promoting a bully, job searching during coronavirus, and more

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

1. Should I promote an employee who has a history of problems with coworkers?

I am a general manager of two quick service restaurant locations of a small local chain. Running two locations has left me stretched very thin. Last September, I lost my assistant general manager (AGM) due to her wanting to go back to school. She helped me with all the day-to-day to make sure things ran smoothly at both stores. Now enter my employee Abby. Abby is a shift supervisor at one location and the most senior employee beside myself. She made it known before my AGM resigned that she wanted this position and would do anything to get it. This made my former AGM very uncomfortable and she ended up leaving before her two weeks had been worked out.

Abby is an extremely hard, dedicated, and reliable worker. She is very good and efficient at her job, but she lacks formal manager experience. She is also immature and instigates drama. Almost any and all drama, whether between other workers or our clients, usually has her at the center of it. She has bullied people in the past and would talk unprofessionally about coworkers. I have sat down with her several times and coached her on how to talk with her teammates and have seen slow but gradual improvement. I believe the team I have now does respect her, and much of the drama has subsided. However, I am now in the market to hire for the AGM position, which she has has been clear she wants and believes she deserves. If I hire someone new, it would devastate her. Morale would tank and she would regress to her formal unprofessional self and potentially quit. But I hesitate to offer her the promotion due to her past transgressions. Her feelings surrounding this have caused me to leave a position I desperately need filled empty for several months. Do I take a chance, offer her the promotion, and risk her going on a power trip and reverting back to her bullying ways? Or do I simply hire someone new who is qualified and let the cards fall where they will with her?

“She really wants the job” isn’t a qualification for a manager role. And you can’t hire someone to manage others who has a track record of bullying, stirring up drama, and talking unprofessionally about her coworkers — not unless years have passed since the last signs of that behavior (and even then I’d be concerned about the message it sends anyone who was around for that behavior). Your fear that she’d revert back to that behavior if she doesn’t get the job is a sign that she’s not right for it — you can’t put someone in that role where you’ll have to worry they’ll behave badly if things don’t go their way.

Fill the role with someone more qualified, and be willing to lose Abby over it.

2. I’m about to manage someone who thinks we’re good friends

I have accepted a management role in a new team my company has set up. My coworker also applied for the role (unbeknownst to me at the time). She was not offered the job, but was offered one of the team roles so now I will be her manager. I found this out before her and was initially concerned that she might be upset that I was chosen over her, but the opposite problem has occurred: she is delighted and is telling everyone that if it wasn’t to be her, she would have wanted it to be me as we are so close and great friends. She is also saying that our team will be amazing with both of us on it.

I am not a very demonstrative person but she is and up until now I have been fine about her suggesting hugs when she’s happy, one of us has a birthday, etc. I wouldn’t have described us as any closer than any of my other colleagues, but I think she feels differently. Previously it seemed mean to make this clear since it wasn’t causing a problem.

I am concerned that unless I nip this in the bud before we start our new roles we will both end up looking unprofessional, other members of the team will be upset at our being “close” (according to her), and she is going to get a horrible shock when it comes to performance management, etc. She is great at what she does and I think she will be an asset to the team, but I want to sensitively address this so she doesn’t become defensive or lose face. Do you have any tips on how to do this?

Have the “our working relationship needs to change” talk, which is a conversation a lot of people end up needing to when they start to manage former peers. You can frame it as, “I hoped we could talk about how our relationship needs to change now that my role is changing. I know you’ve mentioned to a few people that we’re close friends — and I’m concerned that could make people worry that you have special access or that my relationship with you is different from my relationship with them. It’s important to me that everyone feel they’re on equal ground! And of course, I’ve got to be able to be unbiased and fair in managing you and have us both feel okay about that. So our relationship does need to change to one with more distance. But I’m excited about working together in this new way and hope you are too.”

