my employee has a bad attitude

A reader writes:

I manage an employee with an attitude problem. Kevin is a couple years out of college, and he has management ambitions. He did excellent work for several months after he was hired, and the quality of his work isn’t the issue here.

The problems started about a year ago when I promoted another team member with a little more experience and a lot more professionalism, Kate, to team lead. He was angry, and he showed it by acting like a child — pouting through meetings or derailing them with side conversations, making jokes about wasting company money, and telling us all about how drunk he’d been that weekend. He spent a team lunch staring at our intern silently because he thought it was funny (the intern was uncomfortable). He also came to me directly for permission to do something after Kate told him he couldn’t, and I assented without realizing that she had already told him no, for perfectly valid reasons.

Kate addressed these issues individually with Kevin, but there always seemed to be something else. I had a come-to-Jesus meeting with Kevin a few months ago, and we all thought he was back on track, until recently. Not long ago, our company began to require more meetings, and when a (different) team member politely complained there were too many, Kevin guffawed and yelled “BURN!” in the middle of the meeting.

Personally, I’ve had enough. I decided to manage him directly from now on. I also went to my manager (Randall) to recommend that Kevin be given some form of disciplinary action, but Randall isn’t so sure this behavior rises to the level of a corrective action. How else can I get through to Kevin and help him see that he’s got to behave more professionally if he ever wants to be a manager himself?

The measure of your success as a manager in a situation like this isn’t, “I get through to the employee and make him change his behavior, no matter what.” You should try to get through to him, of course, but whether or not that ultimately happens is up to him, not you. Instead, success in this situation means that you talk with him about the problem forthrightly, make clear how serious it is, spell out your expectations for what needs to change, and follow through with consequences if that doesn’t happen.

It sounds like you’ve already done the first stages of this: You’ve met with Kevin and had (what sounds like) a serious conversation with him. It’s important to be sure that you were absolutely clear when you talked to him — that you were explicit both about what needs to change and about how critical the problem is. Too often, managers sugarcoat their feedback out of a desire to be nice or a discomfort with hard conversations, and as a result, the employee doesn’t hear the message as clearly as the manager thinks they’ve delivered it. So if there’s any chance you haven’t been crystal clear in the past, make sure it’s unmistakable now.

When you talk to Kevin, try language like this: “We’ve talked previously about you disrupting meetings, intentionally making people uncomfortable, and disregarding clear instructions from management above you. The behavior improved for a while but is returning now. For example, (insert examples). This is disruptive to other people, and it’s not something I’m willing to have on our team. Because we’ve already addressed this previously, my concerns now are serious ones. What’s going on?”

You’re ending with that question because it’s worth hearing Kevin’s perspective. While it feels pretty unlikely, it’s possible there’s some extenuating circumstance that will impact the way you proceed. Some sorts of things (like mental or physical health challenges or dealing with personal stress) wouldn’t change the bottom line — which is that he needs to behave professionally at work — but they’d change the tenor of the conversation you have with him about it.

But assuming you don’t hear anything that alters your assessment of the situation, then next you should explain what the consequences will be if he doesn’t fix the problems. In order to do that, you first need to decide in your own mind what those consequences are. Is this something you’d fire him over if it continues unchanged? Or is it not at that level but still something that will limit the type of projects he gets (for example, maybe you can’t put him in front of clients or trust him on high-profile work)? Will it prevent him from being promoted or affect the sorts of raises he can earn? You will want to be able to spell out the consequences for him, and also ready to follow through with whatever action you determine is appropriate if it turns out to be necessary.

But what’s more important than getting through to Kevin is getting through to Randall, your boss.

If you’re going to manage Kevin effectively, you’ve got to have the authority to impose those consequences. Having that authority is fundamental to your ability to manage a team, and without it, you can’t do your job as a manager.

If you don’t have the power to say “this must change,” then you’re stuck trying to cajole Kevin into seeing things your way and just hoping he comes around. And if he ever realizes that you don’t have the authority to do more than just try to persuade him, that will tremendously undermine you as his boss — and given Kevin’s behavior so far, I wouldn’t be surprised if that made the problems worse.

So there’s an important conversation for you to have with Randall about exactly what your role really is. If Randall won’t let you hold employees accountable to the standards you set for your team … well, you’ve got a much bigger problem than Kevin.

Originally published at New York Magazine.

{ 240 comments… read them below }

  1. Myrin*

    I almost fell out of my chair in shock – and, admittedly, a burst of surprised laughter – when I read about his yelling “BURN” in the middle of a meeting. He sounds like he’s secretly fourteen, goodness gracious.

    1. annakarina1*

      I see him as Kelso from That 70’s Show yelling that during a business meeting, not when he’s in the pot circle with his friends.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        . . . who is also functionally fourteen, however old the character was physically in the show.

        1. Estelle Rapaport*

          “How else can I get through to Kevin and help him see that he’s got to behave more professionally if he ever wants to be a manager himself?”

          Why do you want to help someone so clearly unsuitable to become manager?

          1. Shawna*

            Performance evaluations are a good way to document behaviors both desirable and undesirable. That is your opportunity to discuss what changes need to happen in order for him to promote in the future.

          2. Sharikacat*

            Because we shouldn’t automatically write people off as lost causes, especially when they are just out of school and new to the working world?

            Yeah, Kevin should have matured on his own a little more by now, but a good manager can give him advise, direction, and feedback nevertheless. If he continues to remain a child, then that’s on him, but for the time being, Kevin is essentially the OP’s problem, so the OP wants to find a way for this to turn in a positive direction. Writing him off now means, if nothing else, that in the immediate short-term, you’re okay with having a problem employee impacting your workplace.

          3. BenAdminGeek*

            I wasn’t as bad as Kevin, but I was somewhat obnoxious as a young employee. I had a new manager take me aside and say explicitly that the reason I wasn’t getting the promotion I wanted was because I was playing the class clown during meetings and people didn’t take me seriously. It was eye-opening and I changed my behavior, and got a promotion the next year. Sometimes all it takes is a candid conversation.

          1. J*

            BURN (verb?) slang: to disrespect someone (to diss); to make fun of someone; used by a third party after a first party makes fun of a second party. Brought back to life by the ever-popular That 70’s Show.

    2. Veronica Mars*

      I mean, obviously it was ridiculous, but its also totally a joke I can see someone making (maybe quietly to a sympathetic neighbor, not yelling) in my very-buttoned-up workplace. Honestly I was a surprised that singular event triggered a “last straw” level reaction after a few months of improvements.

      Sometimes kids who are new out of college have to learn about appropriate vs inappropriate jokes in the workplace, and that learning experience has a bit of trial and error. It sounds a little like he’s been trying to dial it back, and misjudged how this particular joke would land. Do we really want to ban him from ever making jokes, or do we want to help him refine his joke awareness?

      I also wanted to push back a little on taking this guy away from his manager (Kate). That won’t help her learn to be a more effective manager in the future and it will mean you’re stuck with this guy forever. More involvement (sitting in on meetings with Kate), more detailed coaching for Kate, sure. But don’t just take him away from her.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Agree on not removing him from Kate’s line of reporting. It can also send the message to him that she is not capable of handling him (which he seems to already believe, based on his behavior) when it’s unclear if she’s been given the tools and authority to do so. It’s undermining her for OP to take him back on directly.

        1. WantonSeedStitch*

          I thought that as well. The OP should have Kate continue to manage the problem employee, and should make sure she knows they have her back. They should also probably make the problem employee a standing agenda item in one-on-one meetings, to compare notes about how his behavior has been and whether he’s showing improvement or slipping up.

      2. Jen Mahrtini*

        I have to disagree with the latest event being overblown. He’s been acting incredibly unprofessionally for a year or more – derailing meetings, oversharing personal details, circumventing his manager, intentionally making colleagues uncomfortable, etc. It would be generous to give him one last opportunity to understand what behavior isn’t acceptable and show significant, consistent improvement, but I also wouldn’t question letting him go now.

        1. Veronica Mars*

          I don’t think this is a “Last chance to understand” discussion its a “We see that you’re making effort and are coaching you further to help you make more progress” discussion.

          I would have a completely different reaction if the “Come to Jesus” meeting was ineffective, but the LW states “I had a come-to-Jesus meeting with Kevin a few months ago, and we all thought he was back on track, until recently.” A few months is a pretty good track record, and it can be really hard to un-learn behavior patterns. If its obvious he’s trying and just slipped up, that’s a very different situation from if he never tried in the first place.

      3. Observer*

        It’s one thing to make a joke to your neighbor QUIETLY. Yelling out in the meeting is a totally different thing. It’s a clear attempt to disrupt the meeting AGAIN.

      4. Pippa K*

        Meh, I don’t think telling him not to use “jokes” as an excuse to behave badly to his colleagues is “banning him from ever making jokes.” It doesn’t sound like a “joke awareness” problem, but a professional conduct problem – and I’m not even sure he doesn’t grasp professional standards; from the description, he seems to be deliberately expressing his disrespect and displeasure.

      5. Driftless*

        This! It possibly looks to Kevin like he’s got a more prestigious reporting line, direct to someone more senior. After (accidentally) undercutting her, not great to do it deliberately.

      6. Sharikacat*

        Maybe Kate just isn’t able to handle someone like Kevin, especially if Kate is around the same age as Kevin and at an equally early point in her career? That’s not a knock against Kate, just that Kevin can present a problem for even managers with some experience. Without knowing that, I can certainly see why you’d still want Kate to be able to try to manage him, but she’s not been effective in doing so. If she’s otherwise a good manager and employee and if her authority/ability to hand out consequences isn’t clear, then it may seem perfectly reasonable for OP to offer to step in to help (especially if OP has to get that same clarity on what consequences can be dealt).

