my employee takes over other people’s work

A reader writes:

I have a great, well-rounded employee who can do everything asked and be creative when needed to find solutions. The problem is that she sometimes takes over other people’s tasks, saying something like, “Oh, it was just easier from me to do it” or joking that she wanted it done right.

Time after time I’ll see “Jane” working on a project that I assigned to someone else. I’ll also see her staying late to finish work that isn’t due for a week or more down the road. I’ll ask and get the usual, “Oh, I was on a roll so just did it all.” Then she’ll indirectly complain that she’s juggling too many projects. Plus, if someone comes into our department and asks me a question, since I’m the manager, Jane makes it a point to speak first and get out as quick an answer as possible.

Being careful not to offend such a great employee, I’ve talked with her about this before and that didn’t go very well. She listened, then started crying and said she would change their schedule, wouldn’t do anything extra again, etc. However, within 2-3 weeks it was the same as before.

This past week, this escalated when I was talking with my boss about a project I’d been working on Jane was constantly getting interrupting or answering for me. Within a few minutes, she had our boss convinced we should go in a different direction than what I’d been doing, even though she had no involvement in the project. My response was, “I’ve been working on this for 3 weeks. We have 1 day before the client needs the project. Why don’t you take this over, since it sounds like you know how it should be done and get the client what they need?” and I walked out of the room. I shouldn’t have, but I was just too frustrated at yet another interaction like this, this time with my boss involved.

The rest of the day, Jane kept saying, “I just don’t know where to start, this is all due tomorrow.” I left early for the day so I couldn’t help. I know that’s a bad manager move, but I really wanted her to understand and feel the ramifications of her actions. The following day, when the project was due, she called in sick with a migraine. We used the work I had done, and when she came in the day after, she acted like nothing had happened.

What’s your advice?

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

{ 184 comments… read them below }

    1. Cookie Monster*

      This is a really good point. You definitely want to explain yourself to your boss so she knows where you were coming from. Obviously you don’t want to defend yourself too much because you were in the wrong, but she should have the context so she can factor that in.

  1. Jennifer*

    Ha! I know not the best move, but it must have felt sooooo satisfying. I’ve always wanted to tell someone like this to do it themselves since they know so much.

    1. MistOrMister*

      I could understand feeling vindicated by doing this to a peer, but not to a subordinate. If I had a boss do something like that to me, I would ask to be transferred or start looking for another job. I’m not saying Jane hasn’t been in the wrong on how she’s been acting, but OP’s response was really inappropriate. If a boss did that to me I would ask for a transfer or start looking HARD for another job.

      1. bilbo baggins*

        I’ve wanted to do this to some of my more entitled employees, who think they know more than me. But you have to be professional. At the end of the day, you’re their management, you work for them. You go to bat for them. You do things with the intention of improving things, not sabotaging them or to teach them lessons.

        1. Ms. Ann Thropy*

          This is not a great employee. This is a manipulative overstepper who is causing problems for all the people around her because her actual skills do not match her inflated ego. She needs to be reined in or let go before she pulls another stunt like the one described, and given that she suffered no consequences, you can bet money she will do it again.

          1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

            It’s worth considering why someone like Jane, with pretty evident issues, seems indispensable to the LW. I wonder if it’s a situation where most of the employees are lumps, so even a mediocre employee stands above the rest. I have some sympathy for Jane. Places like that can mess with a person – at first you are weirded out by being praised for having a normal work ethic and doing your job in a competent way. After a while, you start to think you are awesome and carrying the company on your shoulders. It’s not good for people.

            1. LizM*

              It’s also possible that Jane has manipulated the situation to make herself appear indespensible. I have a Jane on my team, and it’s taken me a while to recognize that she manages to insert herself into everything so that it’s impossible to complete a project without her. She’s not actually adding value to most of them, though, but she’s still essential because of the way she’s set things up.

              It took me about a year to realize that is what was happening.

      2. EmKay*

        And if you were the type of employee Jane is, I’m sure your boss would be happy to approve that transfer.

      3. OhBehave*

        Jane does not seem to be aware enough to get this though. She thinks she can do it better than anyone else so she does it. Perhaps she got the ‘be a go-getter’ advice.

    2. TimeTravlR*

      I did it to a peer recently. Part of me was glad I did, part of me was not very proud of myself. But she had to see that she couldn’t possibly take it all on herself. I think she’s (kind of) starting to get that.

    3. sheworkshardforthemoney*

      I’ve done something similar with low stake work. We explain why certain processes must be followed. When they aren’t complied with the fallout is obvious but not critical and people learn from their mistakes, (most of the time). And as much as I would love to, I never say I told you so!

  2. SomebodyElse*

    On a certain level I love how the OP dealt with this, the problem is that she didn’t see it through by calling the employee to the carpet for failing to deliver and calling in sick. I love natural consequences.

    That being said, yeah it wasn’t great and shouldn’t have happened on many different levels. The OP in this case needed to establish authority long before this incident. They would have done this by not allowing the employee to take over other projects, having a very serious discussion with the employee to outline consequences, and explored improvement plan for the employee, or gone under a very serious and somewhat painful micromanagement period to make sure they were doing only the job the OP wanted them to.

    I’m also struck by the OP’s boss who allowed this to happen. It should have been nipped in the bud during the meeting and the employee told to stay in their lane. So I’m getting the sense that there was not great management all around in the situation.

    Hopefully the OP found their feet as a manager and learned how to address this type of employee… because they are scarily common.

    1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      This was a huge problem in a lot of the workplaces I worked. Problem employees would go over their boss’s head to grandboss, with an appeal that wasn’t entirely accurate, and get grandboss to agree to something (anything) that was different from what their boss had said. But because the Problem Employees so excelled at manipulation, even a bland pat, “Hm let’s see what Boss says about that since it’s her call,” would end up causing a ton of trouble.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I had someone who did that to me, when I was the Grand Boss. I didn’t realize she had actually already gotten a different answer, and of course she framed it a certain way.
        Also, my reply would be, “I see your point, but your boss should make that call,” and she’d frame it as me overriding the boss.

        We fired her.

          1. Sorrel*

            What I love about that on is that the LW totally didn’t realise that was what they were doing – they really didn’t understand that it was a problem.

            1. Yvette*

              Yeah, she thought she had Gumption!! That she was showing initiative!! How dare her boss undermine her! Can she sue????
              Talk about clueless.

          2. Horseshoe*

            Huh, that letter is so interesting! There are weird parallels to my current job that make me more sympathetic to OP, except I would not have gone overboard like OP did.

            I have a boss and a grand boss, but the grand boss will often act like my boss when boss is out, which is fairly often. And they often don’t agree. To make things more weird, the grand boss keeps trying to assert more control, but the boss is a naturally dominant person, so grand boss will make a decision while boss is away, then boss will talk him out of it upon returning. Sometimes I get conflicting input from both of them, but rather than just going with the one whose opinion I prefer, I feel like I have to explain to them that I’m confused which one to do and ask them to get on the same page.

            Anyway, too much about my situation, but it does seem like it would be easy to make a misstep in this situation even without being as oblivious about it as OP. Like grandboss asking me to complete a project that I haven’t done because boss hasn’t taken the time to make a couple clicks in the software to give me access . . . Hard for me to walk the line where I feel like boss is making me look bad to grand boss, but not wanting to throw boss under the bus . . .

      2. KayDeeAye (formerly Kathleen_A)*

        There’s good possibility that the boss didn’t realize how waaaaaay out of her lane Jane was. I can see him thinking that Jane’s suggestion was an actual, viable suggestion being presented with the OP’s blessing. Perhaps not – perhaps the OP made it clear that Jane’s suggestions weren’t workable and he ignored that. But it doesn’t really sound to me as though this were the case. If the boss doesn’t know Jane and her little ways, he quite possibly didn’t realize how often she butts in even when she doesn’t actually know much about the subject. It’s likely that he looked on this as a fruitful discussion rather than a hijacking.

        1. SomebodyElse*

          I’m skeptical on that take (doesn’t mean you may not be on to something, though) … First, most grandbosses know to a certain degree what their employees are like even past their direct reports. It may be that he’s snowed by Jane and her helpfulness… but the thing that really stands out is that it seemed plausible that 3 weeks of work could be accomplished by Jane in a day?

          You’d have to be clueless as to the work involved, the amount of work the OP had already put into the project, or delusional to think that a project during what I would consider a final review could be turned on a dime and redone in a short time. All of those point to deficiency in the ability of the grand boss.

          1. Important Moi*

            I was recently did a presentation on a very detailed difficult project that is a in my industry. I was met with “Oh I didn’t know anyone did that much work.” So not everyone has a sense of who does what or how much.

          2. KayDeeAye (formerly Kathleen_A)*

            Yes, but did the OP tell him all that? If so, yep, the boss is a twit. But if the OP just sat there fuming, hoping the boss would realize how clueless and grabby and ridiculous Jane was, how annoyed the OP was, and how bad an idea all this was while meanwhile the OP said *nothing*, well, it’s likely he didn’t realize.

            I have had more than one coworker like this – coworkers who assiduously courted the higher ups but pretty much blew off the rest of us. One in particular – let’s call her “Finch” after the lead character in “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” – was adored by her grandboss and the volunteer board the grandboss led but truly disliked by nearly everyone lower in the hierarchy. These were smart women, but they just didn’t realize that the person they liked so much basically didn’t exist. Finch really took a lot of trouble to cultivate relationships and her reputation with her superiors but no trouble at all with the rest of us. The way the two groups viewed her was truly almost schizophrenic – like we were thinking about two entirely different people.