3. Should I tell a job applicant about an error in their materials?

I work for a small company in a specialized field. People will occasionally email their resumes even if we aren’t actively advertising any openings. This is fine, I keep them, and sometimes when we are looking to fill a position we will look through these resumes to see if there might be someone we want to interview.

I recently received one such resume, opened it up, and saw that it includes a cover letter addressed to … one of our competitors. This isn’t the first time this has happened, and I can understand how a slip-up like this occurs when someone is emailing their resume to every employer in their field in their region. My question is: should I email this person back and tell them? They are recently out of school and looking to get their foot in the door somewhere. A mistake like this won’t help. (We have no openings so it isn’t impacting their chances here, but to be honest, if I receive something like this in response to a posted ad, my chances of bringing them in for an interview are very, very slim. I think the least an applicant can do is get the name of the company they are applying to correct.)

I used to occasionally email people about this kind of thing, but no longer do. Yes, it’s a kindness to let them know about the error … but the more you hire, the more you see this stuff and you can’t email everyone. And ultimately, you’re not their proofreader or their job coach. (That sounds callous! But it’s just not your responsibility to point out errors, particularly when you have other demands on your time.)

4. Following up on a job during coronavirus

Is it tone-deaf to follow up about a job you’re in the running for in the age of coronavirus? I was supposed to hear back by mid-March and I’m not sure if it would come across as self-centered to check in about the status.

Additionally, I have not yet been reimbursed for my cross-country trip and would like to address that (also in a non-tone-deaf way, if possible).

You can follow up, but assume things are taking a lot longer than they normally would. For a lot of companies, hiring has moved way down on the priority list, and many hiring managers’ focus is elsewhere. If the reimbursement weren’t in the mix, I’d wait at least a week more and then check in with wording like, “I know your timeline has probably changed with everything that’s going on, but I wanted to reiterate my interest and hope to hear from you whenever you’re ready to move forward.”

But given the outstanding reimbursement, you could follow up now (as long as it’s been at least a couple of weeks since you expected to receive it) and add something like this to the language above: “Whenever you have a moment, I wanted to check on my travel reimbursement; I haven’t received it and wasn’t sure if you needed anything else from me to process it. (But I also realize you’ve probably got your hands full right now!)”

5. What does it mean that a job I interviewed for was cancelled?

I applied for a job about six months ago and had a longer than average phone screen with the whole search committee (this is a non-faculty, full time academic role) and then an in-person interview about a month later, which involved a preparing a presentation and completing two tasks related to the role and lunch with the committee, in addition to the standard interview. I think it went well, though they were clear that their timeline might be longer than anticipated due to constraints around the role. When I did not hear back from them, I assumed I did not get the job, though I did notice that it was reposted every few weeks on the university’s job site.

Last night I got an email from the hiring manager (who I know personally and professionally) and she stated the position has been cancelled. What does this mean? I had moved on but now I’m trying to figure out if this means that they thought I was such a bad fit that they decided to not even fill the position. Also, would it be out of line to ask the hiring manager, who I have worked with in different capacities if there is any information about the cancellation or feedback she can offer?

There are a bunch of reasons they could have canceled the position — a hiring freeze, a department reorganization, a person who was going to leave deciding not to, budget constraints, deciding to restructure the role, etc. Or sure, it’s also possible that they just didn’t find the right candidate, but in that case they’d be more likely to keep looking than to cancel the role altogether.

I wouldn’t ask for feedback; since they canceled the role, they’re not really thinking in terms of how you could have been stronger. And I wouldn’t ask for more on the cancellation either; it might not be info they’re comfortable sharing, and it’s not info you really need. (Basically, when you’re just curious about some aspect of a job that you’re no longer in the running for, you should let it go rather than asking them to spend time satisfying that curiosity. They’ve likely got their hands full with other things, particularly right now.)

{ 259 comments… read them below }

    1. WoodswomanWrites*

      I’m curious why the letter writer has been willing to accommodate Abby for so long when she has clearly created problems for so many other employees for a long time.

      1. Lena Clare*

        Yep, right!