    3. CW*

      Sounds like fourteen? Reminds me of a temp I used worked with. He was nearing the age of 40 but acted like he was a teenager. Some of his emails did not even have proper capitalization and very improper grammar.

      During a meeting, when the CFO was trying to load something on the overhead screen, the internet decided to slow down at that moment and the screen was stuck on load. Guess what the temp did? He took out his phone and started playing the Final Jeopardy theme – just because he thought he was being funny. It was NOT funny at all. In fact, it was insulting to the CFO when he was simply trying to get the screen to load. and hearing it gave me an instant flashback of when I was in high school. Sorry, but the last time I remembered, I was an adult at work, not a 16-year-old in high school when stunts among teenagers like that one was common.

      1. Natalia*

        I could see doing that if you’re among family or friends or it’s a very close knit office and there is some sort of related inside joke. But, honestly its unprofessional and immature. And unnecessary too. I have a sense of humor and I’m no prude, but come on! There is a time and a place!

        1. CW*

          That I agree with. To clarify, I meant that kind of behavior is not acceptable in a workplace, no matter the circumstances. Outside of work, joke away. But at work – please remain professional.

    4. tink*

      I can see someone kinda commenting that under their breath to the person sitting next to them, but actually yelling it is wild.

  2. Akcipitrokulo*

    Wow. I’d say it’s absolutely rising to disciplinary level if he doesn’t stop – especially as he was told before and did make changes.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      Same – just based on the letter above, he’s deliberately made an intern uncomfortable, gone around his boss when he didn’t like the answer AND was dishonest about his boss’s answer, cracks jokes about wasting company money, and repeatedly behaves inappropriately/disruptively in meetings. I don’t see how a sitdown about his office conduct and requirements to improve it would NOT be in order.

      Also, If he aspires to a management position, he needs to understand that he will be looked at as a model of behavior and will be held to a higher standard. If there is question about his judgment, giving him supervisory responsibilities would be irresponsible. Who’s to say he won’t stare at one of his reports, just to get a reaction or hold rambling, unproductive meetings? (But mostly the HR-y liability. Yikes.)

      1. AnonEMoose*

        The going around his manager and not being honest about her answer is deserving of some kind of discipline. And when you consider everything else, it definitely needs to be addressed.

        OP would be doing him a favor to address this firmly and specifically…whether or not he gets let go at this point.

  3. Oh So Anon*

    Do y’all have access to EAP resources?

    This may be about Kevin acting out because he didn’t get what he wanted exactly when he wanted it, but a once-good employee suddenly going this rogue and becoming totally self-destructive makes me wonder if something else is going on and they’re suddenly decompensating.

    1. Lance*

      Judging by the ‘a lot more professionalism’ bit, I’m going to guess that Kevin wasn’t the most mature even before Kate became team lead. It could well stem from that moment, but I’m leaning toward ‘he was kind of like this anyway, but the upset just drew more of it out’.

      Either way, barring something said on Kevin’s end, I’m not sure this is a scenario where an EAP would be very worth considering. More than that, he needs to be told in no uncertain terms that he needs to cut out the blatant immaturity and do part of his job — interpersonal relations and being able to work well with coworkers as needed — better. And hopefully there’s some way for Randall to see that this is a real issue, and cut the ‘oh, just let him be’.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        I agree with your first paragraph – that was my reading of the situation. Kevin was always immature, but did good work so everyone let his previous behavior slide, and now the chickens have come home to roost so to speak. This may also be why Randall is hand-waving this stuff away – a) because he doesn’t see it for himself and b) Kevin has always been less than professional in the workplace and no one ever really called him to task about it before, possibly because it was never so bad as to need to be escalated beyond the OP.

      2. Quill*

        In the context of the letter, I’m reading this as “was immature in ways that didn’t immediately impact his work / in ways that other men in the office didn’t feel the full impact of” and then escalating to “is being a pile of donkey excrement because a woman with more qualifications got a job he wanted.”

        1. Maria Lopez*

          I was going to say the same thing, and that I think the OP is also a woman, so Randall probably thinks “the womenfolk have their sensibilities rattled”.

  4. Amber Rose*

    While I have admittedly been tempted to yell out random things in meetings… part of being an adult is knowing when and where you can do stuff like that. This dude is not an adult. He sounds like a stereotypical frat bro that never grew out of it.

    Alison is spot on though. Whatever it is you want to happen moving forward, your boss has gotta be on board or Kevin is gonna learn the worst lesson, namely that people will talk to him a lot but not actually do anything so he’s free to do as he likes.

    1. Myrin*

      Yeah, that last part is vitally important. The assistant manager at my one part-time job is an absolute menace – I can see her saying and doing almost all the things Kevin says and does in this letter, although she’s a tad bit more circumspect – and people complain about her literally at least once a week. But my boss is a total pushover and will at most talk to her semi-sternly without ever actually backing it up with anything, so assistant manager just goes on merrrily in her bullying, pain-in-the-behind ways, and I don’t foresee that changing until someone with authority actually backs up what they’re saying.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      He’s a frat bro without a handler, even worse!

      We have plenty of times people would shout out stupid things but then someone responds to them, usually with “Shut the hell up, Carl.”

      1. Washi*

        I do wonder if OP and/or Kate are saying anything in the moment when Kevin is disruptive. Normally I wouldn’t reprimand someone in front of others, but in this case I might say something like “Kevin, that is not appropriate. Please stop that immediately.” If I was nearby and thought I could pull it off, I might also say coolly and quietly, but somewhat audibly, “please stop by my office after the meeting.”

        Maybe Kevin would start thinking twice about the public antics if he knows he’ll be called out on it.

        1. kt*

          Unfortunately, in my experience guys like this respond ‘well’ to taking a preschool teacher tone of voice. It’s something they recognize. The problem is that it can sometimes continue to feed into the “you’re not the boss of me!” dynamic.

          1. ellex42*

            Now I’m imagining Catherine O’Hara shouting “Kevin!” Because this Kevin’s level of public maturity doesn’t seem much higher than Kevin McAllister’s.

            1. Natalia*

              haha yes! I can picture that too! Honestly, Kevin McAllister seems more mature then the Kevin guy the OP is writing in about.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Yeah, when it’s a one off or a really out of character kind of issue, I am 100% for the corrective action being done in private. Then it’s a whole different thing, people deserve that respect first of all and also minimalize the ruckus.

          But when it’s a habit, you just need to tell him to shush. I bet he does it because someone in there chuckles and mentally high fives him, he’s getting SOMETHING of pleasure out of it. Usually these people are egged on by someone, it sounds like this is probably done in private. “Man your really showed them, brooooooooooo. I wish I didn’t give any efs like you do, brooooooooo.”

          1. TootsNYC*

            yeah, there’s a thing where people feed off the power they feel from having gotten away with something in front of witnesses, especially if those witnesses are at all approving (even if it’s just because they’re uncomfortable).

            That’s what most school bullying is like, actually, and it’s why bystanders have so much power to stop it, and victims have almost none.
            And why punching the bully (figuratively or literally) stops them–because they aren’t getting away with being mean or disruptive.

            So I’d have that convo again, and then every time he was disruptive or unprofessional, I’d be saying, “Kevin, see me in my office after the meeting.” and if he did it a second time in the same meeting, I’d say, “Kevin, we’ll be discussing this as well.”

            Take away the power of “getting away with it in front of witnesses.” And replace it with the embarrassment of “being called on it in front of witnesses.”

        3. Veronica Mars*

          I think in this case, a cold death stare would work wonders.

          He deserves immediate and pointed feedback when he’s crossing a line, since clearly he needs help defining where that line is. Maybe some embarrassment would be be good motivation for him. But you don’t need to scold him publicly to accomplish that, just communicate how deeply not funny it is with The Stare Of Disdain.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            People like this don’t care if you give them a dirty look. Because why? He’s not going to get into trouble and he’s off the rails because the big boss duncur.

            1. Scarlet2*

              Yeah, seriously, he’s been talked to before by his boss and he’s doing that crap again. And a “cold stare” would make a difference? He’s going to keep doing it until there are some consequences.

        4. CupcakeCounter*

          Oooohhhh…the “please stop by my office after the meeting” is gold! Accomplishes two things since even if Kevin doesn’t get the memo, those in earshot will know that the thing Kevin did is NOT OK and management is paying attention.

    3. Archaeopteryx*

      I think it’s worth reflecting on whether a female employee with this type of repeated, obnoxious behavior would be given such a long time to reform and so much leeway. Maybe your honest answer is Yes, but maybe just… reflect on that just in case.

      1. Scarlet2*

        Yeah, and I also don’t think he would behave like that if the colleague who was promoted above him was male.

      2. Dr Wizard, PhD*

        I also thought this. And in fact OP has undermined their team lead, Kate, by taking control away from her (and not working with her to resolve this).

        I mean, look at it from Kevin’s perspective.

        1) Female colleague promoted over you.
        2) Act out.
        3) Get to report to your old boss again. (And, uh, not be managed by a woman, cause I’m gonna go out on a limb and assume LW is male.)

        That worked out great!

    4. Natalia*

      I volunteered at a daycare center for disabled adults. We had people there who would randomly shout out things at inapropriate times…these people were handicapped. They don’t know better. This Kevin guy does or should.

    1. Justin*

      Yeah I think dude has a misogyny problem.

      I have a coworker like this.

      Put him in his place and tell him he either cuts it out or he’s fired.

      1. Liane*

        “Yeah I think dude has a misogyny problem.”
        Yes. Yes he does. And probably a few others to boot (as if one Serious Problem isn’t enough):
        No respect for OP, either, regardless of OP’s gender identity. (Proof–not paying attention to A Serious Conversation, not telling OP Kate has vetoed whatever it was)
        Inflated sense of his own importance, therefore doesn’t need to follow rules/expectations/norms.
        Has the maturity of a 13 year old who has never heard the word “No!” much less been expected comply with it.

