my employee locked me out of a work document in a fit of pettiness

A reader writes:

I took a job a few years back to manage an area that previously did not have a manager. My employer doesn’t fire people, it just moves them around, and this area was the dumping ground for problem employees before I arrived, so I inherited some colorful personalities.

One employee in particular, Jason, is infamous across the entire department for being very difficult to work with. He plays constant power games, loses his temper frequently, and has horrible people skills. Every month or so, there’s another crisis involving him that requires me to patch up relationships across the department, sometimes up to the level of my boss’ boss, the director of the department.

This one is thankfully more local, but feels serious. A while back Jason made a report that gets emailed to another employee on my team, Chidi, to use. Over time it has become unusable because it’s not filtered well enough. Chidi’s been asking me to fix it for a long time, so recently I went in and fixed it.

Jason found out and was very upset that I changed “his” report. To be clear, he never uses the report, it doesn’t even have much to do with his job responsibilities, he just happened to be the one to originally create it a long time ago. Also, I didn’t change it for fun, it was unusable and I made it usable. I responded by calmly telling him these things and I thought that was the end of it. He left for the day less than an hour later for an unrelated reason.

And then I find that I’ve been locked out of the report. I can still view it, but I can’t make changes to it.

Some background: the software that the report is made through was managed by another position in the department that has been unfilled for the past few months after the employee retired. Jason really wanted that position and applied for it, but my boss, Tahani (who is beyond fed up with Jason), wouldn’t give it to him in a million years. Tahani told him he was rejected for the job because he doesn’t have a bachelor’s degree. (He actually decided to get a bachelor’s degree because of this.) He wants so badly to move up and be promoted, but he can’t seem to internalize that his horrible interpersonal behavior is what’s holding him back, though I’ve told him multiple times in performance reviews.

The position still hasn’t been filled, but Jason was given administrative access to the software to cover the position in the meantime. My boss also has administrative access and she’s been meaning to give me administrative access for a while, but just hasn’t gotten around to it. This is how he could lock me out of the report.

Coincidentally, that same day I asked him to give me edit access to a folder with some work files in it that aren’t part of his job responsibilities anymore. He flat out refused. I was so shocked I didn’t know what to say and then he left for the day for unrelated reasons.

This feels serious, but I’m having a hard time judging how serious because my workplace norms are getting so out of whack from this job. Part of me is worried making a big deal about this will just make me look controlling. But I can’t have my employee locking me out of work documents because of his ego! I’m his boss!

If I bring this to my boss, she’ll go nuclear and yank his administrative access. But that administrative access is very important to Jason, and he’ll throw a fit and start playing even more power games. Similar scenarios have happened half a dozen times before. I have to keep managing him, and it’s much easier to do if I don’t make him feel “threatened.” I’ve worked hard since I started this job to convince him that I’m not out to get him. I’m going to talk to Jason first and I hope to get it handled and then tell Tahani about it. But what do I say that won’t just trigger more power struggles?

Also, there’s a chance he’ll threaten to “go to Tahani” about this, which he has done multiple times before and is always uncomfortable for everyone. Tahani always agrees with me, but I feel like it reflects badly on me when my employees waste my boss’ time “tattling” on me. I’d love to hear your suggestions on what to say when he threatens me with that.

Just to head off the obvious response: I can’t fire him. I’ve documented everything, and maybe if he does this again I could escalate it to my boss’ boss and it’s theoretically possible he could get fired. But he’s not getting fired over this.

Just to drive that last point home: Some employees in our department were found to be driving company vehicles to fast food places, spending the entire day there, and coming back at the end of the day to hurriedly make it look like they worked and clock out. They were not fired, just transferred to a different area. (Not mine, thankfully!)

Your company is a bigger problem here than Jason is. To review:
* Your company won’t fire people but just moves them to other teams so they become someone else’s problem, including people found not to be showing up to work and falsifying their timecards.
* This has resulted in you having an employee who loses his temper constantly and causes crises on a monthly basis.
* This problem employee is so convinced you won’t take any real action against him that he is locking you out of reports and openly refusing to give you access to other files (!).
* Your boss is “beyond fed up” with this employee but instead of addressing the problems in an honest way, told him he didn’t get a promotion because of his lack of a bachelor’s degree (which he is now getting, which is setting everyone involved up for a serious explosion when he gets it and finds out it didn’t matter). This is incredibly unfair to the employee, problematic as he is, and astonishingly terrible management.

Your company is really, really badly managed.

To your credit, you seem to be trying to be direct with Jason (telling him multiple times that his horrible behavior is what’s holding him back).

But he’s crossed new lines with his latest actions. Locking you out of a report and refusing to give you files you requested is really serious (especially the latter). It’s not controlling to have a problem with this. It’s really serious. Firing serious.

And I know your company won’t let you fire him for this. Which is an enormous problem of its own! Normally I’d tell you that you can’t manage in an environment like this and you should get out, because this will hold you back in serious ways (you’ll achieve less, learn really messed up norms, and pick up all sorts of bad habits — and fundamentally, be prevented from doing your job as a manager).

But you gave me a small amount of hope when you wrote this: “I’ve documented everything, and maybe if he does this again I could escalate it to my boss’ boss and it’s theoretically possible he could get fired.” If that’s the case, then start that process. Document this, escalate it, and start putting together whatever paperwork it will take to eventually make the case to fire him. If you can fire him at some point, just not now, then get that ball rolling so that day comes around eventually.

And meanwhile, stop hesitating about letting your boss know about this major incident. You said you don’t want to because she’ll go nuclear and pull his administrative access, and that will cause Jason to throw a fit and play more power games. Good — let all that happen. Your boss deserves not to have you hiding things she’d care about from her, and the more Jason misbehaves, the more ammunition you’ll have to put in your case to eventually fire him. Hand him the rope and let him use it.

(Similarly, when he threatens to go to her about something, stand back and let him. She might as well see exactly what you’re dealing with, and you give up too much power if you’re afraid of that threat.)

But really — all of this sounds exhausting. It sounds exhausting to have to go through the lengthy gauntlet your company is going to make you run here, and it sounds exhausting to work around Jason if you don’t. Is this job — this job where you can’t do your job because they won’t let you — worth it?

{ 431 comments… read them below }

  1. Wordnerd*

    I have not finished your letter nor read Alison’s response, but I am *here* for the pseudonym theme.

  2. Mike C.*

    Also, next time that happens try to save a copy of the file, and work from the copy. That won’t solve your deeper issues, but the first step of any long term process improvement is containment of the immediate problem.

    1. Diahann Carroll (formerly Fortitude Jones)*

      I do this in my job, and I don’t even have a lunatic direct report locking me out of things. I just want to be able to edit a document without worrying that, like, five other people will hop in it at the same time as me and eff up my formatting and/or whatever edits I made to the original (I really hate SharePoint).

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            or if one of them is willing to go clean up the problems every week or so. Thankfully it’s always the same kind of problems and I can VBA buttons to clean most of them up.

            1. Quill*

              Teach me your wisdom, I’m trying to wrangle our metrics document with a single IFNUMBER function

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        I do this because people at my office have a bad habit of locking a document for editing and then forgetting to unlock it for days at a time, even thought hey have not edited a single cell, they really just needed the read only view but habitually just check it out. No amount of emailing or slacking gets them to realize THEY are the one slowing everything down.

        1. Inca*

          I feel infinite sadness that this is still not solved. 20 years ago this was a problem with source control, so after some iterations, some geniuses got to git, where you can have mutiple copies and the algoritms are smart enough to either merge differences or to at least highlight changes so you as editor can decide.
          Those geniuses where also massive dicks, so they made this incredibly user unfriendly, so now only a small circle of people who have walked the walk and gone the initiation rite can use it, (and only if you don’t accidentally detach the head), and we are still here, still stuck on the basics of version control, while the people who could fix this have gone to Facebook to make that more efficient in its undercutting of society. Well, great.

      2. ZB*

        God I HATE SharePoint. Especially because our org primarily uses Dropbox, which I vastly prefer. Mostly because stupid sharepoint auto saves everything and I cannot for the life of me make my brain remember to save as BEFORE editing and excel doc.

    2. JSPA*

      Duplicate the document. The duplicate is yours.
      Also copy pasta it into a word doc or text file.
      Encourage Jason to also save a copy. This should salve his ego, if you’re worried about him otherwise (say) becoming violent, rather than just making his unsuitability for employment even clearer. (His is a necessary backup. Blah blah.)

      Finally, if you’re there to clean up, then clean up! If you’re there because you’re also being shunted to the dead wood pile…ask for guidance on getting the hell out of Deadwood.

            1. DejaFu*

              Turns out water in your nose hurts just as much as coffee. I think I need to appropriate ‘goat rage’ as a user-name.

    3. Amethystmoon*

      Yes! In Excel, you can open it in read-only mode and save the file in a different location. However if I were you, make dang sure you change the password on your computer frequently, because no doubt Jason will try getting in and deleting the file from your hard drive. If possible, e-mail a backup to your home computer, or at least print a copy and lock it up. Keep the key with you at all times.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        I wouldn’t suggest emailing a backup to her own computer (personal email address?) unless this is explicitly allowed by company policies. In a lot of places distributing company information like this would be a firing in itself (though perhaps not in this company!! still terrible practice though.)

        1. Amethystmoon*

          There has to be a backup copy of the file somewhere besides petty coworker’s PC and non-petty coworker’s PC that is protected. At least a hard copy or in a CD. Something so the file can be recreated if needed.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            You can just email it to your work email and then it will be there in your inbox and sent box if you need it.

            But we’re all suggesting these things as if it is a normal excel spreadsheet and it sounds like this might be something in a more specialized software and saving down editable copies like that might not be an option.

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Very much agreed. He’s going to keep trying to lock OP out of access as a way to protect his fragile turf (and ego), but this could create really really bad system-wide failures if he loses his ish again. OP needs to start setting up a parallel process in the interim.

      But holy hell, OP, I’m so sorry you’re going through this.

      1. Artemesia*

        I don’t understand not reporting this to management because he will get locked out and then get mad — THIS is precisely what needs to happen. He is now a vandal and should not have access to change documents.

      2. Jules the 3rd*

        yeah, OP you need to be thinking ‘what will he destroy in his temper tantrum’ not ‘how do I get my files.’ Jason is a SERIOUS security risk.

    5. ArtK*

      I don’t think that this is a file, but a query of some kind that is used to generate the report file. The OP changed the query parameters (“filtered”) and now Jason is bent out of shape.

    6. Granger Chase*

      Honestly, I would be doing this with any other original copies of documents he has on his computer, whether he is the only one who uses them or not. If your workplace never fires people, what is stopping him from doing a full info dump if he catches word his admin access is being taken away?

      1. Mama Bear*

        I had a summer job once where my entire job was to make sense of things when someone basically did this. The outgoing employee literally threw hardcopy documents into the air and let them land wherever and destroyed some of the soft copies. It took at least a month to inventory it all and then longer to fill in the gaps. If Jason is already so petty that he’ll lock you out of necessary documents and files, you should make sure IT has a good backup because there is little to prevent him from destroying anything he feels like right now, whether or not he’s fired. Do you have anyone in IT who could give YOU the access level he has so he can’t block you?

        He’s been allowed to terrorize everyone for without repercussions so it keeps happening. I agree with the advice to start the process of possibly firing him. It may be easier in the short term to not have her go nuclear but he really needs to feel some consequences for his behavior. If I locked my boss out of necessary files, I’d be fired for insubordination.

        1. Artemesia*

          This. He needs to be blocked from altering documents before he vandalizes the whole system.

    7. Wintermute*

      This is very much an “ask first” thing, in some industries. In mine, local copies are a potential disciplinary matter because of audit and files retention issues, in fact I just completed training on this. The expectation is network copies of all documents, all the time.

      So this is a decent interim workaround but know your environment, I have no doubt many of my coworkers wouldn’t even realize they could be fired for doing this but they absolutely could be.

      1. aebhel*

        I mean, if they’re not firing this dude for this level of egregious misbehavior, OP is probably safe.

        1. Wintermute*

          ah, point. Though compliance-related stuff and legal stuff can sometimes cause trouble even in companies that wouldn’t fire someone that punched their boss.

    8. Ellie*

      This is great advice, but also, have his administrator access pulled and get yours through instead. He’s abusing it, and you don’t know what he’s going to mess with next.

      If you can’t fire him, I’d suggest either micro-managing him to the point where he’ll find another job on his own (exhausting and he may outlast you), or the second option – ignore him. Give him nothing important to work on, at all, take him out of the loop. If he challenges you, reiterate its his personality problems that are holding him back, and tell him he has to behave himself with the bingo work first.

      Seriously, this isn’t the way to manage people, but I’ve been in the same boat about firing just not being an option, in which case, all you can do is contain the damage so the rest of the team can get on with it.

    1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

      How in the world has this business not run itself into the ground by now? Eventually they’re going to fill up with problem employees and their product or service will suffer. If it hasn’t already.

      I say this as a government employee where it’s notoriously hard to fire people. This guy would be several steps down the disciplinary process by now.

      1. Not a Blossom*

        I was thinking the same thing. This is going to chase good people out until all they have left are people who falsify time cards and throw tantrums. That is just not going to work.

        1. Ellie*

          Then they close that department to save money, lay everyone off, and give their work to someone else. A couple of months later, they hire some new people in the new department to help with the workload. It’s stupid, and a real company would never survive that way, but the government can.

      2. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

        I truly, truly do not understand the mindset of not being willing to fire people. Especially in egregious situations like timecard fraud!

        LW, have you ever received a reason they don’t fire people? They know other companies fire people and continue to remain in business, right? I am just flabbergasted at keeping people who stole from the company on as employees!

        1. Tinybutfierce*

          I worked for a coffee and bagel shop once that refused to fire anyone, including an employee who was chronically late and kept the store from opening on time by an hour three times in one week, and two other employees who got in a knock-out, drag-down brawl IN THE SHOP and then again on the street outside. I will go to my grave not understanding why they thought it was impossible to find anyone else in NYC who could make a damn sandwich.

          Wait, I take it back. They did fire one employee while I was there: the day manager who discovered one of the owners was altering our time cards so we were paid only the hours we were scheduled for, not how much we actually worked (which was consistently 30+ extra minutes a day, at least). They fired him by phone while he was out of the country for his sister’s wedding.

          1. MM*

            Oh, well, there’s your answer. A chaotic and dysfunctional environment was to their benefit because it made it easier to do things like wage theft.

        2. Richard Hershberger*

          One possibility: The Powers That Be are afraid of the company being sued, but aren’t smart enough to consult with a labor lawyer. There is a lot of mythology about civil litigation, a lot of it on the lines of if someone does something you don’t like, you can get millions. Of course the people who think this have had other people do stuff they don’t like, and didn’t get millions. These people often congratulate themselves for being too virtuous to sue. Even so, the cognitive dissonance is impressive.

          Qui bono? Ponder the question of who benefits from a widespread belief that litigation is inherently immoral.

        3. Elizabeth West*

          I know, right? It’s baffling. Actually firing people like Jason would help KEEP a company in business.

        4. Temperance*

          I used to work with a woman who was an absolute nutjob. She was very, very rigid and inflexible … two things that are just not appropriate for a receptionist to be. She had many complaints against her by our clients and butted heads with all of us, too. And yet, corporate refused to let us fire her, because she’s a member of a protected class and they were worried she’d sue.

          I worked there until 2010. She’s STILL there.

        5. Larina*

          At my old job, my manager refused to fire people. My theory is that the idea of firing someone made him personally feel bad, so he would just keep giving people more and more chances, without actually expecting them to be better at their jobs.

          The only person he ever actually fired himself was someone so incompetent and creepy that another manager threatened to start drinking on the job in order to get through the day having to deal with this dude.

          Was it a wildly toxic workplace? YEP.

        6. Emily K*

          Sometimes all it takes is 2 or 3 conflict avoidant people near the top of the org chart to influence the whole culture that way. They don’t establish an official procedure, and managers who might otherwise be inclined to fire worry that they’ll look out of step or cruel if they fire an employee, or they don’t believe upper management would support them, so it’s easier just to assimilate into the no-firing culture than have the double whammy of having to fire someone AND worrying about your own standing. After enough time it can become self perpetuating even after the original people have left of no one comes along and makes a change.

        7. Jenelle*

          I work with someone who refuses to fire or hold accountable anyone on our team. In her case it’s a strong case of the ostracizers-are-evil geek social fallacy, further misapplied to the work world.

          Unsurprisingly, on the team she leads, a couple people carry the work and a large minority take maximum advantage. I would not be surprised if we end up losing a large client contract because the pace of work on that team has slowed down so much.

      3. Wintermute*

        I call it the grease trap effect– anyone who has options and self esteem leaves, leaving you to hire in more people, of that new crop the ones with no other prospects who were happy to get any job stay, the best leave, your company starts getting a reputation and bad glassdoor reviews stack up, and soon you find it hard to hire, so you have to lower standards and can be less picky about red flags. Soon that means even the middling employees, the few left that had some options or would have to take a pay cut to leave due to their situation, they go, leaving you to keep sifting the shrinking labor pool, concentrating the worst employees in the market in your area into your company until it implodes from sheer dysfunction.

        I’ve seen it all too often.