        LW: don’t promote Abby; it’s ok to lose her.
        You win on both accounts. Don’t promote a bully – that’s a terrible misuse of power, now and in the future.

        1. valentine*

          A good employee left early because of her! What is so great about Abby that is worth having her hold everyone hostage?

          1. Veronica Mars*

            Yes, seriously! Abby quitting is a feature, not a bug. I mean, come on, it reached a point so bad your Good Reliable Employee couldn’t even stomach the final 2 weeks?

            I think as managers its important to keep in mind that the problems you hear about Abby are only 5-10% of the actual magnitude and quantity of problems. People really don’t like to tattle to their boss about problems, and when they do they often soften the language. So however bad you think Abby is… quadruple it. Do you still want to subject your other employees to that reign of terror?

          2. Mel_05*

            She shows up. She does good work.

            This isn’t an office, it’s a restaurant and it is astonishingly hard to find people who will show up to their shifts at a restaurant. It’s even harder to find people who will show up and do a good job.

            If the other people are finding her to be a bully and a drama queen, but they’re also people who call out with no notice because literally everything is more important than their job, or who talk on their phone in the bathroom for 45 minutes everday… it’s probably hard to want to fire her.

            I’m just guessing. My husband deals with a variation on this theme every 6 months or so.

            It is better to let this person go, but it feels devastating, because now *you’re* working her shifts, now you don’t have someone to cover other people’s shifts, now you’re paying your only other reliable person 20 hours of overtime just to keep the store open. Now you’re training 6 new people and only 2 will work out and you’ll train 12 more before you find a real replacement.

            Food service is the actual worst.

            1. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

              I agree with you about food service being the worst which makes it more important to stop bullying in its tracks. A good manager will help retain good people. A bully manager attracts other bullies and sends good people fleeing out the door. People who work in food and hospitality talk and know which workplaces are toxic or have that one manager whose reputation precedes them.

              1. Mel_05*

                Eh, a good manager will retain some good people.
                But the best people will be off to bigger and better things.

                It’s still food service, no matter how great the manager.

                But, I do agree, it’s important to get rid of those awful people. It definitely can cause problems on down the line. I’m just saying that the realities of food service are why this manager doesn’t want to.

            2. BRR*

              Yeah I’m guessing it’s some combination of a) the common theme of not thinking “getting along with your coworkers is part of your job” and b) the different standards of restaurant hiring. But I hope the LW considers how this employee likely drags down the work quality of others and makes it clear that to this employee that behaving professionally is a requirement of the job.

              1. Decima Dewey*

                OP 1 says she’s seen gradual improvement. Or does she just want to see improvement?

                I’ve worked with managers who are convinced that they’re seeing improvement in difficult staffers. But in some cases I’ve worked with the difficult staffers in other locations, and I don’t see improvement, or at least consistent improvement. What I see is some improvement for awhile, then gradually going back to the lateness, bad behavior, whatever got them talked to in the first place.

            3. Panthera uncia*

              Yeah, this was my guess too. As a server I found it insanely easy to pick up shifts because people just…didn’t feel like showing up? Being reliable got me quick, extreme favoritism.

              1. The New Wanderer*

                I wouldn’t call that favoritism, but rewarding a good employee which is as it should be. They should want to keep a great and reliable performer!

                Abby’s case is not the same. Showing up reliably is good. Causing drama and driving off good or potentially good employees is really bad. It doesn’t balance out the good, it way offsets it. Giving this person official authority when they can’t manage decent peer relations would be very bad.

                1. Panthera uncia*

                  I was a 35-year-old waitress surrounded by college girls too drunk to show up for work. Ain’t nobody qualified to bully me.

              2. BluntBunny*

                Yes good employees are rewarded with more work. The unreliable and lazy ones aren’t asked to stay late or to work more and are not punished either.

            4. Observer*

              Which is all good and fine. But if your ONLY reliable person is also a bully and the center of every drama in the place, it’s a good bet that this person is exacerbating the problem. And if you elevate that person, it’s going to make the problem even worse.

