had to make a less half-assed effort before she wasted any more time on it.

          I suspect you’re doing far too much of this guy’s work for him (probably out of frustration and a desire to just have it done, already). I also rather suspect that you might not be telling him as directly as you think you are that his work blows chunks. It’s well past time for a come-to-jesus with this dude.

          1. Remember Neopets?*

            I haven’t heard anyone use the phrase “blows chunks” in FOREVER but I’m going to pick it up again.
            Also, your mom sounds like my mom! That’s probably why I’ve been told my managerial style is too curt.

        4. Lilian*

          You’d think that works but one of my colleagues needs every single mistake pointed out to him to believe that he’s done something wrong. Pointing out that overall he’s referred to our female boss as “he” several times throughout the document and he has to fix it overall doesn’t help. Some people seem not to be wired for proofreading??

          1. Dust Bunny*

            Nah, this is laziness. I’m terrible at arithmetic, so I chose a job that involves almost none of it, and I have a coworker check my results when I do have to do it. Once it’s been demonstrated to you that you’re bad at a key part of your job, it’s on you to figure out how to either improve or compensate, or reconsider your line of work.

          2. Oranges*

            I am wired as such. My brain literally shows me “she” when I’m expecting it instead of the “he” that’s actually there. I learned this about myself early and now when I have to proof read something I hand it off to a coworker that I have a good rapport with.

            My job doesn’t require proof reading. I think once or twice in 5 years. If it was more often, I’d have to have a discussion with my boss about how I literally can’t do this to the level it needs. How can we rearrange responsibilities to make this work.

          3. Bagpuss*

            I’m not ‘wired’ for proof-reading. I am reasonably sure that I have dyslexia (no formal diagnosis) and I read based on the shape of the word, mis-spellings are rarely, if ever, visible to me on a casual read through, especially on something I have written myself.
            Some words are easier than others. For instnace, ‘childnre’ doesn’t register as wrong to me on a casual read through, but ‘efort’ is much more obvious.

            I am better at spotting errors in someone else’s work, perhaps because I am likely to be reading it more carefully.

            BUT – becuase I *know* that I don’t notice these things, and that I am likely to make mistakes, on anything which is important I consciously look for them to correct. And although it is very much not something which comes natuarally to me, it does improve with practice and with making a conscious effort.

      2. Glitsy Gus*

        Yep, he might not be aware of exactly how many mistakes he’s making. Mark the mistakes and hand it back for him to correct. Not only will this hopefully make him more aware, if there is any kind of confusion on his side as to what you want this should bring it to light pretty quickly.

        1. Properlike*

          It’s not LW’s job to correct all his mistakes and hand them back. If the employee can’t find all his own mistakes (with POSSIBLY the occasional exception), then he is not right for the role. Maybe mark a couple and then be done because clearly he’s missed the proofreading step. (That’s how we handle it in college.)

          1. TechWorker*

            This might be true for obvious, typo type mistakes but there are other bits of work where you might well expect it to need some course correction/style things like ‘I think this paragraph needs to have more of a focus on x’ where you wouldn’t expect someone to get it perfect after two months (or even 2 years…). Review is not just intended to catch things easily caught or you just wouldn’t bother for high performers…

        2. paxfelis*

          Mistake the first: failure to use easily-accessible tools such as spell check and grammar checkers.

          1. Devil Fish*

            It’s been at least a decade since I’ve seen a word processor that didn’t have those tools integrated into the base program automatically. I’m betting LW is talking about the kind of typos spell check misses, like “you’re/your” and similar.

            Missing deadlines and turning in work with these kinds of mistakes sounds like he’s procrastinating and then giving LW his first draft fresh out of panic-mode with no edits. This is a problem.

      3. Llellayena*

        Yep, this is why my field (architecture) actually calls them “redlines” and has an entire system in place for reviewing drawings involving an separate person reviewing the drawings and ‘redlining’ them then the original person/team making the corrections. And you can learn a whole lot about your team when you hand them redlines with something circled saying fix this at all locations and get back a set that only fixed it where you circled it…

    2. Antilles*

      If OP is just correcting the mistakes herself without making a deal of it, that’s a problem.
      That’s the standard method in my industry. Me-the-reviewer will mark up mistakes to correct, but I’m not actually making the corrections. Instead, the document is “coming back bloody” with red ink everywhere, so that you realize how many changes are needed and also so you can really struggle through and learn how it’s supposed to be done.

      1. ellex42*

        At my workplace, the reviewer is actually not *allowed* to make the corrections. They either go back to the person who made the mistakes, or – since we’ve had a lot of turnover and some layoffs recently – one person is designated to make corrections of the work of people who are no longer here. That’s me at the moment. The reviewer emails me detailing the corrections needing to be made but also “please review to make sure these corrections actually need to be made”. I’m very happy that my own work seldom comes back to me needing correction.

      2. OP*

        I definitely point them out. My letter isn’t as clear as it could be. I admittedly fix his work sometimes if there’s an immediate need to have it done now now now, but I always later review with him what I corrected and why. More often I hand things back with notes on what to fix.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          OP, I think I might have smacked this employee by the time you wrote to Alison, so I admire your patience!! He sounds like he is either the most oblivious guy who ever lived, or he’s actively and deliberately trying to gaslight you, and I’m not sure which. I hope you’ll come back to us with an update sometime, because I’d love to find out what happened when you left zero possible room for (possibly willful) misunderstanding… will his head explode?

    3. I edit everything*

      Yes. One of the best managers I ever had (not a boss; I did work for her and others as a departmental editorial assistant) would send back the work I did for her saying, “Fix X, Y, and Z,” as part of my training for the job. She told me from the get go that’s how she did things, and the work I was doing had finicky formatting requirements, so it was the best way to learn.

      If this employee has to fix things over and over again, he’ll eventually learn to do the job properly or that he’s not so good as he imagines he is and move on.

    4. Policy Wonker*

      I worked with someone just like this guy and about halfway through our joint project I attempted to use this method, just highlighted her major errors and give her more general direction (aka “fix all the grammar before you send me the next draft and make sure every argument has an actual point”). The results were horrifying. Seriously. I ended up having to redraft the whole thing myself.

      If it’s something that needs to get done, I’d say still do revisions but track changes so you can say you attempted to provide feedback. Then boot him as soon as you can and never look back. This old co-worker never improved and she ended up getting another position in a different Ministry, I work in government, with a friend of mine. He had the exact same issues with her and it got to the point that the head of his division decided to just not give her any actual work (anything with a deadline or would be seen by other people higher up the chain) until her contract ran out. It’s government, so the termination process would take longer than the term of her contract.

      I met this coworker for coffee a little while ago, she wanted my advice on her next career move, and she honestly believes she provides great work. It’s like someone put a filter into her head that makes negative feedback look like never-ending positive reinforcement. I wish I knew where she picked up this filter, because I would LOVE to have that ability.

    5. Close Bracket*

      Speaking of due dates, do you actually give due dates? Make sure you give clear due dates, like “Please give this to me before Tuesday,” coupled with the reminder to proactively hand it in as soon as it’s done (ie, don’t make you chase it down).

      1. Alexander Graham Yell*

        I know a woman who was fired, and while telling me about it – about how she’d gone to HR because she felt her manager was breathing down her neck, about how he gave overwhelmingly more negative feedback to her than to anybody around her, and about how she felt like she was being unfairly targeted – she dropped this gem: “I mean, sure, I usually miss deadlines, but when I do give him work, it’s PERFECT.”
        It was suddenly a lot easier to understand why she couldn’t keep a job when I heard her say that, I’m not going to lie.

      2. OP*

        Yes. I actually write in emails “please return this to me by the end of business day on Friday, October 11. If you think you’ll have trouble meeting the deadline please give me a heads up and we can discuss” and then say the same thing in person. I’ve given suggestions on how to set reminders for yourself in Outlook or how I keep tabs on my own deadlines in my planner. He nods and says he understands and I’m “such a helpful boss” and then… doesn’t do it.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          What does he say when you follow up with, “I set a deadline for this project that was end of business Friday, and you said you understood. You also said you understood that if you’re not going to get things in on time, I need to know before the deadline, not after. But it’s Monday morning and it isn’t here yet, and I heard nothing from you about why before Friday was done. Why not?”

          Because this guy is either completely oblivious or actually trying to gaslight you, you’re going to need to connect EVERY dot to rub in his face the discrepancy between what he says and what he does. Doesn’t mean you need to be rude or hostile (though I understand the temptation to be both!), but I think it does mean you’ll need to say explicitly, “You said X would happen but Y happened. What is going on?” and probably say it repeatedly.

          1. Beatrice*

            Yep, ask why and then stop talking and let him answer. Let awkward silence happen. He will make excuses. Shoot them down. It will be a difficult conversation. Let it be difficult. Resist temptation to soften the message.