        1. Nyltiak*

          This was EXACTLY my old job. They’d fire people for attendance issues, but hardly anything else. They were left with a bunch of people with <2 years experience who were using the job as a stopgap while they figured stuff out (I used tuition waivers to take classes to get into a PhD program, others used it while they were working on trade school, etc.) and a bunch of people who had been there a long time and were TOXIC. I was talking to another coworker (the one good guy from the "old school" crowd) about what we'd do to fix the place, and we basically concluded that out of 65-70 people involved in the major function of our department, there were 6 who were good, and maybe 3-4 others who might be OK if you got rid of all the terrible people. I left 2 years ago for grad school, and he's still there, in management now, pulling out his hair because everything is terrible (management was awful in many ways) but he doesn't have a degree, and would be hard pressed to find anything in our area that provides benefits so he can keep health insurance on his 5 children and also provides a generous tuition waiver to children of staff. He'd also find it hard to get the same salary elsewhere, because the skill set in that job was very niche.

      4. Effective Immediately*

        Y’know, before I came to my current place of employment (which is managed very similarly to OP’s), I would have asked the same question. But the truth is, there’s a lot of accidental success and failing up that goes on in places like this, at which point the game becomes: how can we make it look like this is successful or ignore most reasonable measures of success and *pretend* like it is.

        IME, places who do things like move problem employees around rather than fire them tend to have a systemic aversion to confronting reality, so they may keep trucking by expending all their effort on things that simply keep them afloat rather than actually progress toward goals, if that makes sense. I find this is especially true in the nonprofit world.

      5. Lonely Monster*

        I’ve worked government jobs where co-workers threw staplers at your head, got into fights with clients (both verbal/physical), stole stuff, came in high/drunk, and a few that would curl your toes.

        They didn’t get fired, because of seniority, nepotism, or they were the only person who knew a vital system (and refused to teach anyone else)

        Instead if you complained about these people, you got written up or “given the talk about being a team player”

    2. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

      I cannot fathom working at a company like this, or taking a job managing people the company should have fired but just shunted to the side instead! This company is just made of entirely of missing stairs and LW is gonna plummet one day if they aren’t fixed.

      LW, it sounds like you were set up for failure but have been making the best of it anyway. I applaud you! I would have a very serious Come to Cthulhu meeting with your boss and your grandboss about what you need to be able to do to effectively manage. And one of those things is fire people! Jason needs to go.

      Document, Document, Document. Can you put him on a PIP? If so, I’d so that ASAP. With goals not only related to NOT DENYING HIS BOSS ACCESS TO NEEDED FILES (seriously, WTF?) but also regarding interpersonal communication and relationships. Give him just enough rope to fully hang himself.

      1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

        If you have the time and patience, you could also implement some of the suggestions others have made to try and get him to quit. But I am wary that they will work, and it doesn’t solve your issue of having no firing power for other employees in the future.

        1. Diahann Carroll (formerly Fortitude Jones)*

          I’m halfway tempted to suggest OP plant a couple kilos of coke in his desk and anonymously call the police – he may not get fired, but the jail time would get him out of the way for awhile.

    3. Amber T*

      Holy motherforkin shirtballs, you’re in the bad place. I’m picturing a Michael behind the scenes controlling everything and giggling menacingly to himself.

      Don’t get me wrong, Jason is a huge problem and massive ashhole, but I agree with Alison and Jubilance – your company is the larger problem. Tahani set up everyone for a massive explosion and it doesn’t sound like anyone above her is going to do anything either. If you have a good working relationship with Tahani (or her boss), I’d lay it all out first – not only should his admin access be removed, but what are they going to do to stop him from retaliating? But honestly, the fact that they won’t fire anyone (your example of the transferring of employees who did no work is just ridiculous), I don’t have high hopes that this is going to be a Good Place to work in general. I’d start looking for other jobs.

      (Sorry, but I’m 100% HERE for the Good Place references)

          1. no clever username*

            Came here to say this. I don’t think Jason Mendoza knows how to use a computer?

            1. Junior Dev*

              Jason would try to solve the problem with Molotov cocktails.

              Then you would have a different problem!

      1. double spicy*

        OP, it seems very appropriate that you chose pseudonyms from The Good Place, because your company leadership is clearly acting like demons from the Bad Place. Get out as soon as you can, before this job warps your sense of normalcy even further!

    4. Mazzy*

      Yeah…they know a problem employee is not happy about the promotion being denied, so they give him access to the software to do that role to fill the gap. That’s bad practice, even if the employee annoys you! Even if someone says it’s fine to your face, even the most patient and lovely person will be frustrated with that! I mean….they can’t fully blame Jason for being moody if they’re contributing to it!

      1. Mama Bear*

        Agreed. Whose brilliant idea was it to give a volatile employee access to the job he wanted but didn’t get? THAT was not a good move.

        1. LunaLena*

          Pure speculation, but maybe when he threw a fit about not getting the job they gave him the access to pacify him and keep him happy? This company seems to be all about short-term bandaid solutions that just kick the can further down the road, so it probably seemed like a good idea at the time. They probably figure that whoever they eventually hire for the role can deal with taking the access away from him at that point in time.

          1. Glitsy Gus*

            You’re probably right, but wow what a bad idea.

            Jason is awful, but even so it’s really not fair to put him in a position of thinking, “all I need to do is get my B.A. and show them I really CAN do the job by taking over the tasks for now, and I’m a shoo in!” That’s a horrible thing to do to anyone and while I think he’s handling things horribly, and needs to be fired for his ridiculous temper and blantant insubordination, I don’t really blame him for being frustrated either.

  3. GiantPanda*

    Jason is actively sabotaging the company.
    This ought to be a firing offense. At the very least have his administrative access removed as well as any other access you can.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      Yes, I am beyond baffled why any employer would want to keep PAYING this dude for the privilege of not doing his job, not being manageable, and not working well with others. Their priorities are seriously out of whack, and they’re going to keep running off the good people by (inexplicably) protecting the awful ones.

    2. Office Sweater Lady*

      You have to remove Jason’s administrative access ASAP. A loose canon employee can seriously sabotage your network, documents and vital work processes. This is well worth fighting for. You need to get administrative access for yourself and yank his, full stop. In any other context, shenanigans like his would result in his firing, as GiantPanda says. As an aside, try shifting all the work from the empty position Jason has been helping out with away from him. Even if this creates temporary problems, it should encourage your company to speed up the hiring process for a new, and hopefully trustworthy, person who can manage that work.

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        Agreed. This employee has shown that given admin access, he makes petty, inappropriate uses of it to prevent work being done by others, including his boss. That would be cause for disciplinary action of some kind even in a government job, and certainly gives a clear reason for that access being removed as well as any other similar privileges taken away. (I’m using privileges in the computer user with more access sense, not the “get special VIP treatment” sense here.)

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Agreed. This is not someone who can be trusted to maintain access, and I wouldn’t put it past him to actively sabotage or destroy files if this escalates. Get his administrative access pulled after you’ve prepared for it by backing everything up, getting admin access, etc. It may read as a nuclear option to Jason, but it seems appropriate at this juncture.

      3. Engineer Girl*

        I came to say the same thing. Admin access and retaliation are two things that should never be together. Jason currently has the ability to take out all your documents. You must take away his admin privileges Now and do it without him knowing!

        I also want to point out that Jason is using his anger to control you. He will continue to do so because you won’t push back. Who cares if he goes to your boss! Your boss knows who and what he is. Call his bluff and let him sink his unreasonable self.

      4. Wintermute*

        Do you want random obscenities in your customer-facing communication? Because THIS is how you get random obscenities in your customer-facing communication.

        IT access requires trust. It’s the FIRST thing you learn when you start working in the field– you must be above reproach, because you’re given the keys to the kingdom and could shut down a company if you really wanted to. You need to be able to have utmost faith in anyone you give administrative access to production systems.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*


          I am a sysadmin. I have root access to production systems. The team I am on runs the authentication infrastructure for the university. I have access to PII, but thankfully not PHI.

          I have to pass a criminal background check for most of my jobs. I even tend to side eye companies that don’t demand it.

          Even with that, we have a policy of people only having the access to needed to do their jobs.

          If Jason had admin access to that report/report generator, but didn’t fix the problems with it, then he isn’t doing that job and needs his admin access removed.

          Sure, I get irked with coworkers, offended and insulted by a couple pretty regularly (politics is a thing.) Yet I would never even consider of interfering with their work and work product. It is my professional reputation, my integrity, and, ultimately, my ability to look myself in the mirror.

          Jason is poison. He has broken your trust. He needs to have it pointed out, rubbed in, and an example made.

          Remove any administrative access to anything he doesn’t absolutely need to do his job, then change his job to not need any high level access. Even if you can’t fire him because of horrible policies and management, you can make sure that he can’t screw up the company by revoking most of his privileges and access. You can shift his duties to insignificant, low risk stuff, and should because he broke trust.

          If you got stuck with the riff-raff, it may be because you haven’t had enough spine in other positions. Time to grow one and start managing the problem children out. Start with Jason. Let your boss know what you are doing, and why. Even if you can’t put him on a PIP, you can reduce his duties to where he doesn’t endanger the work of your department.

      5. designbot*

        Agreed, removing his admin access is not a punishment, it is an absolutely necessary step to ensure the team’s continued function. What if he gets sick, or quits, and it turns out that other people don’t have access to what they need to do their jobs? It’s untenable. I’d not only discuss with OP’s boss, I’d discuss with IT what procedures they have in place in an event like that.

    3. Sabotage*

      Yeah we had a colleague lock someone else out of viewing a JIRA dashboard and their manager treated it as an act of misconduct and they were no longer eligible for a pay review that year. There’s being rude to your colleagues and then there’s active sabotage.

    4. kittymommy*

      Agreed. Flat out subordination and (IMO) sabotage with locking out his boss to a needed system. This seems like such a toxic environment – the company is allowing Jason to hold his co-workers and his boss hostage to his childishness.

    5. Anonomoose*

      Yup, agree with all these comments saying he needs to have his admin access yanked. It’s *very* rare that systems people or admins actively sabotage the systems they work on , but he absolutely sounds like he would. And you don’t sound like you work for a place that has a competent backup policy.

      If he’s playing these kind of games, restrict everything you can possibly restrict for him. And get your boss to do it without telling him first.

    6. Malarkey01*

      Just infinity+ this. His admin rights should be removed immediately. The fact that he locked his manager out of work products means that he has already committed sabotage against your company. Please, please yank his rights before he crashes the entire system. Since you now know what he’s capable of, you are responsible for securing this system.

  4. HarvestKaleSlaw*

    ” Some employees in our department were found to be driving company vehicles to fast food places, spending the entire day there, and coming back at the end of the day to hurriedly make it look like they worked and clock out. They were not fired, just transferred to a different area.”

    I always hear about jobs like this, and it makes me want to cry. I’m not big time or highly paid, but I spend my days hustling like crazy and rationally afraid of making even small mistakes or letting anything drop. It’s stressful and exhausting, and I never see my family. How do I get a job where I can just clock in then go to McDonalds all day? Is there a website I can go to? Do I fill out a form?

    1. Lora*

      I have a similar question that I keep trying to save for Friday Open Thread, and then every Friday I get slammed with work so I can’t ask. But yeah, it gets right up my nose that this is a thing in some places. Not good places, and most folks in any given industry are often hesitant to hire people who have the bulk of their work experience at such places, but yeah, this is a thing.

      OP, the problem is your company. Make copies as Mike suggested and work from the copies, or rebuild a better report on your own. Let Jason lose his admin rights and throw a hissy every day and twice on Sunday, if it makes him happy. He can learn that there are consequences to his actions.

      The way I saw a previous manager manage-out a Jason at another job was, he informed our department in December that starting next year, reviews would be based 50% on metrics and 50% on collaboration and people skills. Do internal and external clients like you and want to deal with you again? Do you help out and assist in training people? Do you take on parts of projects for other people who are overloaded, when you have some time? Do you communicate effectively with the other departments we work with? How many HR complaints are in your file from your colleagues? And all *total* ratings <75% would be considered "poor" and grounds for a PIP, no raises, no bonus. Previous Manager reviewed how we were doing on our metrics monthly in 1:1 meetings, so there were no surprises. Jason was gone of his own accord before the end of the year, realizing that his only chance for even a cost of living raise was to leave the company. He could only get a job at a previous company where he worked 10 years earlier…and was let go by them a few years later due to his attitude.

      1. valentine*

        How do I get a job where I can just clock in then go to McDonalds all day?
        You’d probably sidestep your way into a job at that McDonald’s because you have standards.

      2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        The problem is, at a lot of companies where you get stuck with dud employees, the performance evaluation metrics are fixed at a level that individual managers can’t change.

        I have never been in the position to say, “Hey you are going to be evaluated this way going forward,” because I got a form from HR listing the metrics I would be using to evaluate my staff, and I just had to fill it out for each one of them. There were also rules as to who could get what rating, ex: I could give out 2, 3, 4s but 1s and 5s required previous documentation and approval from Grandboss; I also could only give a certain distribution of certain numbers because of the way raises and promotions were allocated.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            Forced ranking/stack ranking, wich it sounds like this is, is a garbage way to run a company. IMO, it’s the mark of a drain circler.

            Stack ranking leads to competition within teams – including talking some down so you don’t end up with a low rank. It ends up with people doing what is “visible”, not what is best for the company. The worst is, it kills mentoring and collaboration, because people are incented to do whatever contributes to their own review score first, and won’t help others boost theirs.

            IMO, stack ranking should be banned by law.

            1. Ao*

              My spouse’s old company introduced stack rankings as this great, fair thing. He was there 10 years before he got a 5. It was totally undeserved. When he questioned it he was told, it’s your turn to have a 5. He left four weeks later.

            2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

              It wasn’t stack ranking, it was cheapass ranking. 1s meant no raise/maybe a PIP and 5s meant good raises. But the amount of money allocated for raises usually was so low, that you couldn’t give the top performers as much as they deserved without taking it away from someone else. And those people you took it away from, if they didn’t at least get a pity penny, would get up in arms and quit, leaving you in the lurch and understaffed.

          2. MCMonkeyBean*

            It’s a major reason why I left my last company. I mean my current company probably has them too but my last review at my previous job was probably my most glowing review ever and then I got the same 3 I usually get because other people on the team also had their Best Year Ever and we couldn’t all get 4s. Not even 5s! 4s! Super frustrating and a major part of the feeling I started to have that I should try something else for a while.

            Honestly I really liked my previous company overall and will probably try to go back there someday but I was just feeling stuck in a rut.

        1. Six impossible things before breakfast*

          yes but. Inform boss of employee behavior etc. put it writing. request a meeting with boss and grandiose to layout PIP. Loop in HR. Have coaching meetings six months before the performance evaluation. Document failure to meet expectations. Give HR a heads up that there will be 1s on the evaluation and attach the documentation. The employee could have had 5 years of 3s and 4s. No matter. Do the work. It will be unpleasant, time-consuming but in the end, this system does work.

      3. Angwyshaunce*

        “I have a similar question that I keep trying to save for Friday Open Thread, and then every Friday I get slammed with work so I can’t ask.”

        Type out your question ahead of time in a simple text document. On Friday, just copy and paste it to the thread. Shouldn’t take more than 30 seconds to post your question.

        1. Aggretsuko*

          Yeah, but you have to REMEMBER to do that on a busy Friday!
          I’ve tried that trick too with writing ahead, but most of the time I still forget to even copy and paste it in.
          Oh well.

          1. Jennifer Thneed*

            Calendar reminders are my friend, and they can be your friend, too. (I use ’em for so much stuff besides meetings, including “pack up now so you can catch your bus”. Just set them for the minimum allowed length and set yourself for “not busy” and you’re good.)

      4. DYS*

        Out-managing is probably the fastest way LW will get rid of Jason, but also the hardest. They can use as much authority (and connections in the company) as they can to make Jason’s job as unpleasant for him as possible – more responsibility, more deadlines, no response to power plays or temper tantrums. Either Jason finally crosses a firing line, or he quits. But it’ll be difficult to pull off and very painful to go through.

      5. datamuse*

        I gotta admit, I’m kind of appalled that the limits of their imagination is to go hang out in McDonald’s all day. Have none of them seen Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? (Yeah, okay, seriously dating myself here.)

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          Seriously! So boring. For all but my worst jobs, I’d have definitely rather gone to work than hang out aimlessly at Mickey D’s all day.

    2. Managed Chaos*

      “How do I get a job where I can just clock in then go to McDonalds all day? Is there a website I can go to?”

      If you go to, you’ll be able to find a job that allows you to go to McDonalds all day! ;)

    3. Elizabeth West*

      It’s completely ridiculous. I can’t seem to get hired and THESE people can’t get fired? I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my working life, but I would never even consider doing something like this.

      1. Six impossible things before breakfast*

        And that was my mantra as I worked the “part-time” job of documenting on top of my other duties. There is someone out there who wants this job. There is someone out there who would be happy to do this job. There is someone out there who deserves this job and will get it when Jason is gone.

    4. Jennifer Thneed*

      I want to know how the fast-food place was just letting them hang there all day? And those seats are made uncomfortable on purpose!