            Once Finch finally left, the rest of us were of course extremely pleased. It was so good to have her gone gone gone for good. The only downside was that the grandboss and the volunteer board naturally assumed that she was a beloved friend and coworker, missed by all rather than someone who was missed by pretty much nobody. So we all kept having these folks ask us if we’d heard from Finch and to wonder aloud, concern in their eyes and voices, how we were managing without her. “We’re managing just fiiiiiiiiine,” we thought but did not say.

            So I guess what I’m saying is that if grandboss knows Jane primarily through what the OP says about her, and if the OP hasn’t said that she’s a problem, it’s absolutely possible that he just doesn’t realize.

          3. NotAnotherManager!*

            Most of the information grandbosses get is filtered through their immediate reports and, depending on size and culture of an organization, they may not even know the names of everyone currently on a give team without looking at a personnel roster. My boss is great and involved, but even she couldn’t tell you anything about Case Assistant Bob, unless CA Bob is a rock star whose commendations reached her desk or Bob is having termination-level Issues.

            She also does not have expertise in all of the areas that report to her (particularly the specialized/niche areas), and sometimes she will have a “great” idea that gets scrapped because she didn’t realize that the effort exceeded the value from her limited knowledge of the area. She’s an exceptional boss, but she views her role as one where she hires competent managers and trusts them to both manage the details and to have the good judgment to know what she does/does not need to be involved with.

      3. Lucy Preston*

        We have someone in our office who does that: goes to 3 different levels of managers until they get the answer they want. Because all 3 have given different answers, when the end product is produced, everyone is confused.

        For that same person, grand boss always tells me to direct them back to their manager for any requests, which I generally do. My immediate boss (but not their immediate boss) was not aware of that directive. So when person complained to my immediate boss that I was ignoring person’s requests, I got called in for questioning.

        1. KayDeeAye (formerly Kathleen_A)*

          I used to have a coworker (not “Finch,” who I mention above) who would have the most casual of conversations with people several levels above her and use them to justify whatever she wanted to do. More than once, for example, she chatted with our president or CEO at lunch or somewhere equally casual about a vague but pleasant sounding idea, to which the president would say, pleasantly and vaguely, “That sounds interesting.”

          And then she’d use that wholly unofficial “That sounds interesting” to justify some fairly important initiatives, saying “I discussed it with Dan and he said it was a great idea!” She did this with such confidence and verve that it took a good year or so – and the unraveling of a particularly ambitious project that she’d “discussed with Dan” – before people caught on.

          So yeah, it happens. Ugh!

    2. TootsNYC*

      The OP should have nipped this in the bud; if Jane wasn’t involve din that project, our OP should have said, “Jane, I’m going to send you back to your desk so Boss and I can talk; thanks for your input, but I will take it from here.”

      Or you say, “Jane, I’m going to take that project away from you; I assigned it to Phil for a reason. Now go home.”

      I see parents do this too–they don’t believe in their authority.

      You can too boss people around, even to the point that you tell them to leave the meeting. You just do it with a respectful tone of voice.
      You don’t need to get Jane to agree with you–you just *boss* them around

      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        This. Instead of that passive-aggressive stormout and abdication of her responsibilities, LW should have put her foot down and stopped Jane.

    3. Close Bracket*

      the problem is that she didn’t see it through by calling the employee to the carpet for failing to deliver

      No, the problem is that OP dealt with it poorly. You should not love how she dealt with it at all. The way to deal with it is by telling Jane to stay in her lane.

      1. lemon*

        Yes, OP just made themselves look really, really bad in front of their boss by dealing with it this way.

      2. SomebodyElse*

        You did read the rest of my comment right?

        Since the OP had already set up the employee for failure… they should have followed through on it and not let it go.

        But the whole thing shouldn’t have gotten to that point in the first place.

        1. Devil Fish*

          I don’t agree that it was a good decision but only going halfway made it even worse (especially since Jane came back and thinks what she did worked out fine and isn’t being corrected on that at all).

          OP would have been better off telling Jane on her first day back that the deadline had been moved so she’d be able to finish the project herself, since no one else was familiar with the direction she’d decided to go in. Then pause and let the situation be as awkward as it needs to be.

      3. The New Wanderer*

        Right. I think in this case, the OP has to deal with the fallout of a tanked project as if it were OP’s own doing, because it essentially was. Jane doesn’t get called on the carpet for failing to deliver a last minute assignment with no hope of success, regardless of how she positioned herself as the expert. Jane got thrown under the bus by OP and that’s not laudable.

        HOWEVER, Jane absolutely needed to be brought in line. Hopefully this served as a lesson to both OP (don’t throw subordinates under a bus and tank a project, no matter their behavior) *and* Jane (don’t go spouting off about how much better you’d do it than your boss unless you are ready to step up and deliver).

        1. 'Tis Me*

          A 3 week project that’s had 14 days’ work put into it shouldn’t really tank – it sounds like it was almost finished before this all happened so going with what OP had already put all the work into, and just using the last few hours to do the polishing they would have done the day before was no big deal, bar the bit where Jane had a panic because her interfering landed her in a huge pile of work, then she bailed, and wasn’t held to account.

          1. The New Wanderer*

            Ah, that’s right, I hadn’t seen the original comments where it became clear that the OP already had things in control. Which raises the question, did OP clarify with the big boss after that meeting that the project was nearly done, Jane was suggesting changing things up without any real understanding or context, and that Jane’s suggestions would have added a significant amount of work (as evidenced by the fact that she bailed rather than accomplish anything).

            But I still do think that a manager takes responsibility for knowingly putting the employee in a bad position even if the damage is controlled. Jane’s view of this was likely “I made some great suggestions in the meeting that Big Boss liked, and suddenly Boss makes me do the whole rest of the project by myself! And now Boss isn’t helping and it’s too much work.” And without handling this by first bringing up the bigger picture and focusing primarily on that, if Boss were just to say “Jane, you botched Project X [that I made you do at the last minute with no support after Big Boss liked your suggestions],” the lesson to Jane becomes “my manager will throw me under the bus if I speak up” not “I should keep out of things I’m not a part of.”

    4. Rugby*

      Yeah, I agree that it was weird the OP’s boss to agreed to letting Jane completely change the project the day before it was due. The fact that they ended up dropping Jane’s idea and using OP’s work makes me think that Jane’s idea probably wasn’t realistic or necessary to begin with.

      1. SomebodyElse*

        I went back to the original thread that someone had mentioned below that had comments from the OP. It seems the Boss had signed off on OP’s work the day before. So that makes a little more sense.

        According to the OP no clients were harmed in the making of this lesson.

    5. Horseshoe*

      Yeah, I don’t know OP’s situation with this employee, but when I first started to manage people, I encountered multiple situations where it turned out that the person I was managing . . . didn’t think that I was their manager? This still confuses me.

      That seems hard to be the case here when OP has already had manager-like sit down talks with this employee about these issues.

    6. HotSauce*

      Regarding your comment on OP’s boss, I could’t agree more. What kind of manager lets some random employee steamroll over someone else like that? My guess is the management structure is not great there overall.

  3. Important Moi*

    I wonder if great gets conflated with being overall polite and generally pleasant. I’ve found a lot things will be ignored if one is pleasant.

    1. Sparrow*

      I’m willing to bet that she actually does good quality work, has good ideas, etc. – she just doesn’t have an appropriate sense of boundaries. I once worked with someone like this, and he objectively was a valuable contributor. He also stomped on people’s toes and hoarded info they needed for their projects and was pretty much hated by everyone other than the big boss, who only saw his high-quality end product. He was promoted and became my supervisor, and, ironically, was one of the best bosses I’ve ever had, in part because he was suddenly too busy to continue with his most annoying habits (e.g. micromanaging and taking over other people’s projects).

      1. Witchy Human*

        I’ve had to deal with people like that too. Many bosses have a hard time separating “great” from “skilled.” Skill is only part of what makes for a good employee or coworker.

        1. your favorite person*

          oh, this is a good point. My husband is starting to manage his friend, someone who recruited him to the job, and then my husband got the promotion the friend thought he was getting (not because it was promised or even insinuated to him, he just thought he was the smartest and there for deserved it). This friend is very skilled but has other habits that are not great like procrastinating, talking down to others, and being snippy. He’s trying to find a way to address his attitude and I think this is a good line.

        2. AcademiaNut*

          I think you’ve hit on something really fundamental.

          A really great employee is good or excellent on multiple fronts – skill, effort, interacting with others, judgement and reliability. They work hard, reliably produce good work, and work well with others. I think a lot of the time when someone describes a “great employee, but” they’re good at one or two of these things, and deficient in one or more of them, which makes them an uneven employee.

          So you’ve got someone who is skilled and hardworking, but lacks judgement and interpersonal skills (like Jane). Or someone who works hard and has good interpersonal skills, but isn’t actually that good at their job. Sometimes you can coach them in their weaknesses, sometimes you can shift their job around to fit their strengths, sometimes you decide the whole package is good enough to live with, and sometimes you fire or discipline them.

      2. BRR*

        This was my thinking as well (and influenced by personal experience). I had a coworker who was great at their core set of responsibilities and would then do all of the bad stuff from this letter. This led our shared manager to think coworker was great and then coworker ran wild because they weren’t being managed and coworker was generally an awful person.