            Figure out what your goal is for the conversation. Part of it probably should be just making it clear that you’re going to hold him accountable for meeting deadlines, and you’re not going to let that fly without correcting it. 0% of the goal should be ensuring his comfort or getting him to agree with you that his performance is lacking. Have that clear in your head when you go in.

            Also – the most helpful advice I’ve gotten in this situation – if you feel stuck, it’s okay to fall back on repeating yourself. Sometimes people try to weasel answers out of you that you’re not able to give, or they try to rabbit-hole the conversation by picking apart your explanation of the problem, or they offer up excuses. I’ve handled all of those things by repeating the expectations I’ve brought them in to talk about.

            “Tommen, I need you to work on relationships with your peers. Here’s example X. Here’s example Y. You make situations needlessly adversarial instead of developing positive relationships with people. I expect you to be kind and professional with your coworkers. Can you do that?”
            :insert excuse from Tommen about the examples, a demand for more examples, and/or a need for an explicit definition of what I mean by “adversarial”:
            :insert one attempt to address those things from me, and then we’re right back to “I expect you to be kind and professional with the people you work with. Can you do that?”
            Sometimes we go a few rounds. I always bring the conversation back to “here’s what I expect from you.”

        2. Close Bracket*

          After that “As you know” comment, I would start an ongoing list of every time he doesn’t hand something in on the date you asked without prodding. Then I’d go over it on 1-on-1s (which I would institute if you hadn’t already). I’d use Working Hypothesis’s wording of “You said X would happen, but Y happened” to make it seem less aggressive, but believe me, I’d be keeping that list aggressively. And the “your such a helpful boss” comments … He could actually be one of those delusionally positive people rather than the gaslighting insubordinate that I am perceiving, and it might be helpful to think of him in the most positive light. Rubbing his face in the discrepancy is still called for, however.

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            Yeah, most of my suggestions seem to come down to rubbing his face in the discrepancy and then letting it get really awkward for him until he stops trying to give carelessly positive answers and starts thinking seriously about what is going wrong.

  4. Drew*

    He sounds exhausting. But I think there’s the possibility for improvement if you follow Alison’s suggestions.

    My concern is that it doesn’t sound like he’s even LISTENING to your feedback, much less taking it to heart, so you may need to have a come-to-Jesus talk. “Bill, I need you to stop jumping ahead of me and listen for a minute. You think quickly, which is great, but sometimes you overlook critical details in your haste to get things done. I need you to pay attention to deadlines and get me the work by that time and date. Also, I want you to go over your work one more time after you think it’s complete, looking specifically for [types of errors Bill has been making], so that I don’t have to come behind you and correct work that you’ve told me is in finished form. You’re making mistakes that we don’t expect to see from someone in your position and I’m concerned that you don’t realize how serious a problem this is. Can you commit to being more careful and more attentive to deadlines?”

    Bill will probably give you a very quick “Sure thing, Boss!” which is an opening to say, “That’s exactly the kind of thing I was talking about. You agreed immediately and I’m not sure you took in everything I just said. What are your plans to improve?”

    I think pointing out that you don’t need an enthusiastic yes-person, you need a competent employee, may be the key to getting Bill over this weird quirk and bringing him up to his full potential in the role. Or it’s the first step in figuring out that Bill needs to be doing something else, for someone else.

    1. Mel*

      This so much! Its not an easy conversation to have, but you need to have a formal sit down.

      Also seconding BadWolf’s suggestion – don’t spend a half hour correcting things! Hand them back and say that you’ve already found one error two sentences in and that he needs to go over it again.

        1. pcake*

          Exactly! Either that or he’s trying to get his manager to live in a fantasy so he doesn’t have to improve.

    2. Shark Lady*

      This is great advice. I have an employee who is burdened with excess gumption. He is stunningly un-self-aware and feedback rolls off him like water off a duck–but he’s an ok employee, so we all just kind of internally sigh and roll our eyes when he says something out of left field.

    3. Jules the 3rd*

      Feel free to point him to sites that can help him develop those plans to improve. Tell him to do some research, maybe google ‘improve attention to detail’ and come back to you with concrete plans, like ‘keep spellchecker on’, ‘write due dates in Some Visible Place’, ‘text when project is complete’ and ‘put a post-it of this common grammar error I keep making on the side of my monitor’.

      A lot of people do not know how to do this on their own, so expecting a plan during the sit-down might actually be a bit much. Maybe give one example of how you track your projects, and then ask him for 3 – 5 things he’s going to do.

      Also: PRIORITIZE your concerns – if he’s missing deadlines by a day, maybe the accuracy is more important, but if he’s missing them by a week, then letting you know about status becomes more important.

    4. Djuna*

      I love these scripts, and I have an added suggestion. When someone is new to my team, we peer edit with track changes on and add comments to explain any edits that may not have an immediately obvious reason (such as clunky phrasing, tonal shifts, using a word or abbreviation we avoid per our style guide) or egregious stuff (this sentence doesn’t make sense, is it missing some words?). It can be tough for new people to get a sea of corrections bristling with comments back, but if they pay attention, they always improve.

      This approach also give great ammo against Bills because it can be a metric. You want to see stuff coming back with punctuation changes only, or one or two minor edits. You want to be able to show Bill that not only was his work far from complete, but it ate someone else’s time to edit. The Bills of this world need to understand they can’t submit work that is not even half-assed but barely quarter-cheeked and expect someone else to magically fix it for them.

      1. the_scientist*

        We do a lot of “editing by committee” at my job as well, which can be immensely frustrating, no matter what level you are at. We definitely get people commenting on things that are totally outside their area of expertise where they have none of the background knowledge or information about how a certain decision was made and it’s like “okay??? we had seven discussions about this and it has to be done this way because of XYZ but sure I guess we can continue to talk about it for another four weeks.”

        However. You can learn a lot from this sort of deluge of feedback. And really, as a manager, I’m not so much looking at the quantity of feedback someone gets, but the type and quality. If my team members are getting a lot of feedback along the lines of how to present information more strategically or in a way that is more in line with organizational priorities — this is good. It means they’re nailing the foundational stuff and people are spending their energy on higher-level considerations. If they are getting comments about missing words, ackward phrasing, things not making sense, or pointing out errors, I know I need to have a conversation about attention to detail and that I need to start monitoring their work more closely.

        1. Djuna*

          Ah yes, the dread editing by committee. For us that’s earlier in the process, and it really can be frustrating, even though it does often correct inaccuracies and highlight confusing explanations.

          When something hits peer review, it’s purely a clarity/style/tone/spelling/punctuation pass by another writer. It’s supposedly a penultimate draft so it should be as clean as the writer can make it.

          Mind you, very dedicated Bills can manage to avoid the earlier review phase by telling very busy people in other departments (and sometimes other countries) that they need the reviewed draft back in 4 hours (?!) because deadline, and then the unfortunate peer editor has to do their best with a draft that hasn’t even been fact-checked.

    5. JSPA*

      You: “so, please tell me how you plan to change your process to do all three of the things I mentioned, being specific about each one.”

      “I’ll get it back to you before you even give it to me!”

      You: “OK, all joking aside, how are you going to change your process?”

      “It’ll be so perfect you can see yourself in it like a mirror!”

      “That would be a nice change. But really, don’t promise me the sun and moon. I’d like to hear what concrete steps you’re going to use.”

      [silence or blathering]

      “Here’s a pencil and some paper; make me a list of strategies that might work, and we’ll test them. Please understand: if you don’t fix these three major problems, I won’t be able to keep you. There’s no amount of can-do attitude that can fix a case of ‘can’t do’ or ‘won’t do.’ Got it?”

    6. Not So NewReader*

      A++++ especially for the last paragraph.

      I had a person like this once. And I can tell you that they CAN stop doing this if they try. I spoke to her early on and I said, “I really need you to focus on the work itself and stop focusing on how happy *I* will be or what a great job you did. It’s up to me as the boss to assess your work. You can say you worked very hard on something and that is fine, but in any job the boss is the one who decides if someone is doing a fair or good or excellent job. You can’t decide that for the boss. If you mean to say that you gave it your all or you really worked on something, then say it that way and that is fine.”

      Once I had laid the foundation, I was able to inject things into conversations such as, “Noooo, the boss in any job is the one who decides if some one is doing an fair, good or excellent job. We talked about this earlier.” It ended pretty fast. Now I can’t even be certain which person it was that I had to speak to we never went back to this problem.

      I remember really struggling with why one shouldn’t do this because I had not seen too much of this type of thing. I came up with a few reasons:
      It’s not work place norms. You can ask the boss if your work was good or how to make your work shine but you don’t TELL the boss your work is good.
      Another reason is that it shows lack of understanding what the boss’ role is in their lives. The boss is there to make sure the work is done in a timely manner, meets specs and quality. So the boss gets to make the calls on those characteristics that go into an employee’s work effort.
      And it’s just plain odd. Good work speaks for itself. A person can look something over and see it indeed is good work because it shows thought, organization, creativity or other desirable characteristics for a given setting. In other words, don’t say it but, rather SHOW it.