    5. LunaLena*

      I kind of wonder if the company is a government contractor or in another heavily unionized field, where it’s nigh on impossible to fire anyone. The Chicago Transit Authority union was notorious for that when I lived in Chicago – you could only get a job with them if you were in the union, and you could only get into the union if you were referred by a member, so nepotism was rampant and everyone was buddies. It was fairly common knowledge that people would clock in, then go home and run errands because they all covered for each other. One joke I heard a lot was “How many CTA workers does it take to dig a hole?” “Five, one to dig the hole and four to ‘supervise’ him.” And everyone knew it because you could literally see this exact scenario play out if you rode the L regularly – one guy working and a bunch of others standing nearby, coffees in hand.

    6. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      I agree- I’ve seen people get fired for far less than what Jason did/continues to do, and Jason still has a job.

    7. CoveredInBees*

      Yup. I used to work for a government agency that was cheap with employees because “taxpayer money” slow computers, having to make supposedly confidential calls while sardined next to other colleagues, sitting on furniture so old and rickety that was literally an OSHA violation. I didn’t think it would really make a financial difference to address these but went along with it until I found out the there were people who literally just didn’t do their jobs. Could not be bothered. One even played religious radio (of the shout about fornicating sinners variety) at her desk at least half the day. Nothing happened to them because you weren’t allowed to “snitch”. My workload went up because she wanted to chew gum and stare out the window all day. Literally. It is one of the reasons I left.

      1. Anon govt workerbee*

        Yeah my first thought when reading this was “I bet this is a local government”. But even the laziest local government HR departments I’ve seen would fire you for the McDonald’s all day stunt so dan, op, your workplace really does suck

  5. Amber Rose*

    You’re putting in way too much effort managing this guy’s emotions, LW. You keep trying to convince him you’re not out to get him? You should be out to get him. His behavior is atrocious. He’d be fired 100 times over in any reasonable company. I’d have started trying to get him fired ages ago.

    You’re not being controlling, you’re being gaslighted into believing that it’s controlling to expect your reports to do as they’re told. This isn’t good for anyone.

    1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      “I’m afraid I’m going to lose perspective on workplace norms.”
      OP, my dude, you are viewing them in the fun house mirror room if your first thought, is “I can’t let Jason get more upset.”

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        I agree that OP can’t spend tons of time managing Jason’s emotions, but I want to give her credit for the fact that she seems to be doing so because his temper tantrums turn into lots of work for her to manage, not because she actually cares whether he’s upset. I have a lot more sympathy for “I don’t want to poke the bear and end up dragged into tons of management meetings and subjecting the rest of my team to Jason’s nonsense because he will go antagonize everyone if I tell him to shape up” than I do for “I want to be nice and it feels mean to tell him to knock it off,” which is a trap that some managers definitely fall into.

        1. Amber Rose*

          I get that, but on the other hand not poking the bear doesn’t do anything about the fact that the bear is sleeping in the middle of your office, you know?

          1. hbc*

            Yeah, but if they don’t allow tranq guns at work and it’s been declared a bear-friendly zone, sometimes you just have to weigh the damage done by poking versus letting him sleep.

            While you get out of the workplace/bearpit, I mean.

          2. Jules the 3rd*

            But what really matters is whether OP can actually *do* anything to get rid of the bear.

            She thinks she can’t, so she’s trying to mitigate his damage.

            I will say giving him admin access (or any responsibility, honestly) is a mistake.

        2. Kes*

          That’s fair, but it sounds like she’s hesitating to do the right thing – yank his admin access – because she’s worried he’ll throw a tantrum, which means his tantrums are being successful in making her modify her behaviour in the way he wants. Alison is right, OP should let him throw the tantrum, document it, and keep pursuing firing him.

          1. Guacamole Bob*

            Agreed. Alison is right about what OP should do, but I want to give OP credit for the fact that it’s genuinely hard to not care about someone’s temper tantrum when it causes so much hassle.

            The bear is sleeping in the middle of the office, but if you can’t actually call animal control or a zoo employee for help, the temptation to tiptoe is strong.

          2. Sam.*

            Yep, I worked with someone not dissimilar to Jason, and our boss provoked them into throwing a tantrum (and by “provoked,” I mean she asked them to do something that was a standard part of the job but that coworker disliked and felt they should be exempt from). I strongly suspect it was because she needed something clearly documentable. There was no option to fire there, either, but it was the first step in transferring her out and making her someone else’s problem (ah, government jobs).

            1. SMH RN*

              As a note of encouragement my workplace recently let our bear go….after years of thinking we’d live with it forever. I poked it by reporting an incident, got lucky in that other coworkers decided the truth was more important than avoiding a tantrum and then…a MIRACLE…in a unionized government job. Sometimes the poking pays off

        3. OP*

          This comment thread is really helpful. Amber Rose hit it right on the head, I have been too focused on managing Jason’s emotions. And Hey Karma, Over Here is sadly so right. But Guacamole Bob is right too, it’s not because I don’t want to be mean, it’s because without the ability to fire him, that’s felt like the only option to keep him from spewing dysfunction all over the rest of my team and the rest of the department. The comments have really opened my mind up to other options.

          1. Glitsy Gus*

            I know you are pretty sure firing him is off the table, at least for now, but is there a formal write up process of some kind you could utilize? I mean, locking you out of stuff is such blatant insubordination that it would be helpful to be able to sit Jason down and say that point blank, “I know you’re frustrated but I can’t tolerate insubordination like that. This is the formal write up documenting why your Admin privileges are being revoked. If you want to take these tasks back we need to have a real discussion about appropriate use and you need to show me you are taking this seriously.” He will throw another tantrum, but if he knows that means longer before he gets the work he likes back, it does become more of a cause/effect thing it will at least give you a bit of leverage in the situation.

            You may not, given the dysfunction you’re talking about I wouldn’t be surprised, but it might be something Tahani could get behind without trying to get those above her to get off their butts and fire someone.

            At the very least make getting your own Admin access a priority. You need to be able to take control in these situations and undo his nonsense. If you are reliant on him for access you are hamstrung out of the gate.

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              I’d also add, and get Tahani to state, that the abuse of administrative privileges absolutely disqualifies him from the position he wants. The person in that sensitive position must be someone a manager can trust to work with them at all times. You would need to see at least one year of reasonable behavior with no [insert bad behavior here] for this to change.

              But seriously, pull all his access including his regular computer’s and let him look out a window all day.

        4. Effective Immediately*

          Yeah, I empathize with this too. If you know that trying to appropriately managing this person will result in more headache for you and no actual change (for instance, I have an employee I’ve been explicitly told I’m not allowed to discipline or fire), it seems like creating more work for yourself with little/no reward while having to be subjected to their shitty behavior with no recourse.

      2. HoneyBadger*

        Yes, and although I get that it’s exhausting and stressful to deal with Jason’s temper tantrums, I wouldn’t worry that escalating this will cause him to try to play even more power games. It seems clear that he’s not very good at power games and his attempts have been ineffective in the sense that they’re actually holding him back, even if they allow him to temporarily inconvenience others.

      3. Antilles*

        Agreed. That warping of norms is clearly already happening. The part that jumped out to me:
        If I bring this to my boss, she’ll go nuclear and yank his administrative access.
        My response to this is “um yeah, that’s a reasonable consequence”. But OP is sufficiently mired in the mess of the company that the entire rest of the paragraph is explaining why Jason losing his access would actually be a bad thing.
        I mean, maybe you’re right in that assessment, but the mere fact that you immediately jumped to explain why “actions have consequence” isn’t possible speaks volumes.

      4. JSPA*

        unless he’s potentially dangerous. That’s, sadly, not an impossibility, in someplace this dysfunctional. Especially once it’s clear that he’ll be marked as “the only person bad enough to be fired from a place that doesn’t fire people.” And doubly so, if he’s gotten a degree to fulfill the stated requirement of a problematic implied promise. Even a reasonable person with baseline people skills would be rightfully irate about being led on, like that. (Even more so, if he’s sold his soul and compromised his financial future for some worthless scrap from a for-profit diploma mill.)

        1. JSPA*

          In fact, paying off some percentage of his loans as a leaving bonus might be the best way forward for the company, as it sounds like they set him up to mis-prioritize the degree.

          1. Diahann Carroll (formerly Fortitude Jones)*

            Absolutely not. This company should not negotiate with terrorists, and that’s exactly what he is. Paying him off to leave is yet another concession to him that does the company no favors. Plus, it’ll set an awful precedent for the rest of the terrible employees who work this who will hear about it, and then think they too should be paid to leave.

            1. Don’t get salty*

              That’s exactly the reason why it’s an excellent thing to do. If they’re not paying him to leave, they’re ultimately paying him to stay. Zappos is consistently rated as one of the best places to work because half-asses willingly leave the job.

        2. somanyquestions*

          He “decided to get a degree” in the past few months while this promotion was in play. He also was never promised anything; they simply gave that as one reason he wasn’t promoted. I very much doubt he’s taken any classes, and even if he had there is no reason for the company to pay them off.

      5. Aggretsuko*

        I have been there and done that on “I don’t want to make (bully) more upset and trying to destroy me more than she already is.”

      6. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, the one that stood out to me was not wanting to tell the boss because the boss would take away Jason’s admin access. OP, that is absolutely the #1 thing that needs to happen immediately! The fact that you feel that’s the first thing your boss will do actually makes me hope for you that there is a chance you can get through this. Tell your boss ASAP and get that access taken from Jason before he does any more damage!

    2. valentine*

      You keep trying to convince him you’re not out to get him?
      This is going to backfire exponentially because, to Jason, OP is already the bad guy and Jason rightly thinks OP is moving the goalposts or just messing with him by saying he needs to change his behavior when because Tahani says he needs a bachelor’s. I wouldn’t let him waste that money, but it will be a hilarious travesty if the company’s paying for it.

      requires me to patch up relationships across the department, sometimes up to the level of my boss’ boss, the director of the department
      If this is so, versus you assigning yourself the task, it’s gaslighting because they can click their heels and fire him at any time.

    3. Budgie Buddy*

      “You should be out to get him.” Truth. XD

      To OP’s credit, they did refrain from “And Jason is a lovely person, but…”

      1. Amber Rose*

        Yeah, there’s nothing lovely about this person, so at least OP’s viewpoint isn’t that skewed yet.

    4. EPLawyer*

      So much this. Make him uncomfortable. Have his acces yanked. If he gets mad, just look at him and say “BTW, how is XYZ coming along” like you don’t even register he is throwing a fit. One of two things will happen if you really start managing him 1) he will FINALLY realize he is not getting what he wants by throwing tantrums and change or 2) he will get fed up and quit. You can’t fire him, but you can hold him so closely to the requirements of his job, without worrying about his “feelings” that he quits himself.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Problem is that he takes it out on other people, so you everyone has to do this, and that is haaaaard.

    5. Some Windex for my Glass Ceiling please*

      Early on, I fretted over my reports emotions over distasteful assignments or having to do scut work, etc.

      My boss told me: You simply cannot make someone be happy. You cannot control another person’s emotions. Quit trying. The task is what it is, and your report will manage their emotions regarding said task. If they are unhappy, they can change that.

      1. Amber Rose*

        Some people are unhappy no matter what you try to do for them. At some point, you gotta accept that and let them figure it out.

      2. Aggretsuko*

        Yeah, but I’m still concerned over what the unhappy person will do to me directly when they choose to express their unhappiness to me. Or take it out on me.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          But if you’re the boss, you can manage that behavior.

          “I understand you wanted to work on Potions with Draco and Pansy. However, I need your skill in Charms on this project. You can feel however you want to feel about it, but I need you to stop complaining about it to the team. Can you do that?”

          1. Some Windex for my Glass Ceiling please*

            Not always.
            When they make it known that they own firearms, then you have to make some value judgments as to what you’ll allow them to get away with.
            A long time ago, I had a volatile employee who spent a majority of her day on the company phone. We had no restrictions as to phone use as no one (prior to this lab tech) abused the phone. She was planning her wedding. Then she was making medical appointments to get checked out for her other job. Then it was something with her mother. Then, it went on and on.

            As she was not getting her work done, I asked her to restrict her phone usage to breaks and lunch hour.
            She got right up in my face to explain that as a reserve police officer AND a member of the Navy reserve, it was MANDATORY that she have access to the phone at all times.


            I checked with management on this. They checked with a legal source. There was disagreement as to her claims of mandatory access to the phone.

            Meanwhile, employee made it a point to change into her police uniform at the end of the work day. That’s a bit intimidating, at least for me.
            Now, I didn’t look to see if there was a gun. But she made it clear she owned one -as part of the reserve job.

            1. learnedthehardway*

              If she was in the reserves, the firearms are probably kept locked up at the local armoury and not assigned to individuals except for specific military exercises.
              This would also be a good reason to have your HR make a call over to her commanding officer and point out that she is abusing her authority as a police officer / reservist / whatever.

            2. Avasarala*

              That’s just as messed up as the actual letter. You have someone making threats and causing chaos and management won’t do anything about it.

    6. Elyse*

      Exactly the word I wanted to use: gaslighting. This is a classic case of it. Being made to think you’re the bad guy for not putting up with someone else’s awful behavior is so insidious and…. honestly, OP, it might effect your ability to pinpoint bad behavior in future management positions at other jobs if things don’t change. The best advice is “get the heck outta there,” but if that’s not a possibility, you’ll have to start being the killjoy. Crack down on these jokers and explicitly request their termination if they will not comply. As for Jason, there’s no amount of compliance or backpeddling that is sufficient. He should be fired for this, without question.

  6. The Original K.*

    This feels like a “your company sucks and isn’t going to change” situation to me. Like, if they’re not firing folks over egregious time card fraud AND Jason is allowed to pull this nonsense, I don’t know what hope there is. But I would escalate this as much and as far as you can, and start at least thinking about moving on.

    Just out of curiosity, when you have told Jason in performance reviews that his attitude is his problem, how has he responded?

    1. Mrs_helm*

      Here’s the thing: people hear what they want, especially when there are mixed messages. OP is saying “change your attitude” but Tahani is saying “need a Bachelor’s”. That is mixed messages, and Tahani is above OP. If you are Jason, it totally makes sense to follow Tahani’s messaging over OPs. Management needs to get on the same page.

      1. The Original K.*

        That’s a good point – Tahani really did everyone a disservice by claiming the issue was Jason not having a degree. Jason is clearly a jerk, but the bigger issue is the fish rotting from the head, as it were.

      2. You can't fire me; I don't work in this van*

        I agree, the Jason-types I have worked with would all assume Tahani was right and the LW is just out to get him.

      3. RC Rascal*

        Given this combination of messaging, I would be likely to believe the degree is the issue & OP is out to get me, especially as her issues are ones that some would agree are subjective. To an extent, behavior standards are managed by company culture. For example, raised voices / yelling are acceptable at some workplaces but are viewed as causes for discipline in others.

  7. Muriel Heslop*

    I spend my days mired in the bureaucracy and drama of a middle school. This letter makes me feel uncommonly grateful for that. If one of my teachers or support staff locked me out of a report, they would be fired without question.

    Good luck, OP! I wish I had some good advice other than to find a new place to work. Please document everything and don’t be afraid to let Jason be the architect of his own demise.

  8. AnjaJade*

    Letter writer: Jason is a small piece of this problematic puzzle in the grand scheme of things. Unless your salary and benefits are outrageously good for your industry, or you are otherwise totally unemployable at a similar level- both of which are things I severely doubt- start that job hunt! Hell, it sounds like you could update your resume, take phone calls from prospective employers out in the open, and walk out midday with no notice to go to interviews because that’s just the kind of environment you work in!

    I mean… don’t do those things. But start job hunting.

    1. Diahann Carroll (formerly Fortitude Jones)*

      Hell, it sounds like you could update your resume, take phone calls from prospective employers out in the open, and walk out midday with no notice to go to interviews because that’s just the kind of environment you work in!

      Lol, sadly, she could probably fill out job apps at her desk.

  9. ThatGirl*

    This is very much the Bad Place. It sounds exhausting and I agree that the OP should just tell the truth, let the chips fall where they may, and also start job searching immediately.

  10. ShwaMan*

    Agreed that Jason is symptomatic of the much, much larger issues. Managers cannot manage if they don’t have any authority to follow through on consequences. There will always be some employees that will recognize that fact and push every last boundary they can, like a troublemaking child.

    If you really have your heart set on managing there, this needs to be your hill to die on. You need to have your bosses (great-grandboss or higher if needed) agree on a progressive discipline standard that you have the power to apply, including firing when necessary.

    I can’t imagine your organization is overall very successful / profitable at whatever it does. These types of places don’t stay in business forever.

  11. Free Meerkats*

    Is it possible to take everything Jason likes to work on away from him and assign him to the most tedious, least desirable work that will have less chance of damaging the company? Then micromanage the fork out of him? “Jason, you’ll be organizing the paper clips today. No, that one is defective, see the scratch, it goes in that container; and why did you use those containers? I wanted the other containers.” Yeah, it will suck for you and you’ll be dealing with his attitude and outbursts, but since you know that’s going to happen regardless, you’ll be ready for it.

    In short, it’s not a good way to manage, but make his work life such a living Bad Place, he’ll want to quit. Whatever you do, don’t succumb to your organization’s way of doing things and transfer him.