      3. Senor Montoya*

        Yes, had a co-worker who did an excellent job with her own work, but who was so “helpful” that she’d work on someone else’s project, answer questions (incorrectly) about others’ projects so that the person asking didn’t have to wait, made decisions about policies so that the person inquiring about a policy didn’t have to wait….

        The first time she did this to me, I asked her, very nicely, not to “help” without checking with me first. The second time I went straight to the boss, explaining exactly how unhelpful this was, as well as being extremely discouraging since I had already spent time (now wasted) on said project for which co-irker was now getting credit and I looked bad because everyone knew it was my project and it now looked like I was incapable of getting my own work done. Good boss, put the kibosh on co-irker and it never happened again. To me…

    2. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      I think today’s theme is Death by Barrage of Marshmallows or How the Nice Will Conquer us All.

    3. WorkingOnAHoliday*

      I have a pleasant coworker who appears to be the opposite of Jane, but under the skin is just as ambitious and manipulative. He works quietly on his own stuff (his task list isn’t that long), then volunteers and is selected for a a special project. When things get difficult (meaning he has to expend effort), he sends out smarmy emails, “I think this might be better handled by YOU. You’re the expert on Project Z!” and bails. Even if the task is one that he is REQUIRED to do as part of HIS job.

      I am working today on a holiday because of “James.” He stepped up for something he couldn’t deliver as usual. Grr. (I’d have let him fail, but it’s a proposal for our contract so we can keep mine and my coworkers’ jobs.)

    4. Nanani*

      Like a hard skills/soft skills situation?
      You need both to be really great but it’s easy for one to be overvalued over the other

  4. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

    I had a coworker like Jane in a previous job. She was just vile. The Janes of the world are not doing anyone any favors. She is causing more harm than good in your department. As her manager, you have every right to stop her from taking over other people’s’ work and answering for you. Please put her in her place. She seems to be acting as if she is trying to run the department rather than you. Don’t be manipulated by her crying when you give her feedback. Perhaps a PIP might be in order if she continues her behavior after you talk to her about it again. People like Jane need to stay in their lane.

    1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      Ah- didn’t realize this was in the archives. :) I hope there was a good outcome and that the OP provides an update.

  5. Malilola*

    Oehh I remember this one and I secretly loved the malicious compliance. I still wonder how this continued and always hoped for an update

  6. Batgirl*

    But she isn’t even slightly polite or pleasant – she’s a professional toe stepper. Interrupting constantly when the manager is asked a question is quite definitively rude. Not to mention the pouting party. I think the OP really does mean that the employee is great at her individual role. She isn’t well rounded though – she’s a fantastically poor team player.

      1. Caliente*

        Yeah, that alone is actually incredibly rude and disrespectful. Combined with everything else the woman seems like an insufferable jerk.

  7. Ban the BCC*

    I’m conflicted…
    On one hand, Jane had this coming and from the letter, had already been warned. While the boss’s behavior was incredibly petty, I’d hope Jane would have learned a lesson that not everything needs her input.

    And then there’s the whole issue on the optics of this. Boss set Jane up to fail and Jane gets to call out and not get held to the fire. It seems like the boss didnt fully execute her authority and allowed Jane’s behavior to continue.

  8. designbot*

    I’d try to get Jane to reframe her narrative of what her job entails. Her current view seems to be, “It’s my job to get the projects done right!” and a more useful framework might be, “It’s my job to help the team do the best work we can.” Her current approach to the workplace is a selfish one as opposed to a collaborative one—and I say this as someone who had to do my own reframing of this particular narrative, and still occasionally struggles with this.
    If she does it all herself, what are other people supposed to be doing? What skillsets or points of view is she missing out on when she does this? Also how does she expect to advance when she never learns to work with other people? Show her how short-sighted her current approach is. Make it clear to her that you value her very highly, and want to see her advance in her career, and this is her big hurdle to doing so. If you can, change the way you benchmark her goals. Make her goals collaborative, people oriented goals, and make it clear that she cannot meet them by taking on all the work herself.

    1. Thankful for AAM*

      I find this reframing very helpful! I have a coworker who thinks any attempt to collaborate, or if you ask if she has any input, it means she is doing other people’s work for them.

      I also see the problem as the manager not, well, managing. There are a lot of things that don’t get done the way they are supposed to where I am, my manager once said to me, “I guess I should have been checking on how things are done at that location.” Yes, yes you should.

      So if the manager is not managing Jane, maybe it appears to Jane that the manager is not managing the projects or workflow and she needs to step in?

      1. LKW*

        When I see resistance like that I usually try to reframe it as needing guidance and expertise, not that I need you to do the work for me.

        But if someone has the attitude that everyone has the learn things the hard way… they won’t last long.

      2. designbot*

        The managing of projects vs. managing of people question is a really good one here. It may be that Jane sees herself as needing to manage projects, and OP is about managing people, but OP’s job is actually both, or even primarily managing of projects/topics and people are secondary to that. That would be a really good thing for them to clarify.

  9. The Dread Pirate Buttercup*

    “Great employees don’t alienate their coworkers by talking over their work after being asked to stop doing it.” Thank you so much for saying this!

  10. Shocked Pikachu*

    For those of you who are interested in little more detail. The Letter Writer participated in comments of the first publishing – under the nick JoeManager. It’s the first link under this article.

      1. ChimericalOne*

        There isn’t a link, but folks can use the “Search this Site” function to bring it up right away. All they have to do is type in “JoeManager.” Thanks for the heads up on his username!

      2. Butter Makes Things Better*

        Thanks so much for this heads-up, it really enriches and clarifies the Inc. post. Wish there was an update, though!

    1. !*

      Yup, it’s there, and it fills in some of the blanks others have been asking about here. For example, the client was never in any way put out because the OP put all their ducks in a row but wanted to leave Jane in the wind and fearful she needed to do something. Both parties were in the wrong here, but I completely understand getting to BEC stage with a coworker and needing to do something to put them in their place.

    2. Pilcrow*

      Title of the original post from May 12, 2015:
      my employee takes over other people’s work and gets emotional when I ask her to stop

  11. Jh*

    Yikes, she is out of control. You didn’t handle this well, or her well.

    Look at this from the perspective of your other employees. I would be absolutely livid and looking for a new job if a coworker started stomping all over my assigned duties and projects. Who does she think she is?

    She is actively taking away from others and ruining their opportunities for growth and potential advancement. You’re letting it happen under your watch.

    What’s the story with her and your boss? Have they known each other a while? Known each other before you? She seriously undermined you in front of your boss. Your boss doesn’t respect you or the hierarchy it seems. Why does your boss trust her so much?

    1. MistOrMister*

      I was wondering if maybe OP is perhaps softspoken, unassertive or comes off as unconfident. If Jane just started answering and giving her opinion and OP never 1) told her why what she was suggesting wouldn’t work or 2) told her she had no idea what was going on with the project abd to please leave the conversation, the boss might not have realized what she was saying was a problem. He might have thought she had been involved and was making informed suggestions and that if OP wasn’t contesting it in the moment, that they agreed with Jane.

      1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        Is the LW allowed to contest it in the moment? Because I’ve worked places where that wasn’t allowed. You had to schedule a private meeting to give feedback to an employee, so saying, “Jane, I’ve got this, please go back to your desk,” would get you as a manager in trouble for correcting Jane publicly.

        1. Devil Fish*

          I’ve worked at those places too. All the really competent people left really fast, so most of the regular staff was just the people who liked the way that kind of nonsense benefited them or the ones who were stuck there for some amount of time for whatever reason.

    2. bilbo baggins*

      That’s a good point. When an employee is hogging your team’s work, they are disrespecting their boundaries, they are devaluing them and their skills. It sends the message of “No, it won’t be done correctly if you do it.” Then their coworkers start looking for another job where they feel they are needed, and valued. Now HR is looking at me – their boss – and calling into question my ability to retain staff.

  12. Anonymous at a University*

    Yeah, this is the kind of thing that only looks “great” until you look at it from the perspective of someone whose work was taken over or who was interrupted and shouted down- a perspective this manager was finally forced to adopt. In the particular case I dealt with, I had a colleague who kept overcommitting herself and insisting she could do things alone, and then at the last minute would say, “I can’t do it, somebody else do it! I’m too busy!” This, of course, left the people who had depended on her high and dry. To make matters worse, she would do this with work projects and then make it clear that the things she was prioritizing in front of them were visits with friends, volunteer work, etc. It didn’t make anyone else think she was a great employee when she couldn’t keep her personal life from leaking into her work life and kept interrupting people.

    1. WorkingOnAHoliday*

      OMG. See my post above. This is James. Over-commits and then whines. He informed me on Sunday that the reason he didn’t work on the contract proposal on Saturday is because he had a date.

      Like I don’t have a life too?

  13. MistOrMister*

    It would really irk me to work with someone like Jane. But that being said, OP really needs to have followed up when Jane’s behavior reverted back after their talk and continued doing so and escalated the consequences if necessary. Jane is obviously in the wrong by continuing this behavior after being told it needs to stop, but the way things were handled were really unfair to her. The way this played out she was set up for embarrassment and failure. I don’t think that’s something someone’s boss should ever do.

    It sounds like OP didn’t take the time to explain why the project was going in the direction it was or to ask Jane to remove herself from the conversation as she wasn’t involved in the project. I wonder from this and the lack of follow up after the first talk with Jane if OP has some issues with directness and speaking up. It sounds like she allowed herself to be steamrollered by Jane and then acted in an incredibly passive aggressive manner in response.

    I’d love to know how this all played out.