      Notice how I shifted from talking about ME to talking in a more general sense of how jobs go. I shifted to any boss and any job. I think that helped me through the conversation because it’s not just me who wants a more professional approach, it’s most bosses in most work places.

      1. Kella*

        And it seems like if there’s a legitimate discrepancy between the employee’s perception of their work and the manager’s perception, the employee should be able to point to specific qualities their work has that *makes* it good, rather than just saying “but it’s good!” Because managers can be wrong or biased and I know a lot of people who’ve worked for abusive managers who told them all their work was crap when it wasn’t, and it really messed up their perception of their own skills. So, I think there are times when it’s appropriate for an employee to push back on assessment of quality of their work, but you have to be able to back up your argument with something.

      2. Working Hypothesis*

        >>>I had a person like this once. And I can tell you that they CAN stop doing this if they try. I spoke to her early on and I said, “I really need you to focus on the work itself and stop focusing on how happy *I* will be or what a great job you did. It’s up to me as the boss to assess your work. You can say you worked very hard on something and that is fine, but in any job the boss is the one who decides if someone is doing a fair or good or excellent job. You can’t decide that for the boss. If you mean to say that you gave it your all or you really worked on something, then say it that way and that is fine.”

        I really love the wording here!

    7. OP*

      This is a really helpful script, thank you! I admit to not pushing back when he does his whole “Absolutely I’ll do it right away, you know me!” routine.

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        Have you considered an in-the-moment answer of, “I hope that’s true, but since I heard it from you on Friday before the X project didn’t get in on time, and on Tuesday about the Y report which I had to remind you about three days later, I don’t really want to hear anymore about how fast or how well you’re going to do anything. Just do it that well and show me, instead of promising me anything.”

  5. Bee*

    I would also stop correcting his work and give it right back to him to do. “There are two spelling errors in the first line, please proofread the entire document and give it back to me.” “At a glance I can see that several of these Excel calculations aren’t working, please check it over carefully and send it back to me.” Etc. That might help demonstrate his errors to him, and at the least it frees you up from having to make the corrections. And if it doesn’t, well, it also gives you an obvious string of errors to point to!

    1. Parenthetically*

      I absolutely agree with this. If something is error-ridden at first glance, it just gets popped right back into his hands.

      1. the_scientist*

        YES, a million times this. It feels rude and kind of harsh, but OP, you have to do it. Bill will either learn or he won’t, and if he doesn’t he clearly is not cut out for the job.

        Also, as a manager, it’s obviously your job to make sure a high-quality product is being delivered to *your* boss, but it’s not your responsibility to re-do your employees’ work. Offering constructing critiques, suggestions for framing arguments — yes, of course — these make the final product stronger. But you shouldn’t really have to re-do work. If you do, it’s a sign that your employee is struggling at their job.

        1. OP*

          Thank you. I will take this to heart. Sometimes I can get caught up in thinking “but everything is ultimately MY responsibility” (I mean, it is) and tell myself X needs to be right and it doesn’t matter if I have to do it… which means I end up doing it.

          1. pcake*

            Since you’re his manager, part of your responsibility is to show him what he needs to do.

            I don’t think handing things back to him to fix is harsh – I think it’s the way he’ll learn to do his job, and if possible, to learn to pay at least a little more attention to details.

            Good luck!

          2. Working Hypothesis*

            One of Alison’s regular points about this kind of stuff is that you weren’t hired to do this work; you were hired to manage the people who do this work. So if you’re doing it yourself, you are probably not using your time in the way your own boss would wish you to. You’re there to do the things which *can’t* be accomplished by anyone who has a different skill set from yours, not which could be done by any halfway competent admin (just because you don’t seem to have one).

            Something to think about.

            1. the_scientist*

              Mentally, this is a really hard transition to make as a new manager. So OP, don’t beat yourself up if you’re struggling to make the transition, because it’s super hard! But you do need to remind yourself of this, and stop doing Bill’s work for him!

          3. Dust Bunny*

            Everything is not literally your responsibility, though. It’s your responsibility to get things done in the bigger sense, but it’s his to do his part to make that happen, and he’s not. And it’s yours to replace him if he can’t. Your responsibility is to the work, not Mr. Sloppy Writing.

    2. Washi*

      I agree. It’s a little harsh, but when I had someone who kept giving me documents filled with typos after a lot of feedback from me, the next time she went to hand me something, I said very sternly “and you’re confident that this has zero typos?” She took the document back, worked on it a bit more, and then handed it in to me, error-free. Things improved pretty dramatically from there.

      I think somehow that was what it took for her to connect that this isn’t school, where as long as you turn in something, you can probably get a C- or whatever and still pass. That said, this guy sounds delusional, not just sloppy with his work, so I don’t know how much coaching can help if the person looks at the F and thinks it’s an A+

      1. ampersand*

        That’s what I’m thinking: coaching, in this case, sounds like it may not help. Either he’s delusional about how good his work is, or he knows it’s subpar and is trying to somehow make up for it by giving the impression everything is awesome and hoping everyone will be tricked into thinking his work is great. My guess is it’s the former, and maybe I’m overly pessimistic, but I don’t think that’s fixable. People who lack self awareness drive me nuts, though, so it might just be me.

      2. Working Hypothesis*

        My father used to handle things like that by asking, about my schoolwork, “If I hinge that program you want to go to next summer on whether or not there’s a single error in here, do you want more time to check it over or not?” He never actually *did* make my summer programs ride on whether or not I had perfect homework, but by the time I figured out he wasn’t actually going to, I had gotten in the habit of doing very, very careful proofreading.

    3. LKW*

      Absolutely the right thing. Use track changes, comments or print it out circle the things that are wrong and hand it back. You don’t have to sugar coat it either to make the critique more palatable, just don’t be cruel.

      Think of it this way – if he delivered it with errors and you take it over, he has no idea that there were errors and he will deliver it similarly each time. Your responsibility here is to outline the requirements and ensure they’re fulfilled.

  6. merry*

    I hope this isn’t the same dude my company hired and then fired last year, because if it is, I am so sorry.

    1. Kimmybear*

      I had one of these too. Tried my patience. I found that using paper and a red pen and handing back corrections was the only way to get through but that felt so much like an elementary school teacher.

      1. merry*

        If anything I’ve learned to never trust in someone’s over confidence again. When I trained him he kept saying things like “I’m probably the easiest employee you’ve ever trained, you must be so bored!” which I laughed off as a joke but as it turns out he really did think that about himself! He did EVERYTHING wrong, refused to listen to criticism and when we fired him he got mad, cornered another employee and made her feel uncomfortable by asking her if he had ever made her feel uncomfortable! then in a fit of anger threw his lunch leftovers across the parking lot. Honestly we were a little worried about the possibility of him coming back and doing worse harm but we thankfully never heard from him again. I’ve always wondered where he ended up.

        1. Adlib*

          I laughed (especially because you said he never returned) because the picture of him throwing his lunch leftovers across the parking lot is hilarious to me!

          1. merry*

            Yes, all the crows were gathered around eating fried rice remnants the next day, it was quite an ominous scene haha

            1. Gingerblue*

              As I was walking all alane
              I heard twa corbies making a mane:
              The tane unto the tither did say,
              ‘Whar sall we gang and dine the day?’

              ‘—In behint yon auld car lot
              I wot there went a new-fired wight;
              And naebody kens that he sulked there
              But his boss, himself, and his lady fair.

              ‘His boss is to the meeting gane,
              Himself has gone a skulking hame,
              He’s left behind his luncheon meat,
              So we may mak our dinner sweet.

              -Trad. [Child 304]

              1. Shell*

                As a folk musician and a professional historian, I have to say that this may be the best thing I have ever seen.

                1. Gingerblue*

                  Thank you! That’s high praise. (I’m annoyed I forgot to go back and fix the rhyme scheme, but ah well.)

              2. Mockingbird*

                This poem got even funnier after I looked up the original version on and compared the words. Cheers!!

        2. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

          Yup – I recognise that trait. My problem employee thought her mental arithmetic skills were amazing, she could do so many calculations in her head and could work out net invoice values (remove the VAT (value added tax, currently 20% in the UK, but was 17.5% at the time)) without using a calculator and in a matter of seconds!
          Trouble was, when I checked (using a calculator – 20% isn’t too difficult, 17.5% is definitely little trickier!) she was always wrong.

          She’d come to my team from another department where one of the interviews for that position was a timed maths test – gods know how she passed enough to get the job in the first place!

  7. Erica*

    I have nothing to offer, but it does remind me of the time that an underperforming direct report responded to some basic feedback I gave her with: “Sometimes I am so busy thinking outside of the box, I forget to think inside the box!”