    1. wtaf*

      I hate +1-ing this, but yeah, I kinda +1 this. If him doing what’s assigned to him gets him sabotaging everything, then strip his access to everything that can cause harm to you or the company, and find some make-work. If you really can’t fire him, at least put him in a position where he can’t set you on fire.

      But also, yeah, you should leave if you can’t fire him. This is really bad.

        1. valentine*

          make his work life such a living Bad Place, he’ll want to quit.
          You would poke the bear? I would have long ago fled Jason and my number-one concern would be whether he owns any firearms.

        2. Massmatt*

          The inmates are running the asylum because the chief asylum manager won’t fire anyone, no matter how egregious their conduct.

          OP your perspective is already being very warped by this dysfunction, and the longer you stay the more normal it will seem.

    2. Some Windex for my Glass Ceiling please*

      And take away his admin access to the software ! Get your boss to give you admin access -today! No reason not to.

      1. EPLawyer*

        I cannot imagine a place that a subordinate has access that the manager does not have. First fix that right now. Like this minute. Stand over Tahani while she does it if necessary. Then yank his access. No subordinate should be able to control what a manager can access.

      2. Pilcrow*

        Everything about Jason aside, the manager having access is just good business process for backup/redundancy. What if Jason got hit by a bus after he “left for unrelated reasons *”?

        From a system security standpoint, people having access to things they don’t need is not great either.

        * Yeah, I’m suspicious as all heck about him flouncing out for the day. OP, he’s deliberately making it hard for you to get ahold of him after he makes a passive-aggressive power play.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Yeah, that stood out to me as well. Is he on intermittent FMLA or a flexible schedule, or does he just regularly dip out of the office because no one can stop him?

    3. Senor Montoya*

      My dad was a high school principal and he used to do this with bad teachers he got stuck with (= the district shuffled them over to his very well run school). Give them terrible teaching schedules, assign them to the most boring committees, stick them on eternal lunch duty, schedule weekly meetings with him at the very start (very very early) or very end of the day (= teacher got stuck in bad commuter traffic) in which he went over their terrible performance and made it clear that he would not be requesting any raises for them, and so on. Because he couldn’t fire them outright — they were terrible teachers but they had not done anything by-the-book fire-able. He was very successful at getting those teachers to quit his school and fairly often to quit teaching entirely.

    4. BradC*

      Yep, this is what I was going to suggest. If you can’t fire him, remove 100% of his actual responsibility.

      I think its instructive to view Jason this way: YOUR DEPARTMENT WOULD BE BETTER OFF if Jason literally wasn’t there, even if you didn’t replace him. The amount of time you’re spending smoothing things over after Jason screws up or blows up is less than the amount of actual benefit he brings.

      So, get as close to “Jason doesn’t work here” as you can under the limits of your power.

      1. Daniel*

        This!! Jason is literally providing negative value by both sabotaging work and (probably) driving off decent employees.

    5. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      Yeah, even just going to Desk With No Work On It, You’re Paid To Sit Here All Day For No Reason And Do Nothing would be better than letting someone actively sabotaging others using admin access attempt to do actual work.

      1. LurkNoMore*

        In Japan they call that ‘a desk by the windows’. Basically, you’ll be looking out of the windows all day and will not be given any responsibility.

        1. Iconic Bloomingdale*

          At my job, we call this type of action, “putting someone in a corner.” Strip the difficult employee of their critical responsibilities, strip them of their managerial authority (if they manage team members), exclude them from important meetings and information, reduce their title and/or salary (if possible – this is municipal government, after all) and render them meaningless in the organization.

          In some cases, particularly those with super sized egos who like to micromanage, control and act tyrannically with others, it has had the effect of expediting their retirement or resignation. In other cases, it is a step on the road to termination proceedings, which in municipal government can be a long and tedious process. But it can be done if progressive discipline, precise documentation and adherence to the civil service rules are followed.

    6. Kes*

      I agree that at this point OP would be better off if Jason was one of the employees going to McDonalds all day, and she should consider only giving him work with a limited scope where his failure to do it or his mismanagement of it can’t harm anyone. However, I don’t think OP should become a bad boss in order to drive him away – stooping to his level is not necessary and could easily be harmful to OP (and undermine her own case for how bad his behaviour is)

  12. Mindy St Claire*

    The LW keeps saying ‘company’ but I can’t help but feel like this has to be a local government situation. I haven’t encountered any private company that cares about their bottom line at all to want to retain problem employees the way government jobs do.

    1. Clorinda*

      User name is on point.
      But it sounds to me like a huge, huge company with layers (many decades’ worth) of HR processes that have never been streamlined. Could be government, but maybe not.

      1. Wintermute*

        I thought “baby bell”– Ma Bell’s big black books full of procedures hang heavily over her children, and an unfortunate confluence of 100 years of process creep collides with a fractured union workplace in an unfortunate way.

    2. phc jr.*

      Actually, the LW does NOT say “company” except where they refer to “company vehicles” (which is a common enough term that I think one might use it as shorthand even when it’s not a private business). So I think you’re onto something here.

    3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Nah, I’ve definitely encountered similar at private companies. One of the highest-level folks in my department at OldJob was solely responsible for 40% of our accounting errors out of a team of 14, and would get in a snit and sulk for the rest of the day whenever she was asked to make a correction. She’d been on the team for 10 years and with the company for 35, and knew that no matter how childish she acted, she wouldn’t get fired.

    4. Brett*

      I would have thought so until the point of the messing with administrative privileges.

      Maybe Jason thinks he can just scramble out of this like Blake Bortles, but one of the huge differences between screwing around with the data systems in a private company and screwing around with the data systems in local government is that the latter is a crime in many many jurisdictions (one that I have personally seen land people in prison).

    5. Disco Janet*

      I swear this is my former employer and we were a small start-up tech firm (less than 100 employees). 90% of the upper management is such pushovers that no one ever gets fired. Stories include:
      – A guy who spent his entire working day filling out job applications with fake names and resumes
      -A woman who used our office for band practices after hours
      – A woman who came back from lunch drunk and then proceeded to drink at work and be a sloppy drunk for the rest of the day
      – A woman who used the company card to buy a personal mattress
      – A guy who came into work an hour late every morning, then took a two hour lunch break and never finished any projects

      So yeah it happens in private companies too.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Dang, sounds like a total cushy gig where even a half-baked effort comes across as a superstar. How can I apply? I want to spend a few years being lazy.

      2. Diahann Carroll (formerly Fortitude Jones)*

        A guy who spent his entire working day filling out job applications with fake names and resumes

        Why fake names and resumes? And where was he getting these resumes – don’t tell me he was creating those too, lol. This is wild and makes no sense.

    6. NW Mossy*

      Oh, this can absolutely happen in any sort of organization – government, not-for-profit, for-profit, or anything in between.

      Organizations are little micro-environments, and they evolve like a physical environment. The OP’s company is basically its own little bad-management version of a remote island, where the isolation and weird incentives have led the occupants of the environment to evolve into the professional equivalent of flightless birds or giant tortoises. In most environments, they’d fail out because they can’t compete, but in this Galapagos, they can survive and even strangely thrive.

      1. 1LFTW*

        Love this analogy, it’s brilliant, and very, VERY illuminating. I’m now considering one previous workplace as an example of a Marianas Trench type of environment, that triggers bizarre adaptations, and another in terms of an extinction event…

  13. J*

    I’ve seen this done. A worker locked other employees out of vital databases, and the supervisor was so pathetic and spineless that he let her get away with it. Eventually she moved up to a higher level in the bureaucracy where people didn’t put up with her crap. Last I heard they forced her to retire.

    Oh, yeah… This was the Army. In Iraq. Where delays in processing data could literally get someone killed. Anytime someone tells you how great the military is, don’t believe it.

  14. CatCat*

    Wow. I’d be looking for a new job. And since this is a place where no one gets fired, I’d be letting my boss know that I am looking for a new job because being constantly undermined and unable to deliver proper consequences by an employee who is just basically trashing the place is just no way to operate as a manager.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      I always feel that the commentariat here rushes to tell people to start looking for a new job, because we get such a narrow view of the entire situation, but in this case, I definitely agree. It’s time to start looking.

      Either that, or it’s time to start hanging out at McDonald’s all day.

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        Nah, the OP is manager-level. They should hang out at Panera.

        1. Jedi Squirrel*

          Or just the local pub. I very much doubt that this company would have an issue with that.

  15. ElizabethJane*

    God, if there was ever a company that deserved a full nuclear rage quit this would be it. I’d be tempted to get my own admin access set up, very public block Jason and literally everyone else out, and just leave because what a shit show.

    Also, loving The Good Place pseudonyms.

    1. Elbe*

      Yes! The Good Place names are great and I hope it becomes a trend. Though, if any future someone tries to use the name Chidi as the problem person, I will become irate… unless the problem is just indecisiveness, in which case… fair.

  16. Kaitlyn*

    What happens if you just….stop giving Jason any work? Like, stop giving him assignments, or give him the lowest possible assignments? And if/when he notices, be really blunt: “Because of our work culture, it’s been made clear that you will not be fired from this company. However, because of your ongoing and problematic behaviour, you will no longer be receiving any tasks that have any authority associated with them, work with people, have assignments, etc.” Bonus points if you can hire someone to take his place and work right alongside him, doing his job, while he does nothing. (I mean, I hate this idea, because in a better world, you’d fire him and anyone else who is acting like a toddler getting into a snowsuit, but if you can’t fire him, can you bench him?)

    Like, fine, don’t fire the f*cker. But make it clear that he’s not so valuable as to be impossible to sideline.

    1. mf*

      Agree that this might be the best option if you can’t fire him. He can’t be trusted, so he should be given work to do. The OP should also make it clear to him that after his behavior in locking the OP out of this software, Jason will never EVER be promoted at this company.

    2. Allypopx*

      I was going to suggest this as well. Functionally demote him, even if you can’t do anything official. Show him consequences. Don’t play into his temper tantrums. It sounds like your boss is on your side, so you have some power. Work within the system if you can’t change it.

    3. pony tailed wonder*

      I am not too sure that this would work because other employees watch how the boss treats their co-workers. Imagine having someone in your department doing nothing and getting the same paycheck as you are and the OP admitted that this was the island of bad toys already.

      1. Allypopx*

        It doesn’t have to be NO work. It can be the least desirable work, or the work that has the least organizational impact. It sounds like this guy is kind of wrapped up in his own status so even just a slight decrease in access and responsibility might send the message.

  17. Buttons*

    What a mess. No wonder he isn’t changing, no one is being direct with him, no one is holding him accountable, and there are zero consequences for any of his bad behavior. What a nightmare place to work.

    1. SuperAnon*

      And all the other employees seeing this lack of accountability and knowing nothing will ever be done….

      1. Buttons*

        No one has motivation to do good work. Places like this are my worst nightmare. You end up with a bunch of lifers, Jason’s, and people who only want to do the minimum. It is my Bad Place!

  18. Jimulacrum*

    Your company is a total sh!tshow. Get out of there ASAP. Dead seriously, that’s solution #1.

    Solution #2: Assuming you can’t or won’t leave the job, I couldn’t agree more with Alison’s approach. If escalating this issue and getting his admin access (that he abused) pulled will enrage him and make him act even more appropriately than usual, then do it. Don’t be afraid to take actions you should take because he will act out like a child. Let him hang himself until he manages to get fired from his supposedly unfireable job. From your description of this jerk, I bet he’ll find the line and cross it.

    And BTW, I don’t think the person who told him she can’t hire him due to lack of a bachelor’s degree was totally out of line. Not the best approach, to be sure, but it’s understandable when the subject of the conversation has the temperament of a child. That’s the position you put people in when you act like that. They feel like they can’t be forthcoming with you about anything because you’ll have a tantrum that they don’t have the time, energy, or willingness to deal with (again). If he puts all the work and investment into getting a degree and doesn’t get the promotion anyway, he brought that situation on himself. (Might be a good career move for him anyway, though.)

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      If escalating this issue … will enrage him and make him act even more appropriately than usual, then do it.

      This is actually really good advice.

      (It often happens where it’s only one division that is insane–a new manager comes in, problem employee does his fake quit thing or his clock-in-then-drive-to-McDonalds-for-8-hours thing, and the new manager is like “Okay, you’re gone.” And the remaining employees peer out from under their desks, whispering”Wait, you can fire Jason? You could fire Jason all along?” I don’t see it working when the whole company is like this. But maybe the revolution can start in your division!)

  19. Daniel*

    Goodness gracious. What is up with Tahani? She’s fed up with Jason but he’s still there, and he has access to critical software? AND she lied about the reason why he didn’t get the job that we wanted?

    Jason’s behavior is god-awful, but this is disastrously poor management on her part.

    1. valentine*

      What is up with Tahani?
      She can’t fire him, either. Maybe the department head or peer he pissed off can’t, either. There would be less damage if they kept paying the problem people, but barred them from the office.

      1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

        I just don’t get *why* Jason can’t be fired. Does he have blackmail material over the CEO? Is he boinking the HR director? Surely, especially in certain states, the US has an “at will” approach to employment where you can be fired for sneezing on the manager’s dog (or whatever – some stories of firing do seem to be a touch petty). This is the biggest and most problematic part of the whole issue. I don’t get it and it’s making my brain fizz.

        1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

          He can’t be fired because the company doesn’t fire people. It’s hurting your head because the company has put itself right into the middle of a logical fallacy.

    1. Muriel Heslop*

      I am always curious what field the OP works in when the situation is so disastrous like this is.

      1. phc jr.*

        Fingers crossed it’s not nuclear power plant maintenance or biological weapons storage or a small wolverine farm near several preschools.

        1. The Vulture*

          Sorry, but I’m stealing “wolverine farm near several preschools” and you can’t stop me!

  20. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    Stop walking on eggshells and being concerned that he’s feeling threatened. His behavior is atrocious. What did you do when he flat out refused to provide access? Jason is a small problem in a company that is the major problem. And managing his feelings is not your responsibility. Continue documenting, take it to your boss, and start looking for a new job. You’re in a highly toxic environment and you’re never going to win.

    1. Senor Montoya*

      Also, Jason is going to tantrum, lock people out of their work documents, etc etc etc regardless of what you do. Right? You will never know what will set him off. So go ahead and the right thing and so what if it sets him off.
      That;s how bullies get away with being bullies. Everybody is so worried about them bullying that they don’t stand up to them.
      What do you have to lose, OP? After all, *they’re not going to fire you* if you stand up to Jason. So he goes to Tahani — is she going to fire you? is she even going to reprimand you? No, apparently she is going to agree with you.

  21. Rebecca*

    Publicly start documenting whatever you need to document to fire Jason. Yank his Admin creds. Stand over him and keep track if he’s one minute late or leaves one minute early. Make him accountable. If he goes to a fast food place with a company vehicle, show up there and ask him what he’s doing! If he causes problems, let him sort it out, and better yet, let the offended people deal with him. I believe there are many other employees who will be grateful for it. And if I were you, I’d start looking for another job. Your management terrible, pure and simple, and at least you’re trying to address things. What a mess.

      1. Six impossible things before breakfast*

        yes this. If you are documenting on-timeliness, everyone has to be on time. If you are documenting accurateness, everyone has to meet the same standard.

  22. Falling Diphthong*

    Is there something akin to the secret hobo code (e.g. symbol = “this house will let you chop firewood for a meal”) by which terrible employees let each other in on which companies will never fire you for anything?

    1. JohannaCabal*

      As someone who was fired (and rightly so!) in the past, I always wonder this when posts about these companies that never fire anyone come up. The bad side of me even wonders how I can find one of these jobs!

      1. Amber Rose*

        I sometimes think I want one of these jobs. Then I remember that such places are almost always toxic as hell, and there’s just not enough benefits to cover the health impacts of a toxic workplace.

        1. Kes*

          Yeah, exactly – you have to keep in mind that places like this that can’t/don’t fire anyone, are likely to contain people like Jason who should have been fired but instead are still around making things miserable for everyone.

      2. Close Bracket*

        Oh, I totally want to know. Yes, I know it will be populated by hosers who should be fired, but the upside is that when those ass clowns don’t do their shit, I don’t have to do my shit, either!

    2. pony tailed wonder*

      Has it actually been stated or written down that this company will not fire anyone? JMO, if you can be the first to fire a horrible employee, your reputation in the company will be gilded.

    3. CM*

      It’s more like terrible companies create and retain terrible employees. Good people either get corrupted because they’re being treated poorly or else they leave. That leaves you with a staff that’s disproportionately full of people who will tolerate bad behaviour from others in exchange for a free pass to behave badly themselves.

      That’s why I actually think it won’t matter if the OP manages to fire Jason. Likely, most of the people who work there are Jason, and anyone they manage to recruit and retain will be Jason as well.

      Also, TBH, I think it’s a bit unfair on Jason to hold him to a higher standard than everyone else is apparently held to.

  23. Nancy Pelosi*

    LW, do you work for the federal government? I’m a fed and LOVE BEYOND WORDS my job and agency, but I’ve also seen scenarios like this play out with folks getting moved around instead of fired or PIP’d. Never as egregious as this though.

    Also, Jason is definitely a Trevor. Put some respect on Jason Mendoza’s name!