  14. The Tin Man*

    It could be helpful to reframe the Janes of the world not as “good” employees but as “capable” ones. She seems capable of getting work done but the lack of soft skills make her an employee who has potential to be good but still has skills to develop to get there.

    I know it’s semantics but in my mind it’s the difference between being good at the work (which it sounds like Jane is) and good at the job (which she is not, because what she does is a negative for the workplace overall).

    1. Shadowbelle*

      I was about to post something similar. Jane isn’t a “good” employee — she’s a disruptive employee who is preventing others from doing their jobs and growing in their skills and careers.

  15. LQ*

    I’m terrified of becoming Jane.

    Taking over tasks. My boss keeps telling me to give other people stuff, let them do it. But then when I do, he hates what they’ve done and will roast me about a poor product. Sometimes it is 50% or less than what I can do. Sometimes it is 150% of what I can do but it’s poorly written or structured. Sometimes it is just as good but different in a way that doesn’t work for boss. I absolutely feel like if a product gets to Boss that I didn’t do I still need to be elbow deep in it to make sure that it is good enough and works for Boss. But that results in a lot of me taking stuff over, I know it does.

    Working late to finish something that isn’t due yet? Yup, because I know more stuff is going to get thrown at me so why waste an evening when I could be working until 8 so I don’t have to work until 1 some other night.

    Boss is also constantly complaining that no one else steps up when something happens. So I’ve been speaking up when I am and can be the expert on something so he doesn’t have to do it. This is what he’s asking people to do so I try to elbow my way in to do it. About 80% of the time he says he’s glad, but I don’t know, is he? Is he the OP who thinks Jane does a good job but is annoyed that she’s jumping in?

    Complaining about working too much? Yup (I don’t actually complain much about it, but I have been asking for help). I’ll let you know when I get down to a 70 hour week. My boss keeps telling me I need to work less, but then throwing more work at me. Or giving me impossible deadlines (like a one day turn around that means I’m here until midnight and up and cheerful the next day because everything less isn’t acceptable because it hurts the people we serve).

    I do think it’s worth looking to see if the boss is part of the problem. If you assign something and Jane works till midnight to finish it do you just go, whelp now she’s got time for another project and throw something else at her? Do you consider maybe she’s trying to get enough done this week so she doesn’t have to stay late or could (gasp) take time off but hasn’t talked to you about it? (Especially if you are a boss who seems (aka ever says anything about) to treat vacation time as a luxury that shouldn’t really be used.) Do you ever smack talk the quality of other employee’s work in front of Jane? (once is enough) Do you ever tell Jane she needs to clean up the work of others after they’ve failed at something?

    *I fully recognize I’m coming at this with my bias, on a day I’m supposed to have off but have been working all day, after working all day yesterda because boss threw something at me Friday to get done by first thing Tuesday morning. Please take it with salt.*

    1. Rugby*

      If you are the only person on your team who can do work that is good enough for your boss, than your boss has a problem with how she is recruiting and/or training staff. It’s not your responsibility to fix that, so why don’t you just stop trying to fix it? Stop worrying if your coworkers’ work is only 50% of what you can do. That’s your bosses problem to solve. Instead of you being the one to step up when something happens, just don’t. Let her assign it to someone. If she assigns it to you, speak up and ask her how she wants you to fit that in with the rest of your work and remind her that she keeps telling you to work less.

      1. SomebodyElse*

        Agreed… with respect I’ve seen this behavior boss/employee relationships and it’s weirdly codependent in nature.

        The Jane’s of the world get satisfaction from the martyr/savior role and the bosses either knowingly or unknowingly feed into and perpetuate the dynamic.

      2. Devil Fish*

        The company/corporate/management is rarely willing to find a solution for processes that don’t work unless they’re made to feel some kind of cost from that failure. As long as employees are willing to cover up the fact that something is untenable, the company will continue to exploit that willingness (knowingly or otherwise).

    2. Parenthesis Dude*

      It sounds like you’re a manager or a team lead and that it’s part of your job to make sure that the other members of your team or your team members are doing good enough work. If so, then I think you’re doing your job by looking at everyone else’s work. I don’t think you’re a Jane because you’re trying to do what your boss says.

      I do think you need to figure out how to work fewer hours. It may be that you need to change your role so that you only work with finished projects and prepare stuff to get them ready for your boss as well as answer questions.

    3. !*

      LQ – When Boss complains that no one is stepping up, why do YOU need to be the only one to do so? I do wonder if your coworkers feel like your boss (and you) don’t trust them to handle the work. Have they been trained to do the work the way Boss wants it done, or have they been left to flail and fail? Everyone wants to be recognized but it seems like you are being punished for it instead.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Yes, I think part of your problem here is your boss is whishywashy and it’s screwing with your mind, especially when a letter pops up that you may feel speaks to you in that way.

      First of all, he needs to stop expecting people to just step up. You give people a chance to step up and when nobody does, you simply make it someone’s task and stop whining that ‘nobody shows initiative’. You’re the boss, ffs.

      I left my last job because of a boss like that, only add on the fact that they tried to “scare” me into compliance…yet they hadn’t given me any guidelines, they threw me to the wind and then got pissed when I went the wrong direction [without saying “yo, wrong direction, B, this way!”] And their way sucked anyways…this is why their business tanked after I took my ball and went home, byeeeeee.

      So yes, yes, yes, there’s more than just Jane to blame. Just about always.

      1. J.B.*

        A former boss would send something to three people and then wonder why it didn’t get done. Umm, because you never asked anyone specifically?

    5. ElleKat*

      OMG, are you me? I have been trying to put down some boundaries with my boss and let them that I’m not available 24/7, so when they pressured me to work on something over the Veterans Day weekend I didn’t take the bait. I ended up breaking down and working on it all day today, but my compromise is to not let the boss KNOW that I worked on it – get some time back for other inevitable work dumped on me tomorrow! My rationale is I’m doing it to make MY life easier this week, not because they pressured me…

      The interrupting and taking over other peoples’ projects sounds bad, and obviously you can’t just dip out on a project, but boss’ behavior did not help because they exited in the same way. I would bet Jane, in her head at least, feels overworked and underappreciated for taking initiative, and OP’s obvious contempt for her will feed that.

    6. Close Bracket*

      I absolutely feel like if a product gets to Boss that I didn’t do I still need to be elbow deep in it to make sure that it is good enough and works for Boss.

      But, no, you don’t. *Boss* needs to make sure it is good enough and works for Boss by giving feedback to the person who did it. Or, if you are lead over the person you delegated to for the sake of the task, then *you* need to be giving the feedback, not fixing it yourself.

  16. bilbo baggins*

    While this was not the best move on OP’s part, I completely understand why she did it.

    I have an employee who finds ways to double her workload. She is under the impression that she’s the only one working – in reality, she’s taking on tasks that she doesn’t need to take on. She finds herself “on a roll” too. She takes the “Client comes first” mentality way, way too far, to the point where you would think she would just DIE for her clients. She creates these little projects and these little tasks that aren’t necessary, which she then falls behind on her actual, assigned work.

    This sort of behavior has earned her praise from clients, but then she ends up making a mistake with another client, that escalates to upper management and then we have to spend a lot of time rectifying it. It is something that she has been disciplined for, but continues to do.

    There are times where I have had to speak to her about this behavior again and again, and her defense is, my work speaks for itself, no one does as much as I do, everyone else is just on their phone all day, et cetra. She doesn’t get the message no matter how straight forward you are about why she needs to adjust the behavior.

    So I completely understand OP’s stance, and actions, even though they are not right. “hogging” tasks, or taking on too many tasks, it not only does a disservice to you but it does everyone else a disservice.

    1. NW Mossy*

      I feel you! The struggle is REAL managing this sort of person, because it’s really hard to get them to see what is probably blindingly obvious to you – the trade-offs that come with how you choose to spend your time.

      At bottom, Jane isn’t yet willing or able to confront the blunt reality that depth of detail, while a good thing, comes at the expense of other good things like speed and the ability to serve more clients at once. This is quite common among people who are really conscientious and used to being praised for their expertise and commitment – if it’s good, more must be better, right? Until you’re the boss and realize “ooh, wow, no, no it’s not.”

      One method I’ve used to get through to people on this is to explicitly draw out these trade-offs in basically every discussion I have with them about the work. Your employee’s comments about “my work speaks for itself” and “no one does as much as I do” are good hooks for this. The first gives you a pivot into “yes, and the message that it’s sending is that you’re serving fewer clients and making more serious mistakes than your peers,” while the second lets you say “the question isn’t how much you do; the question is how much of what you do is valuable and that our clients are willing to pay for.”

      The main point to drive home is this: it is entirely possible to work very hard and be very devoted to doing tasks that contribute little to the organization’s goals. By persistently doing work that isn’t aligned with what the organization needs her to do, she’s making a case that she should be replaced by someone who is willing to do the needed work.

    2. Bess*

      Ugh, this is my coworker, although literally no one in management reins her in. She’s seen as a high performer but she doesn’t have the best sense of what work really needs to be done and what’s just extra work. Half the reason she’s seen as valuable is the “extra work” she invents. I wouldn’t mind if it didn’t impact the rest of our team.