    1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      My husband had a professor who used to say, “Think outside the box! But make sure you stay in the same room as the box. If you’re down the hall and around the corner from the box, you have a problem.”

      1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

        This is advice I want printing on a poster (maybe with a background landscape of a lake or mountain range for ironic motivation!)
        I think this is a *genius* quote!

      1. Warm Weighty Wrists*

        Well, as long as we think inside the larger box of grammar but outside the smaller box of errant pedantry, up with which we should not put.

  8. A*

    I realize I may be overly generous with this…. but is it possible he is rushing to try and meet the deadline, therefore missing more mistakes than he would otherwise? Doesn’t sound like that’s the only issue, but something to think about. If he’s so focused on hitting as close to the deadline as he can (putting aside the fact that he’s still not hitting it), he might not be taking the time he needs to fully check and edit ahead of time. Still not a great sign, but at least it would make some sort of sense. Otherwise it sounds like someone who’s trying to smooth talk their way through their career (“if I just keep telling them how amazing I am, they won’t realize that I’m not!”). Or deluded. Perhaps not mutually exclusive.

      1. valentine*

        someone who’s trying to smooth talk their way through their career
        I think this is it, especially with the emailed “as you know,” because he knew OP wouldn’t reply contradicting him with the truth.

    1. ampersand*

      The end result is the same though–unless he finds a way to better manage his time and not make mistakes, the original reason he’s making mistakes doesn’t matter as much. I’m curious whether he’s had this issue in other jobs. Perhaps he’s just really out of his element with this position.

    2. Djuna*

      I feel like if he’s delivering slapdash work past a deadline, he’s either a world-class procrastinator who doesn’t notice a deadline til it’s whizzing past his ears, or has no idea how to plan and prioritize. Then it’s always a scramble and a mess…in this case a mess for someone else to clean up. I’ve seen this in people who never had to take personal responsibility for their work before – they hid in a crowd, talked a good game and skated by, but as soon as they land in a role where that doesn’t work, they flounder.

    3. OP*

      He’s rushing. You’re right. The thing is, I’m not sure why. I gave him a project once and asked for it to be completed by the end of the month. It involved reaching out to multiple parties for information and compiling that information into a simple database. Well, he told me he was done with a week. I was surprised and thrilled. Then I saw the database… the information was missing or incorrect and I could immediately tell he had not reached out to the other parties. There were spelling errors and formatting issues and he didn’t use the template I told him to. I gave him feedback and he said he misunderstood and would have it to me by the end of the month. Fast forward to the end of the month, the deadline passed… I asked him about it and he said he gave it to me a long time ago. He didn’t have anything new to show me and told me I must have lost the email he sent me. I double checked and told him I didn’t have it and asked to send it again… he didn’t. I mean. Honestly.

      1. Filosofickle*

        I feel like anyone asking “is 2 months enough to know?” should see this example. I would be at a total loss faced with someone like this.

      2. Mockingbird*

        I think this right here would be enough to warrant serious action – termination or at least a PIP. I was on the fence before I read this (leaning toward giving him a really serious talking-to and another chance, though I doubted it would work). But this example sounds like a person who’s simply not going to change and is going to keep making excuses.

        He may or may not believe his own self -hype and (incorrect) excuses. I’m not sure which is worse.

        1. Heidi*

          Yikes. This guy lied to you to cover up not completing an assignment. Not acceptable. How long does he need to keep doing this until you can fire him? I’d start building the case for termination now by documenting all of his missed deadlines and everything.

      3. JSPA*

        This is at the point where the reason why doesn’t matter. Whether he’s doing it intentionally or unintentionally; whether it’s a perceptual problem on his part, a processing problem on his part, a psychological problem on his part, an ego problem on his part, a memory deficit on his part; or frankly even if you are not as clear as you think you are and he is completely unable to navigate that (which is giving him far more benefit of the doubt than he deserves!) he is clearly unable to produce even the minimum required, autonomously. Or to ask for help. Or to admit a need for help. There’s no helping people who refuse to admit a need for help and there’s no teaching people who avoid being taught.

      4. genevieve*

        I mean, at best he has a huge blind spot for his own weak spots and areas that need growth; it seems more likely he’s at least partially intentionally gas lighting you.

    1. Kes*

      Actually, my first thought was sounds like this guy should be in sales, he’s more interested in promoting how great his work is than actually doing the work

    2. Nervous Nellie*

      Please tell me this is an Office Space reference so that I can justify the mess I now have to clean on my keyboard. Good one! love, love, love that movie. But smoothies & AAM do not mix, LOL!

  9. ClumsyCharisma*

    This reminds me of an employee I had to fire several years ago. He was on a PIP and we had check ins every few days (call center so very numbers driven). Every meeting I showed him his numbers and how far off the mark they were – I know for sure he could do the job b/c he always hit his numbers when I sat with him.
    When I fired him he looked and me and asked if his shouldn’t his performance keep him here? I was so dumbfounded since we had several meetings where I showed him his performance wasn’t meeting expectations. I was so confused.
    Sometimes even with a direct approach there are individuals who will never see their performance as the issue.

    1. Bagpuss*

      Some people are very very bad at understanding their own performance. A few years back we had to lay several people off due to the recession. There was one person we all agreed on as their performance was so much below the standard of everyone else in a similar role, and we’d had multiple conversations with her about it .
      When we broke the news to her she argued that she was atleast as good as any of the others andthat she should not have been selected.

    2. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I worked with someone who had been given 4 total warnings, including a multi-hour meeting with management and HR in which they were told they must make specific improvements to their performance by a specific date, or they would be let go. When the date arrived and the improvements had not been made, the employee was SHOCKED to find out they were being fired. It was mind boggling for the rest of us, because there was no way to tell them more explicitly than that.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I had a person who was doing between 4 and 6 units a day. Everyone else was doing 400 plus. Some did 600. I could have hit 500 without too much effort. I said, “You are doing between 4 and 6 units per day. Others are doing hundreds per day. You need to get your numbers up.”
      She said, “But I am working soooo haaaarrrrddd.”
      She was totally disconnected from what was going on around her and how far behind she was. There was no bringing her out of it. She had an extremely harsh home life. I tried to help her but I couldn’t.

  10. e271828*

    When I read about such dramatic gumption-poisoning cases as this, I wonder whether the employee/applicant in question has gotten most of their knowledge of workplaces from television sitcoms, because this seems spot on for that environment.

    1. Properlike*

      It’s the Dunning-Kruger effect. I have a young college student who made a point on the first day to mention that he’s “a very special student”, to say as much in a couple of follow-up assignments, and then to earn pretty straight D’s from that point forward. If you asked him (and I have), he thinks he’s “doing great!”

      1. BookishMiss*

        I…just let this student go, I think. For exactly that reason, except it’s a solid F- instead of Ds…

  11. Jean*

    I can’t identify with this sort of chutzpah at all. I do often wonder what it’s like to live life as one of these people.

    1. Filosofickle*

      There’s a guy who frequently hires me who reminds me of the t-shirt that says “Lord, give me the confidence of a mediocre white man.” That’s not 100% fair, but he consistently wings important events, overestimates his talent, and positions himself as an expert in things he’s not. I’d love to live in his brain for just an hour. Just an hour!

      1. Clorinda*

        It might be hell in there. Is this person truly as confident as he seems, or is he desperately overcompensating for feelings of crushing fear and self-doubt? I wouldn’t want to risk it.

        1. JSPA*

          Or not self-aware, but constantly shocked and upset at how the world is cruel to him, when he’s so nice to the world. Very sad in the abstract, absolutely exhausting in the specific.

      2. Wendy Darling*

        I wish I could borrow those guys’ confidence for job interviews. No other time — their firm belief in their own awesomeness seems to hinder them from ever actually getting good at anything — but I’ve seen them talk their way into jobs they were totally unqualified for more than once and I would love some of that mojo.

    1. juliebulie*

      Not hardly. I have a cousin who says that in her emails a lot. Usually it is something I didn’t know at all, like, “As you know, Uncle Fred died last spring.” Wut??

      1. Lana Kane*

        Which fits the OP’s employee’s profile – “as you know, my work is always on time”. Is it, really?
        Gonna start paying more attention whenever I hear an “as you know”!

    2. Heidi*

      His talking in the second person also strikes me as odd. Perhaps he’s trying do the Jedi mind trick: “You ARE going to love me, I am making your life so much easier! You will take me to Jabba now.”

      1. Evan Þ.*

        But do you really want to work for Jabba if your performance is so subpar? His PIP’s can be quite harsh.

  12. CallofDewey*

    I just fired this guy at my job. He’s not going to fix a problem he can’t acknowledge he has.

    1. Heidi*

      Yes to this. If he thinks that he completes all tasks immediately and you think that he misses almost all deadlines, you are probably too far apart to even begin negotiations. You would need to 1) get his perception of his performance to align with reality, and then 2) get him to meet your performance expectations. The path to 2 is hard enough; the path to 1 is going to require inception. If you’re going for the latter, I call Tom Hardy’s role.