  24. Elyse*

    OP, you are in a relationship with a very very toxic workplace. You’ve been in the thick of it for long enough that you’re questioning if how you feel about the blatant, extreme negative behavior is justified. Let’s be clear: you are absolutely justified in being outraged by this. Honestly, even the “less extreme” examples you’ve given about Jason and other employees are, to me, astoundingly bad and would be grounds for termination. And I work in a government job (notorious for keeping employees that should be let go)!

    If you are serious about staying at this workplace, then BE the thorn in their side. Start elevating things, and do not stop. If they won’t fire this guy for doing something so disastrously termination-worthy, then they won’t fire you for making a stink about it. The only thing I’d be worried about is retaliation on a personal level (people do some wild stuff these days…), but really. That place needs to be straightened out big time. But in the short-term, Jason needs to be dealt with… like yesterday.

    Sorry for getting so passionate, but man… every once in a while I see a post that really floors me, and this is one of them. Nobody should have to deal with that…

  25. WellRed*

    OP, you said yourself the company never fires people. What do you have to lose by standing your ground on this one? They aren’t going to fire you for that.

    Bigger problem: You’ve lost all concept of what’s normal and you are a manager in name only b/c the company isn’t actually letting you manage.

    1. Amber Rose*

      Also it sounds like OP has already been moved to the problem employee location, so it’s not like they’re gonna be moved anywhere else.

      This company sucks, there’s no consequences for anything. Fireable Offense Chicken, while hilarious, should not be the best possible approach.

  26. LCH*

    “I feel like it reflects badly on me when my employees waste my boss’ time “tattling” on me.” no, it makes him look bad especially if he is complaining about ridiculous things. but you need to keep Tahani up to speed on what is going on with Jason for context.

    1. Massmatt*

      I was going to comment on this, the OPs use of “tattling” set me on edge!

      OP a your job has got you so warped that you are using a term that most people grow out of in grammar school.

    2. hbc*

      Yeah, I have people coming to me for “Oh, my supervisor didn’t get me more safety glasses in the timeframe I found best (though I still have plenty)” or “I insisted on going part-time or I’d quit and now she’s consulting people other than me about urgent work when I’m out,” and my main thought is, “I need to thank Supervisor for dealing with this person on a regular basis.”

  27. Diahann Carroll (formerly Fortitude Jones)*

    Is this job — this job where you can’t do your job because they won’t let you — worth it?

    I’m going to go with “hell no for 500” thousand – because that’s how much they’d have to pay me a year to put up with this shit. OP, you have my sympathies.

  28. AnotherCorporateStooge*

    It just really makes me wonder how companies can keep paying these problematic employees who do so little or nothing at all… that sounds like a drain on company profits, OH, etc. How can they keep financially afloat?!

  29. kinvitation*

    Does the big boss at the company just *not like* firing people. Could OP offer to do the actual firing? It would be sad if that’s the actual issue – but gratifying to do the firing. I think it’s worth clarifying.

    Heck – it’s worth clarifying anyway, just to make the big bosses say OUT LOUD that they’re too cowardly to do the firing. (Big Boss could also be working under a misunderstanding of how unemployment insurance works, and may think the costs of fighting over UE might be too high?)

  30. Magenta Sky*

    Am I the only one who is having flashbacks to Terry Childs? (Though at least here, there don’t seem to be any lives at risk.)

  31. Sharkie*

    Am I the only one who had to read this multiple times to make sure I was totally understanding this?

    Any way OP Alison gives great advice here, hand him the rope and let him hang himself. Make sure you have copies of all the documents today just incase Jason goes nuclear and deletes everything before they yank his access.

  32. ashie*

    Can’t you move Jason into one of the stay-at-McDonald’s-all-day roles? It sounds like he would do much less damage there.

    1. Massmatt*

      In Japan they call people isolated due to incompetence, toxicity, or political infighting “window watchers”.

      Lots of speculation that this is a government job, I am thinking maybe it’s outside the US, in a place that values lifetime employment. In such a place, firing someone shows you have failed as a manager/employer and calls into question the financial health of your company.

  33. Student*

    LW, what happens when Jason loses his temper and destroys something which is really mission-critical for your company? Are you the one who has to explain why you guys suddenly can’t produce the work you’ve been paid for, or file documents with your regulatory agency? Depending on the access involved, Jason might cost a lot of people their jobs.

    If something like this happened, you would be fired. And you would deserve to be fired, because you’re not doing really basic things to protect the company’s interest from a guy with anger management issues and significant program access. YES, your boss should yank all Jason’s access yesterday, and you should have no hesitation in making that happen. Jason’s response to that is not as important as the significant possibility that someone like him could torpedo your company. I mean, it sounds like a terrible company, but I expect you and your coworkers do still need paychecks!

    1. Kes*

      eh, I doubt OP or others would be fired either from what she has said. However, I agree the responsibility is and would be on her as Jason’s manager if he causes serious problems. Which, to be fair, it does sound like she is trying to manage him, but is starting to get sucked into giving into his behaviour in order to avoid his tantrums. Which is not unique to her since I’d presume that’s also the reason Tahani made up a different excuse for why he’s not getting promoted, but it’s not good or responsible management

      1. Student*

        In their own minds, the people who make the horrible work culture can’t possibly be to blame for the Jasons of the world, so if they find themselves forced to confront Jason’s messes, they’re going to want to push that responsibility onto someone else. LW, as his first-line manager, would absolutely be the fall guy. If Jason sabotaged something, the shareholders/client/regulator would want accountability. Management fires Jason and the OP, claims the problem is solved, and tries to return to business as usual.

        Then they don’t have to change their behaviors or confront their failure.

    2. Brett*

      We had a Jason in my last job (fortunately in a unit I only tangentially interacted with).
      He was constantly coddled because of his temper. I’ve mentioned him on other topics before; he once got away with punching several employees and blaming it on a medical condition.
      His pettiness and temper became insane as his behavior escalated. He used his admin rights to hack the network and lock people out of their computers and take printers offline (a crime incidentally). He created backdoors to the databases of _other city governments_ (also a crime). Other employees were printing out their email, because he was suspected of accessing the exchange server and deleting emails server side (a serious sunshine law violation).

      He eventually reached the point where he accidentally sabotaged an FBI reporting database, and, as a result, accidentally sent closed records to a local newspaper violating a bright line federal law with criminal penalties. The feds showed up to investigate, and all of the audit logs turned up missing. His managers retired almost immediately. Two of the guy’s coworkers (not managers, co-workers) took the fall because of the missing logs and resigned. He came out of the whole thing clean (thanks to the mysterious missing logs).

      1. Myrin*

        I’m so appalled, I can barely type right now!
        When you say “clean”, was it just that none of these actual crimes (!!!!!!!) could be pinned on him or did he truly, actually get to stay at his job, to?
        (I’m also wondering about this in a more general manner – you know all of this and it sounds like others at that place did as well; does that really count for nothing? Like, are the feds unable to do anything about him at all even if everyone knows it was him without having the logs?)

        1. Brett*

          He stayed on the job. Last I checked, he was still the highest paid employee in his ~200 person unit. (He was the highest paid employee when all of this went down too. Old job doesn’t do raises.)

          None of us had proof of what he did, and if you want to charge people with crimes, you need proof. Similarly, he would have certainly sued for reinstatement if he was terminated over that, and would have won without proof to demonstrate what he did. The FBI did revoke his access to federal reporting systems and ordered the agency involved to delete all administrative access accounts as well as a host of other security changes (so now people have to log in as themselves with admin rights rather than being a generic admin user not owned by a specific person).

          1. Diahann Carroll (formerly Fortitude Jones)*

            OMG, this needs to be a movie. The twists and turns, the intrigue, the insanity, lol. I love it.

  34. Sara without an H*

    What in the name of the profit motive system??? Are you quite sure this isn’t a government agency, or someplace in higher education? I can’t conceive how a for-profit business could let employees get away with this level of malfeasance and still stay in business.

    OP, I agree with Alison — make this the hill where you take your stand. You are showing Jason how to treat you, and trust me — he’s learning. If you let Jason get away with this, his behavior will get worse. Appeasing him will not help you. Do whatever it takes to get him out.

    Meanwhile, you should really, really be sprucing up your resume, drafting a cover letter, and working your network hard. You are learning some very bad habits here, especially if you want to continue in management roles. If you want a career, instead of a job, you really need to work on getting into a healthier professional environment.

    1. Some Windex for my Glass Ceiling please*

      Jason is covering another position which they haven’t filled yet. Betting they can’t fill this position- for whatever reason (unwilling to pay to attract a replacement, happy with one less employee, don’t want to train anyone). And it’s so much easier to ignore the problem when someone else has to actually face it on a daily basis.

      We have someone like Jason where I work. Albeit to a lesser degree. I have to put up with the ugly-management doesn’t have to. It would be hard to find a replacement so, they simply ignore the problem. They don’t care about long-term because they will soon retire.

  35. Laura H.*

    I’m not familiar with any of this but um, Jason is your subordinate, and frankly I would be sorely tempted to hammer that home as best I could within my stupid no firing constraints.

    And while there’s a fine line between in bounds and “power-abusing jerk face manager”, you’re nowhere near said line OP.

  36. boop the first*

    You say you are waiting for an opportunity to escalate the problems and hope to have him fired, but at the same time you say you WON’T escalate the problems because you don’t want to upset anyone? How will anything change if no one ever tries?

    At this point, you should have enough credibility with your bosses to demand a little help.. especially if all you need to get started is admin access. Some bosses just need a repeated kick in the pants. Management sounds scary, but that’s why so many people opt not to do it. Sorry to sound exasperated, but it’s just as frustrating for your employees who are powerless, watching those above them with power refuse to use any of it.

    You may be sadly watching your bosses, but your employees are watching you. Switching jobs may be a great escape but it won’t change your passivity. Employees will ALWAYS be testing your boundaries, and bosses will ALWAYS be forgetting your immediate concerns.

    I get that you’re worried about more power struggles, but are you sure you don’t want to trigger more power struggles? It would give you more evidence to report, and it would give you more opportunities to directly point out what behaviours are unacceptable. If Jason panics about losing “power”, maybe he’ll burn himself out and go somewhere else. You clearly don’t want things to continue the way they are, so why fight so hard to maintain it?

  37. CAA*

    I assume there’s something holding you in this job so you can’t leave (like access to FMLA that require a year’s employment at another job). If there’s not, then you need to get out of there ASAP!

    If you have to stay, then what if you created a confrontation with your conflict-avoiding management team about this problem such that they had to invoke their avoidance behavior with you? Make things really uncomfortable for them. Complain repeatedly about Jason’s behavior and tell them in words that he needs to be fired immediately and that their refusing to let you do so is outrageous. Be angry! You want them to try to pacify you by telling you that you can fire Jason. And yes, you are going to have to be the one who actually meets with him and tells him he is fired, preferably with Tahani in the room though, so you can head off any appeals he might make in that direction.

  38. VictorianCowgirl*

    OP, what would happen if you just fired Jason?
    I mean, it sounds like you wouldn’t get fired.
    Use their insanity to your benefit.

    1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

      I assume if OP did that, Jason would go to HR and they would un-fire him. OP presumably doesn’t have the ability to stop his paychecks or file separation documents.

  39. Tink*

    “If I bring this to my boss, she’ll go nuclear and yank his administrative access. But that administrative access is very important to Jason, and he’ll throw a fit and start playing even more power games.”

    Let him throw a fit. Send him home for inappropriate behavior without pay. And keep doing it. Maybe after awhile it will sink in. And write him up. Every. Single. Time.

    1. Allypopx*

      This this this. Stop handholding and walking around like he’s a bomb about to go off. Let it go off. All the better that it’s important to him – it’s time he faced some consequences.

    2. Tinybutfierce*

      Yup. Let him escalate and throw his temper tantrums, then hold him accountable and document the crap out of them. The OP is not responsible for managing the emotions of anyone else, much less a four year old in disguise as a grown adult.

    3. Decima Dewey*

      You don’t want to bring it to your boss because she’ll yank his administrative access? That’s what has to happen yesterday! Who knows what damage Jason has done already?

    4. LilyP*

      Seriously! Do not spent any more energy trying to prevent or manage his tantrums or acting out or whatever. Refuse to play his “power games” (so curious what that looks like in practice). Direct him to whoever up the chain is saying he can’t be fired and let them deal with it. Also — do “tantrums” include being verbally abusive to you or your other employees? If so you need to escalate that immediately and aggressively up the chain every single time it happens. They won’t fire him? They get to have you in their office three times a week complaining about his behavior and they get to see all the work consequences of him running amok.

      1. LilyP*

        If this situation feels bizarre and helpless OP it’s because your company is screwing you too — they’ve given you the responsibility for managing people without the authority you need to actually do it. You’re not failing as a manager here, they’ve just set up an impossible task by not giving you the tools you need. Maybe, think what you would do if they hired you for this job but refused to give you an email account, or wouldn’t tell you the addresses of any of your clients or refused to provide office space. You’d say that’s bananacrackers! But they’re doing the same thing by making you a manager without giving you the tools you need to actually manage a team (including the ability to meaningfully discipline people and fire them). And you’re smart and conscientious so you’re trying your best to make do but you’re working around this huge handicap and it’s not your fault.

  40. AKchic*

    I’ve had similar problems both in my previous workplace and my current workplace. Unfortunately, both were with managers who weren’t *my* direct managers but felt that because they were managers, they had the right to change how my reports looked. Neither lasted long at their positions.

    Let Jason hang himself by the rope he himself takes. Tell Tahani what’s going on. Let Tahani manage him like she is supposed to. Stop thinking that you’re going to get in trouble because Jason is being Jason. Don’t hide what he’s doing. It’s not tattling to report problems with problem employees. When he threatens to “go to Tahani” call his bluff and call her in immediately right in front of him. Take the power back. Make this an upper management problem and I guarantee that they will start wondering why they are still keeping him around, because he is already wasting their time.

    He is currently unmanageable. He is also sabotaging others’ abilities to work (locking you out of systems probably isn’t the only thing he’s done to be contrary with coworkers / managers, am I right?). That threatens productivity, which threatens the bottom line. Anyone who threatens profits so willfully for their own petty ego is probably not a good fit (from a company perspective).

    1. LKW*

      Agreed wholeheartedly. Imagine the scenario:

      J: And I’m going to Tahani to complain about how I’m treated
      You: Let’s do that right now! T, the situation as it stands is that I made needed changes to this report. These are the reasons for the change… Jason has changed the report back and has locked me out from making the needed changes. This is the impact… Jason, can you explain to Tahani the reasons why you feel this was appropriate?

      Think of the arguments he’ll make – prepare your rationale why he’s wrong. Pretend it’s debate club. You can do this.

  41. Michelle*

    Jason keeps acting this way because he’s ALLOWED to act this way. He locked his manager out of a file and refused to give her access to work documents and he still has a job.

    I don’t understand why companies let troublemakers stir the pot and tip-toe around them. I would like to know exactly why Jason can’t be fired? Does he know someone or is related to or married to someone? Know some secret that threatens the company? Unless he owns the company, he can and should be fired. Transferring troublemakers around is a disservice to those who have to work with him and the company as a whole.

    Too bad Jason doesn’t hang with the Mickey D’s crew.

    1. Natalia*

      I’ve been wondering the same thing. This seems like a very dysfunctional and poorly run company…

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I had one experience with a company where the higher ups would only allow for firing if someone was violent or actively breaking the law, only because they could you know…call the cops to deal with the problem.

      It’s because they fancy themselves a place that loves to take in “projects”, people with known dicey track records. It’s rooted in kindness and fairness but they swerve so far drastically to the “never fire ever!” side because “They’re still learning! He’s only been out of prison for a couple of years! She’s got known addiction problems!” sort of things. Yeah. It’s not ideal.

      [This was not my Island of Misfit Toys, at least my boss would fire people there for being outrageously insubordinate and he had a heart of gold, he got most of his crew originally from the prison work-release program].

  42. J.E.*

    This makes me wonder is Jason has been fired multiple times before and lucked into this current job and maybe that’s why he hasn’t quit already. He doesn’t have to change, but he can keep collecting a paycheck. I also wonder if he’s paid well.

  43. Master Bean Counter*

    OP have you ever watched Super Nanny?
    I’d recommend watching a few shows. She has great tips for dealing with unruly toddlers.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Since they don’t fire anyone, I don’t think it’s Jason who has any dirt on anyone!

  44. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Why don’t they fire people…who hurt your upper management so bad that they’re scared and now being held hostage by awful “employees”. This sounds like the inmates took over the prison!

    1. Some Windex for my Glass Ceiling please*

      I worked at a small company where we had a truly terrible employee (insubordination, would not work with others, offensive personality, refused to do his assigned work-“that work is beneath me-I am not a woman!”). Yes, boss wanted him fired. And so did boss’ boss.


      The CEO would not hear of it. “There’s a place for everyone here at my company, ” he would say. They tried to transfer him to another dept. but no one would take him. The CEO was firm on this even though we were very vocal as to the issues. So it wasn’t like he was not aware of the problem. He was appalled that we wanted to actually fire someone. And this CEO was recruited from a large biotech company where they regularly had RIFs and the like. He had been a senior VP (he married the owner’s daughter).