    2. Cheese_Toast*

      And I wonder if Randall thinks it’s fine, not because he is unaware of the full extent of the issue, but because there’s a good-old-boy mentality there. Like, oh, that’s just Kevin, he’s spirited, it’s all good.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Yep, this occurred to me too. Particularly Randall’s reaction — a lot of guys, unfortunately, tend to take this kind of disrespect aimed toward women much less seriously than they would regard it if it were directed at a man.

        1. Yorick*

          It’s partly because they don’t even see it, since the guy is perfectly respectful to him. So they have trouble believing it’s serious or may think it’s the manager’s fault.

        2. Not Me*

          Because they do it themselves too. They don’t consider it disrespectful, they consider it “how women should be treated”, which is different than how men should be treated.

      2. Retro*

        I think it’s more likely that as you move up the management chain of command, Randall is probably less likely to understand the strain that Kevin puts on the team by behaving poorly. He’s thinking Kevin has a weird moments but it’s probably not untenable when in reality, it has reached the level of OP considering disciplining Kevin.

        I find that it’s common for your immediate manager to know the pain points of your job, but boss’s boss has no idea that the time entry system or a certain paperwork item or whatnot is a big pain in the butt.

      3. Jen S. 2.0*

        Agreed. Randall: “Well, you know how it is.” LW: “No, I don’t know how it is. What do you mean?” “You know, it’s just hard for spirited young guys like Kevin.” “What do you mean? What’s so hard about acting like a professional adult?” “Well, you know, it’s just a lot for a young man to deal with when he’s in this situation.” “Exactly which situation are you talking about?”

        It’s not clear whether LW is a woman as well, but Kevin certainly is balking at taking direction from Kate, and Randall thinks it’s a perfectly logical reaction. No, no, it is not.

        I also have virtually no patience with grown adults who keep doing something to another person — especially at work — after being asked to stop because they “think it’s funny.” Be funny on your own time.

    3. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      It’s just as likely that he has an inflated idea of his own abilities and thought he deserved the promotion. There’s no indication in OPs letter that he has a problem with women managers. From the sounds of it he’s just immature and unprofessional. OP states that Kate was chosen partly because she is considerably more professional.

      1. Sick of Workplace Bullshit*

        Women or female-presenting people have more experience with this and are likely to see it where others don’t.

        1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

          Your putdown is based on the erroneous assumption that I’m not a woman/female presenting. I am in fact both. I have been in the workplace for 30 years, a lot of that in male dominated industries. I’ve observed and experienced plenty of sexism. Please don’t discount my opinion just because it’s different from yours.

        2. Magenta Sky*

          Unfortunately, they’re more likely to see it whether it’s more likely to be there or not.

          There’s perceptual bias on all sides of the issue.

          There’s nothing in the letter to distinguish between “problem with women bosses,” “wanted the promotion and didn’t get it” and “acts like a two year old with a dirty diaper.”

      2. Junior Assistant Peon*

        I agree – it may just be a case of acting out after being passed over for a promotion. You have plenty of concrete examples of misbehavior to justify a PIP or disciplinary action without speculating that he might be acting out of misogyny.

      3. Pollyanna*

        Yes, he may just be one of those people who has sailed through life and generally gotten what he wanted, and is now handling his disappointment spectacularly badly. Randall’s downplaying LW’s concerns is more of a problem, as Alison of course noted.

        Kevin uncorrected will be a long-running disaster if he stays with this company, and if by some nightmare process he does become a manager, that won’t mean he stops acting like a junior high bully. I hope LW can get clearance from Randall to actually manage this twit. Who stares at an *intern* just for giggles?

      4. KHB*

        Dollars to donuts the intern he was staring at is also a woman. (Jerks who behave like Kevin does often take pleasure in making women uncomfortable – not so much other men, although I’m sure it’s possible.) In which case, that’s now two data points that show Kevin having a problem working with women. How many do you need?

        1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

          Using the term “data points” doesn’t make them actual data points.

          1. KHB*

            OK, I’ll rephrase: How many women does a man have to treat inappropriately in the workplace before you’d conclude that he has a problem working with women?

            1. Magenta Sky*

              Your question is incomplete to the point of being irrelevant. Regardless of what number you assign the answer, if he treats the same number of men the same way, it’s not a problem with working with women, it’s a problem with being and unprofessional jerk.

              There’s nothing in the letter to distinguish between the two.

              1. KHB*

                I disagree that someone who’s an unprofessional jerk to men and women alike can’t also be a misogynist. If his specific unprofessional jerkitude with women (like, say, staring silently at someone because he thinks it’s funny to make her uncomfortable) lines up with patterns of misogynist behavior, that adds up to a misogyny problem, whether conscious or not.

                I also disagree that it’s irrelevant. We might not have enough information to conclusively convict or acquit Kevin of misogyny, but the OP (who has more information about the context of Kevin’s behavior than he or she has reported in the letter) can still benefit from being aware of the spectrum of possibilities. For example, if Kevin’s behavior is indeed rooted in misogyny, then the OP should be extra careful about putting the burden on Kate to bring Kevin into line, because that’s not fair to her.

      5. kt*

        This is the surface presentation of an unconscious feeling, in many cases. He has an inflated idea of his own abilities and thought he deserved the promotion, because this lady totally doesn’t have his stellar qualities!

      6. Aquawoman*

        IME, the correlation between guys who think they deserve to be promoted over a woman with more experience and misogynists = 100%.

      7. Smithy*

        Whether or not Kevin himself is bothered by women managers – I have to say that this kind of response often ends up replicating sexist systems whether or not that is Kevin’s primary issue.

        I’m a woman and work in an industry that while having mostly women staff, still somehow (somehow!!!) manages to end up with a higher percentage of men in leadership roles.

        I have also seen myself and coworkers chaff when leadership/growth opportunities aren’t made available that we feel should have been. By having a large and unprofessional reaction – Kevin will get more attention. And even if the attention is largely negative (i.e. this behavior is wildly inappropriate and needs to stop), that can serve as a catalyst to realize promotion opportunities won’t be fast coming and to actively seek advancement elsewhere.

        Quietly and professionally fuming, however, can lead someone to stay in a role for an extra year or two before realizing they need to leave. On the other hand, the Kevins already went out and found their next opportunities.

    4. Treecat*

      Yeeeuppp. I would bet Kevin wouldn’t be acting out to this extent if a man had been promoted ahead of him.

    5. Hedgehug*

      Is that not a sexist assumption?
      Because he is male who happens to have a female manager, his issues MUST be gender based? Why can’t he just be an arrogant, inexperienced, jerk with a big ego?
      The Letter Writer does not indicate anywhere that he behaves properly with male colleagues.

      This sounds like a call center, which I used to work in, and there is prevalent issues with employees acting like immature teenagers. I had a coworker who behaved exactly like Kevin when he didn’t get promoted. He didn’t get promoted because of his defiant, unprofessional behaviour. The hard conversation with him was basically the same you have had: why on earth would we make you a manager given your behaviour? You’re burning your bridges.

      1. Crivens!*

        We see it often enough to make an educated guess. Also, pointing out that many men have issues with women in authority is not sexism.

        1. Hedgehug*

          That is not what the commenter pointed out.
          The commenter judged that Kevin has issues with women. We don’t know that to be true. It is true that SOME men have issues with female authority. Assuming Kevin is one of those men based on a vague internet post in which we are not part of the context, is assumed sexism.

          Yes, it is true the two often overlap. But a lot of commenters on here are jumping on the #metoo bandwagon and painting Kevin as a mysogynist.
          I worked with a guy exactly like Kevin, who definitely had no issue with female authority, it was an issue with personal ego and entitlement.
          Is it possible Kevin does not like women authority? Yes, it is possible. But we shouldn’t just jump on that as the immediate issue.
          Take off the SJW hats and try to be objective.

      2. Caramel & Cheddar*

        “Because he is male who happens to have a female manager, his issues MUST be gender based? Why can’t he just be an arrogant, inexperienced, jerk with a big ego?”

        You would be amazed at how frequently these things overlap!

        1. Quill*

          You’d also be surprised about how many excuses are made for both issues on the basis that women who argue Occam’s Big Paisley Tie in regards to “is it sexism?” are overreaching because, hey, he only disrespected /one/ woman, and he’s been rude to a man before too!

          (Well, YOU wouldn’t. Hedgehug might. :) )

    6. Brett*

      There could be all sorts of weird problems. When I was first promoted at current job, I ended up being a contract employee supervising a full-time employee. He threw an extended tantrum that was so bad that his managing boss fired him for it. And the entire tantrum was primarily because he didn’t believe that contract employees should ever supervise full-time employees, though he was also mad that someone relatively new to the team had been given a leadership role.
      But age, race, ethnicity, perceived skill, tenure, experience, all of these can be reasons that someone decides to have an issue with a new manager or supervisor.

  5. MuseumChick*

    This may or may not be what is going on with Kevin but a get a slight whiff of misogyny. His behavior changed after a woman was promoted instead of him and he intentionally made a female inter uncomfortable.

    I think that is something you need to raise with your boss to get him on board with seeing Kevin’s behavior as a serious problem.

    1. Sparrow*

      I don’t think they specified that the intern was female. If they are, then yes, I’d definitely consider whether there are some gendered issues at play. If Kate is the only data point, then it’s possible he’s just generally a jerk with authority issues. But regardless of gender, staring at someone and refusing to stop is incredibly creepy and to do that to someone who’s less experienced and lower than you in the hierarchy is incredibly not ok. I can’t believe no one stopped it/there were no consequences…?

    2. Smithy*

      More broadly speaking on misogyny – my greater worry here is always that even if most of the attention Kevin is getting right now is negative, then it may motivate him more to look for new opportunities now.