      1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

        If he thinks that he completes all tasks immediately and you think that he misses almost all deadlines, you are probably too far apart to even begin negotiations
        Unless you’ve set a deadline which is approximately 2.45 seconds after you’ve given it to him.

        I’m assuming the deadlines are reasonable for generic-type work, given that he’s been there for two months. (If, for example, it’s a highly specialised, industry specific, bespoke software using task, and you’ve given him two hours, it might be worth resetting your own expectations as well as checking his training progress).

        And, if we’re calling Inception roles, I’m not pretty enough for Ellen Page, so I’m likely to end up as Michael Caine.

        1. OP*

          The deadlines are reasonable I think. I assess how long they’d take if I did them and add a few days at a minimum. And it’s not really that he’s not finished in time as much as it’s him literally just forgetting them.

          1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

            Forgetting deadlines is a whole other matter. And it sounds like your approach to deadlines is more than reasonable.

  13. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    OP, at the very end, you say he only started two months ago. How realistic is performing at full strength after two months?

    The reason I ask is that depending on the job, two months is very, very early to be deciding that he sucks and is unlikely to change — but by the same token, if two months is so very early to make a ruling that he’s no good, it also becomes incredibly early for him to be deciding he’s all that and a bag of chips, and doesn’t speak well to his internal conviction that he’s producing at full.

    In any case, he needs a serious conversation about his performance, and perhaps some realistic expectation-setting around what a ramp-up to full productivity looks like.

    1. Allypopx*

      I think you can tell certain things after two months. How he processes feedback, how he responds when he needs help on a project or doesn’t think he’ll meet his deadline, how he interacts with management, whether the same mistakes are happening repeatedly…I wouldn’t expect an employee to be fully self-sufficient and flawless after two months but there are definitely these red flags that OP can pick up on already.

    2. Arctic*

      I definitely think there are things here that shouldn’t’ be happening even two months in. But I also think it’s likely the annoyance is heightened by his presentation of himself (understandably so!) than it might be for a more down to earth new employee.

    3. Close Bracket*

      lol, I was told I wasn’t performing at my level after 3 months, so I guess realistic enough.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You can tell in the first week sometimes, depending on the nature of the issues! Stuff like this — not taking feedback, repeatedly missing deadlines — absolutely you could know at two months. It’s not that he should be performing at full strength after two months; it’s that it’s soon enough to know there are serious problems with his skills/habits/approach.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I have seen a lot of the opposite side of the problem. In a short time, I can tell the person will be just fine but the person is loaded with doubt. New job jitters is very different from lack of intention to learn. People who are just nervous and want the job think of different things to say and ask than people who do not care. I never realized how much that showed until I started supervising.

        OP’s employee with the erroneous assessments of himself is blocking his own path of learning for this job. He is so focused on bragging that he is missing the specifics of his job. I don’t think it’s new job jitters.

        Of all the people I have trained only two were not nervous. And those were the two who wildly failed at the job. After seeing this, I actually started liking the nervous people. Some would comment, “I am so nervous, I can’t stop my hands from shaking.” And I would say, “You are nervous because you actually CARE that you succeed at this job. Because you care you will probably be okay. I am going to show you what to do. You can ask me questions any time. Then I am going to walk away and let you work through it without me staring at you. Once the supervisor walks away, life gets better. I know this first hand. But come get me if you have a problem.”

    5. Jen S. 2.0*

      It’s one thing to still be learning the job after two months, but it is something else entirely not to be able to write or type or spell or proof when that’s what you’ve been hired to do. Adults in full-time jobs shouldn’t be learning to type. If these things aren’t his skill, then he might not be right for the job.

  14. Betty Scott*

    I think I know this guy too. When he worked here, he felt he deserved about 40% higher pay and ended up leaving after a few months. Luckily he got a job easily because his “resume was perfect.”

    1. CupcakeCounter*

      Same – he is also gone. In his mind he should have been a manager because the person he was replacing was a manager. The person who was leaving was retiring after 40 years on the job and some of the systems and processes he implemented meant that he no longer needed a “team” just a couple of people reviewing the error que but the company wasn’t going to demote him to a lesser title. So when the posted the job as “order quality analyst” and this guy was hired, he went to the new boss day 1 and said something along the lines of “since Dave is a manager and I am here to replace him, I assume that when he officially leaves I will get the manager title and pay raise right?” Kid had just over 1 year experience. Boss said that no, the entire team is being restructured to fit under the sales department when Dave officially retires so you will be reporting to Sarah (10+ years with the company). Kid was livid and left within a year due to “unfair treatment”. He also thought he was hot shit – quite literally told me that he worked on a “private pet project” for the CEO and CFO and when they didn’t thank him and fawn all over him IN PERSON when it was completed and reached the goal percentage, he stopped doing it so it went back to where it was before. Never mind that he got an “all right, awesome job” email from the CFO the first month the goal was hit, he wanted them to come to his cube so everyone could see and hear them. He also thought he deserved a bonus for this even though that project and the ongoing monitoring were listed in the job description when he was hired and everybody knew it is a pain point in the organization.

      1. Mrs_helm*

        I used to know “this guy”. Mechanic at a used car lot. Thought he should get a cut of the profit when the car sold, too, because they couldn’t sell it if he didn’t do his job. Also also told his girlfriend she couldn’t live without him. Guess what?

  15. Buttons*

    It isn’t clear from the letter if the LW is coaching him on his mistakes, or just correcting everything after he turns it in. He may need coaching on how to even spot mistakes. I would take one of the reports and together go over it. I would start by telling him how you identified mistake #1, and ask him what he would do to correct that mistake and how would he avoid it in the future. Then see if he spots the next one, if not go through that process again, and again, and again, until all the mistakes have been identified. One you have done that exercise one time he should be able to then correctly do that report the next time.
    He may not know that he is doing something wrong, he may not know how to identify a mistake, and this will help you figure out if there is a training issue or an attention issue. You can correct the behavior if you don’t know what is driving the behavior.

    1. Rando*

      I don’t think a manager should have to coach someone on *spelling* unless I’ve misunderstood and this job is being filled by a junior high school student. Of course not all schools are equal, I would expect everyone that graduates high school to have experience writing essays, term papers, etc. Even if spelling isn’t your strong suit, there are spell checkers and dictionaries. This just reeks of sloppiness.

      1. Close Bracket*

        You might need to coach them on effectively using spell check tools, for example. As a contract editor, we had specific Word settings that we were expected to use and specific “ctrl-f” checks to catch specific types of errors. That kind of thing is fair to coach someone on.

  16. Art3mis*

    I’ve always thought that if employers need to tell their employees what a great place this is to work, it’s probably not true. Apparently it’s the same for employees.

  17. Lana Kane*

    LW – Do you have regular 1:1s? Because I think this is one of the reasons they’re so important. You can go over assignments for the week, check on deadlines, allow time for questions, and address concerns.

    If you’re not doing this, I think it’s especially critical to start – the fact that he’s so new is the perfect time to start tackling these behaviors, and will give you more solid footing if you eventually decide to let him go.

  18. Aquawoman*

    Something about “but I didn’t know you needed me to remind you of that” struck me as not benign. It crosses the line from “somebody got too many participation trophies” into insubordination. I might be reading too much into it, but the whole “you needed me to remind you of that” things struck me as kind of like Hal from 2001.

    1. Lana Kane*

      Yeah, that struck me as well. That was, honestly, the guy taking a pretty clear dig at his manager.

    2. hbc*

      Yeah, I don’t really believe in “insubordination” unless someone’s actually refusing to take an order, but that was overtly rude. It’s not my best instinct, but I would be all over his next late project with, “Remind me again how you always get things done on time.”

      1. Aquawoman*

        I struggled with finding the word. There is something more to it than rude in the way it reverses their roles. Presumptuous? Dismissive?

        1. Artemesia*

          I always react ‘misogynist’ when a young hotshot behave this way to an older female supervisor. This is frat boy behavior.

          1. CMart*

            It had a very “negging” vibe to it. Condescending. Begging for you to prove yourself to them, thus placing yourself below them in seeking their approval/understanding.

    3. Close Bracket*

      Man, I would have started keeping a spreadsheet of everything I gave him to do, when I asked him to have it by, and when he told me he was done just so I could throw this back in his face.

    4. Kate R*

      Yes. I thought the “As you know” was obnoxious, but “I didn’t know you needed me to remind you of that” really seemed like a dig at the OP. I also found this the perfect opening to say, “Actually, you routinely miss deadlines, which is a serious problem.”

    5. Jules the 3rd*

      I do not think it is clearly over the line. I think it totally depends on the tone. Especially for new-to-the-job-world people, they may not realize that managers are not sitting at their desks waiting breathlessly for new person’s input. We’ve seen multiple letters with employees not realizing that their manager has a lot of other priorities that they’re juggling.