              Again, keep in mind that she managed to drive off someone who really WAS good and who the OP really wanted to keep.

              1. Mel_05*

                It sounded like that person was leaving anyway and left before her two week notice period was up.

            5. Oh No She Di'int*

              God bless people who work in food service and people who manage in food service. Both seem nearly impossible. I have heard it put this way: One of the challenges of hiring in the food service industry is that nearly everyone you hire will consider their job to be temporary almost by definition.

              1. Tidewater 4-1009*

                The job is considered temporary because food service is not a good way to make a living. Low wages in fast food and dependent on tips in restaurants, and no benefits.
                I loved restaurant work, but to survive I had to start doing office work instead.
                I know there’s little LW can do about this, I’m just saying that’s why workers put their long-term priorities first.

            6. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

              I wonder how many people who might have been more reliable either quit or didn’t even apply to work here because they knew about this person. Unreliable employees might magically be more inclined to show up for shifts if they don’t have to work with a bully.

              1. Annony*

                I was thinking the same thing. The fact that she drove the current manager to leave before her two weeks were up suggests that she may be doing a similar thing to other employees.

              2. Mel_05*

                I understand this thinking, but getting rid of a bully doesn’t create a better pool of people to hire.
                Most of the time my Husband’s store has no bullies at all and people still pull all kinds of nonsense.

                A person who has been through that nonsense and has a reprieve could easily feel like it’s not worth it to fire the bully.

                1. Molly Coddler*

                  Just wanted to point out that if you are not an employee in a specific place, you might not be aware of bullying. Many times it is covered up as something else and you hear a story that sounds good. There are plenty of restaurants that have employees for 8-10 years and even longer. If it’s a good place to work, people will work there.

            7. tom*

              That is quite possible, but there is one more aspect to the situation. Having to work with bully has miraculous ability to kill motivation and any will to go to work. It is even worst to be under bully. I am not saying those people slack because of her, typically non slackers don’t want to slack and leave as soon as they can.

              Abby was talked with and improved. Unlike others I dont think she should be fired. When people improve after being told about problem, that is great.

              But if there is worry that she will revert if denied promotion, then it is quite sure she will revert when she will be stressed by new responsibilities and after getting power. There is no way to supervise how leaders communicate with those under them. OP wont be able to know what is going on.

            8. Criminologist*

              Don’t forget – LW said she causes drama not only with coworkers, but with customers!

              Fire her ASAP.

            9. TardyTardis*

              Well, the whole restaurant drama can be resolved through the proper application of coronavirus–I mean, coronavirus precautions, however attractive the first option might be for some people. After all, in my state restaurants and bars can only do take-out and delivery. Obviously, you are going to have to downsize. What better time to release the bully and drama queen into the wild in a relatively no-fault fashion?

          3. Elizabeth West*

            Yeah, really. No one is indispensable. Signed, someone whose anxiety suffered from watching a bully manager pick on someone all day for six years.

      2. Mookie*

        Right. If the risk of promoting her is the same risk as hiring externally, there are no other responsible and available choices but to can her now or warn her that past shenanigans will never be tolerated no matter who assumes the AGM role, and then follow through with that promise.

        If morale is so important, why does the continued happiness and productivity of the LW’s staff take second fiddle to the aspirations of a good (in some wags) but neither exceptional nor unexpendable supervisor? Is the LW stretched so thin, she doesn’t think she can handle both training a new assistant AND replacing Abby with a better, more promising employee? If this is the best performance out of an employee the LW can get, she’s not good at managing and/or she is pathologically conflict avoidant.

        Imagine putting on hold finding an essential member of a team because someone might have a tantrum. LW wants to blame the delay on Abby’s “feelings,” but in actuality the only one responsible for this state of affairs is the LW and her bad choices. Why string Abby along, rather than immediately tell her she is absolutely not suited to the job and proving in future she is suitable and stable will be determined, in part, by how she behaves when she doesn’t get her way and has to answer to someone she may unreasonably resenr?