      Let’s say Kevin and Kate are were in a broad peer group of 6 and Kate gets the team lead role. Say there were two with no shot due to be hired recently and then another 4 that includes Kevin and Kate. Maybe Management never thought anyone other than Kate had a chance, maybe it was murkier. But right now Kevin is getting all of the “unhappy since Kate’s promotion” attention. Let’s say our other two fictional colleagues are Kimberly and Kathleen and are also both chaffing but remaining professional with the assumption that in another 6-12 months there will be another opportunity.

      Kevin is getting more opportunities to get strong feedback – and even if that feedback is “you’re entirely out of line and have basically ruined all promotion opportunity”. It sounds like he’s also early in his career and this gives him clear guidance to start looking now for new roles elsewhere. It may be that Kimberly and Kathleen are also unlikely to be thought of for future promotions. Perhaps because the nature of the team, none will exist for a long time or they’re missing key pieces of previous work history that Kate had and they can only get that experience in a completely different job. Either way, Kevin will get the push to move on sooner and it may be that Kimberly and Kathleen burn more time in jobs with limited near term promotion tracks.

      Chaffing because others are getting promoted and you’re not, I think it pretty common. However, the louder and more aggressive it is – I’ve often seen payoff. Either an organization acknowledges the good work someone is doing and it motivated to expedite other opportunities. Or, that perhaps gets a hearty dose of reality and positions themselves to leave.

    3. Observer*

      Honestly, I think that misogyny is not an issue here. Sure, I would totally not be surprised if Kevin were a total misogynist – he doesn’t earn the benefit of the doubt here. But I think that the OP will so much better to focus on the behavior without ascribing motive. Because the reality is that his behavior IS unacceptable. So, I would not want to risk derailing that discussion with an argument of “is he sexist”.

      Also, it strikes me that *Randall* may be somewhat sexist. Which means that pointing out that Kevin is sexist (assuming that the OP is confident that this is the case) is likely to derail. I think that the OP needs to do what is most likely to get results. I also think that if the OP gets the backing they need to truly impose penalties on Kevin, that will do more for the women who need to interact with him, than the OP’s winning an argument about whether this is sexist or just garden variety equal opportunity jerk.

      1. B*

        Agreed. There is an established pattern of behavior in regards to a lack of professionalism – there is only one data point that suggests misogyny. 100% not discounting that as a potential reality, but we can’t know from this letter and it will only serve to derail the conversation in a way that is not beneficial to OP. As can be seen in the comments already!

    4. Dream Jobbed*

      I’m not sure the intern was female. As stated above “Dollars to donuts the intern he was staring at is also a woman. (Jerks who behave like Kevin does often take pleasure in making women uncomfortable – not so much other men, although I’m sure it’s possible.)” it seems to be a popular viewpoint.

      But, immature jerks can pick on anyone they think weaker, including a male intern that they can bully. I think if he had stared at a woman for that amount of time the company would be much more likely to do something, because that’s truly getting into hostile workplace territory.

      But, we really don’t have enough info to know. :)

  6. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    If nothing else, I think you should be really, exquisitely clear that this kind of behavior is a major damper on any management aspirations he may have. Managers have to model good behavior for their reports, and have to take much more crap, not less, once they’ve stepped up into that middle layer where orders are coming down from above and complaints are coming up from below.

    1. Annony*

      Yep. Have a very blunt conversation with him telling him that his level of professionalism is unacceptable in his current position and there is zero chance of moving up unless it improves. Additionally, you need to make it clear that reporting directly to you is not a step up, it’s an indication that you trust him so little you need to manage him personally. That’s a step down.

      1. Drew*

        Fantastic point. Kevin may be thinking, “Oh, behaving like this finally got me out from under Kate,” and he needs to be told explicitly this is NOT a reward for his behavior, it’s indicative of serious concerns about his work.

        1. Emily S*

          Yeah, I actually was concerned when I read that, because it inadvertently seems to undermine Kate by sending the message that boss doesn’t think that Kate can handle managing him – in addition to which he might view it as a “promotion” to get direct access to the Big Boss instead of having to go through the team lead. I can just imagine a guy like him now deciding that he’s now Kate’s peer/co-lead and being even more rude and gross.

          1. Nessun*

            That was my concern, too. If Kevin feels that moving him from Kate to the OP for performance management is somehow giving Kate less authority, he may feel his opinion of Kate is validated – she can’t manage him, she shouldn’t be a team lead. It needs to be clear that this is not a reflection on Kate, only on Kevin.

    2. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      That’s possibly the only thing that will get through to this jackass. OP would probably get a lot of leverage from pointing out that you don’t get promoted into a manager role if you display this type of behaviour* and that OP would expect to see X, Y and Z specific behaviours before he’d even be considered. Also that his recent behaviour has set him back considerably and undermined his previous reputation as a good worker and someone who could be developed into manager material.

      * If people who behave like this do in fact get promoted in this organisation, OP has bigger problems.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I think I’d just flat-out tell him, “And you have demonstrated this kind of behavior and attitude consistently enough that you will probably never escape your reputation here. If you ever want to move up, you are going to need to move out, because I can’t foresee us ever promoting you given the way you behave.”

    3. Nanani*

      This. Under no circumstances should that kind of behaviour be rewarded. It’s bad enough that it’s being tolerated this long!

      Enforce any consequence you can or it -will- continue.

  7. Hey Karma, Over Here*

    I’m very curious. He stared at intern during a team lunch. The intern was uncomfortable. No shit. What was the consequence of the that malicious act?
    I read Oh So Anon’s comment that Kevin’s behavior may be more serious than run of the mill misogyny,* but I’d put my money on that over a traumatic incident or brain tumor. A woman got promoted. Was the intern a woman? Someone in a lower position that Kevin could make squirm?

    It could be run of the mill insecurity and he’d be a dick to a man who was promoted before he was. And he’d stare down a male intern* just to make the point that he’s the big dog in the yard.

      1. Sparrow*

        I’m wondering this as well. Because if someone in authority told him to cut it out and he refused, that’s a very big problem that clearly rises to point of disciplinary action, imo. Even if a peer told him to stop and he refused, it’s clear that his judgement is questionable at best. (And if that intern was a woman, I’d definitely be keeping a very close eye on his behavior. That intern is probably completed creeped out, either way.)

    1. Threeve*

      Being an ass to the intern is the behavior I found most appalling. Experienced adults are better at brushing off creepiness and defending themselves, but someone younger and new to the working world and probably uncomfortable calling someone on creepy behavior? Hell with that.

      Why didn’t anyone come to the intern’s defense? “Kevin, if you’re going to stare silently, do it at your phone like an adult. [Intern,] don’t take it personally, Kevin is…like that. We’re working on it.” Even if you don’t have the power to censor the behavior, embarrass him about it.

      1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

        ” embarrass him about it.”
        The feeling I’m getting is Kevin is becoming the broken stair.
        Here’s an instance where the intern “tripped over the broken stair.”
        OP and Kate have to decide if they are going to manage Kevin, even if it takes publicly embarrassing him, or if they are going to manage everyone else. “I’m sorry that you were uncomfortable while our full time staffer stared at you in a situation where you weren’t allowed to leave. I know how you feel. So thanks for putting up with it.”

        1. tangerineRose*

          Yeah, it really bugs me that this intern was subjected to this. Interns have little to no power, and he was being a jerk.

          I think they should fire him already – he seems like the kind of person who likes being mean to people when he thinks he can get away with it.

      2. Burned Out Supervisor*

        Yeah, I’d start calling this stuff out as it happens (“Kevin, do you have something to add? You’ve been staring at Intern for 10 minutes.” “Kevin, why did you yell Burn at that comment? Would you care to elaborate on your thought process for the team?”

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          I would not give this guy a platform to “explain” himself in the meeting – he seems to be thriving on the negative attention. I’d err toward excusing him from the meeting and following up afterward to discuss his inappropriate behavior. (I’d have also let HR know as a heads-up about the intern-staring situation and how it was addressed as start to the papering of his file.)

          1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

            That’s a know your audience thing. He may be more embarrassed by his comment falling flat and being called out than he would feel concerned by a one on one after telling him it was inappropriate. “Everybody agreed with me, ha ha.”

            1. Burned Out Supervisor*

              Yeah, I suppose it depends on who Kevin is. If asked to explain and he claims up, that’s a win. I’m also a fan of the “stop talking and looking at the offender.” If they ask what’s up, I just calmly, in my best teacher voice and say “I’m just waiting for you to finish your thought so we can start the meeting.” Works like a charm in my experience.

  8. kapers*

    I think Kate should be the one to enforce all this. Part of his problem is that he doesn’t respect her, so she needs to lay down the law herself (supported fully by OP.)

      1. Sparrow*

        If OP is now Kevin’s official manager, it makes sense for OP to enforce this, but switching Kevin away from Kate does seem to be giving him what he wants, to a certain extent. I hope that doesn’t create further issues.

        1. Retro*

          I read it more as Kate has already tried her best to address these issues with Kevin with no success. So she’s escalated this upwards and OP is hoping they can get Kevin in line. Kevin isn’t able to be held accountable by Kate bc he doesn’t respect her, so let’s up the stakes and have him to accountable to OP who has more managerial power.

          Honestly it sounds like Kevin is headed to PIP due to his inability to receive feedback and adjust his behavior. It may be better for him to be managed by OP if OP has more freedom to dole out consequences. But with Randall around, it doesn’t seem so.

    1. Lance*

      I don’t necessarily disagree… but I’d also try and make sure Randall, who doesn’t believe disciplinary measures, would allow anything that has to happen.

    2. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      I also have concerns about this. It undermines Kate. I think OP should instead be coaching Kate on how to manage him. Also, when Kevin asks OP if he can do something, OP should be saying “have you discussed this with Kate?” Allowing him to go around Kate is also undermining her.