    6. Morning Glory*

      Agreed. That was a really rude, passive aggressive thing to say and worth a discussion on professional communication all on its own.

    7. Collarbone High*

      You’re right, it comes across like a neg. And the LW referred to feeling like he was trying to be manipulative. I wonder, is this employee trying to adapt pick-up artist techniques for the workplace?

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          I framed it as trying to gaslight the OP, but negging (as a type of gaslighting) is also a perfectly applicable term. Just a slightly narrower one. But frankly, given just how MUCH gaslighting is being thrown around here (everything from telling you how to feel, in “You are going to be so happy!” to telling you he sent you an email that you know he didn’t), there’s plenty of room for either phrase to be accurate… and everything you’re telling us about this guy makes him sound less clueless and more willfully manipulative.

    8. MCMonkeyBean*

      And it doesn’t even make sense! Even if he truly did get started on assignments right away, there would still have to be some time passing between when the assignment was issued and when it was finished. It seems like he is indicating OP should just assume it is complete as soon as it’s assigned to him, which is nonsense.

  19. wayward*

    I wonder if there are some especially dysfunctional employers where being an enthusiastic yes person will buy you a lot, even if your work is garbage.

    1. NicoleK*

      I don’t know about employers, but there are dysfunctional “managers” where being a likeable, enthusiastic, personable person will get you very far, even if your work is garbage. I work with one of these people. And she’s been in her role for 6 years and counting.

    2. Witchy Human*

      My first retail job was like this. If Boss asked if I’d mopped, I would say “yes” like a normal person. I had a coworker who would go “heck yeah, I sure did!!!” like it was an amazing accomplishment he was super proud of.

      And it didn’t matter that I cleaned thoroughly and he always half-assed it, Boss was always going to give fake-enthusiasm-dialed-to-11 guy more credit.

      1. wayward*

        Yup, just wondered if Problem Child could have spent some time working for one of those managers and gotten some skewed ideas about what was important at work.

    3. hbc*

      It’s why I left my last job. Whoever could state first and most confidently that the other person was at fault would be believed, regardless of current facts or past performance.

    4. Wendy Darling*

      I mean, I left my last job because they hired a data analyst when they wanted an enthusiastic yes person so they could tell their clients that someone had done data analysis that confirmed the rightness of what they were already doing.

      Unfortunately data analysis did NOT confirm the rightness of what they were already doing, so I kept getting told to find data that proves X initiative led to huge improvements but being unable to do so because X initiative did nothing that rose to the level of statistical significance but if anything made performance slightly WORSE, and then getting yelled at for not being a team player. :(

  20. arcya*

    Tbh “full-on gaslighting my employer into thinking I’m doing a good job” is not really a strategy I had considered but I’ll keep it in mind for my 1-on-1 this afternoon

      1. arcya*

        He was all like, “do you have ideas about how to solve this delivery problem” and wasn’t even *interested* in hearing me explain how great I am, the NERVE

  21. ssssssssssssssssssss*

    How old is this person?

    I’m trying to avoid a “kids today” mindset but after years working once a week with kids in the Scout program, my brain read this letter and was instantly reminded of these 8 to 12 year olds constantly stating how amazing they were. And this after any minor achievement or any nonsense.

    As an adult, I let this go because it was so silly and if the youth was really struggling or having issues, the bragging stopped, or an adult would swoop in to fix the situation.

    And part of me believed that this was a phase and eventually the kids would outgrow it once the reality hits that adulting is hard or the challenges of real adolescence hits. I’m not so sure, now.

    The kids who were prone to this were quite social, extroverted, chatty and loved to be the centre of attention. They were often too busy having fun and socializing to realize how little they got done, how far they had fallen behind on tasks or how badly they were executing the skills they needed to learn. This was really evident at our canoe training camp as when it came time to really canoe, like paddle for a couple of hours straight, those who were too busy bragging, strutting, and goofing off, i.e. not listening to correction, were the worst paddlers but didn’t seem to connect the not listening with the lack of canoe skills.

    I hope it works out but it just might not.

      1. DJ*

        Yeah, this would be perfectly normal (albeit annoying) behavior coming from an actual 8-12 year old. Not so normal coming from an adult.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      This could be related to his upbringing. If you tell your kid everything they do is wonderful, and never give them actual realistic feedback on anything, that forms the lens through which they see the world. And if they are coached to simply let negative feedback roll off their back because other people’s opinions don’t matter unless they’re 110% positive, they never do learn how to judge their own performance accordingly.

      I think it’s less “kids these days” than “parents these days”. When I was teaching, I had a surprisingly large number of parents tell me their kid was their best friend. Um, no. Your kids has friends. What they need from you is to be a parent because somebody has to set limits and boundaries for them.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        These are the parents who had kids “so they had unconditional love” from someone and not so that they could you know, give unconditional love.

        1. Jedi Squirrel*

          Bingo! It’s okay for your kids not to be happy with something you do. They need limits and they need to learn how to deal with anger and frustration. The world will not be as forgiving and guiding with an adult as a parent will be with a child. (And I’m thinking about the man in this thread who got fired and started throwing things as a result.)

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            And you’ve got about 12 years when they truly listen to you! So take advantage of that time.

            My mom and I are best friends. As adults. Just wait until they’re frigging grown.

      2. ssssssssssssssssssss*

        Absolutely! My kids are my kids and not my friends and they get told “No” a lot and “Ah, no, that wasn’t quite right” and my daughter gets unvarnished but gentle criticism on her art. It really pisses her off but hey, that’s life! Not everyone will like all that you do but if YOU like it, that’s okay.

        As a Scout leader, I suspect a lot of the kids saw me as no-fun, or as a killjoy or as a PITA because I was always coming down on the side of safety, respect for other’s people’s space and for “put on your listening ears!” Respect for other’s people’s space, boundaries and stuff was the hardest to enter into their heads.

        “Is it yours?”
        “Then don’t take it, steal it or break it.”

        “Did you hear him say stop?”
        “So, what do you think you should do?”
        Sullenly, “Stop…”

        And: “He listened to you tell your story, so now you listen to his story.” And “The leader’s talking so you’re not. Right?”

        And: “HANDS TO YOURSELVES!” There was one year where one bunch kept trying to grab each other’s family jewels. I never expected to have to tell boys to not do that! This just doesn’t happen with the girls in the pack and troop. (The girls in my troop had a slight game of exclusion going on until that was also addressed.)

        And, while I do sometimes miss the camping fun, I do not miss the constant policing of obnoxious pre-teen and teen behaviour.

        1. JediSquirrel*

          There was one year where one bunch kept trying to grab each other’s family jewels.

          I have seen this before, as well, only they called the game “Squirrel” because…well, you know.

        2. tangerineRose*

          “Respect for other’s people’s space, boundaries and stuff” There are probably several kids who really appreciate that you care about this. When I was a kid, I always appreciated adults like this.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Children get a lot of leeway. That’s why we use the whole “kid gloves” phrase, they’re easily damaged and such. This is a grown ass man unless she’s working in a youth project/camp.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        btw, kid-gloves do mean handling something delicately, but not because you are handling delicate, easily damaged, non-adult humans or goats. It’s because gloves made out of young goat (kids) or young sheep (lambskin) are thin and soft. The thinness makes it easier to hold things, the softness helps get a little more grip than slick leather. Think maids cleaning fine china.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          OMG gloves made of actual kids even [well aware that it’s a baby goat, 4H and all that stuff.]

          I’ve been down a Wiki Rabbit Hole today and you are not helping meeeeeeeee ;) Argh I love this kind of “history of” stuff.

          1. Jedi Squirrel*

            You might like “Connections” by James Burke. Fascinating stories of how various items came to be. (E.g., the automotive carburetor was based on a perfume sprayer.)

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          Unfortunately, I think it’s more likely that this crap has *worked* in former jobs. At least for a while. So he figures he’s got avoiding work and being praised and rewarded anyhow down to a science by now. And it’s *still* working well enough to have the OP tied up in knots about what to do and this community starting out unsure whether he’s being manipulative or just oblivious (though I think later comments from the OP with more information are settling that question rapidly).

          À great deal of our society is set up on the assumption that we won’t run into people so unscrupulous as to outright try to swindle us. This leaves us especially vulnerable to those who will.

      1. it's me*

        I was just going to ask how old he was and did a search for it. Yeah, no. I was hoping he was like 21. Nope. Just from what I’ve seen you say from skimming about what you’ve told him, this is bizarre. You shouldn’t have to tell a 36-year-old about reminders in Outlook.

  22. Amy*

    I have a colleague like this. His conference call speaking style is

    – one minute about how he’s doing this call from the bathroom / parking lot / dungeon basement of a client site and that he’s been there since 5am (our clients observe normal 9am start times)

    – 2 minutes about how great he is/ his work ethic / how much customers love him

    – 30 seconds of the actual point he’s trying to make. Occasionally it’s an okay point, usually it’s irrelevant

    – 1 minute repeat of how great he is.