      We had to get rid of the CEO before we were able to get rid of this guy.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Yeah, after I said it, I remembered my own former experience. It’s been buried deep because that place was in my rear view mirror faster than anything.

        You just waited for the CEO to be ousted? I would have been all “Okay don’t fire him, I’ll just sue the living ef outta this company for the hostile work environment you’ve created.” given that guy was a blatant sexist and allowed to continue that way because !*there’s a place for discrimination here, okay!*

        1. Some Windex for my Glass Ceiling please*

          Actually, the board of directors tossed CEO out as he wasn’t getting the results he claimed he could out of this small company. It actually took about 12-15 months (there were also takeover attempts, lawsuits resulting, and other shenanigan’s).

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Oh good! There were lawsuits, so that wreck of a “CEO” really did more than just harbor sexist nonsense.

            A year of that, oh good Lord, I’m glad they were able to take back the company and I truly hope that whoever took over was able to fix the damages. Employees who have gone through that and stuck it out can seriously have lasting effects from that kind of thing!

  45. mf*

    OP, you gotta yank Jason’s admin access TODAY. What happens if he is fired? What do you think he’s gonna do with his access to your files and software?

    1. ArtK*

      I said below that he clearly doesn’t have the maturity to have this access and it needs to be pulled immediately. It also needs to be pulled before anybody tells him.

  46. Hallowflame*

    OP, you need to get out NOW!
    Based on your letter, your perception of workplace norms are already pretty warped. Tahani revoking admin privileges is not going nuclear, it’s the bare minimum she should do in response to blatant insubordination and disrespect. Jason is playing power games and throwing tantrums on the reg, as well as causing interpersonal crisis that you routinely have to patch up, and this is just allowed to continue as if it weren’t a major discipline problem. He never should have been given any kind of power, especially over you.
    Get yourself out of this Bad Place before its too late.

    1. Sharrbe*

      Exactly. Everyone is tiptoeing around Jason, trying to not set him off because of his erratic and vindictive behavior. It’s quite literally the definition of an abusive relationship. LW probably doesn’t realize how deep they are in.

  47. Natalia*

    Why aren’t employees fired? What kind of idiotic company moves problem people around? And why would they pay some idiot like this Jason guy to do nothing but sabotage the company? It sounds like you need to start job hunting and go work at a less dysfunctional company?

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I’ve seen places that aren’t government who still doesn’t fire people unless it turns to some kind of violence. They just don’t like it. It’s “hard” to find someone to fill the spot and it’s all about just having a full roster of employers, not that they care that the work isn’t even getting done.

        1. Myrin*

          Yeah, I wouldn’t jump to “government” at all here, mostly because I’ve seen similar things play out in places which were about as far from government as one can imagine. (Although it’s much much harder to fire people in my country than in the US in general, so that certainly attributes to this phenomenon being mor widespread.)

          I’m actually dealing with something similar right now at my drugstore part-time job – the person in question is not as egregious as Jason (but who is, really?) but still an absolute liability, a power-hungry bully, and a drain on literally everyone of the other 32 employees (coincidentally, she just came back today after having been out sick for three weeks – three blissfully relaxed weeks with a noticeably less stressed atmosphere).

          The reason there haven’t been severe disciplinary measures taken against her sometime during the last thirteen years?
          My boss is an absolutely wimp when it comes to negative things regarding her employees. She can’t for the life of her have a tough conversation and will tolerate a literal dozen people leaving because of this one sorry excuse of a coworker over having a talk that is more than “hey, please be sure to not be so harsh with the new part-timers uwu” followed by actual consequences.
          And I’m absolutely convinced that this kind of cowardice is at the heart of basically all of these situations.

          (I’ve been planning to write more about this in the open thread but it fits just fantastically right here. Bully was apparently also told by the former grandboss that she won’t be getting the role she’s in now as long as she isn’t X (when the real reason was her abominable personality and interpersonal skillset). And then she went and actually got X and then they “had” to give the role to her. (Which is BS, if you ask me – this was only a verbal thing, for god’s sake, just say that you lied and end this misery!)
          Coincidentally, everything seems to be coming to a head right at the moment – people are becoming more outspoken and persistent and we’re all waiting with bated breath for a meeting between boss, Bully, and grandboss, who seems very no-nonsense to me. And if nothing comes from that, I just learned today that we have a letterbox where you can anonymously put stuff that ails you which then goes directly to Big Big Boss – and I’ll be doing just that if nothing changes during this month. I’ve had it up to here with this shoulder-shruggy attitude.)

          1. Mama Bear*

            A local school administrator is like this – the district keeps them on despite the staff and teachers fleeing like rats off a ship. They’ve made it clear the admin won’t be fired but it’s at the expense of the rest of the school. Companies that keep dead weight like this are shooting themselves in the foot long-term.

  48. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    NGL this letter is giving anxiety. It reminds me of the letter from the lady who had to deal with her report responding to her with “your mom” jokes and even worse.

    All joking aside, I hope this isn’t the only employer in town or something like that. I really want to tell you to take your standards and run out of there screaming. You’re better than this. You’re better than this. You’re better than this. You deserve so much better.

    1. Quill*

      Also if he’s causing problems for your Grandboss Michael but nothing is happening, it might be time to investigate what Michael is actually supposed to be doing with your department.

  49. Garland Not Andrews*

    Can you not just remove his computer completely? That would solve the blocking problem. If he wants to be a problem, let him sit in his office all day and do nothing. You cannot trust him to work without sabotaging you and the company, so take away his ability to do so.

  50. ArtK*

    So, OP tells the boss, the boss goes nuclear and pulls Jason’s admin access. Good. OP, don’t fall into the trap of thinking “this access is important to Jason.” He clearly doesn’t have the maturity to have that kind of access and it needs to be pulled. His hurt feelings aren’t your responsibility.

    1. mark132*

      And it’s not really nuclear either. It’s just a natural consequence of his actions. Nuclear would be firing him, (and he probably needs to be “nuked”).

    2. Dust Bunny*

      Also, who the Hell cares if it’s important to Jason? Let him throw a fit. He’s gonna throw a fit about something else, anyway, so you might as well wrest a little control away from him in the process.

  51. That Girl from Quinn's House*

    Obviously, this is a dysfunctional work environment. That said, I think we need to give the LW some credit.

    A huge part of doing well in a job is understanding both the written job description, and the “meta” job description. There’s often a big discrepancy between what you are explicitly told is your duty or responsibility, and what is actually needed to be considered a successful employee in a job. In less functional environments, the discrepancy is bigger: perhaps your job description says that llama safety is paramount, while your boss is measuring your success by the amount of lesson revenue each llama brings in. If you follow the explicit job description of putting a sick or injured llama in the hospital for rest, you fail at your implicit job description because that causes a reduction in lesson revenue while also costing the barn money in vet bills. So you have to balance the two, in the best way possible.

    This LW is tangled in the weeds because the job is in a murky swamp, but on the other hand, the LW has obviously intuited the subtext of her role pretty well, and is trying to balance the two. Especially in our weird economy, having the savvy to figure out how to keep your job is a skill unto its own, and we should recognize that.

  52. Aphrodite*

    Leave. There is nothing to solve.

    This is the way life is at this company, and no one and nothing will change as long as people know they can never be fired.

  53. Flash Bristow*

    Ohhhhh my.

    I recently started bookmarking the very weirdest, funniest or most outrageous posts (Duck Club etc), with a view to blogging and introducing new people to this site (while entertaining them at the same time).

    Well, this went *straight* in. Before I’d even started on Alison’s response (which I think was amazingly restrained, but thus helpful – but OMG, poor OP).

    OP I am as non-religious as they come, but I must be having a weird day. Because my first response was to say Hail OP, full of grace… etc.

    [With apols to any Catholics – no offence intended. I did try to look up the correct wording for a blessing before commenting, but as is typical in the way of the modern world, I got “you have reached the end of the preview, to continue reading you must login…”(!)]

    OP I truly hope this guy throws himself to the wolves. And that you find a far better job, and pronto! Best of luck.

    1. Six impossible things before breakfast*

      you know, for my own mental health dealing what was to me a completely absurd untenable situation, I did start every morning with a prayer for the Jason I was dealing with. I asked the Higher Power of My Understanding to give to Jason all that I would want for myself. Employment that he loved at a livable wage and good health insurance. (I assumed that the job he had he did not love because I am sure that my enacting the PIP and step discipline was not happy making as they expressed that to me in voice and behavior) to be surrounded by love, to wake up every morning in warmth and light, to have enough food, shelter, and clean clothes. Good luck. OP. Let us know how it goes.

  54. Betsy Bobbins*

    Do what you need to do and hold Jason accountable as all the previous comment have recommended. While you may feel like this will reflect badly on you for ‘tattling’ it doesn’t matter, they’re definitely not going to fire you, that’s been firmly established. If others are getting away with bad behavior with no repercussions you should be able to ‘get away’ with doing the right thing.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Drive him into the woods…with a backpack of gear and drop him there. Right/right?

    2. Some Windex for my Glass Ceiling please*

      Schedule him for never-ending business trips.
      Fly to Europe for paper clips.
      Trek to Australia for a 3-week conference on new paper products.
      Go in search of advanced faxing tips all over Asia.
      Learn filing techniques in the Gobi desert.

      Anything to keep him out of the office for extended periods of time. And excruciatingly bored too.

  55. TrekMyStars*

    Loving The Good Place names!

    Jason has got to go. Also, tell Tahani about him trying to get a degree because she misled him. This is just going to cause him to go bigger with his revenge if he gets the degree but not the job.

    1. Elbe*

      Jason sounds truly terrible, but the detail about the degree made me feel a little bit bad for him. It’s an epic level of avoidance to tell someone to pursue an expensive degree just because you don’t want to have a difficult conversation about their terrible behavior. He’s a jerk, sure, but Tahani is leading him to go into debt right before he’s (hopefully) fired.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        enh – if he gets a BA it’ll improve his hirability elsewhere, and school loans will defer until you have an income. Schools are actually a good place to get leads, and ‘wanted to go in a new direction with my shiny new degree!’ is a great reason for changing jobs in an interview. I don’t feel bad for him at all.

      2. Diahann Carroll (formerly Fortitude Jones)*

        But the thing is, no one told him to go out and get this degree – he was just told that the lack of one was hindering his advancement. He was also told by his direct manager, the person who actually interacts with him on a regular basis, that the real reason he didn’t get the job was because of his horrible attitude and job performance. That’s not OP or the company’s fault if this dingleberry decided to ignore OP’s more realistic assessment of the situation and went after obtaining a degree when no one also said to him, “And if you get said degree, you’ll be promoted” – that’s on him for being a willfully obtuse jackhole.

  56. All out of bubblegum*

    ” I’ve worked hard since I started this job to convince him that I’m not out to get him. ”

    NO you haven’t. Since you’ve started this job, Jason has trained you that any criticism or holding him accountable are actions that are “out to get him.”

    You’ve been programmed to take his viewpoint of what should be normal managerial stances. You’ve worked hard since you’ve started this job to keep Jason emotionally level for fear of his “throw a fit and start playing even more power games” and you’ve been dancing a frantic dance to keep him from feeling “threatened.”

    And you ask “What do I say that won’t just trigger more power struggles?” LISTEN – Jason is creating these power struggles. He is doing so with great vigor to keep anyone from holding him accountable. The power struggles happen when anyone who SHOULD have the power to regulate his work or make normal business requests of him do so — then he THROWS a TANTRUM because wah! he doesn’t want to clean his room!

    1. mark132*

      +1, Jason is using his ill-behavior to manipulate the OP and others at this company. Most companies wouldn’t put up this, and he managed to find one that will.

    2. Kaitlyn*

      Being “out to get” someone as a manager shouldn’t be based on personal dislike, but on creating and maintaining an environment where all staff can learn and flourish, and weeding out behaviours and practices that undermine that learning and flourishing. By all means, be “out to get” Jason’s pettiness, his vindictiveness, his anger issues: NONE of those are appropriate for work, and you should be getting rid of them. If Jason can change his responses when challenged, then great! And if not, there are consequences for not behaving like an adult, and creating a workspace where other adults can’t thrive.

  57. Sharrbe*

    Forget about Jason, the whole office is seriously dysfunctional. Leave. Quickly. When you get out you will be astounded by the fact that you put up with this madness for so long. Life is short and there are better jobs out there.

  58. Tinybutfierce*

    Hooooly cow. I can’t imagine how much more difficult Jason will be if he ever finds out he spent (presumably) thousands of dollars to get a degree he was lied to about needing to be promoted.

    I’d really, really suggest you try and get out of there ASAP if you can. This is so beyond dysfunctional and you’re already aware that it’s affecting your perception of workplace norms. It definitely doesn’t sound like there’s much hope at all of things improving, so get yourself out for your own sake and sanity.

    1. Jennifer*

      I don’t think he was necessarily lied to. The job may require a bachelor’s degree, but he was told multiple times in performance reviews that his terrible interpersonal skills are what’s holding him back.

  59. Jennifer*

    You need to start looking for another job right now. They decided to make you the manager of The Bad Place. Was that punishment for some other perceived wrong? It doesn’t sound like a promotion to me. Even if by some miracle Jason is fired, you still have a team full of problem employees that would have been fired anywhere else. It’s not a daycare center or a home for wayward kids. It supposed to be a business. Run fast and far.

    1. Diahann Carroll (formerly Fortitude Jones)*

      Yup. And what measurable accomplishments will OP have from this job to put on her own resume? I mean, all of her employees are problem employees. They may not rise to the level of garbage that’s Jason, but she has people under her direction that mentally checked out of that place ages ago. The longer OP stays in this role without turning any of these people around, the harder it will be for her to get another managerial position someplace else.

      OP, you were set up to fail. Save yourself – your team is not doing you or that company any favors.

  60. mark132*

    Can you at least “write him up” formally with HR? I mean ask him to unlock the report, and when he doesn’t formally have him written up for “insubordination” ? At least make it hurt some?

  61. Naomi*

    OP, I hope this will change your perspective on how to handle Jason:

    Currently you are doing your best not to set him off. But you can’t avoid that when he’s already flying off the handle once a month. The frequency of his tantrums actually gives you back some power here: you don’t have much to lose by upsetting him, because if it wasn’t this thing he’d have thrown a hissy fit over something else. And an approach that boils down to “try to keep Jason on good behavior” is doomed to failure.

    So it’s probably more practical to limit his ability to do damage when he lashes out. And from that perspective, revoking his admin access makes perfect sense. Yes, it will upset Jason–but it also cuts off an avenue for sabotage, and a potentially dangerous one depending on the extent of his access. Maybe you can cut off his actual power until he can’t do anything worse than scream and beat his fists like a toddler.

  62. Hi there*

    The advice you’ve gotten seems good, and I don’t have much to add. Your description of your department reminded me of a time when we were looking for a new hike out West. Everything about the hike we picked out sounded great, especially the part about not many people on the trails, until we read that the area is where problem bears from Yellowstone were relocated. Your Jason sounds like a problem bear!

  63. Shadow Moon*

    LW, I agree with Alison that you must report this act of sabotage and insubordination to your boss. There’s a pronounced difference between hanging out at a fast food restaurant all day (still wrong btw) and abusing system access privileges to the detriment of the organization. Do you have an employee handbook that outlines terminable offenses or a progressive discipline policy?

    I’m sorry you’re in this terrible situation!

  64. CookieWookiee*

    Sounds like a federal government office.

    There is no reasoning with an unreasonable person like that. My office is also full of missing stairs that the rest of us have to work around, and management can’t/won’t do anything about them, so I feel your pain.

    My only suggestion is, next time you need to edit a document that he originally authored, do a save-as, change the name, reset the permissions, and if possible save to your personal drive (if you have one) or another folder entirely on the current drive, if that’s all you have access too.

  65. What The Fork Is A Chidi*

    Yeah, that administrative access needs to be revoked ASAP. I always say people act like jerks when they are allowed to and management just gave jerkiness free passes at your job. Good luck, LW

  66. Elbe*

    The LW needs to continue to be upfront about Jason’s bad behavior. Even if she can’t actually fire him yet, she can make a point of telling him that his action are offenses that he could be fired for.

    Additionally, are there any other disciplinary measures she can take? Can she suspend him for a few days without pay? Can she put him on a PIP that would require check ins and annoying red tape? There must be something short of firing him that she can do.

    And when she finally is able to fire him, they all need to make sure his access is LOCKED DOWN. If this is what he’s doing as a current employee, what will he do when he’s let go? They need to plan for some major sabotage attempts. Keeping an employee like this just allows this attitude to fester while giving him greater and greater access to the company.

  67. OP*

    I really appreciate these comments and I’m reading every single one, they’re definitely helping me see the situation more clearly. It’s so hard to see how bad something is when you’re in the thick of it. Also, you guys are forking hilarious.

    A few relevant bits of information:

    I said company to be vague, but it is a government job.

    This is going to shock everybody, but it’s actually widely considered the best place to work in my medium-sized city. I know people who have tried to get jobs there for years.

    Because… the benefits. The benefits are amazing. And why I’m not going to leave at least for the next few years. They’re currently paying for my graduate degree. I get six weeks vacation. And three weeks sick time that can be used for appointments and sick family members. (I have small kids and small kids are just really large viruses.) And I never work overtime or a second past 5pm, which is rare in my industry.