    3. winter frog*

      If Kate were a manager herself, I would agree with you . However, Kate is described as a “team lead”, and may not have an official management role.

      1. Mockingjay*

        In my industry, team leads manage technical workload and assignments, while employee supervision belongs to managers.

      2. BethRA*

        OP’s description of Kate addressing Kevin’s issues with him, and her saying she’s going to manage Kevin directly NOW would suggest that Kate has in fact been his manager, and not just a senior member of his work team.

        1. Lance*

          Not necessarily; it can easily come down to semantics of ‘managing’ when in such a case you’re overseeing their work and some of their performance, but don’t have the true authority of an actual manager.

        2. Half-Caf Latte*

          Yeah, that was my read as well. I’m concerned that OP is doing to Kate the same thing that they’re trying to get Randall to stop doing to them.

        3. Lana Kane*

          That a team lead discusses their dynamic directly with a corowrker doesn’t mean they are his manager. I have team leads in the teams I manage, and have coached one of them to talk to a coworker who was ignoring her daily assignments. I told her that if that didn’t resolve the issue I would step in.

          If Kate is a team lead in this vein – and I would say most team leads manage the work but not people – then she did her part by addressing this with him. Now it’s in OP’s court to back her up.

      3. Maybe Kate*

        I’m pretty sure I’m Kate, and if not, there is someone out there experiencing the same thing I did. You are correct, though. As a lead, I am not in an official management role.

    4. KHB*

      Depending on how deep Kevin’s misogyny runs, that may not be possible – there might be no way for Kate to gain Kevin’s respect, no matter what she does. In which case, you’re not doing anyone any favors by treating the situation as a Kate problem rather than a Kevin problem.

    5. M*

      Came to the comments to say a version of this. From what we know of Kevin, he’s reacted terribly to a (female) team lead being put in place above him, and handled it by undermining her authority and going around her decisions repeatedly. Responding by effectively removing him from her reporting line is, in one form, rewarding his behaviour – why would he change it if he’s got what he wants?

      Doesn’t mean OP as his supervisor shouldn’t step in more actively, but they should be pretty careful not to undermine Kate in doing so. So that means things like “Kevin, because you’ve gone around Kate in the past to try to get different decisions from me, Kate will need to be looped in on anything you pitch me in the future, however small”. There’ll be things that make more sense coming from the OP as his manager than from a project lead, but OP should be *very* careful to make sure that they’re not stepping in over Kate on things that she would normally manage.

    6. ArtK*

      If Kate is a “Team Lead,” she may not have the authority or responsibility. I’ve been a team lead in a number of jobs but all discipline and personnel management was the manager’s job. If OP is the manager, then it certainly is her job to handle this and it’s not undermining Kate whatsoever.

  9. irene adler*

    Randall has got to have your back. In general and in regarding to Kevin.
    If not, that’s a whole ‘nother thing.
    I never know if my boss will back me up on issues-especially if the issue involves another man. Not a comfortable feeling to have.

    1. Antilles*

      Yeah, that was my biggest takeaway too. Kevin is awful here, but I’m more worried about the overall structure.
      First off, it’s not a great sign that Kate (team lead) and OP (manager) apparently both feel the need to go up the chain to do any sort of corrective action.
      Secondly, either OP hasn’t told Randall the full story or Randall is a garbage manager. Any one of the things described in the first paragraph is immediately worthy of a “cut this crap out, right the bleep now or else” conversation; all of it together completely justifies action and honestly might even be at the “this isn’t working out, pack your stuff” level.

      1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        I’ve worked places where going up the chain was part of the corrective action protocol, ex: you and your boss would write and present the corrective action form together to Kevin.

        It’s not efficient, but if that’s the rule for everyone, you do have to follow it.

        1. The OP*

          Hi, I’m the OP. This is it exactly — at my large workplace, I needed to inform my boss and his boss before we went to HR. Which we did.

    2. Magenta Sky*

      Yeah, if the letter writer isn’t allowed to impose punishment for misbehavior, they’re not a manager, they’re a blame boy.

      1. irene adler*

        Exactly. I’m not seeing any consequences for Kevin when he exhibits boorish behavior. Sure, he gets a ‘talking to’. But that’s just more attention- which seems to be what he wants anyway. All the more enjoyable for him!

        Surely there’s an employee manual that discusses discipline and actions management might take. Randall has to have OP’s back for when these disciplinary measures are meted out to Kevin. That incident of going around Kate’s authority- that alone should have incurred punishment.

  10. Sparrow*

    My immediate thoughts are 1) start documenting, if you’re not already, just to be thorough, 2) clarify with Randall exactly what *would* rise the point of disciplinary action in his mind, and 3) get in the habit of redirecting people to the appropriate person when they come to you instead of their team lead/direct manager. Otherwise, you will end up inadvertently undermining someone again, even if it’s not Kevin who causes it.

  11. Serin*

    Are you the facilitator for these meetings he’s disrupting? Or even present?In the moment, you can say sharply, “Kevin, that’s inappropriate.”

    It’s not a solution to the root problem, but on the other hand, it’s something you can do without any backup from your boss, and it means that when Kevin behaves unprofessionally in your presence, he experiences some discomfort right away.

    1. Retro*

      Completely agree! It’s almost always better to address something when it happens. Kevin is making everyone uncomfortable and he should understand that discomfort by being called out. Addressing it in the moment, in front of everyone in the meeting says to Kevin that everyone thinks he’s being a big ol’ weirdo and he should expect that the next time he does something disrrupting, he will be called out and everyone will stare at him like a weirdo.

      It’s possible that Kevin just lacks self-awareness and the calling out will be an obvious sign to him of how inappropriate his behavior is.

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

      I think if the OP is the most senior person in these meetings, even if they aren’t the facilitator, they can still interject. “That’s not acceptable.” “That’s inappropriate.” “That behavior isn’t going to be tolerated.”

      I would bite my tongue though on saying, “This is why you weren’t promoted.”

  12. CM*

    Clearly there are lots of issues, but the main thing that stands out to me is that politely complaining about too many meetings doesn’t sound like a very good burn.

  13. CynicallySweet*

    Why in the world would he think that this behavior is ok for someone who wants to be a manager?

    1. Holy Moley*

      I was thinking maybe because he is so young he might just be completely clueless as the skills and knowledge needed to be a manager. Id be tempted to send him to communication training or a leadership skills course so he could start to see proper ways to act. I dunno. Just a thought.

      1. Texan In Exile*

        Why should he be rewarded with training on how to be a decent human being? I am not seeing a future for Kevin at this company.

        1. Natalia*

          Exactly! Why take the time and reward someone with training? I don’t see a future for Kevin at this company either…

    2. B*

      Not terribly surprising. In high school and college you are rewarded based almost entirely on output (so long as you aren’t acting out to the point of disciplinary action – which at least at the schools I attended required a whole lot more than just being immature). You could be the class clown, unprofessional, mildly creepy, etc. etc. and so long as you continued to do well academically – you’d still progress, be eligible for scholarships etc.

    3. Natalia*

      Because he is immature and clueless. Maybe he needs to be shown the door and find other employment…

  14. Hiya*

    I’m wondering about pulling him from his team lead and op managing him. It seems that this undermines Kate and sets him apart from the rest of the team. It seems Kate needs help managing him but removing him from her chain of command seems off.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Agreed. I don’t think it’s a good step. Back up Kate and if he comes to talk to you about things he should be asking her about, don’t say yes or no, redirect him. He doesn’t get to opt out of having her as a manager by behaving badly.

    2. Washi*

      Yeah, it almost seems like rewarding Kevin for his bad behavior to Kate. I would focus on backing Kate up and getting things ready to put Kevin on a PIP.

      1. learnedthehardway*

        This is exactly what I was going to say – Kevin will interpret the changed management structure as a reward. He will certainly spin it that way to his coworkers. And worse, other coworkers may very well believe that Kevin has been rewarded / semi-promoted, which will demoralize the team.

        It would be far better to work with Kate to help her manage Kevin appropriately. Seems to me that a PIP would be a good step to work towards – and hey – Kate will increase her management skills. And so will the OP – providing support and coaching to a subordinate who is managing a difficult employee is next level leadership (as opposed to jumping in and managing the employee directly.)

    3. Me*

      I would even say that Kate needs support more than help. When the jerk came to OP to ask permission to do something, OP should have said – Have you addressed this with Kate, your team lead?

    4. Dumpster Fire*

      If I were OP, I think I’d “manage” Kevin as follows:
      – You wanted a promotion, but your behavior and attitude have set you back further than you were BEFORE Kate was promoted. It’s going to take a huge effort to get back even to that point.
      – Your actions have put you into a position that it’ll be difficult to have anyone give you a good reference.
      – Now you’re going to go work for Kate with the right attitude or you’ll be looking for a new job.
      Basically straighten him out and put him back where he belongs – and make sure Kate knows that Kevin is on a short leash.

  15. CaliResi*

    This reminds me of a coworker I used to work with. My former coworker (let’s call her Karen) was extremely territorial with her work, acted like she was in charge when she wasn’t, overstepped her boundaries, and had an all around bad attitude. She also talked down whenever she wanted and had no qualms about doing so. It got to the point where I was afraid to even look at her. She was also very passive-aggressive (ie. “SOMEBODY should have done this FIVE MINUTES AGO!”). She also reported me to HR for very petty reasons – something that I will not discuss in detail here.

    The only problem? My boss was a bit too easy on her. Any other boss would have fired her well over a year ago. Karen ended up staying there for 3 years (and counting). My boss had told her numerous times to tone it down and watch her attitude, but she always reverted back to her old ways. I eventually accepted the fact that she was simply a b*tch and was never going to change. Eventually, when my boss quit (for unrelated reasons – he was there for 7.5 years and accepted another job), Karen’s attitude got even worse, because nobody was there to keep her in check. Because of Karen, I ended up quitting on the spot after a VERY difficult conversation with her. It was not pleasant. Fast forward, I am now employed elsewhere and none (and I mean NONE) of my coworkers come even close to having such a nasty attitude as Karen. It surprises me to see how super nice everyone is here.