    By learning his speaking style, I can tune everything out until minute 3. It’s a nice little break in my day to look at my IG feed.

    1. Wendy Darling*

      I was on a call with a guy I work with who’s like this. I normally just hang out on mute and play solitaire while he mugs for the client, but today he apparently didn’t notice I joined the call and started straight making shit up about why I wasn’t there and what I’d done that week. As far as I can tell he was just doing it to hear himself talk.

      I’m currently waiting to see if he emails me to tell me what he told the client I was working on, which is in fact not something I am working on.

  23. Close Bracket*

    By addressing the crux of the problem — his work is not what you need it to be — he’ll probably get the message that his self-hype isn’t in line with the reality.

    Anytime you think someone will get the message without actually saying the message, they won’t.

  24. Miss Muffet*

    I had two administrative assistants that I managed that maybe weren’t quite as effusive, but still lacked the same self-awareness. When I provided feedback, I even had one say, “I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree.” I find that the employees that are the loudest about singing their own praises (or rate themselves really high on their self-evals) are usually the ones that struggle the most, or do just enough to get by. The real stars never need to show off.

    1. Buttons*

      “I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree.” Made me LOL! I can imagine it—
      Bozz “Jane, the TPS report is missing the XYZ data.”
      Jane “I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree.”

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Agree to disagree is for things that are actually opinions…which work product isn’t an opinion that you get to just go “LOL well I disagree that my mistakes are an issue, so whatevs, boss! Good chat!”

      I shrug off over-confidence easily when it’s stuff like “I am a great beatboxer, listen to me go!” but when it’s work related, I draw a hard “You need to stop, now.” line. Since it’s really not negotiable that you do satisfactory work 90% of the time.

    3. Autumnheart*

      The real stars only get “Met expectations” on all their reviews because they make their job look easy, so people assume that it is.

  25. Earthwalker*

    I was always told that “you have to blow your own horn” and imagining that this is how it would look when someone took that advice seriously.

    1. Archie Goodwin*

      Yes, well, there’s blowing your own horn, and then there’s the last movement of Mahler’s 1st Symphony. This strikes me as akin more to the latter than the former.

        1. Archie Goodwin*

          Thank you kindly. :-)

          I mean, I’m not USUALLY that snarky…especially where Mahler is concerned. Guess I’m having a really good day.

        1. Archie Goodwin*

          I thought that’s what they call getting hammered…

          (Least that’s what I called it when I heard the Sixth.)

  26. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Yeah, when people are this disillusioned with their abilities, they won’t change. He’s just a gaslighting dbag. “I didn’t know I needed to remind you of that” WHAT? Fire him. He’s not cut out for administrative assistance if he speaks to his boss this way. Says the person who usually isn’t one to play into hierarchy lines but you don’t ever speak to someone you’re assisting with that BS.

    1. AnotherKate*

      Yep. I am certainly not suited to be an admin or assistant of any kind, but when I actually had that job, I still couldn’t imagine speaking to my bosses this way. It feels like he’s trying to banter–but that’s just not appropriate for the role, broadly, but especially for where he’s at in terms of actual earned capital. It’s been 2 months; this is not the time to be yukking it up, this is the time to focus and really learn the role. This would be the case for anyone, in any role, but ESPECIALLY a support role, where so much of being successful depends on really getting to know your boss and their needs.

      I suppose a person who’s new to the workforce might not KNOW that that’s what success looks like, which is interesting. Can Alison take a bus around the country and give lessons on a megaphone to the Gumptious Youth of America?

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I’m a 97% chucklehead, I don’t have no “you’re the CEO, I can’t be goofy in front of you” kind of filter at all. But yeah, you don’t just get to brush off errors like dirt on your shoulder.

        Let’s be silly…once you learn your GD job and respect that your duties are important.

    2. QuinleyThorne*

      That line made me wonder: what does he think his job *is*? Actually, now that I think about it, asking him that very question might be a good place to start. He’s already loudly proclaiming how “great” an employee he is despite clear evidence to the contrary, so there’s no reason to think he wouldn’t answer honestly. That way OP can gauge his understanding of what his job entails, and give reality checks where needed.

      This might work with any employee who’s struggling actually. Because even if they answer with a perfect descriptor for their position, you’d still (presumably) have concrete evidence to the contrary, and it would open up the conversation to provide constructive feedback.

      Ex. “So you understand that meeting deadlines is one of your position’s priorities, which is great. But I notice that you’re struggling a bit in this area. For example, you missed the deadlines for projects X, Y, and Z, as well as task A, which is due bi-weekly. Can you explain why that is?”

      Or something to that effect.

    3. Jules the 3rd*

      Wow that’s harsh. He’s only two months into the job. Until we get more feedback on just how direct OP has been with her feedback, I’m going to have to disagree. I think OP should try a sit down conversation about her main concerns, with one ‘all errors in this marked, go fix them’ example, and give him 2 – 4 more weeks of consistent ‘here are my standards’ feedback.

      Some people, and yes, even people with this level of ‘I’m great!’, can learn if you give them consistent standards. He at least sounds like he wants to make OP’s life better.

      OP, might help to say, ‘here is how I require it’, which may help get through.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        It’s been 2 months, unless this is a really intensive administrative position, he has had plenty of time. Letting someone linger in that problem zone too long just makes replacing them and getting rid of them harder in the end. It’s better to cut your losses and find someone who isn’t full of their own hype.

        I’ve had people smile in my face and be really nice humans in general who suck and had to be let go. Just because the kitten is cute, doesn’t mean you let it cause you pain.

      2. OP*

        I have been direct and provided my own templates and explained standards he needs to adhere to. Multiple times. I think what I haven’t done is been serious enough about what the consequences are for not doing the work correctly. I think that’s maybe the part that hasn’t been clear, and maybe he doesn’t take me seriously because of that? I really don’t know.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          If he’s the kind of deliberate gaslighter he sounds like == and I wasn’t sure until some of your followup comments, but I’m pretty certain by now — then of course he won’t take you seriously until consequences start showing up. Why should he? His goal isn’t to do good work, it’s to get credit for doing good work… probably while putting in as little real effort as possible. He will not care what you think of his work; he will only care what happens to him because of it.

          Start showing him, very directly, what exactly happens *to him* when he does not meet expectations. It’s the only thing I can imagine helping… and even there, you almost certainly would do better to just ditch him than to pressure him into recognizing that he has no choice but to do slightly less terrible work in order to avoid consequences. You’re not looking, after all, for an employee who does the bare minimum that will get you to avoid escalating to the firing protocol. That isn’t what you aim for when you hire, so why should it be what you aim for when you’re deciding whether or not to retain?

        2. Beatrice*

          The consequences of not meeting expectations should be self-evident. Don’t beat yourself up there, or use that to invent excuses for him. Time to have a direct conversation about his performance not meeting expectations and needing to improve. You’ll be tempted to soften the message for him or make excuses for him – don’t do that, it’s not doing him any favors. The kindest thing you can do for him is be very, very direct.

          1. tangerineRose*

            It’s bizarre to me that he doesn’t get that regularly not doing what your boss tells you to do the way the boss says to do it usually means that the person doesn’t get to keep their job.

            1. Working Hypothesis*

              He may get it and simply think he’s so good at manipulating the boss that he can get away with it. So far, he’s been right. And he may have lasted so long at previous workplaces, and negotiated his departure on terms which include them not saying anything bad about him, that he thinks even if he does lose his job for this eventually, he has an M.O. that serves him well for a while and doesn’t harm his ability to find future suckers to employ him.

      3. Beatrice*

        I wouldn’t let him go immediately based on that comment, but it gave me a lot of pause, too. He’s reframing her statement about her expectations to make it sound less reasonable, and at the same time, he’s planting an excuse for the next time he doesn’t do it. He’s 100% not going to do this exact thing at some point, and he’s telegraphing that by the way he responds to it. I just managed someone out who did exactly that.

        The good news is, either way, getting very direct with feedback is the way to fix it.

  27. QuinleyThorne*

    I cannot *fathom* lacking this much self-awareness in my own abilities, and further having the audacity to constantly toot my own horn about it. If it were just one or the other, I could *maybe* give the benefit of the doubt, but both? Jesus H.

  28. Pampaloon*

    I had this admin, a fairly mature along her career type, who when given feedback would say “You are right, that will never happen again”. The behavior would continue and I would remind her we talked about and she would say “yes, I have been doing that exactly as you asked”. I would show that what she said was factually incorrect and I would get a blank stare. We went through this cycle over and over again until I had to start writing her up with copies of screen shots. This was simple stuff, like filling out your time sheet on time that nobody would ever mess up once told their job depended on it. I started calling it the lie/deny cycle and I guess it was some kind of immature defense mechanism. Completely bewildering.