    And the job security is insane! Haha. Ha. Ha.

    Some commenters seem to be under the impression that I’ve been hiding how bad Jason is from Tahani. Tahani definitely knows how bad Jason is. Oh she knows. The entire department knows. That’s why he got transferred to the department with no manager (until they hired me)–it’s so they don’t have to deal with him. In some ways I was hired to clean up, but without the ability to fire there’s only so much I’ve been able to do. Though it is better!

    I definitely talked with Tahani about this, like I do every time, I just did it after I talked to Jason and got that under control. (I’ll write a comment in a bit about how that went)

    And to be clear, Tahani can’t just fire Jason either, or she probably would have before I even arrived. The extreme difficulty in firing is because it’s a government job. A good chunk of my team would be fired yesterday if they could be. I haven’t even mentioned Eleanor…

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I want to reiterate that you probably can fire Jason. You just need to prepare to meticulously document everything and meet ridiculous levels of paperwork requirements.

      The only answer here is to stop hiding how bad Jason is from Tahani and start aggressively building the case to fire him. It may take a long time, but it can be done. And your other employees will respect you for it.

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        THIS EXACTLY. The process is long and tedious and government takes progressive discipline to a whole new level (emphasis on PROGRESSIVE, if you count 2 steps forward, 1 step back as progressive!) BUT the process WILL work if you are patient. Stay strong, OP!

    2. Elbe*

      “And the job security is insane! Haha. Ha. Ha.”

      I laughed at this one! It is nice to know that shy of violence you’ll probably never be let go.

    3. CatCat*

      Have you tried any other progressive disciplinary measures short of firing? I get how hard it can be to fire in government. The key is clear and consistent documentation of the problem and corrective actions taken. If firing isn’t realistic at this juncture (and I get how it probably isn’t, especially if no prior formal corrective action has been taken), is there anything that is? Suspension without pay for a period of time? Reduction in pay for a set time period (ex-job often did 5-10% reduction for 6-12 months)? Then keep going back and documenting the impact of the corrective action and whether the behavior then continues.

      1. CatCat*

        The progressive nature of it makes it easier to fire if Jason doesn’t get his crap together. And the agency that oversaw the civil service would expect to see such a progression before firing. In that event, the firing would be more likely to be upheld. I’ll be honest… could take years.

      2. Six impossible things before breakfast*

        yes. Progressive discipline. Following the civil service or employee had book meticulously. First the meetings with expectations laid out orally and in writing. No surprises down the road during the performance review. Including “raising his voice” unprofessional behavior like the locking out of the document. Interview colleagues and document with HR in the room. (although HR is useless in the actual process, keep them in the loop, ask for language, for example, I was not allowed to say “he lied” I still don’t know why- misspoke, prevaricated, misinformed, provided inaccurate information…) Then the performance review. Then an oral warning (in a meeting and in writing) Then a written warning 1, then written warning two, then written warning three all with meetings with employee and hr with interviews with other employees for documentation. Does not meet expectations means that the employee didn’t even get the “cost of living” raise. It has been 5 years since this employee left. One remaining employee from that time, who is excellent. Entire staff of my department engaged in the work doing their jobs. It is joy to come to work.

    4. hbc*

      In my experience (limited) and based on stories I’ve been told (numerous), it’s nearly impossible to get fired from government work for passively or subjectively being a terrible employee–coming in late, barely working, being disrespectful, etc.. It’s different for actively and objectively doing wrong things (ex: locking your supervisor out of a file), though the work required is still pretty onerous. Do the paperwork. Dooo iiit.

      1. Natalia*

        My uncle’s brother was fired from a government job for being a terrible employee…calling and saying he was in the hospital with pneumonia, when he was really in Vegas (apparently you could hear all the slot machines in the background), coming in hung over frequently..but then again he did this stuff all the time…

      2. Six impossible things before breakfast*

        Not true. Please see my comment below. OP if you have a plan to be in position for quite some time. Make it your part-time job to separate Jason from his position. My Jason was in position for 2 years without a supervisor and had the misguided impression that when the position was going to be filled that they were going to get it. Hence the reprehensible behavior.
        Although being in the middle of it is hell. (I am so, so, sorry) Be the calm, efficient, professional person. Document how this person’s behavior affects the team, the work, and reputation of the department. (late deliverables, poor customer service, lack of whatever…)

        And then the good news, Jason is gone, and the Elaines shapeup or ship out. AND Tahani gives you a promotion and a raise. (yep, exactly what happened at my Good Place)

    5. Iconic Bloomingdale*

      I KNEW this was a government job. I have seen similar scenarios with difficult civil service or government employees play out so many times in my career, it’s not even funny. smdh

    6. blackcat*

      Gross misconduct is fire-able almost anywhere.

      But you need to strip him of admin privileges ASAP. Imagine some essential service your city provides going down because of Jason’s tantrum. You’re his boss, you’ll be the one blamed.

      1. Arctic*

        “Gross misconduct is fire-able almost anywhere.”

        I think we should take OP at their word. They know how their organization is run. And that is just not true everywhere.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        The thing with gross misconduct is it has to be documented and addressed very specifically.

        Believe me, I’ve seen someone fired for being outrageous, spitting in the bosses face and refusing to do specific jobs. Screaming. Making it seem like it was going to get physical. So it was just done with that guy.

        We tried to fight his unemployment claim because we fired him for gross misconduct. Yeah. Nope. Since we let others over the years pick and choose jobs and get chippy with each other, our case was thrown out and they got their claim paid out.

        Don’t get me wrong. You can fire them in terms of the fact it’s not illegal to fire them. But with internal policies taken into consideration. precedents sent previously and union contracts, appeals processes in place etc, yeah you may or may not be able to fire them for that kind of thing.

      3. Ellie*

        I’ve seen someone fired for working a second job, for a competitor, on company time (using the companies phones, from the company desk… they were recommending clients go to the second company where he could set them up), with some unrelated sexual harassment and bullying charges on top. They fought the firing and won, and were reinstated with back pay. So yeah… unless he can no longer do his job because he’s in prison or something, it can happen.

        1. Six impossible things before breakfast*

          And that is where step discipline and documentation may be helpful. By the end of my process there was a bankers box plus of documentation. A weekly written report of lack of improvement. E-mails of every job task. A narrative of every meeting, every assignment, a spreadsheet of job duties and failure to complete, deliver in an accurate and timely manner as well as the issues of insubordination and failure to follow policies and procedures that affected the department’s security and reputation. By the last two months of meetings even the Union rep was sighing and rolling his eyes as I calmly laid out the failure to complete the basic tasks of the position. And it was just because Jason felt that he either “knew better” or the basic rules didn’t apply to him.

          1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

            Yes exactly. In cases where I’ve heard about an employee grieving a discharge and being reinstated, usually someone along the line failed to document something like appropriate expectations. Which isn’t to say the employee shouldn’t have been fired. The conduct was often quite bad! But we live and die by the procedure so as government supervisors… we’ve got to think ahead and make sure we’re doing it right.

            Then again, I do know one case where the supervisor documented meticulously, even the union had stopped defending the employee… and at the last moment HR got cold feet and transferred them instead of firing. But that’s ONCE, and I’ve seen a lot more successful firings. And that HR had a…a reputation, shall we say. And got a thorough cleaning-out down the line.

    7. Arctic*

      Yeah, I absolutely knew this was state or local government. I know the feds typically have a process for letting people go. But many state and local governments just plain don’t.
      Where I work it has changed A LOT over six years I’ve been here. Now I’d say we’ve gone too far the other way with layoffs planned. But that was definitely the culture when I started. Claiming there is a way to fire we just weren’t using would have just been completely inaccurate.

    8. Data Nerd*

      I wish I could give you a Janet. However, also local government employee here. We have rules about who can report wrongdoing, and how well documented wrongdoing has to be (only my department head can have my supervisor disciplined for drinking on the job, and he won’t because she’s his favorite)–but it can be documented and the employee can eventually be fired. So if Tahani is your department head and can strip Jason of his admin access, she should–with an emailed file memo saying why, copied to you and the head of HR. If Jason interacts with the public in any way, and your muni is set up for it, inform the public he’s offended of ways to report his bad behavior. Give him nothing to do. Write up every infraction and send it over to HR ( I agree with Alison that writeups are a silly way to manage adults, but so many things in government are silly). Report him for violating your state’s sunshine laws, which he’s probably doing. Ask the people in other departments whose work he’s impacting to email you a report of exactly what he’s doing, and the impact it had–quantify it in tax dollars wasted and opportunities missed, if you can. It’s a long hard paperwork slog, but it’s doable. And also, if Jason had any sense, he’d check the civil service requirements for the job he wants and see that it doesn’t require a bachelors. Also, try to get the employees’ union on board.

      1. Six impossible things before breakfast*

        yes this. No exaggeration. This is a time suck. I gave Jason individual projects with deadlines just to see if they would be met. The projects would have been nice but did not in anyway impact my department so that I didn’t have to worry about them.

    9. Hapless Bureaucrat*

      Speaking as a supervisor in a government job, I feel you. Your best bet is to do exactly what Allison suggested, with a side order of document everything. Do you have access to his HR file? Has he ever been on progressive discipline before? If so, evaluate whether you can step it up now. If not, start it now. If you need a formal HR investigation, initiate it. Your goal here is not only to document things but to make letting Jason stay just as much of a pain for HR as firing him. And provide as bullet-proof an argument as you can in case arbitration is a possible factor for you.
      … and cross your fingers and hope your HR has some backbone after all. Or there’s another manager-less department they can transfer Jason too, whichever.

    10. 1LFTW*

      OP, I guess I’ll be the first one to recommend pulling out your trusty copy of *Gift of Fear*. Maybe read the workplace safety chapter with your boss. Then read the recommendations for how to fire someone peaceably. A few commenters have openly wondered if the reason he hasn’t been fired is straight up fear of of reprisal, and I gotta say, I’m getting chills here thinking about this guy.

      I mean, maybe Jason doesn’t have access to anything more dangerous than a spork, but that’s not a chance worth taking. Moreover, it’s your job, and Tahani’s job, and Tahani’s boss’s job to keep your employees safe. Jason already has a track record of sabotage, insubordination, and collecting grievances. What happens when he finishes his bachelor’s and the “promised” promotion falls to materialize?

      I have seen unstable, even scary, people be fired from government jobs. Moreover, I’ve seen it done well. You can do this, OP. If you have to raise the spectre of workplace violence (And liability for it; unfortunately liability is sometimes the only way to get through to people) is better to do that than to risk a tragedy.

      Please keep us updated on this one, if you can.

    11. Daniel*


      Thank you so much for joining the comment thread!

      I’m a state government worker too, and there’s definitely a feeling from the outside that it’s impossible to get fired. And I agree that the process is more arduous than it should be. That said, I can almost promise you that you can fire Jason. (I won’t say 99.9% sure. I can’t use nines since I haven’t seen every government office out there. I’ll give you as many eights as you want.) My mother also had a state job, and she fired multiple people. She was at the level responsible for the documenting, the memo writing, and doing the actual firing. And from what I’ve heard, her level was right around Tahani’s level.

      So: please tell her Tahani all the issues you’ve seen. Get her to pull his permissions from the report editor and give them to you. Keep pushing Tahani to document as you see additional tantrums and refusals. I think part of the effort is going to have to go toward making sure Tahani is on board and stays on board with needing to get Jason out of there–because you do. He is already performing petty sabotage, and is not going to get better. Write whatever goofy counseling memos your agency may require (my mom wrote MANY of those).

      I can say that my mother fired folks for less. (I mean, sabotage. Wtf, Jason.) If Tanani doesn’t hold up her end of the bargain, then you have both a Jason and a Tahani problem. If she does, then you’ll both develop the tools to deal with problems like the McDonald’s surfers. And Eleanor, apparently.

      Finally, PLEASE tell us the Eleanor story. Also, good luck!

    12. Lana Kane*

      I’m actually not shocked that the retention is so high! People will put up with a lot when the benefits and job security are good.

      I don’t work for government, but I work for a large employer that is unionized. Firing people here is probably as hard as it is in government due to progressive discipline. It’s not impossible, but it’s hard because the paper trail has to be exhaustive. Someone in this thread mentioned treating the documentation process like your part time job, and I agree. I’m in a similar situation myself, and I have my manager’s blessing to devote the time to this. Maybe you and Tahani can come up with a plan.

    13. J.B.*

      I used to work for government. It was pretty common for managers to think they couldn’t fire people. The process is a massive PITA but it can be done. Start coaching, start documenting, do your stuff. And at the same time assign him scut duties. If a boss is going to reject the firing, make them tell you that. Please, you are paid out of public money.

      (And I would challenge HR and senior management directly on the car thing. They could get flamed if that one got out.)

    14. Ellie*

      I believe you when you say you can’t fire him – I’ve seen it myself. It sucks, big time.

      I still say you should take every scrap of power away from him, put him in charge of pens and paperclips, and do the documentation to get him disciplined anyway. At the very least, it will prevent him from getting any kind of promotion, or from being rehired if he ever does quit (which he might… if his temper is bad, and he’s getting a degree under false pretenses, I can see how that might translate into ‘I quit’ language). If there’s nothing low risk you can give to him, you can take a page from my companies book and create your own…. is there any kind of out-reach you can put him in charge of? Some special project? Some community, charity-based thing you can give to him and let him fail at somewhere far away from your core business? Put him in charge of rewriting some wiki pages that no-ones ever going to see or miss.

      Either that, or see if a redundancy is possible.

    15. Cathy Gale*

      Yeah, it was kind of obvious it was a government job. It sounds like my last one (I actually bumped into our “Jason” at the Container Store earlier this week, and privately reminisced about his temper tantrums, his propensity to lock people out of systems, his belief that he was smarter than everyone, and how he believed he was owed a top management job despite having just five years of working experience).

      You have to document everything… but you can get rid of him. The management-out techniques given to you in the post are stellar!

  68. Anon1234*

    I have never felt the need for pseudonyms so greatly. I want to track down LWs company and give them a good shake. Jesus.

  69. FormerFirstTimer*

    I would polish up my resume and get ready to throw the whole job out. You’ve already admitted working there is skewing how you see this situation, get out before it becomes your norm and hurts your professional reputation. You sound like you want to be a good boss, but they are actively preventing you from doing so. They don’t deserve you.

  70. hbc*

    OP, I know you’re probably very proud of what you’ve managed to accomplish there, so the idea of leaving is probably difficult to contemplate. But at this point, I think you’ve reached the limit of what you can accomplish while Jason is there.

    So go to your boss and the director and ask what it would take to fire Jason. Bring all your documentation. Cite your record of turning a department of cast-offs into a decent crew to support that this is not your first, second, or 15th choice when dealing with difficult people. Get in writing what they would need to see, and if they actually say no, make them say out loud that they’re okay with employees locking their managers out of files and doing whatever else Jason has done.

    I think you’ll get a sense out of this whether they’re unwilling to do anything until he commits a violent felony, or that there’s a long and tortuous path that you’re willing to travel that leads to you being able to boot him out the door. And I have some small hope that if you manage to fire him and the sky doesn’t fall, you’ll have broken the seal and others will follow. But realistically, I’d bet that they tell you there’s a way, they chicken out/back off, and you’ll be looking for a more functional place knowing you did everything you could.

  71. Not So Super-visor*

    OMG — I thought that I was the only manager that this had problem! My problem employee locked me out of an Excel report that I needed. When I told her that she couldn’t do this, she responded with that she was going to do it any way even if she said that she wouldn’t. Fortunately, I do have the ability to fire if an employee refuses a reasonable work assignment, so I immediately told her to follow me into my boss’ office, explained the situation, and told her that if she continued to refuse reasonable work assignments that she would be let go immediately. That stopped that issue, but she quit a few months later when I confronted her about other defiance related performance issues.

    1. Luna*

      Can I just say I like this? You actually went and informed the employee that she was on thin ice. No full-time job I have had, so far, has been kind enough in doing that to me. I didn’t know there were problems, and then I was let go. I know I was still in the employee probation period, but I still kinda find it rude to not inform even the new employee, “Hey, here are the things that you need to work on or we’ll have to let you go.” so they have a chance to fix things.

      Okay, one of them I figured it would be coming soon, but I honestly didn’t care about *that* job. Couldn’t even get myself to attempt to fake tears when I was giving the paper. I pretty much told my supervisor and manager, “Gimme here already.”

  72. J.E.*

    I’m confused as to why Jason was given admin privileges and covering the position that he had wanted to apply for in the first place. He was told he didn’t qualify for the position because he doesn’t have a bachelor’s degree as a way to keep him from the getting the job, but isn’t he basically doing the job now?

    1. What The Fork Is A Chidi*

      I’m guessing that it was like giving a baby his binky to see if that calms him down :S

  73. Sabina*

    I’ve worked for decades in government jobs where it was almost impossible to fire people. The operative word is “almost”. Yes, it’s a huge hassle and involves following a Byzantine set of rules/procedures, but it can be done. But the longer you put off the hassle the harder it will seem. Start now.

  74. Bree*

    Not that this is the most important part of the letter, but what are these people doing when they’re spending a whole day at a fast food place?

    1. Some Windex for my Glass Ceiling please*

      They are working hard at not working.