    1. Sighhhh*

      WOW sounds like we worked with the exact same Karen! Because the thought that there are multiple out there terrorizing workplaces around the globe is too depressing to think of…

      1. Ego Chamber*

        Samesies! My Karen threw a huge hissy fit after getting too stressed out talking to a client on the phone and caused a huge scene by screaming in my face that her specific work task she’d been assigned was something I needed to take over and do right then because she was sick of dealing with that client. I was too stunned to react and my manager was there in under 10 seconds to send me on my way while she talked Karen down.

        Later, I saw a coworker in the break room and he was like “So I heard Karen yelled at you today.” I said “Who’d you hear that from?” and he said “I heard it from my desk.”

    2. Lonely Monster*

      I’ve worked with a lot of Karen’s. They terrorize their co-workers and management. For some reason their allowed to drive out all the good employees, and basically do whatever they want to do.

      And heaven forbid you try to go to HR or management, who seems to think that Karen is untouchable. (More like they are afraid of her because she goes off or threatens to sue)

      1. BerkeleyFarm*

        Yes, if “Karen” stays, it’s because “Karen” has an enabler somewhere up the chain. Management is either afraid of her or management “doesn’t think it’s that bad”. (“Karens” often suck up and punch down.)

        One other scenario for the former is what I’ve seen called “the Dead Sea effect”, where “Karen” has gotten control of some considered-essential company function and will not cross train/share.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I had a Karen who went on a one woman war to get me to not take any medications at work. She hated medications for some reason and this escalated to talking over me in meetings I chaired and saying things like “ignore her, she’s popping pills”.

      Management refused to do anything. She’d been there longer.

  16. C.J. Cregg*

    I’m concerned that OP took over managing Kevin again. This undermines Kate and supports his acting out even more. Potentially Kate is supportive of this move but she also may be feeling that she failed in managing him and the move did not give Kate a chance to demonstrate or grow her leadership skills.

    1. AyBeeCee*

      This is my concern also and might give Kevin a “win” over Kate.

      (Also I LOVE your handle! Tell Gayle hi!)

  17. Jennifer*

    He’s a sexist pig. He has to want to change for himself and it’s not your job to rehabilitate him. Cut him loose.

  18. Sighhhh*

    Alison and other comments have had great suggestions. I’d also like to posit that this kind of behavior sounds a LOT like the attitude problem we’ve discussed at length on this blog: “A Harmful Need to Be Me.” He sounds a lot like the types of folks who have this insuppressible urge to “be themselves” and perform their personality/every whim that comes to them, regardless of the environment they’re in. Pair it with entitlement, lack of honest feedback in previous lifetimes, someone just out of college, and very possibly a hint of misogyny, and you get a coworker who refuses to respect workplace norms if they “constrain” them in any way.

    This sort of pattern will repeat itself until the “need to be me” person actually, truly realizes that they need to make a change for their own good. Until that lightbulb moment happens (whether it’s during Alison’s script, or if he gets fired), he will never grow out of it because these types of folks convince themselves that it’s the company/manager/corporate culture’s fault, rather than troublesome behavior on their part and they’re not as funny or charming as they imagine themselves to be.

  19. Arctic*

    The answer didn’t really address that the LW took over from Kate. I think that is really undermining Kate as a manager when it seems as though Kate was doing the work in trying to manage him with the same (minimal) success as Kate.

    And in some ways this was really a reward for his bad behavior. Even if he had no issue with Kate (and I think he probably does) he has one less direct report chain. And most likely he does have an issue with Kate for being promoted over him and now she has no authority over him, which is what he would have wanted.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        Is there any way for you to check? It would explain a lot.


  20. Althea*

    Isn’t it undermining to Kate that OP doesn’t trust her to handle this, to the extent of shifting Kevin out from her team? I would think they should plan on ways to handle it together.

  21. Lonely Monster*

    Kevin sounds like a friend of mine Keith (not my friends name). Keith went to an expensive school for a technology degree, got his degree and started applying for jobs.

    Keith thought because he had a degree, but no work experience, he thought that meant he should be getting hired as an executive or management. He turned down every entry level job as being a waste of time and he expected his salary to be $100,000 or more because of his “degree”.

    I have a feeling Kevin thinks that he should have had Kate’s job, and thinks that he’ll get it by being rude and unmanageable…

    Too many recent graduates are getting their degrees with this “expectation” that they will be starting at the top of their field and how dare anyone offer the entry level salaries/jobs.

    1. Snarkastic*

      Well, that’s ridiculous! Where on Earth did he get the idea that no experience gets you right to the top?!

      1. Lonely Monster*

        I guess Keith bought into the schools hype about, how their school was ranked in the top 10 in the nation spiel. Much like how if you graduate from Harvard Law School that some how makes you better than other less known law schools.

        What Keith didn’t realize is that his classes and labs didn’t count as “real” work experience. His references from teachers only cited how he was a “good student”. When interviewers sent him tests to do to determine his knowledge/experience, he would give it back saying he didn’t pay XX dollars at his expensive school to do more tests.

        He sincerely believed that his “degree” from a top school was all he needed.

        He would complain about being broke and needing money, but refused job after job because “said business” didn’t respect him or the time he put in getting his degree.

        Keith now works in a help desk call center, barely making ends meet, complaining how he should be make 10 times what he’s making because of his “degree”

        1. Ego Chamber*

          Aww man, I think I worked with this guy too (at a call center). He didn’t respect anyone who had experience at the call center because “they don’t have a degree” (some of them did, dude?) and he didn’t respect anyone who had a degree because *checks notes* reasons.

          He also “should have been making more” but the call center was the only place that would hire him. Shock.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Ah Keith. That’s how my besties cousin was. Guess who’s still living in his parents home without a job many years after he obtained that degree? Shocking, right?

      Some of this is on the schooling process, some really drill it into your head what you should expect that is wildly out of range. We found out that people at a local technical college were told they should expect to start out the gate with a very high range of pay, when that’s not at all how it works. So we’ve had a lot of graduates try to tell us they’re worth literally 2x the starting wages and we’re like “Not here you’re not, this is an entry level position, exactly what the job description says.”

      1. Impy*

        I don’t blame the students though; it’s really not their fault they get lied to. It took me several years to work up to what I was told I’d earn on graduation, and I was bitter about it for a while. Especially because my friends who’d skipped college and gone straight to work from school were buying their own homes at a point where I could barely afford ramen.

    3. Automated*

      To be fair to recent graduates, this was happening 10 years ago when I graduated and I am sure it happened 10 years before that as well.

      I think this is especially true for first gen students, who were sold on going into major debt to leave their blue color backgrounds behind.

      Then they graduate with $50k plus debt and are offered entry level roles that pay 50% less then entry level work as a plumber or welder.

      And sure, 10 years later I am making 50% more then those plumbers are, but it was a hard start at entry level and I was really bitter about the whole thing.

      Some of this is young person cheek but a whole lot of it is an economy and education system that do not support one another or even speak the same language at times.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I think you’re tripping up with the fact that “recent graduate” in this story doesn’t mean “Today’s graduates” they simply mean “People who are recently graduated.” be that in 2020 or 2010. When they’re fresh out of the gate looking for that first job, this is an issue.

        She’s not saying “today’s graduates” are the problem, this has been a system issue forever. As you’re confirming.

      2. B*

        Why hello fellow bitter great-recession graduate! Seriously though, your comment made me feel better because I had similar circumstances and have a hard time not feeling resentful. All of my peers just opted out and lived at home for over a decade, married rich, or had other circumstances where they never had to become financially independent during the heck-hole that was that economy. So it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that I am not alone!!

        I appreciate you.

    4. CW*

      That kind of thinking will not help jump start your career. In fact, it will only stall it. And people like Keith complain how nobody wants to hire them. If you want $100,000/yr, you gotta climb up the ladder and work for it. Everybody needs to start entry level.

      In fact, that is how I started it. I took low-paying temp jobs ($15-$18/hr) when I first entered the real world. I was only able to stay afloat because I lived rent free with family members, who always supported me 100%. I was grateful for that but being in late 20s, I was getting antsy and ready to move out on my own, and in no way could I live on my own on a temp salary. I should also point out that I live in California (though I will not specify where in California for privacy reasons), and the cost of living is really high here. My first full time permanent job came in November 2016, but it was a severe lowball pay of $15/hr. I took it, though I was less than thrilled about the pay. And no, this was not a minimum wage job – this was a 9-to-5 white collar job. To make a long story short, I was out of that job in April 2017. The low pay negatively affected my ability to keep a happy face there.

      Fast forward, leaving that low paying job derailed my career, so much that I stuck working various low paying temp jobs in 2017 and 2018 due to my lack of stability and experience, I finally got another permanent position in January 2019, which paid $51,000/yr. That allowed me to move out on my own and still maintain my lifestyle. I should point out that I quit that job at the end of July because the workplace got way too toxic for me. A month later, after sending out hundreds of application, I got employed somewhere else making $52,000/yr. I am still employed here and very happy.

      Of course, my story isn’t ideal for anyone – but alls well that ends well. If I want $100,000, I need to build my experience first and work hard. People like Keith need to realize that, then they will get to where they want to be.

  22. 4Sina*

    We live in a society, and all of these actions separately are worth disciplining. Together? He is a nightmare.

  23. anon4thisone*

    The staring seems particularly egregious because is not simply tone-deaf or entitled, but also creepy. But I could see other reads, too, especially if we had more information.