    3. !*

      Yup, I have a coworker like this. Even on the days when he’s not the primary person on the phones, he is always creating new tickets for himself because the clients either email, chat or phone him directly and he never tells them to call the primary number. He will also create a ticket for EVERY. SINGLE. INTERACTION. no matter how insignificant. He also inputs tickets late at night. The result? His numbers are WAY higher than anyone else, but the substance of his tickets are laughable at times. But he will also leave other tickets open for months (some were over a year old) even though our manager would ask him to close them out and have new ones open when any additional changes were to be made once the initial item was complete. With all his knowledge though, he can’t seem to make a decision to save his life, it’s as if he does not (can not!) be wrong about anything. So he has to confirm with someone else before he makes any move. He would go to my manager for this but since she’s been in meeting hell, he comes to me. I can honestly say that I am not the nicest to him on some days because he’s perfectly capable of making decisions and he will interrupt me no matter what I’m doing to get my input. *sigh*

  17. Ludo*

    “Then she’ll indirectly complain that she’s juggling too many projects.”

    Ugh, I don’t mind people who stay late without need or take on more projects than they need to as long as they don’t complain about it

    If people aren’t forcing you to do extra work then DON’T complain about extra work you can’t have it both ways

    1. bilbo baggins*

      this is why it’s important to have boundaries.

      I’ve been that person before, where I would take on so many tasks, I was the top performer, and I demonstrated to management that they could depend on me. I was proud of this. I was also resentful that other people on my team did not have the same attitude that I had. The work I put out did earn me a promotion to management, but I had to work through this issue and have stronger boundaries

      1. Oh No She Di'int*

        You bring up a range of valid points.

        Some people overcommit because they don’t think they have the right to say “no”. Or somewhere deep in their past, someone convinced them that the only way to prove your worth is to do too much. Or they were taught that “being nice” is the highest of all values. And such people will often continue this behavior despite all attempts to get them to stop, so deep is the urge to overcompensate.

        From a managerial standpoint, it pays to keep an eye out for these types. Often managers unwittingly punish their best performers by giving them more work. They take advantage of those with weak boundaries because after all, they seemed to welcome the extra work. It behooves managers to realize that sometimes shutting off the tap of work is the best thing you can do for these employees.

  18. Engineer Girl*

    Jane is doing everyone’s work. Which means you have no idea of the talent and abilities of the rest of your team. You could have people that do a better job than Jane. You have no idea because Jane got to it first.
    Jane is not strengthening the team. She is weakening it so she can look good.

    1. TootsNYC*

      Which means you have no idea of the talent and abilities of the rest of your team.

      And they are also not getting experience, practice, and learning opportunities that would help them improve.

      Yes, Jane is weakening the team so she can look good.

      If she were concerned about the team, she’d be letting them do their thing, and standing back to be a resource IF they call on her.

      That would actually be a huge part of my conversation with her. “You are getting in the way of other people doing their best work.”

  19. RC Rascal*

    My sense is there may be done more dynamics in the department boss doesn’t know or isn’t admitting. Jane seems overly responsible. One possibly is coworkers are pushing work off on Jane & she feels compelled to go it for the team.

    A good friend of mine was a Jane. Coworkers were dumping time sensitive work on her so they could leave early. (This was at a bank). Friend Jane didn’t know enough to push back or take issue to her boss. Friend Jane was hard working & overly responsible so she did the work for the team. Then boss reprimanded her for doing others work. Friend Jane because very emotional at the feedback , found another job & resigned in a huff.

    Chaos ensued. Jane knew how to do the coworkers projects but they didn’t know how to do hers. And coworkers were still skating out the door early so now the time sensitive stuff wasn’t being done.

    Tread carefully here OP. While you need Jane to pull back, if you offend her & she leaves you may find the root cause of your issues is greater than you think.

    1. Rugby*

      To be honest, it sounds like your friend contributed to the chaos by not speaking up sooner. I remember when I started my career, I would do stuff like this because I thought being “overly responsible” was a good thing, but its never a good thing when one person agrees to take on all of the responsibilities.

      1. RC Rascal*

        You are correct in that she did contribute to the situation. However we were both 24 at the time & everyone else involved in the fiasco was 20 years older.

    2. Anon Here*

      I agree. I’ve been kind of like Jane too. The co-workers were slacking and were mean. They didn’t take the job seriously. I didn’t want to be the bad guy who rats people out to the boss, but I wanted the work to get done. It would definitely be a good idea to dig deeper into this.

    3. cmcinnyc*

      This could be true. Or Jane could be outflanking her colleagues and making herself look good at their expense. It sounds like manager has been letting her “joke” that she wants it done right, so the message to the rest of the team is that they’re incompetent. Are they? If so, that’s a problem to solve. But what if they’re not–but they get to hear jokes that they’re incompetent slackers and their manager goes along with that? Eeeee, you have another even bigger problem to solve. And Jane just pantsed the boss, so… yeah, a lot of problems to solve. Flouncing had to feel good but definitely didn’t solve the problem(s)!

  20. KHB*

    Jane sounds like she’s feeling underappreciated and taken advantage of.

    LW acknowledges that she does great work, so I doubt that her “jokes” about wanting the work done right are coming entirely out of nowhere. Are her coworkers underperforming, and is she being held responsible for fixing their mistakes when they make them? Is she martyring herself by taking on more and more because she feels like her good work so far has gone unrecognized?

    (I’m discounting the final project LW mentioned, because everyone behaved badly there: Jane for interrupting and then ghosting on the project, LW for setting her up for failure, and the boss for getting sidetracked with her suggestions.)

    If you want to keep Jane on your team – and maybe you do and maybe you don’t – then the entirety of the solution can’t be “browbeat Jane into behaving differently.” (Especially because you’ve already tried that and it didn’t work.) Part of it’s going to have to be “try to understand what’s motivating Jane to behave this way, and see if there isn’t some way of giving her some of what she wants.”

    Now, maybe Jane is just irredeemably awful and manipulative, and no amount of conceding to her will ever be enough. In that case though, there’s probably not much you can do apart from firing her.

    1. Close Bracket*

      Part of it’s going to have to be “try to understand what’s motivating Jane to behave this way, and see if there isn’t some way of giving her some of what she wants.”

      During an episode of a Two Guys On Your Head podcast, one of them said that you have to understand that long term behavior change has to be driven by positive reinforcement. That basically means understanding motivations and, well, giving Jane some of what she wants. That’s a point that gets lost pretty often.

      1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

        Exactly. Most places forget positive feedback and only focus on negative.

    2. Bess*

      As described in this letter, Jane sounds like a manipulative martyr. Wants all the credit, wants to be seen as a hard worker, actively takes opportunities away from her coworkers, and then complains about it to boot. I can’t imagine hijacking a project conversation between my boss and grandboss. (The LW didn’t cover themselves in glory here, though, of course).

      Coworkers like Jane only play nice when they’re held accountable for their actions and told to stay in their lane.

  21. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Nobody benefits from someone who does all the work. Being able to assist others is a great attribute and valuable but just simply steamrollering people is not!

    Having had to do all the work before and having no choice makes me rage at the Jane’s of the world. How cute that you get to pretend that you’re so amazing only to call in sick when time crashes down around you!

    Bad way to handle it in the end. You shouldn’t let yourself become a hostage to someone. You shouldn’t be falsely lulled into “this is a great employee” just because she isn’t actively acting awful doesn’t mean she’s a great employee at all. She’s making the office it’s own kind of nightmare and stepping on so many toes, that’s behavior that has to be addressed and if she leaves. Fine. She should leave if she’s unhappy, that’s just fine. You are management, you have to retain control of your team, including those ones who are eagerly running ahead all the time, when it’s creating issues within your department.

    1. NW Mossy*

      This lines up nicely with something I’ve observed recently – as a leader, you have to be careful about how much rope you give people who have a strong tilt towards “anything less than the best is a felony.” It can be really easy to get lulled by the high-quality work product and miss the signs that they’re drifting away from the actual priorities at hand, especially when those priorities are notably different from what they were a year or two ago. If you don’t address it early, you’ll end up with someone who’s drifted so far away from the core principles that they’re inadvertently sabotaging themselves and you.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        This is why it’s critical to keep communication lines open! This is why we have weekly 1:1, weekly standups within departments and monthly all hands on deck meetings. So that we’re all on the same page and people have a way to voice their concerns and don’t have to “just pencil me in” and trying to struggle to talk to their GD bosses.

        Meetings suck and I hate them as much as the next person but they serve a purpose in keeping the department running to the best of it’s abilities.

        Everyone needs guidance. Including management and upper management.

        Communication! Communication! Communication!

        We suffer in spots as well, which drives me a little nuts at times but that’s just the way life is. It’s easier to squash it when it starting to happen than when it’s a habit.

    2. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      ”How cute that you get to pretend you’re so amazing only to call in sick when time crashes down around you!”

      1000% THIS!!!

      TMBL, you just became my favorite person. Love it!

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Nah, she just needs a manager who is able to consistently tell her to stay in her lane instead of letting her zigzag all over the place and just stew about it!

      1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

        She also needs good feedback and rewards for her good work. Too many managers want ‘stay in your own lane’ and ‘pick up all the little things’ as well but don’t give any kudos or promotions or bonuses. They want eager, hard working people but don’t both to state the expectations. ANd then the managers shift and what A wanted doesn’t fly with B.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*


          This letter has me pissed at Jane but also at the manager who kind of wants her to just…fix herself? It doesn’t work that way. Management involves managing people…and giving them direction and also shooing them back into place when necessary. Along with just that, appreciation in proper doses.

          It’s not easy to manage people. I kind of hate it some days but you can’t expect people to self manage but only when it’s to your liking but they need to magically figure that part out themselves!