        1. kittymommy*

          Yeah, the morale statement confused me as well. I would think the morale of the entire staff outweighs the morale of one person. And quite frankly if multiple people both current and past, have a problem with Abby, I would bet that most in the future will have a problem with Abby.

      3. Mel_05*

        It’s hard to find reliable workers in food service. And the work is so exhausting without them that it’s hard to want to get rid of a reliable person, even if they cause drama.

        1. Facepalm*

          Causing drama between employees is one thing, but she causes drama with their clients! If I went to a food establishment and had some kind of drama with one of their employees who wasn’t even a manager, I would never go back and I would tell my friends/family about my experience too. So it’s quite likely she has lost some customers for the business. What a crappy position, OP.

        2. Molly Coddler*

          I imagine if she’s like this and has stayed so long that the place is toxic and that’s a reason why people leave. And a manager who excuses someone’s bullying because it’s too difficult to find someone else is basically saying it’s ok that their employees suffer just so this manager doesn’t have to go through any hardship. Said manager can’t be surprised when there is high turnover in this type of situation. Just my 2 cents.

      4. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

        OP says she is “an extremely hard, dedicated, and reliable worker. She is very good and efficient at her job”.

        I guess [benefit of Abby] >= [drama Abby causes] + [stress for OP of firing Abby].

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I agree, it does sound like it. I am reading OP’s letter as, it is a benefit to the restaurant to keep Abby, all things being as they are now. Granted, I also agree with OP and Alison that, if someone else gets this position, that Abby will probably leave. But I also think that, if Abby gets the promotion, everyone else will leave, which will be a lot worse.

          As a side note, I am very uncomfortable with her saying she will “do anything” to get the promotion. What does “anything” even mean here?

          1. Observer*

            We have a pretty good idea, actually. And that’s what the OP seems to be missing – Abby may be a hard worker, but she clearly will abuse anyone else who she perceives to be competition and drive them out. Which means that the day she gets promoted is the last day that the place will be able to retain decent staff.

          2. JustaTech*

            What if OP said something like “You said you’d do anything for this position, so here’s what anything looks like, watch these online management classes, create no drama, defuse existing drama, and thoughtfully shadow the new AGM for at least a year.”

            That’s probably super unrealistic and naive, but it does make all the expectations very clear.

      5. Richard Hershberger*

        “Abby is an extremely hard, dedicated, and reliable worker. She is very good and efficient at her job…”

        Abby has been worth keeping in the past. But if she is driving other employees away, that likely is no longer true. And putting her in a position to drive employees away en masse would be a disaster.

        1. HarperC*

          This makes me think of the book “The No Asshole Rule” where there is some statistical evidence that even though a jerk may seem like a top performer, they are usually keeping others from living up to their potential, just by the fact of them being a jerk and demotivating others, etc. So, by removing the jerk even though they might be a “top performer”, the productivity of the entire team goes up after the jerk is removed.

        2. What the what*

          This, exactly!! If it was 2 years ago I would think it was my OldJob, so here’s how it went. Our “Abby” was given the agm job and fired 7 months later for stealing. In the interim 4 people quit, all giving Abby’s behaviour as the main reason they left. 3 others (including myself) took second jobs and reduced our availability to avoid working with him. It was several months before that place was properly staffed and running normally again. And since he was fired for a reason other than being a first class a%#& bully none of the staff trusted the boss afterwards. Don’t do it!!

    2. allathian*

      Definitely. I’m wondering why you’re even considering any other course of action, TBH.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        I can imagine that being stretched thin between 2 locations, the OP perhaps can’t dedicate enough time to managing Abby or training new people for supervisor positions.

        1. DustyJ*

          I wonder if OP is stretched so thin between just two locations because Abby is *already* running half the business into the ground, by torpedoing productivity around her and driving away staff?

          Also, if Abby is upset about being turned down because of her past behaviour … yes, dear, those are called ‘consequences.’