    The conversation about sexism really interests me a great deal because of a personal experience. I was director level at a corporation and had a colleague who also reported to my boss who was project manager-level. He had a bachelors, very little professional experience, and did not supervise anyone. Meanwhile, I (a middle-aged woman with great performance reviews) had significantly more education and experience and managed a mid-sized team. He would confront me in meetings when I presented different takes on decisions, would freak out if I had my own thoughts about technology (his area), and would confront me in the hallway and use a very loud bellow to interrogate me about issues that were not at all in his portfolio. “When are you planning on finishing this?” “Walk me through your steps and planning process for X/Y/Z.” He would invite himself to meetings he wasn’t invited to because he was worried that I might possibly casually discuss something that pertained to him. And so on.

    It was constant and it escalated. My boss, who liked both of us (she liked chatting with him about a niche hobby) always framed it as though we had differing personality styles. I think she couldn’t admit to herself that this person she liked was a jerk and probably a sexist jerk.

    I left pretty abruptly when I realized that she was never going to intervene or ask him to stop his shouty hallway management. One of the things that I hated the most was that my mental real estate was more and more preoccupied with wondering if he was socially clueless and entitled or sexist and entitled. It does matter, right? I presume if I had worked closely with HR on this I would have had more protections put in place to assist me if his actions were deemed sexist. There wasn’t much way to prove this in the short term, however, and I didn’t want to spent my professional time documenting unpleasant reactions or thinking of a clever way to take down this goober.

    It’s damaged my career overall and I feel pretty upset still.

    1. Retro*

      I think it’s important for everyone to realize, and I tell this to a lot of young professionals, that you can’t always fix the problem. Your first job is to protect yourself. There’s no obligation to fight back, especially if you feel like the organization around you won’t allow you to fight back to the best of your ability.

      So anon4thisone, don’t look back too much on the negative effects this experience had on you. Celebrate that you realized how messed up the situation was and got out!

      1. anon4thisone*

        Aww, thanks to you and Snarktastic. Yes, get out if you can. But try to stay until you have that new job secured.

    2. Snarkastic*

      Well, that’s awful. I’m so sorry that your manager did such a terrible job. Bellowing is not a personality trait, it’s bad behavior.

    3. Observer*

      Your manager was being an idiot. And it’s a shame that you didn’t feel like you could go to HR. After all, people should have recourse to stop bad behavior even if it’s legal. And even if HR doesn’t care about that, they should realize that it’s bad for the business anyway.

      If HR won’t or can’t put a stop to this kind of behavior, getting out of there was your best bet. That’s on them, not on you.

      1. anon4thisone*

        Yeah, HR was not helpful in general, so I didn’t feel hopeful. They were inclined to counsel people to work things out by airing feelings. I think there are time when that might be appropriate, but this was not one of them. And they tending to want a whole year of exhaustively documented PIPs before firing anyone (not that my boss wanted to fire him…)

        I was looking for a simple, “Percy, please don’t speak to Tara about her workload/how she’s handling tasks or assignments. Please do not check in with her direct reports or reassign their work/tell them to shift priorities (he did this at least twice that I know of). Focus on your work only and take care to modulate your voice. Tara is allowed to have independent thoughts about software and technology based on her professional experience and you can’t get outwardly upset about that.”

        That would have been enough to get me to stay. I was saying these things to him directly all along but I wanted big boss to back me up.

        1. Observer*

          That’s pretty egregious. The fact that your boss acted as though these things were merely personality differences is ridiculous.

          1. anon4thisone*

            Yeah, she used to act like she was one tough number, but was very conflict-avoidant. Oh well.

            It is validating to hear others say that this sounds like a no-win situation. Thank you! I felt terrible for leaving so quickly but I was getting pretty stressed by the hallway confrontations. It *felt* sexist. I can never know what was in his mind and he probably wasn’t fully aware of why he was acting the way he was, but my guess is that he was raised to believe that he had “leadership potential” and that it rankled him to see me (not his idea of what a leader looks like) in a management position. It’s just a guess, though. It felt different than my encounters with garden-variety jerks.

  24. LQ*

    I want to quibble with the idea that the quality of his work isn’t an issue. Part of your job is to interact with your coworkers, clients, interns, bosses, and other folks in the course of your job. You don’t do your job in a corner not talking with anyone else not interacting with anyone else. You do your job with people, for people. Part of your job is to Professionally Human. You don’t get to just quit doing a chunk of your job because you don’t like it. You don’t get to be rude, disrespectful, and inappropriate with the people you work with. That’s not acceptable and it means you aren’t doing your job.

    Too often folks like this get a pass because “quality of the work isn’t an issue” but it is though. And sure, some people get to have a pass on being Professionally Human but that’s got to be a brutally high bar since it isn’t something you can outsource to others.

    1. ACDC*

      Even if the quality of his work isn’t an issue, his behavior could be impacting the quality of other people’s work!

  25. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    Kevin might be a jerk who intimidates and disrespects anyone who can’t push back, or he might be an immature kid with poor emotional regulation who can’t get a handle on his disappointment and frustration, or he might even be an out and out sexist. Depending on the situation, OP will likely take different action.

    Perhaps the OP can provide more information or even directly indicate whether the behaviour seems to have a misogynistic basis. Responses based on the assumption that he *must* be a misogynist seem unhelpful and don’t help OP to deal with the problem effectively.

    1. LQ*

      I actually think that the response is the same for all 3. The way you talk is direct and clear and you say that it is not acceptable to behave this way in all three cases. And if the behavior continues the same way that it is now the outcome will be the same. I’d feel the most bad for the immature kid who can’t get a handle on his disappointment and frustration, but if he is offered time and space and clear direction and he still can’t get it then that’s not the OP’s job to fix either. He needs a therapist or someone else to help him, and he can’t continue on as he is.

      I agree that the assumption that he’s misogynist aren’t helpful. But I think the answer is the same regardless.

      1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

        For example.

        1. Sexism. “Kevin, your rudeness to female colleagues and your tendency to continuously talk over women in meetings is unacceptably sexist behaviour and contravenes the policies laid out in the HR handbook. It is a condition of your continued employment here that you treat all colleagues with respect. If this doesn’t stop immediately your employment will be terminated.” That’s if you plan to give him a chance. Else, you just terminate his employment as per the HR policy regarding sexist behaviour.

        2. Childish/petulant behaviour. “Kevin, your disruptive behaviour and attempts to undermine your supervisor are unacceptable here and in any other professional workplace. You have damaged your credibility as a result. As a requirement for your continued employment here, you need to learn to deal with your frustration and manage your behaviour in a professional way. I need to see an immediate improvement otherwise you will be placed on a PIP.”

        3. Bullying. “Kevin, I have observed a pattern of you behaving in an intimidating manner towards your peers and juniors. This will not be tolerated. As of now, you are on a PIP and your continued employment here is at risk.”

        1. Observer*

          Eh, I don’t think any of these speeches is necessary. #3 is all you need for all the cases – There is a pattern of rude and intimidating behavior. It’s unacceptable and needs to stop.

  26. a1*

    I’m going to back to Alison’s comment to be sure you’re really clear. Not “it would be nice if…”, “we’d prefer you not to…”, “I don’t know if you realized…” “We don’t do things that way…” and so on. You need to be clear, concise, blunt, whatever word you want to you. “Do not go around you manager on work assignments.” “Don’t blurt out “burn”, or other jabs, in meetings”. “If you want to be a manger you cannot do X, Y, and Z. Period.”

    I also agree with others upthread that correcting in the moment is key, too. Even a simple “Cut that out” or “that’s rude”, “Stop talking and let Kate (or whomever) finish”, etc.

  27. tape deck*

    What stands out to me was that Kate was promoted over Kevin in part because of his lack of professionalism. It sounds like this is something that should have been addressed before it got this bad. Not that it justifies his behavior in any way, but ideally it would have either been nipped in the bud at the start, or it should have been explained to him as one factor in the decision to promote Kate and not him. If you haven’t touched on this, it might help, if for no other reason than to point out he’s acting against his own self-interest.

    I have mixed feelings about not having him report to Kate–I definitely see the point others are making about undermining her, but I also cringe at subjecting her to him. In any case, Alison is right that getting your boss on the same page is the most important thing, because it sounds like Kevin needs the boot or at least the threat of the boot.

  28. Me*

    Are ya sure managing him yourself is the best option? Because I can totally see this kind of person would see that as a reward. Now he reports directly to you. Now he’s on the same level as Kate. Now he REALLY isn’t going to listen to anyone.

    The issue as I see it is he doesn’t respect Kate’s authority. Her not having that authority over him is giving him what he wants.

    Please consider what that move does to Kate.

    1. TTDH*

      I would tend to agree – someone with more aspirations than professionalism will probably see being managed directly by OP as a step up in the hierarchy. That sort of move also takes a (difficult but useful) learning opportunity away from Kate, if she’s interested in formally moving into management at some point.

    2. The OP*

      I think your point is a good one, and I worried about this. Kate had basically done everything she could, and I worried his behavior was moving towards harassment of Kate directly. Kate is an outstanding team member who had recently taken on even more responsibility. I was more worried about burning her out than about Kevin’s perception. But your point stands.

      1. Me*

        In a way, harassment is sometimes an easier thing to get traction on from above. The potential of a lawsuit does wonders for being able to remove a problem where simply being a terrible employee does not.

    1. The OP*

      Kate doesn’t have hiring or firing authority as a team lead. That stays with managers and above at my large company.

  29. #idatherbequilting*

    You can start on progressive correction action path using something like unprofessional behavior. Maybe he thought it was okay to say in a private meeting and not in front of customers? Depends on your culture. You may have to define and explain professional and appropriate behavior in meetings.