          1. Jamie*

            I’d agree if Jane hadn’t pulled back and worked appropriately for those few weeks after it was mentioned.

            She knows how to fix herself. The OP just needs to put her firmly back in her lane when she strays until it becomes a habit – and if that doesn’t happen in a short time to up the consequences.

            1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              She needs more than a one off talking to though. She deserves more chances than just being given all that rope and expected to just magically not continue to hang herself. She’s not management, so she needs to be managed more than when it gets to an annoying level.

              1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

                Yes. And the manager needs to consistently reward/praise and redirect. When Jane was doing what manager wanted, did he give feedback? Did manager ask all the team how they are doing, etc.? Is manager on top of things? I know many people who work without manager direction and they only get attention when they err, not when they are doing fantastic.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              So in week number 4 when the problem is happening again, it’s time for a second and firmer chat.

              I do understand reluctance to keep revisiting an issue but I also understand that managers have to do this for the sake of the rest of their staff. It’s really not a choice. If the behavior comes back then a sterner conversation is required, “No. I really meant it. Do not do this.”
              The rest of her staff needs OP to put her foot down. NO means no, it does not mean keep doing it.

          2. Jennifer Thneed*

            Yes. Changing behaviors is *hard*. They’re habits! They are often born of personal traits, but the actual behaviors are usually deeply-ingrained habits, and making changes requires a lot of reinforcement.

            I’ve had to do some of this in my personal life. At one point, I figured out that some of my delightful quirks were actually hella annoying, but that I would still be my delightfully quirky self after adjusting some of the ways I carried myself in the world. But those adjustments were key, and some people who love me a lot really stepped up to help when I needed it.

        2. Amethystmoon*

          Agreed. Sandwich-style feedback is much derided, but people do need to hear the good along with the bad. There’s a reason it’s encouraged in Toastmasters. Newbie speakers who hear “x, y, z” was wrong with their speech because they’re newbies but don’t hear “you did a and b good, keep it up” might decide to give up and stay home. Also, there are ways of giving good and bad feedback besides sandwich.

          1. Devil Fish*

            The sandwich needs to die. If I get good feedback immediately followed by bad and then something good again and it’s nakedly obvious that they’re sandwiching me, I can’t take the good seriously at all, even on the off chance that it was sincere. Sandwiches were mandated at a few places I’ve worked and when it’s forced that hard and that frequently it ends up sounding like “You always follow the dress code. This mistake you made was huge, it has the potential to cost the company a huge amount of money and nothing like this can ever happen again. Cool shoes!”

            I prefer to get good feedback when I’ve done something deserving of recognition and I’m not so fragile that I need it as a soother when I’ve done something seriously wrong. Please don’t bother at all if you have to try that to hard to find something nice to say. :(

  22. CBH*

    I know that this is not morally or professionally correct, but I feel like the “tough love” approach was probably the only way to get through to Jane that her behavior is not appropriate. OP tried talking with her. I feel like when Jane comes back now is a good time to have a discussion again. Then if Jane doesn’t follow it’s time to either think about reassigning/ firing/ another course of action for Jane. Who knows? Maybe OP’s action was the only way to get her point across.

    1. CBH*

      PS I still think OP had other more professional ways to deal with the situation, but in this one instance, I think it OP leaving early for Jane to deal with the consequences was best

  23. Wherehouse Politics*

    OP’s method of dealing with her employee isn’t a sustainable one, but I have to admit in this one instance, and with chaos noted…I kinda liked it. It brought the consequences of Jane’s behavior to a head, and also demonstrated her inability to finish what she never should have derailed in the first place. Fortunately OP was near finished with the project and could deliver it in time after Jane flailed and bailed.

  24. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

    I feel for Jane because many times employees are screwed no mattered what they do. If they stay in their lane, they’re accused of ‘showing initiative’, if they try to go above and beyond, they’re screwing up, stepping on toes. If they let it fall aside, often they are yelled at. Say Jane steps back, does her great work ‘in herlan’. Chances are very good she won’t be rewarded with a promotion or raise, instead she’ll just get shunted aside/talked to about not helping. If she asks how to move ahead, most likely she’ll be told ‘show more enthusiasm/initiative”. Is OP having regular meetings with everyone? Is OP seeing how his/her reports want to advance/do their jobs? Also, is she being routinely commended on what she does well? Not the compliment sandwich but feedback like “Jane, awesome work on the Morgan deal. Thank you for all that work.”

    1. Batgirl*

      Definitely true a lot of the time, but here you have OP trying to clarify expectations for Jane and instead of wanting that you get a lot of passive aggressive ‘don’t wanna’ and emotional blackmail from Jane who wants to do it her way regardless of what’s needed.
      Sure, OP should have kept on through the pity party and pulled her up short again at the first infraction; but I think its mischaracterisation to say Jane is killing herself to meet a vague, unknowable brief.

      1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

        OP never states the they are regularly meeting with their team, only that they talked to Jane and she cried. A lot of people cry–they are angry, upset, distraught, whatever and can’t help it. Kind, consistant redirecting and knowledge of what you team is doing. Why is Bob’s work going to Jane? What is happening in team meetings and 1 on 1s? Has OP sat down with their reports and discussed what their future plans are? How are people promoted? Etc.

    2. Bess*

      Mmm…having worked with a Jane, I’ve gotta disagree here. It’s not okay to decide you’re entitled to a promotion and proceed by taking opportunities away from others to get one. That’s what my coworker does. She’s so convinced she deserves everything that she actively excludes the rest of us from opportunities that would help us develop, just so she can have her name on more stuff and argue she should get a raise. Like, if I don’t make a good salary, that doesn’t mean I get to pilfer my coworker’s lunches.

      1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

        How is Jane or your co worker taking away opportunities? Where is the manager? They should be meeting regularly and discussing with everyone the opportunities.

        1. Bess*

          Jane takes away work that has already been assigned to others, so they don’t get the experience they would have if she let them handle their own work, and they look like they’re not capable of doing more. She also makes it look like she’s indispensable while others are just there to do any leftover work. How is this NOT taking away opportunities?

          I work in a highly collaborative environment. My own Jane coworker takes advantage of this by inserting herself into project meetings or efforts she hears about that she wants on her own resume or performance plan, then dominating and materially changing what’s being done (not always for the better–she’s often pretty set on her own ideas even when it’s clear it’s not the best course of action), and then essentially taking credit for the work. She also gets help and ideas from all of us on her own work and then, when we’re not around, presents it as if it’s all her own work. She gets really uncomfortable when anyone else gets recognition for their work, to the point where she will take up an entire meeting with higher ups talking about her own work, so that no one has any time to talk about their own projects.

          Yes, my manager is passive. My coworker uses this to get away with all of this. My manager isn’t stepping in where they should, but that doesn’t absolve my coworker in the slightest. She knows exactly what she’s doing.

  25. CommanderBanana*

    Uuuuuuuugh Janes. I have worked with Janes and they are the worst. Some people genuinely live to work, but don’t take on work and then try to turn yourself into a martyr for being “overworked.”

  26. cmcinnyc*

    If I was another one of your reports, I think the part that would be the most demoralizing for me would be the waltzing in post-missed-client meeting and pretending nothing happened. And nothing happening. The message to me would be, “Jane could waltz in and nab your project, run with it, then drop it in your lap when it starts to smoke and leave you to face the client meeting in flames. And manager will just stand there like an ox.” Jane is not great. Jane is a workaholic perhaps? And more than a little undermining. But you, OP, are letting everybody down. Maybe stop focusing on Jane for a minute and look at the rest of the team and the effect “great” Jane is having and how you seeing her as “great” is affecting the rest, presumably “not great” employees.

    1. Erstwhile Lurker*

      I completely agree with this. On the one hand, Jane may well be more skilled than her teammates, but they still need to be treated with respect and dignity. There is nothing more frustrating in my opinion than a soft boss who buries his/her head in the sand and doesn’t take corrective steps. Both OP and Jane i’m afraid to say behaved immaturely in this instance.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Seriously, it’s a team effort and letting someone slack off is just as bad as letting someone do all the work in the end. You have to strike up the balance to fill in all those gaps and let people know that they need to live up to a certain standard.

      Otherwise it creates a weird atmosphere and can lead to an eroded office culture.

      You want everyone to feel safe and in a lot of ways, Jane makes that place feel unsafe. Your projects can just be scooped right up and moved at Jane’s whims? How is anyone supposed to grow and nail accomplishments they deserve?

  27. A*

    I think Alison’s advice is spot on. I’d also like to add that it might be worth looking into whether there are larger influences coming into play. I’ve seen this come up often in relation to performance reviews. Most ranking systems have corresponding definitions, with the higher ones usually stating something along the lines of “going above and beyond”. I’ve often seen this misinterpreted as ‘I should insert myself where I don’t belong!’ rather than the intended definition of going above and beyond in an appropriate, and efficient manner…..within the scope of your current job description.

  28. Bess*

    I work with a Jane. It’s infuriating and demoralizing. Some of it is because (supposedly) she felt that if she didn’t do something herself, it wouldn’t be done right. Some of it is, to be frank, because she can’t handle when things don’t have her name on them. She’ll do it overtly–schedule meetings with you to “work on” things that you already had underway.

    She’ll do it secretly, too. Just quietly take over someone else’s thing in our shared drive, or take your project and assign it to one of her subordinates, and you’ll find out weeks later. Or talk about your idea and just let people think she came up with it herself. Honestly, she is terrified of not being in the spotlight/not being named as the lead or superstar of everything.