          1. Ice and Indigo*

            Yeah, about that, LW1.

            For starters: if you’re stretched thin, the absolute number-one priority for anyone you delegate to is that they’re a safe pair of hands. You need to know that you can tell them what needs doing, then feel confident turn your back on them, sure they’ll solve the problems you asked them to solve and not create new problems along the way. You say Abby’s improved, but she’s only just finished driving out someone you needed to help you, so she has in no way improved enough. She’s improved enough to keep her current job rather than needing to be fired, maybe. That’s not AGM-level improvement.

            You sound like a nice and considerate person. But here’s the problem: I think you might be a bit scared of Abby yourself. Not that she’ll bully you directly, because you outrank her, but if you’ve been putting off doing what you obviously want to do, which is hire someone better, for months, at your own cost, purely because you’re hesitant to deal with Abby’s feelings if you do … well, you’re kind of going in fear of her reactions too, aren’t you? To the cost of months of extra strain on you. Dear LW1, I think Abby has been bullying upwards as well as down.

            Here’s what I suggest:

            1. Hire from outside. Check references, and go for someone who shows both efficiency and people skills. In the interview, sound out how they’d deal with a bullying subordinate. When you take them on, if Abby hasn’t quit, make it part of their briefing that they need to keep an eye on her and tolerate zero bullying and drama.

            2. Inform Abby that you know she wanted this job, but on reflection, you have decided that her history of bullying makes her unsuitable for it, that you’re aware she’s worked to improve, but the changes have not been complete enough, and the unprofessional way she behaved to the last AGM shows that she’s still in no way ready for a position of greater authority. Tell her you understand she’ll be disappointed, but that if she wishes to stay in this position you expect her to act with complete professionalism.

            If she quits, great! You can hire somebody else who causes less drama. I doubt many employees will be that upset with you for not promoting someone you couldn’t trust not to bully them.

            If she doesn’t quit but takes out her disappointment on co-workers, including you, maybe consider firing her, or at least tell her she’s on a formal warning.

            LW1, you don’t want to promote her, so don’t!

            1. Quiet Liberal*

              I agree with this excellent advice! I’m so sick of working with and reading about top performers who are a drag on the rest of the team. They really aren’t the best employees are they? Upper management treats them like they are untouchable because they produce and make money (and in this case, fill in for absent employees), but that comes with a lot of baggage. I wonder if LW1’s other employees are not as reliable as they could be because of Abby and her crap.

              1. Wintermute*

                Yes they absolutely can be the best on the team, another poster (not clear if it’s the original writer or not) but this in context as in food service. And in that case it’s 100% possible for someone like this to be the only thing keeping the business afloat, because they’re reliable, they show up when they say they’re going to show up, they work all shift long without disappearing, and they provide excellent service that keeps customers happy and coming back. It doesn’t take many disaster shifts thanks to a few no-shows with no replacements on hand for a restaurant to get a reputation of “oh the food is good but it’s a two-hour wait, don’t bother going there” and then, as competitive as the market is for Restaurants, you’re gone, done for.

                Life is complicated, it’s not always a case of “if they’re a jerk they must really secretly be a terrible employee”

                1. Observer*

                  Yes, but even in food service, if someone is THE REASON why NO ONE else is reliable, they are NOT the best person.

                2. TardyTardis*

                  Then again, food service is being shut down all over the country because of coronavirus precautions. One would think this would be the perfect time to do a smidge of winnowing.

            2. Kesnit*

              The previous AGM was leaving anyway. She left early because of Abby (though from the context, after she had already put in her notice), but I would not classify this situation as Abby driving her away.

              1. Observer*

                She left earlier than planned – that’s pretty bad. In some ways, even worse, because most people can stick out a couple of weeks. So it Abby’s behavior must have been really over the top.

            3. The Supreme Troll*

              Regarding to “consider firing her” if Abby reverts to her previous ways…Abby would need to be terminated ASAP!