  30. CupcakeCounter*

    So question for the OP about directly managing Kevin…
    First off, would this undermine Kate’s authority over her team? If so, don’t do it. Instead, make a very visible show of supporting Kate and her authority over the situation. Make it clear to EVERYONE that Kate is in charge and that you are happy with her work and the way she is running her team.
    However, if Kate’s Team Lead role is truly non-supervisory and she has no authority to hire/fire/discipline, etc…then yes step in and be very direct and clear with Kevin. The big one is to hit him where it hurts. In private, bring up the action (BURN!) and make it very clear that those behaviors are one of the many reasons he did not get the team lead position and why at this point he is not being considered for any promotions. Clearly spell out that all possible raises and promotions are off the table and it will take significant work to get himself back into consideration.
    You also need to have a similar conversation with Randall (possibly with Kate present as she might have other examples) and make it clear the severity of the issue including that this isn’t the first time his attitude and unprofessional behavior have been addressed. Don’t go in looking for permission per se. Spell out the issue and inform him that you intend to pursue disciplinary action (maybe loop in HR as well).

  31. Fikly*

    You need to rephrase this in your head. The quality of his work is an issue. Part of his job is interacting with coworkers and management. He is clearly failing at that.

  32. Observer*

    OP, I have no idea if Kevin is a sexist jerk or an equal opportunity jerk. And I don’t think it really matters. But if the intern is female or Kevin is (or is seen as) gay and the intern is male, then you should point out to Randal that what he did to the intern could easily open the company to discrimination law suits, directly (for that behavior) or indirectly (as supporting a pattern of behavior.) Because no matter what his “real” reason for doing this was, the staring was clearly a sexualized harassing action and there is no way that the company can defend it. It was public, so the company definitely DID know about it.

    1. anon4thisone*

      Sexist jerk or an equal opportunity jerk: to me, a woman, (and a sample size of one) it *does* matter.

      When someone is an equal opportunity jerk, it doesn’t feel like they believe that an entire gender is incapable of performing well/holding leadership roles. They are just crabby/rude/idiotic/whatever. You can write them off and go about your day.

      When someone is potentially only being a jerk to women (or women and persons who challenge their ideas of masculinity at work) it feels different. It feels like they believe that people who present as feminine cannot be leaders/take charge/be as competent. It feels disheartening and demoralizing in a different way that can impact the quality of your daily experience at work. You start to wonder if others believe you shouldn’t be in charge as well but are better at hiding their true thoughts. You start looking for patterns in case you have to defend yourself. You start worrying about how you outwardly present yourself (makeup/clothing) and if you appear leader-esque. I actually had a man that I networked with when I was 30ish tell me that I was “very smart, but lacked gravitas.”

      It can get in your head.

      1. Observer*

        I get that it can feel different. But from the point of the manager, what matters is the behavior and observable / concrete / expectable impacts.

        If it looks gender (race, religion etc.) based, the company needs to treat it like it’s gender (etc.) based. If it disproportionately affects people of one protected group, same. But even if it’s not illegal discrimination, they STILL need to put a stop to it.

  33. Jedi Squirrel*

    Randall is the real problem here. Of course this rises to the level of a corrective action/PIP. Kevin’s behavior is even fireable. (Staring at someone to the point they are uncomfortable? That’s outright hostile!)

    I used to work for a Randall. He was only interested in hearing good things. I couldn’t discipline the people under me, and their lack of performance (including not doing the job correctly even though I had addressed it that morning) would affect my annual bonus. His suggestion was to buy everyone a candy bar when they did their jobs correctly. I’m not rewarding someone for doing their job correctly. That’s what a paycheck is for. You get a candy bar when you go above and beyond. (Yes, this was retail, and yes, these were grown adults.)

    I don’t work for Randall anymore.

  34. The OP*

    Hi, I’m the OP. I haven’t had a chance to read all of your comments, but I do see some great points being made.

    I wrote this letter in October, and I’m happy to report that the situation ended up being quickly resolved (at least, so far). I went back to Randall and insisted we talk to HR. (Randall is generally an awesome manager, by the way, but he is considerably more patient than I am.) HR recommended a written warning, which is actually stronger than a PIP at my company. If Kevin steps a toe out of line again, he’ll be let go.

    Kevin seems to understand the seriousness of the warning. He’s decided management isn’t for him, which I agree with. He’s now pursuing a technical path to promotion. His behavior has improved, and I hope he keeps it up.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Yeah, in our world a warning like that is more serious than a PIP as well, since PIPs are usually for actual performance issues that can be overcome in a different way than a total attitude adjustment.

    2. Natalia*

      Well glad he realized management isn’t for him! It definitely isn’t based on his immature actions.

  35. Lonely Monster*

    I guess Keith bought into the schools hype about, how their school was ranked in the top 10 in the nation spiel. Much like how if you graduate from Harvard Law School that some how makes you better than other less known law schools.

    What Keith didn’t realize is that his classes and labs didn’t count as “real” work experience. His references from teachers only cited how he was a “good student”. When interviewers sent him tests to do to determine his knowledge/experience, he would give it back saying he didn’t pay XX dollars at his expensive school to do more tests.

    He sincerely believed that his “degree” from a top school was all he needed.

    He would complain about being broke and needing money, but refused job after job because “said business” didn’t respect him or the time he put in getting his degree.

    Keith now works in a help desk call center, barely making ends meet, complaining how he should be make 10 times what he’s making because of his “degree”

  36. Not So NewReader*

    Has anyone asked Kevin if he actually wants his job? Not in a threatening manner but in a manner such as to get him to think.

    As I read OP’s letter I was a little discouraged by the lack of info about what OP said so far and the running list of how rotten Kevin was. For example, what was in that Come to Jesus Talk anyway? What was his reaction to what was said?

    What I see here is a person (Kevin) who believes they are a powerless five year old. People do this stuff when they privately believe they have no more control over their setting. What has been said specifically to tell him how to progress in his position here? We can’t tell for sure. I think OP could privately what has been said so far, to look for ways that she might handle it differently if this ever happens again. It’s fairly common for people to really believe they are speaking directly and the listener has No Clue what they just heard. I used to find ways for the person to give back to me what I just said. “So give me an example of how you can apply what we just talked about here.” I could tell by their example if they were getting the overall idea. Sometimes this question was not appropriate for a given situation, so I would ask, “Now that we have talked how do you think you might handle a similar situation differently?” I had coaching mixed in with the reprimand.

    I think there has been too much damage done on both sides for the situation to be salvaged. Kevin has behaved so poorly, that no one can “UNsee” it. He has damaged his reputation beyond repair. But this is a two way street, because in Kevin’s mind he no longer believes in his company or his immediate supervisors. He does not trust them to give honest advice and he does not trust them to have his best interest (staying employed) at heart. His actions clearly convey this. When trust is broken on both sides to this degree the relationship is probably over.

    You do need to back up Kate. This means talking to Kevin privately and informing him this is his supervisor. He is to follow her instructions period. Failure to do so means he has failed to fill the requirements of the job.
    Years ago Big Boss hired a teen to work in my area for a short period of time. This new hire announced to everyone that he did not have to listen to me, I was not his boss. I needed this crap like I needed a hole in the head, we worked hard and we were crazy busy. I told Big Boss what was said. Boss indicated he could follow my instructions or make use of that door over there. New hire dialed things back.

    New hire still left before his term was done. Like you show here, this was an unhappy person and there was not anything anyone could do to make them happy.

    1. Kate 2*

      Before Kevin can progress he needs to rise to the level of baseline professionalism. Based on OP’s letter he has never been professional but this was ignored because his work was decent. People who react to disappointment by pouting and sulking like a 5 year old aren’t good employees, never mind deserving of advancement. And not every good employee is even meant for promotion and/or management. Someone might be good at one level but not able to handle more responsibility or manage employees.

  37. Argh!*

    If Kate is a new supervisor, and he wanted the job and she’s not doing it very well, it would be natural for him to feel bitter.

    It sounds like he also needs to feel that he’s been heard. The OP only made it clear that the LW has been heard. If he’s feeling disrespect heaped upon disrespect (from his p.o.v.), he may have passed the point of giving a fig. Coming back from that place is a long slow road when you get no support. Listening to him and then saying “suck it up, buttercup” is not helpful, either.

    LW needs to talk to his supervisor & if possible sit in on their meetings to see what the dynamic is like. There may have been good reasons to promote her or there may have been what *seemed like* good reasons to promote her.

    Has LW talked to him about his career prospects? About his development? Whether they want to make an investment in him? There has already been an investment in this person, and hiring someone new is expensive, so it’s worth investing in something more than discipline if possible, imho.

    1. Argh!*

      p.s. neurologically speaking, negativity is a habit, so letting this go on too long will have made it hard for him to change. If LW has noticed a positive change, that is worth noting in conversations, too. Meeting negative with only negative and not meeting positive with positive will only hurt his attitude more.

    2. Impy*

      Where does it say she’s not doing the job well? Why are you being so sympathetic to this giant manbaby who is effectively throwing a tantrum because he didn’t get his way? It’s not OP’s job to coach him through his disappointment. This is a case where he really does need to ‘suck it up buttercup’. I can’t fathom why he’s still in the running for a promotion after this behaviour.

    1. fhqwhgads*

      It’s an exclamation that essentially means “haha! whatever the other person just said was a keen insult to you!” where “you” is the person to whom “BURN!” was directed.

  38. Impy*

    “How do we help this guy who behaves inappropriately, bullies the interns and undermines his boss become a manager?”

    You don’t.

  39. Former Employee*

    Kevin thinks he’s being funny. However, if the intern he stared at and made uncomfortable is female, then the company may be lucky that they aren’t facing a harassment complaint. It’s all fun and games until someone gets offended enough to make an official complaint. At that point, Randall will be asked by his bosses to account for why he didn’t do something about Kevin before things went off the rails.

Comments are closed.