    Thankfully it looks like she’s finally moving into a different area. Good riddance. It’s because of her that I put my name all over things and itemize all the things I’m doing on projects whenever I talk with my manager.

    1. Oh No She Di'int*

      Wow. Thank you for this perspective and I’m sorry you had to have such a strong counter-reaction to your own personal “Jane”.

      I am a manger with Jane on my staff. It’s very clear that she was the girl in the front row in 6th grade shouting “Miss Jones!! I know the answer!!! Pick meeeeee!!” I’d always thought the adult version of this behavior would be demoralizing to coworkers, but your comment puts a little more color on that notion.

      1. Bess*

        Yeah, and I think it’s more than just a simple “pick me,” likes to talk, needs to be seen as knowledgeable kind of thing. Like, that can be irritating. But the added element of ego–being convinced your own perspective is right, being willing to exclude others or erase their contributions to your work so that you see more professional success, seeing others either as resources for, or obstacles to, your own success–has pretty much alienated everyone else on our team.

    2. hey anony*

      I work with a Jane, too, and while her boss has made efforts to rein her in, they don’t stick, because this behavior has made Jane (and her team) the darling of upper management. So this kind of behavior isn’t going to stop any time soon. Jane has also broken the departmental curve for “exceeds expectations” — i.e., at this point, you can’t get “exceeds expectations” as v. “meets expectations” unless you’re behaving like Jane.

      1. Bess*

        That’s what is insane…she can alienate everyone and have pretty transparent examples of being dishonest or shady, but because she’s also a steamroller who will just grind through projects, she’s not disciplined or held accountable. I’ve lost a lot of trust with my current leadership because they see it (and hear about it) happening and don’t want to have the tough conversations.

        1. hey anony*

          Yep. I have gotten in trouble for pointing this kind of thing out in a fairly neutral way, so where I am, they refuse to even hear about it. Jane makes them look good, so no one’s ever going to actually intervene.

          This isn’t actually great for my Jane, either, because I do think that she’ll explode from the stress someday, but she’s being rewarded so much for this unhealthy behavior (and who knows, might get in trouble if she doesn’t step up whenever she’s expected to) that I think she’s unlikely to stop.

    1. Tabby Baltimore*

      I would really like an update from the Letter Writer about whether she found another job, and whether this incident repeated itself. I also realize how highly unlikely this is to happen.

  29. SW*

    You know what stopped me from doing work explicitly assigned to other people in addition to my own? My manager plunked me down and said that it was insubordination and I needed to stop or I would be fired. I needed to know that by forcing myself to go the extra mile I was doing the opposite of impressing my boss. I know it’s strong but I was glad for it.

  30. Mannheim Steamroller*

    Then she’ll indirectly complain that she’s juggling too many projects.

    The proper answer to that is, “Okay, let’s lighten your load. For some reason, you’re doing projects that I specifically assigned to Annie, Bob, and Clara, so those projects will go back to Annie, Bob, and Clara. Now you have time to work on your own projects, so please do. And that is not open to debate.”

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Martyrdom. This can be called out, OP. It’s fine to say, “You put yourself there. You have worked assigned to you and instead you stuck your nose in other people’s work. From now on you cannot take on anyone else’s work until you have fully completed your own AND you have gotten MY okay.”

  31. Mommy Md*

    She is not a good employee. She’s a self-centered, controlling, problem employee who refuses to take direction.

  32. ༀ ག༃ ཫགྷ ༃ ཎཟ ཊ ༀ*

    My big take-away from this is that people need to be conscious of what they say when conversing with their boss and their boss’s boss … in truth, conversing with their boss and anyone, really. The unwritten meta-job underlying many jobs is: make your boss look good. Or at least: don’t make your boss look bad. Jane may be consciously acting like a jerk. Or she may be unaware of the trouble she is causing. Either way, I’d be minded to have a brief come-to-Jesus conversation with Jane, perhaps framing it as a matter of appropriate timing: there’s a time to talk ideas, and there’s a time to present a united front.

    Also: the entire “bursting into tears” thing is sooo unprofessional.

  33. Striver4Life*

    UGH. Fellow almost-jane here, hello to my fellow strivers :)

    I also think that this is a mess two people made. Jane’s manipulativeness likely comes from a place of insecurity rather than cunning manipulation. I don’t know Jane, but I doubt that her actual conscious motive is “I will screw my lazy coworkers by working a ton of hours and making myself sick and miserable in the process”. She doesn’t seem to be in a healthy place right now and I would bet that structural changes will benefit the entire team.

    Is there a metric by which Jane can measure her work and know when to stop – is there a “good enough” bar she knows to hit where manager will be pleased with her work, or is it open ended? Does Jane know which part of her job OP actually values the most (she heard “don’t do this” and engaged in classic all-or-nothing cognitive distortions, but did she hear what OP actually wants her to do)?

    When there’s negative feedback on the team’s work, does it go specifically to the person who made a mistake or does it go to “the team” in a vague way (ie, can Jane be confident that her teammates’ failures will not reflect on her, should her teammates fail)? Is Jane meant to follow a schedule (and not start projects early, not work over time) or is she allowed autonomy in how she manages her time, and would it be better if her job was more structured? Is the team regularly having discussions with the manager about how to collaborate, and is there a good culture of accountability, or are the other team members and Jane meant to work it out themselves?

    A lot of this might come down to a need for structure and regular checkins. Sure it would be great if all people in one company had the same preferences when it came to structure vs. unstructure, and this is on Jane too to figure out, but I agree with commenters that a lot of this can be fixed with actual, concrete discussions between OP and the team. I know we insecure strivers are giant pains in the ass – some of us molded into co-dependent nightmares via abusive situations where we coped by thinking we deserved our torment because we weren’t “good” enough, and perfection was the only thing that would keep us safe. It’s definitely not OP’s job to fix this, or even to cut Jane any slack since what she did was so out of line. But a better solution in addition to a direct talk with Jane might be to look at how Jane’s job is structured, and see if OP can mix in a little more structure to get Jane to “be a good employee” in the way that OP actually wants and appreciates.

    I used to do this all the time with my striver college students in the classroom. Our key industry tactic for the person who always raises their hand was to give them the feedback that they were doing enough talking, and that to be “excellent” they needed to take it upon themselves to stop dominating discussion and start facilitating discussion for others to bring out other people’s voices. It often worked – you gave the striver a new task they were not great at (humility + challenge) and it helped repair damage to the group’s dynamic by introducing incentives and opportunities to get more people participating again. With strivers, telling them to sit on their hands is way less effective than just redirecting the energy in a way that benefits your team and helps the striver grow.

    1. Actually*

      Another striver here, I became like this because of multiple toxic jobs and the more recent one where the curve had been busted. Indeed the only way to get exceeds in places like this was to deliver someone else project before they could. Goals and ownership was always vague so if you fixed something you were the hero. Bonus points if you were undermining their efforts along the way because you succeeded where previously it was a flaming mess. See also firefighters who light fires.

    2. KHB*

      Yes to all of this. And I’ll add that it’s important to make sure that when the Janes/strivers make progress in the type of “excellence” you’re looking for, they’re recognized for it in whatever performance evaluation metric (pay raises/bonuses/grades) you’ve got going on.

      When I’ve had my Janiest moments at work, it’s because I was doing what we all agreed was excellent work, and meeting or exceeding all my targets, but still getting mediocre numbers on my performance review and below-average pay raises. My boss would never give me a straight answer about what he wanted from me to get a better result. So I started feeling resentful of my coworkers (who I assumed must be getting the above-average raises, since I knew what the average was and that I was below it), and although I never blatantly inserted myself into any of their projects, I started trying to elbow them out of my way whenever I could. A clear structure of expectations that were rewarded accordingly would have made a big difference.

  34. StaceyIzMe*

    Your employee’s misdeeds can’t be taken too much to heart because she hasn’t been stopped consistently, firmly or with real clarity ongoing. It’s true that her interfering in your conversation with your boss would have been extremely frustrating and I can see why you just let her have the assignment along with the natural consequence of being unable to deliver. The lesson was an expensive one for you in terms of frustration and the expenditure of political capital with your boss, so you might as well wring the most possible value out of it and make the point, drawing a Big Red Circle around the Thing that must Not Be Done (taking over assignments, conversations and usurping the authority and agency of anyone, boss, coworker, client et al). The whole crying thing is a red herring. People cry when they’re worked up. They’re worked up when they don’t know how to move forward or don’t feel safe moving forward in a new and different way. It’s your job as her boss to show her how it’s done and to reinforce both the standards and the consequences of disregarding them. While you don’t want to discourage most employees from helping, in this instance- you do! She should come to you and specifically clear things with you before stepping in. And she should limit herself to the role you’ve allowed her to play because her judgement is questionable. If she won’t stay in her lane after this specific and concrete debrief, you should reprimand her formally and take additional corrective action. She’s gotten the idea that her value is mostly in how much she helps. She needs to refocus on her value in the context of her job description and the specific instructions you’ve given about what her assigned projects are. (And you should be much more hands on and consistently assertive with her until you’re certain that the issue has resolved to the point that it doesn’t need to be actively managed again.)

  35. MsSolo*

    I’m seeing a lot of myself in Jane, and though she’s definitely showing a lot of other problem behaviours, this is really a team problem that needs looking at overall. Is work well distributed across the team? Not just evenly, but according to people’s capacity? What happened when Jane did stay in her lane – how much of her time was spent twiddling her thumbs? Was she being offered extra projects by people who didn’t know the situation she had to turn down? Were deadlines met? Did she received the same rewards?