    1. WS*

      I work with someone like this (a colleague, we’re on the same level) who is competent and perfectly fine to work with…unless she makes a mistake. And then it’s everybody else’s fault, it wasn’t explained properly, she’s been doing it that way for 20 years (not true), etc. And she’s completely fine when people she supervises make an error – she can calmly correct the problem and work with them on it not happening again. It’s only when it’s her error that she didn’t do it, it’s not her fault.

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        Ugh. I’ve taught kids who passed through a phase like that, but they were about twelve years old at the time. And even then, I was able to ask them gently, “And WHOSE job is it to remember to check the pencil box?” and get a small, embarrassed answer of, “…. mine…” when they tried it.

  29. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

    What do you do when the deadline has expired? Do you just wait or do you walk up to him and call it out? “The report is due now, please send what you have completed.” You have to show that deadlines are deadlines. Have there been any consequences for missing deadlines? I don’t mean a reprimand, although he needs that too, I mean natural consequences like he didn’t submit the Widget order on time, so the client complained or took their business elsewhere level of consequences. He probably blows through all deadlines because they aren’t “real” deadlines if there isn’t a problem (in his mind). He needs to experience the cause and effect; and it needs to affect him in real tangible ways and not others in the office — like he missed the deadline so Sally has to stay late — because that doesn’t sound like it’ll really register as a “him” problem. I know there are limits on what you can actually do, especially if he’s hourly and your org doesn’t want to incur overtime, but there needs to be something — required to stay late, no flextime, no approval for a vacation day…

    1. OP*

      There was one particular assignment I gave him – the deadline passed and when we talked soon afterward I explained why I had wanted it on that date and because it wasn’t done, X Y Z was delayed and that wasn’t acceptable. He told me he understood and he forgot because I didn’t remind him. The more I’m going through these replies and thinking about it, I’m realizing that whenever he’s not able to deflect or make me focus on how great he is, he blames me for his failure to complete work.

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        This is another data point on the stack, and it’s ALL pointing toward the conclusion that this guy is not clueless, he is actively and maliciously manipulative. Fire him at once if you can, or start the procedure if you need to document more before you’re allowed to.

        1. Arts Akimbo*

          Agreed, if he’s still in his probationary period just cut him loose, and if not, start the firing procedure.

      2. Beatrice*

        Yeah, you’ve got to nip that in the bud. I presume he’s not a seventh grader. He owns getting his job done. He’s solely responsible for tracking his own deadlines and progress without reminders. It’s so great that you’re recognizing that he does this, so you can prepare yourself for it the next time you talk to him, and cut him off at the pass next time.

  30. Third or Nothing!*

    OMG did you hire one of our previous employees? We had a part-time worker who was just like this. He thought he knew everything about the new software system we were implementing and was adamant that his way of importing data was THE way to do it. Took us a year to sort out that mess. Ugh.

  31. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

    I’ve got a relative who does something similar. The bigger she’s screwing up, the louder she’s tooting the “I’m awesome and the world is such a better place for YOU since I AM HERE” horn. I am of the personal opinion that she knows she’s screwing up, and puts on these weird performances to manipulate the very people she’s screwing over into thinking they’re in the wrong. Maybe this guy is doing something similar? The whole “as you know, I always complete my tasks immediately” line smacks of this strategy.

  32. JKP*

    I know that everyone is focused on his overconfidence, but what jumped out at me was the juxtaposition of phone answering and greeting clients mixed with detailed work. I wonder how many times he needs to answer the phone or greet someone per hour and how that number of interruptions affect his detailed work.

    Back in the day when I did very detailed work, I got really good reviews on my work and heard many complaints about the receptionist’s work. But when I had to cover her desk for a week while she was out on vacation, the quality of my work easily dropped down to be the same as hers. I made a ton of mistakes I would have normally caught. And everything took way longer than it would have normally. And it didn’t seem to be worse while I was doing it, only the next week when everything got sent back to me to fix.

    1. OP*

      This is a fair point. His role is hard in that it requires strong CS skills AND high attention to detail for many types of reports. I try to be mindful of this when setting deadlines and always assign this role more time to complete things than I otherwise would. I did his role once upon a time. Some days I felt like I got NOTHING done. So I do understand… or I’m trying to.

  33. Teapot Translator*

    I’m starting to feel like we have impostor syndrome because people like him bogart all the confidence

  34. NYWeasel*

    Ugggggh, having flashbacks to being saddled with a coordinator who made super obvious typos and would then make new errors when going in to fix the first ones. There truly are people who are incapable of catching their own mistakes. In my case, the assistant chose to leave bc she knew it wasn’t a good fit.

  35. pentamom*

    This sounds like the guy is not going to go the distance and you’ll be letting go of him sooner or later.

    But I think it would be worth saying once, when you’re in the process of some kind of evaluation, or even at the time you explain why he’s being let go, that an admin constantly telling his boss what a great job he’s doing is unprofessional. Will he listen? If his problems are as deeply rooted as the AAM commentariat seems to think, probably not. But it doesn’t cost anything to say it, and there’s a chance, even if a small one, that it might click.

  36. Jennifer Juniper*

    This guy sounds like a first-class narcissist. I’m surprised Alison didn’t tell the OP to come down hard on him for his self-aggrandizing, conceited, unprofessional, and false comments about his work. He also sounds like he’s trying to gaslight the OP.

    He may also feel insecure because he’s doing what is traditionally considered women’s work (admin role). This goes double if the OP is a woman. Many men still feel emasculated by working for a woman, and this guy could seriously be overcompensating.

  37. Don’t get salty*

    I’m still struggling to figure out how this guy got past the interview stage if the role requires careful attention to detail. I could understand if the research aspect of his work wasn’t very good; that’s something that’s very difficult to screen for. But someone who is unable to detect the simplest errors is someone who should never have been hired in the first place.

    I’m curious if you had a previous employee who was terrible at customer service. Seeing that this current employee makes it a point to ostentatiously perform his personality, and to overpromise and under-deliver, makes me believe that he was attractive during the interview stage because of his personality, not because of his skills.

    Because you require someone in this role who not only will have a great personality, but is also competent to do the work that you assign to them, it might be a great idea to type up a quality sheet and use that to direct your interview and evaluations, including questions that help you to gauge someone’s attention to quality as well as their ability to successfully interact with customers.

    I also question why you feel compelled to correct his work when it’s submitted to you with errors. He was hired to assist you. It seems, based on how you’ve described the scenarios, you’re spending more time assisting him than the reverse. Combined with the manipulative, backhanded comments from him, I sense that he feels he is is able to charm you into either accepting poor work, or into becoming exasperated enough to not require quality work from him (i.e. doing the work yourself). This type of personality is not worth the investment.

  38. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    Are you addressing it in the moment? And how direct are you? If he makes a crazy comment about how awesome he is/how he never misses deadlines, I think you need to provide feedback – very direct feedback – in that moment. It may not make a difference, but with this kind of person, it’s the only thing that MIGHT provide a reality check. And if nothing changes, you need to start the process of disciplinary action.

  39. kinvitation*

    It sounds to me like this guy took a workshop, probably in a budget hotel conference center, on “how to gaslight your boss”. The fact that he is pushing his narrative in so many different ways, contrary to reality, is the real red flag, and might be worth commenting on.

    I’d be tempted to present him with two columns – Quotes from him on the left, Performance issues on the Right. I’d say

    “As a supervisor, I’m most concerned with the column on the right. I’m going to work with you to improve on these items, and if there isn’t improvement, this job may not be a good match for you. As a human being who has been in the work world a long time, I want to address the left-hand column. It sounds like you’ve been given advice on how to manage your boss. If that’s the case, I’m telling you – as a human being and someone who’s been in the work world for a long time – it’s really very bad advice. You’ve probably been told to continue with the strategy no matter what, that it can only work if you stick with it. That’s incorrect. And if you paid someone for that advice, you’ve been scammed. Now let’s get to work on improving the things on the right. “

  40. Madame Curator*

    You’ve stolen my intern – please keep him!’
    All jokes aside, this is my current situation in a government job where the time to terminate is longer than the length of his contract. Same issues, no attention to detail, always making typos, seemingly forgetting 6 months into his job that despite 1200 conversations about this that he had to run public-facing communications by me first…
    I have given up trying to teach him anything because he’s not learning, just making the same mistakes over and over again despite very serious performance chats. He might be gaslighting me…

  41. SRMJ*

    OMG…I hope we get an update on this guy. He thinks he’s such a good gaslighter! What will he do next? I cannot wait to find out.

  42. Turdwife*

    I certainly do not want to make light of this problem, but reading your description made me picture your employee being the character “Barry Goldberg” from The Goldbergs. My husband and I are big fans of the show and I read this to him aloud and he agreed. We couldn’t stop laughing.

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