            4. calonkat*

              Would it be worth seeing if there was some promotion between assistant general manager and her current position? Team/shift lead, scheduling, something to let Abby get the experience that might show whether she’s actually capable of more?

              I do understand the importance of reliable and dedicated, but this seems like a HUGE leap and management involves so many issues that Abby may not have experience with.

              1. Ice and Indigo*

                If she made the previous AGM leave early and her manager this wary of upsetting her, she doesn’t look capable of more. If anything, she seems unable to handle responsibly the amount of authority she already has.

    3. TV or not TV*

      I’m not saying Abby should get the promotion, but I do think that firing her would be the wrong move. LW says that with coaching, Abby has shown improvement and that the rest of the team respects her. Seems LW has done an effective job of managing Abby and getting positive results. Do you want the rest of your team thinking there is never any point in trying to improve your shortcomings? Seems firing a “very hard, dedicated, and reliable worker” would not set a very good example.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        The fact that OP is concerned that not getting the job will make Abby revert to her former behavior gives me pause.

        How much of the “change” is performative rather than legitimate?

        1. embertine*

          To be fair, it doesn’t matter. As long as Abby is able to maintain better behaviour, it doesn’t matter whether she’s really changed or is still a bully and a drama llama inside. The problem is that OP doesn’t think she will maintain it, and is afraid of Abby’s reactions. I think she should have been fired ages ago, but in the absence of a time machine I say hire from outside, and if Abby quits, win! If she stirs up trouble, OP has more than enough history of addressing the behaviour to be able to justify firing her.

        2. Veronica Mars*

          I mean, has she even changed at all, or has she done a better job of terrorizing people into keeping their mouth shut? Or have other people given up on getting things changed so now they just don’t bring up problems?

          The fact that Abby has made the owner so fearful of her reaction that she has gone months without help is a sign to me that it is most definitely time for Abby to go. Sounds like she sucks and isn’t going to change (enough to make this work long term, but maybe justttt enough to make it less painful to keep her).

          I also hard disagree that it will disincentive other people. In my experience, people think their company doesn’t care about them when they keep a mean manager in place, not think less of a company because they didn’t give the manager time to change their ways. You can both be a reliable dedicated worker, and a terrible person/boss. In fact, its easier to coach people to be reliable than it is to teach them to be nice to people.

        3. MCMonkeyBean*

          But that’s just something OP is worried *might* happen. It sounds like so far Abby has been on an upward swing in terms of performance. Hire an external person for the promotion and *IF* Abby reacts by behaving badly then fire her.

      2. Myrin*

        I mean, I might be bringing my own experiences into this too much, but:

        1. OP says she has “sat down with [Abby] several times and coached her on how to talk with her teammates and have seen slow but gradual improvement”. That… is not really a positive result. Not the having to sit down with someone several times (!), nor the slow (!!) improvement. She should’ve sat down with Abby once or maybe twice and seen immediate improvement for this to be in any way remarkable or successful. Also, bullying your coworkers is not a shortcoming.

        2. Again, I might be projecting, but I can almost guarantee you that the team doesn’t respect Abby. People like that simply don’t get respected by their teams. People probably try to be as quiet and conforming as possible so that they don’t end up on Abby’s bad side and OP, who is by her own admission stretched too thin and as such likely not able to adequately observe the daily ins and outs of this workplace, sees only what’s on the surface.

        1. Veronica Mars*

          Right. I think a lot of times its easy to fall into the trap where seeing improvement = they’re trying = I have to keep them. But really, if a problem is Very Bad it requires Very Significant and Very Immediate resolution.

          LW, to put it another way, can you step back and honestly evaluate if “improved Abby” is anywhere near as good as you’d likely get in an outside hire?

        2. Scarlet2*

          Yeah, I fully agree. The team “respecting” her sounds more like everyone else is tiptoeing around her and keeping a low profile because they probably think she’ll never be fired or disciplined. And there’s a fairly big chance the “improvement” is mostly her becoming better at hiding her behaviour from her superior. If she’s just driven away a good employee, her attitude obviously hasn’t changed at all.