    The golden child stuff rings very true with me, finding it hard not to take control when other people are doing something badly, picking up extra work to keep busy, putting my own time management ahead of other people’s. When a piece of work is split between my part time colleague and I and she’s off, do I spend two days twiddling my thumbs and then complete my share of the work in a mad rush once she’s back and done hers? Do I pick up an extra project to keep me busy that she would have benefited more from? Or do I pick up a couple of her processes and do enough that I can start my work and maintain a steadier pace? I know the last one isn’t the right answer, but it’s so very tempting when I know I’m going to end up doing overtimes because I can’t start until after she’s finished.

    The advice on this site is often if you find yourself with nothing to do, look for projects to pick up. Get involved, support your coworkers, increase your skills. Jane is the dark side of that, and I wonder what Alison’s advice would be to her directly, if she wrote in asking how to spend her time when she has to stay in her lane. If there’s not enough work to keep her busy, and her colleagues are struggling to meet deadlines, others are coming to her because they’re used to her being the go-to person for side projects, the motivation for not helping needs to be strong, and needs to come without reputational risk to her. I just don’t get the impression OP really knows how to offer that motivation, considering his own actions when he felt she was stepping on his toes. He’s happy to punish her for doing this, but if the rewards of being the golden child continue to outweigh the punishment it’s pointless – there need to be rewards for staying in her lane to make it worthwhile.

    1. Death By Procedure*

      Yes, being punished for “not helping” is often what happens to the Janes of the world to get them here in the first place. It is the biggest cop out excuse I’ve seen given by peers.. “Jane wouldn’t help me on the piece of work”. That piece of work was assigned to Jill and Jane was told to let go and not work on. So when Jill comes to Jane every hour for “help” and peer is simultaneously telling boss they aren’t meeting their deadline because “Jane isn’t helping. Boss will go to Jane and tell her “she isn’t being helpful” in spite of a record of each incident of Jill asking for help and that the help required is way more than expected of a senior peer. Jane is either stuck doing all of Jill’s work over her shoulder while completing her own after hours or, finding a new job. Guess which one is easier for the Golden Child Janes of the world?

  36. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    1. Yes to everything Alison said, emphasis on “she is not a good employee”.
    2. It’s not your job to manage her emotions. She needs to be told clearly and directly what you expect her to do, and you need to let her know the consequences of ignoring it, then follow through.

    Yes you handled the situation poorly, but you also let her get away with calling in sick with zero consequences. Stop letting her steam roll you. You’re in charge, not her.

  37. just trying to help*

    This sounds like an employee who might have self esteem and self worth issues playing out at work. They are using work productivity to define their worth, maybe only in their own eyes. Sometimes, the busyness creates drama itself; sometimes it is an advertisement for others to think you are valuable, productive, and a meaningful member of the office.
    There are bigger issues here than just not following the boss’s instructions.

  38. squeakalicious*

    This is my biggest gripe at work right now! “Karen” started working here about a year ago (she and I are both the same type/level of support staff). She steals projects and meetings behind my back, convinces managers to give her work I’m supposed to be getting, and generally tries to do absolutely everything while kissing copious asses of the higher-ups. She makes me CRAZY. I have asked and asked and then TOLD her to keep her hands off my projects, stop scheduling my meetings, and in general leave my role alone. She is a horrible employee, not a “great” one! We all hate her! In addition to all this, she does a terrible job and alienates her peers by refusing to assimilate with the team. She thinks this makes her stand out as superior. Our managers will not step in and make this stop; it seems like they don’t even understand how soul-destroying this is, and how much it ruins our job descriptions and roles. You have to stay in your lane. Don’t pick up slack if you are not specifically asked to do so! She’s the number-one reason I’m looking for a new job. This is serious stuff.

  39. Newt*

    Honestly, I can see myself at risk of becoming a Jane. I think I’ve managed to avoid it so far, but it takes active effort to keep myself from Doing Too Much and then burning out hard.

    LW, I don’t blame you for how you handled the situation. It was the wrong thing to do, but I understand your frustrations. You definitely doubly messed-up by failing to make the best of the outcome – once Jane inevitably crashed and burned, you as her manager – YOU – should have been the one to make there be consequences. It wasn’t the right call, but once you’d made it you could have brought Jane in for a meeting, laid out explicitly what the problems were, explained the consequences of her actions, and laid out concrete points on your expectations for the future with a plan in place to check in regularly on it.

    That said, given that you also mentioned that Jane is a “great” employee while describing some seriously not-great behaviours, I wonder if maybe you need to take a look at how you manage Jane and the rest of the team, and what might be contributing to Jane’s behaviour that you could change or control.

    As I said above, I’m a Potential Jane. “Gifted Child” nonsense up the wazoo, the dark side of what happens when a kid with what amounts to a natural multiplier on their XP reads that Rainbow Fish book. I have to actively Make Myself stick to standard office hours, take sick leave, etc, and I find it almost impossible to say no when asked to add something to my workload. In my current role I actually started burning out a bit recently, and I know the quality of my work was suffering while colleagues weren’t improving. I’ve managed to wind it back in, and get my workload changed to something manageable, and factors that were DEFINITELY contributing to this were:

    1. Lack of Consequences/Accountability to Poor Performers. There are 8 of us in the team. 3 work on one section, 3 on another, 1 deputy who does a little of both and the TL. In both sections there is one poor performer who was kept on past probation in spite of failing to meet the minimum requirements of skills gained in that time, whose productivity is shockingly low and who the TL complains about daily. These poor performers have no idea they are viewed that way, and actually boast about their figures as though they think they are doing well. When crises inevitably hit, they are not called to task for it and I don’t think it’s ever been laid out for them what they are expected to have been capable of by this point.

    2. High Performers Get Dumped On. I’m not the only high performer in the team. I know another person who does spectacular work, blows my own work out of the water and I wish I knew how they got so good. What happens when the crises hit due to the poor performers, is one of us gets tagged in to “help”, and ends up basically doing the entire thing and working flat-out trying to balance that in addition to their existing workload.

    3. Lack of Proper Ownership. I said 3 of us work on one section and 3 others on another. That’s the theory. However, the sections were treated like a kind of bottomless grab-bag of Tasks that anyone could dip into. A coworker might be working on Basket A for a couple months and then I’d cover that while they were away and they’d just… never look at it again when they came back. Or one person would just never contribute to a particular report we were all supposed to chip in on. This made it hard to know what was a priority, who was failing to pull their weight officially enough to Do Anything About It, why targets weren’t being met or who was responsible for fixing it. More than once I stayed late at month end to try and clear up something that wasn’t technically my work while the person who should have been on it went home on time, and that was often at the TL’s request.

    4. Panicky Team Lead. The TL tends to wait for things to go wrong, panic, flail at the last minute and make everything feel like a crisis, and I’m particularly sensitive to that and tend to feel guilt and responsibility for it. Nothing like hearing “have you got all of Project Y finished???” in a panicked tone from your boss 5 minutes before you had planned to leave for the day to make you wish you’d worked through lunch.

    5. Manipulative Praise and Secret Bitching. I cannot count the number of times I’ve gritted my teeth when being asked to take on Yet Another Project above my grade with the reasoning being “I don’t trust anyone else to be able to handle this” or “I know you have the skills to pull this off”. The same TL would secretly talk down the poor-performers to me when explaining why more work was coming my way.

    After working in an environment like that long enough, someone with my particular cluster of mental health issues, upbringing and history can fall into some pretty unhealthy habits. For 6 months I was doing effectively 2.5 people’s jobs – and it showed. It got really, really tempting to just start approaching the workload like it was kind of all mine anyway, since I get treated as The Fixer and bounced continuously between failing projects in the hopes I’ll be able to salvage them, and it’s so much less stressful if I’m choosing to be the one to do that and if I’ve already been involved enough to know what’s going on anyway. I’ve had to actively fight that instinct and argue for a more equitable share, and it’s been hard damn work. I shouldn’t have had to do that. But give a few more years, if things had continued as they have been, I can see me turning into Jane as a coping mechanism. And since it’d be entirely a defensive mechanism against guilt, anxiety and stress, it’d be really REALLY hard to unlearn.

    LW, your employee needs to reign it in, and is damaging other people’s work right now, but can you take a look at the environment and see what pressures might be contributing to Jane’s habits?

    When other staff members don’t know how to do something, do they generally ask Jane? Do they try and figure it out themselves, or is Ask Jane step one of troubleshooting? When Jane is asked to help, do they act in ways that make it seem like they kind of just want Jane to fix it herself? What documents, records, training guides, SOPs and other resources are available aside from Jane’s Brain? Are they accessible, up-to-date and relevant?

    When a project starts to fail or fall behind, how do you deal with it? Who faces the consequences for that? How do you monitor who has ownership of what tasks/portfolios, and how is work given to people? Who triages tasks out? When work has a deadline it is about to miss, who gets asked to stay late to fix it, and how much notice do they generally get that this is happening?

    How are poor performers managed? Does their work impact the pay, bonuses, feedback and productivity/performance scores of the whole team? If a bollocking is handed out, is it specific or general? If the workload is too high and a project fails due to lack of resource, do you stand up and defend the team and take the hit for them, or do they get taken to task regardless of how much/little they did to try and fix it?

    You need to put Jane on a PIP and provide ongoing management and feedback of her workload management, but you could also stand to make sure you’re not asking her to choose between two shitty outcomes.

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