      And, given the OP posted that this is a gov’t office, I’m a bit steamed that my tax dollars are going towards paying these loafers a salary they have not earned. That should be grounds for immediate termination.

    2. Daniel*

      I have seen people at various jobs spend an astonishing about of effort try to get out of work. As in, far more effort than it would have taken to do their actual jobs. I have no idea what the mentality is there.

  75. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    Who’s the boss of the department where that reporting system was “managed by another position in the department that has been unfilled for the past few months after the employee retired” ?

    Can you approach that boss, whoever they are (I understand that the position itself is vacant, but surely ‘it’ has a boss) ?

    Presumably / hopefully, if they are a technical-ish area which manages this system they will understand the implications of this employee going rogue etc – even if they don’t understand or care about the details of the report itself that the system contains.

  76. Elenia*

    I can tell you that I followed Alison’s advice to the letter when I had a problem employee last year that the Powers That Be wouldn’t fire. I simply documented everything, was overly kind to her, and most importantly, insisted she do her job. So when she pushed back on something, I would respond with, “I know you have the skills to do this, it’s what I hired you for, please go and do it right away.” Before this I’d been trying to hold her hand and accommodate her , but I just flatly refused to do anything but be pleasant and ask her to do her job. You just let them go from there.

    Lo and behold it took less than two weeks of this before she quit. The HR department wanted to talk to me about it but I had been keeping them in the loop on everything and I could show them every emailed request where she would just flat out refuse, or sometimes cry over, or argue over, and my kind responses, expecting her to do the job.

    Someone here had a wonderful comment for me at the time: sometimes, the trash takes itself out.

    1. Daniel*

      Good on you. As I mentioned above, some people put in so much effort to not work that it’s far more than it would take to do the assigned work. So when their bosses persist like this, they often decide it’s no longer worth the energy, and they leave (or sometimes shape up, but sadly, that seems to be rare).

  77. Fabulous*

    While the issue itself is terrible, I forking love the references.

    That said, I agree with Alison. Bring in Tahani on this issue – because it IS very serious and he does need his admin rights removed because of it. You don’t play games like that. Hand him the rope and let him use it.

  78. Governmint Condition*

    If it means anything, my agency actually fired a worker for this exact behavior. Yes, a government worker was actually fired. And it didn’t take as long as expected. Apparently, she didn’t fight it very hard.

    1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

      It can be done! I’ve seen our agency fire people, and it’s true we don’t take well to flat-out insubordination. Also, while the discipline process is painful for us, it’s equally painful for the employee. Sometimes that’s enough to get them to find another job on their own.

  79. His Grace*

    Your employee locked you (his manager) out of a report? Very, very bad. This is passive-aggressive behavior to the core (take it from someone who is passive aggressive). Your employer refuses to fire him for his transgressions (or other employees for fudging their time cards)? There is so much wrong and horrible here I don’t know if this company is worth salvaging. But at this point, I’d start documenting every encounter with Jason.
    As an aside, do you want to work for these people?

  80. Cafe au Lait*

    I’ve always wondered what would happen if you just fired these toxic employees. Yes, your organization doesn’t fire people. But is it a written rule or a perceived rule? What would happen if you just did it? Would you bosses let the person come back? Or would they says “FINALLY!” and rejoice that someone has done the hard lifting they chose not to do.

    1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

      At least in the government, yes, the employee would be brought back. It’s not like the boss has access to actually FIRE- fire them anyway. All paperwork and system access goes through other points of control. So. Employee comes back. Union (if there is one) screams bloody murder. Boss gets a warning in their OWN file for failing to follow proper disciplinary procedures.

      1. Six impossible things before breakfast*

        oh yes. Therefore please see below. Maybe this is a good Thursday Thread. Who has fired in an environment where “no one gets fired” Disciplinary procedures are onerous, complicated and there for a reason to prevent capricious behavior. It feels so absurd in the moment but if followed there is an end.

        1. Tabby Baltimore*

          I think this would be a great idea, and I hope that managers from state and federal agencies who read this blog would be willing to step up and talk as frankly as they can about the situations they faced when they entered the picture, what they documented, how they documented it, what kind of help (if any) they got from the HR professionals at their agency, and how they handled employee retaliation(s) against them (e.g., frivolous grievances, as mentioned by Six Impossible Things below).

  81. Elyse*

    How do people in government get fired? When constituents find out and complain to the press. Maybe some anonymous “whistleblowing” is in order, haha. I kid I kid……


    1. Arctic*

      The press and public might care about the fast food thing, for sure. But I don’t think locking your manager out of a document is something the press would care about.

    2. Student*

      Actually, in my workplace, whistleblowing would be an appropriate response to this problem. Just saying.

    3. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      Unfortunately, no, this just exacerbates the image of government workers being terrible, because the press finding out doesn’t negate laws, rules, regulations, and/or union contracts with explicit protections.

  82. Rebecca*

    Oh I’ve revoked access to a document before. Collaboration suites are all well and good until you’re trying to finalize some text and people who like to “play editor” (I’ve had people say that to me…”I just like to play editor!”) get in there a screw everything up. So I get people’s sign off and then revoke their access. “Hey I can’t see the Flenderson file anymore!” Yup. You sure can’t!

    But this is…not that. Yikes to that whole situation.

  83. Tiger Snake*

    Confession; I did not read the whole letter, nor Alison’s response. I got as far as the line “If I bring this to my boss, she’ll go nuclear and yank his administrative access. But that administrative access is very important to Jason, and he’ll throw a fit and start playing even more power games.

    And then started ranting “But that’s all the more reason to take his administrative power from his right now!”.
    I don’t care what power games Jason wants to play. What I do care about, is that right now he can and is already playing power games while he has administrative access. He has power to play games with, so the solution is to take that power away. He’s already holding your files hostage. He’ll keep doing it.

    Let’s take the ‘I can’t fire him’ at face value. If that’s the case, you can’t stop him from pulling this nonsense; tip-toeing around trying to stop him from getting angry as futile. So you need to give up on that, and focus on making sure his nonsense hurts less.

  84. Six impossible things before breakfast*

    Never say never. I arrived in a position as supervisor of a department in a state agency. No one had ever been fired. Anything short of a DWI in an agency vehicle was considered un-fireable. My department was well known as the “land of misfit” toys and everyone outside it knew that it was the dumping ground for this type of employee. My second-in command who “had all the keys to the kingdom” and was supervising everyone else in the department was a nightmare of misinformation, resentment, and insubordination. I was able in the first six months to find better fits for the other reports who really needed to be doing other work somewhere else and left other positions open to gain control of the department. That left me with two competant reports taking care of business.
    I began the PIP process. And that was the beginning of the broken record of “no one gets fired” I just kept asking what is the procedure for a PIP? What next. I kept documenting. I had coaching meetings. I had performance evaluation meetings. I escalated the PIP through 6 required steps with a 90 day gaps between hoping for improvement and documenting . I was on the receiving end of ” weekly union grievance filing” for non-existent behavior like abusive behavior (nope) micro-managing (nope) bad management (nope) lack of communication (nope) All lack of evidence for the grievances were documented through interviews with his peers and other supervisors with HR documenting that my behavior was always professional and my expectations were reasonable
    It was a time suck, emotionally draining, and HR would ask at every escalation, are you sure you want to keep going. Two years later, the employee was let go. And yes, he was shocked, shocked I tell you. No more shocked than his peers. AND the other managers started coming to me to be mentored on how to begin their own PIPs with difficult reports.
    The takeaway- I had planned on being in this position for a very long time. It takes as long as it takes. And that may not be “never.”

  85. Former DV advocate*

    I am sure folks have great suggestions for you OP, but reading this I felt my DV (domestic violence) senses go off. Often times people believe DV only happens in intimate relationships that they forget abuse can happen between friends and in the workplace. Jason is y’all abuser and he has been able to bend the office to his whims (as an aside, if Jason isn’t an abuser in his private life, I will eat my hat because guys like him letting lose in the workplace? He must be a nightmare at home). All I can sense as I read your letter was fear. Fear of what Jason would do and of how he would react to basically you being his manager and I get it. I do. It is scary as hell to see a grown ass man be aggressive and rude. It puts on the onus on you to keep the peace, but what if you didn’t?

    Jason is going to be Jason. He is going to be Jason because it works and because he knows he won’t be fired. Well, guess what OP? If he isn’t going to be fired neither will you. He has suckered you into his control power displays by making you afraid of him going above you. Let him. Take some power back and find the silver lining in working in a place that refuses to fire people. I have had some really toxic jobs and there is power in knowing that you won’t be fired. Jason isn’t going nowhere and neither are you. I would suggest documenting everything with dates and times and employees present. Do it not only to document Jason’s behavior but to get some power back in knowing that what is going on isn’t normal. What I learned is that just because you document something doesn’t mean you will report but the few times I had to report unethical practices I felt empowered. I documented for myself because if things went south I had a way to prove I wasn’t involved, did what I could and be able to fight for unemployment if needed.

    Honestly, OP would suggest creating a safety plan. Call the National Hotline of Domestic Violence. I took calls from employees working in toxic places where they felt they were unsafe and was able to work with them in creating a safety plan. Jason sounds like an unsafe/out of control individual. Will he turn violent? Who knows and I don’t what to frighten you but Jason knows how to get you off track. By straight up refusing to restore your access to the doc, you were left dumbfounded in how to response. Don’t let them become a pattern where he will respond in extreme ways and you are left wondering what to do. In case he goes off the rail you know you have a plan. Check your HR manual and start documenting. Talk to your manager and let them in writing that y’all all know Jason has anger prone temper tantrums and want their feedback on how to deal it with it. Do you call security? Call police? Get in writing because my fear is that one day Jason may lay a hand on you or another employee and instead of rightly filing a police complaint, it will be swept under the rug as Jason being Jason. We all need a paycheck but no job is worth your safety.

    I remember one toxic job where the director would actually call people in her office, lock the door and scream at them. I was so new to the working world that I put with that place for 2 yrs. What I didn’t put with though is her yelling. Where I live, locking someone in a room and refusing to let them leave is considered kidnapping so I made it loudly know that if I was ever in that situation I would call 911 and report that I was being held against my will. I carried my phone everywhere and you know what happened? The Director was too scared to do anything. She yelled at the other employees and the one time she looked like she was going to do the same to me, I got my phone ready. Just the act of doing so, scared her off. I did make sure to have a financial nest saved up in case I was fired but I felt empowered to not put with bad behavior. However, this strategy only works if your workplace knows you will act and your workplace may just retaliate against you for keeping yourself safe. By again no workplace is worth this. Use the fact that no one gets fired to get yourself another job OP. Change is scary but so is working in a place that allows shady things to happen. A company like this isn’t going to last long either because profits decline or because someone did something so horrible that the feds get involved and you don’t want to be involved in any of that.

    1. AKchic*

      I have to agree with all of this. As a DV survivor, my ex-husband (abuser) has always been explosive in his workplaces (when he did have employment, which has always been sporadic).

      Documenting all of your interactions will help you.

      1. Insert User Name Here*

        IMVHO, you ought to have called HR and 911 whenever Toxic Screaming Supervisor locked ANYONE into her office. One of my parents used to scream and scream at me on a regular basis in my teens. Unfortunately, if a supervisor had done that to me in my twenties I would have sucked it up. But to lock someone into an office and scream at them?!?? No. No one deserves that. That needed to be shut down hard, fast, and immediately.

    2. Isabelle*

      I completely agree and I also think that when Jason gets his degree, he will feel that automatically entitles him to that position he wanted. When he doesn’t get it, he will not blame Tahani. Instead he will blame the person who is “out to get him”: OP. At that point Jason may become physically violent. OP needs to do whatever it takes to protect their safety and that of their team.

  86. Six impossible things before breakfast*

    On the security front. I did get very bad vibes from my Jason. Veiled threats. Weird violent stories told at random. A preoccupation with violence in the news. I did call in and have a security assessment. There were plainclothes officers at the ready on firing day. There was a ban in place for the premises. None of this was super obvious but yes, I was thinking “the gift of fear.”

    1. Amethystmoon*

      I had an odd coworker for several years. He wasn’t quite as bad as your Jason, or that Jason, but he did stalkerish things (like actually following me around the workplace) and told bizarre random stories, usually about himself and how he was so adamant against violence on women and gave examples in detail of the kinds of things he was supposedly against. Nothing, absolutely nothing, precipitated the random stories. They were out of the blue. However, they wouldn’t fire him, even though I did try to go to my boss about him. So I found another job. Also, the Gift of Fear rang true for me. Trust your instincts.

  87. Food Sherpa*

    PLEASE keep us posted with updates! I can’t imagine locking a boss out of anything without getting my gear handed to me and a “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out” as a good-bye. There would be a full-on rant with fist-pounding and spittle flying as he ushers me to the door.

  88. Jay*

    The only possible way I can see out of this for you is to just wall him up, Cask Of Amontillado style. Start by getting his Admin. privileges revoked. Then move on to the rest of his privileges. Then take away his work. ALL OF IT. Spread it around to the rest of the group. Make sure everyone in your department know that all emails from him are to be sent directly to the Spam folder and that he is not to be copied on any emails in turn. His phone calls are not to be answered or returned.
    The goal is to fire him passively if you can’t do it actively. By the time you are done, see that his job consists of nothing but staring at the screensaver on a computer that he doesn’t even have a password for.
    What’s the worst that your employers will do about it? NOTHING. They will do nothing. Hell, you might even get a promotion out of it, seeing that that is how senior management handles all of THEIR problems.

  89. Tiger Snake*

    Just because I see a lot of people making comments about this being a government department; here’s a couple of things I’ve observed that explain why this sort of problem ‘can’t fire them’ dynamic is more common in the public service. It doesn’t excuse it, but it does explain it;

    First, public service jobs just do pay less than private industry. They might try to sell it as an idea of you’re taking a more stable job with more benefits – but ultimately, there is a cost difference, and that reflects in the people you see applying for roles.

    You do get superstars in public service. Plenty of them, in fact! But they’re personal motivation is something different than just pure dollars in the bank and shiny things in their home. Its not as extreme as you might see in not-for-profit, but they have a definite passion motivation all the same. And what that means is, when there is someone slacking; all those superstars are seeing ‘this hurts everyone the agency serves – not just the business. So their motivation to pick up the slack goes through the roof. Slackers become a non-problem for upper management, because someone else will always just… fix it.

    Then, there’s management themselves. See, in Australia, the public service realised that you do need to pay better to get good upper management, because you want experience. So, the executive staff are hired from private enterprise with much nicer salaries than the regular employees… but those salaries are still less than you’d get in private enterprise.
    What happens, is that you attract the difficult upper management. The ones that have trouble getting jobs in private because they have a reputation for not getting along with others. You get the egos, and now they’re running your department.
    The goals that management and their staff are trying to achieve are a lot more nebulous too, which makes government work more complicated. Private industry is pretty simple when you break it down far enough. Your end-goal is to make as much money as possible. You do that by providing services and goods. You can increase money buy selling more, or by having less overhead in some way. You can measure this goal and how well you do. Public service can’t, because public service doesn’t have measurable end-goals; ‘make the public happy with a service’ isn’t something that cleanly breaks down into clear objectives – since its always subjective, it makes setting direction difficult even for upper management.

    We manage the toxicity of our management and our unclear goals with strict policies and red tape. People complain about it, and yes it does make us slow to react – but in a lot of ways we need to be slower, and the red tape serves its purpose.

    And then, finally, there’s the ‘can’t fire people’ thing.
    Here’s how it works in my department; if you fire someone you will never get an opportunity to hire someone for that role again. It just doesn’t happen. The hiring freeze is eternal, because employing people costs money and the government always wants to look good by keeping taxes low, and you keep taxes low by gutting your public service.
    So, if you are an ego-inflated upper manager who doesn’t really want to bother with all the red tape, and your options are;
    A) Have one superstar doing 55% of your work, one regular employee doing 25% of your work, and slacker employee doing 10% of your work; or,
    B) Have one superstar doing 55% of your work, one regular employee doing 25% of your work, and another 10% that’s never going to get done because you can’t hire someone else for at least two years and that’s going to make you seem less productive than your fellow managers;
    Why would you ever fire them? A little bit of work is better than none at all.

  90. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

    One of the first things I thought of when I read this was that Forensic Files episode with the programmer that sabotaged the company so badly they never really recovered (Googling Timothy Allen Lloyd, Omega Engineering). This is a serious problem. Even if he doesn’t get fired, you need to get him out of your critical systems ASAP because he’s proven he can’t be trusted. He might not be as tech-savvy as the guy mentioned above (or maybe he is, who knows?) but it doesn’t take a lot of savvy to download something malicious and let it loose in your system.

    I’d lock him out ASAP. From a management perspective, figure out the narrative you want to use about it then do it.

    Ex: “Your permissions have been revoked due to misuse. We will follow up with you on X date/time about it. I can’t talk to you more until the internal investigation is complete” Where the investigation is if you’ll ever give back access, or you ask internal IT to take a look at other things he may have been doing. This may be the tip of the iceberg. Are you sure he’s not doing variations on this to other groups or departments he’s working with?

    Yeah it sucks and he’s a jerk, but it’ll suck more if you lose your job because this guy is a bit more of a loose cannon than anyone expected.

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