      3. Asenath*

        I thought so initially until I remembered the bit where the former AGM left early because of Abby’s behaviour. That makes it sound like Abby may have improved her behaviour, but hasn’t improved it enough to be considered for the job.

      4. Mookie*

        She should have been removed as a supervisor while working out these personal deficiencies. Instead, she learned that bad behavior has no substantive consequences in this workplace and that the LW is a pushover who can be convinced a former bully is suitable management material.

      5. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff*

        I’m not sure that ” the rest of the team respects her”: I can easily imagine they just give this impression because they are afraid of Abby or have noticed that there is favoritism towards her.
        And promoting a bully is also setting a terrible example.

      6. Anonapots*

        To me, the biggest issue that hasn’t been mentioned is how will Abby respond to the new hire/promotion? Because I suspect it won’t be good.

      7. BluntBunny*

        Would you knowingly hire a bully? If you called an external candidates references and they said they create drama all the time and bully employees would you think they would be suitable for a manager position? Food service is customer service based being able to work in a team, being friendly and working under pressure is key. You need to be able to resolve issues and prevent tension not cause them.

    4. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

      Yes, I quit a job when a “reformed” bully was promoted. So did several other workers. It took a year of high turnover before management realized what a mistake they made. That workplace still has a reputation for being toxic even though the bully is finally gone.

    5. WellRed*

      Seriously! Fire her! What even?! Morale would Really tank if you promote a bully. A bully!

      1. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

        Yes, people who weren’t there during her reign of terror heard stories. She had her boyfriend sit in the back parking lot and time peoples’ breaks.

      2. Ice and Indigo*

        Question: is Abby the kind of drama llama who might ’quit’ in the expectation you’ll beg her to stay/tell her you’ll overlook it because she was obviously overwrought? If so, don’t. If she quits, accept her resignation and refuse any backtracking.

    6. Ms. Ann Thropy*

      100%. Even having to make the mental calculation of “If I don’t promote her she’ll start bullying people again” is ridiculous. A promotion would literally be rewarding her bad behavior, and would demoralize your good employees.

    7. TimeCat*

      Especially in food service where people will peace out very quickly because of a bad manager. A bad manager at a restaurant really makes your life hell and restaurants have high turnover to begin with.

    8. BethRA*

      So she’s the center (and instigator) of almost all drama, made your outgoing AGM so uncomfortable she left before her notice was up…

      Why are you worried about Abby quitting, and not the rest of your staff?

    9. ToodleOodleWhordleOrdle*

      Abby has the makings of what I call an “Unmanageable.” They’re bullies, they behave badly and cause drama, so no existing manager wants the job of managing them. BUT they perform well in other ways, so firing them doesn’t seem right. So they get promoted! Win-win, right? The org keeps them, and nobody has to deal with being That Guy’s supervisor! Except they are TERRIBLE managers, of course. If you promote someone because you don’t want to deal with the drama of not promoting them, you are effectively passing the problem of dealing with this person’s drama onto the people they will now be managing, which is just a really unclassy and cowardly move. Man(ager) Up and promote someone who will be a good leader.

  1. Senior Montoya*

    Have to disagree about OP #3. Unless you get lots of these and it’s taking too much time to contact folks about the error, it’s a kindness to do so. Sometimes people make mistakes, because, humans. I myself have bloopers, uploading a draft of a resume rather than the final version.

    As a search committee chair, I always contact the applicant to let them know about the error ( and if it’s that they’ve submitted a letter for a different job, ask if they are interested in our position), tell them who to contact in HR to get it fixed, and ask them to email me when they’ve fixed the error. Mistakes like this happen to even good candidates.

    If we interview them, I probe more for disorganization, lack of attention to detail, poor follow through.

    1. Veronica Mars*

      I think it depends on the error. If I notice a typo on a resume and have some time, I’ll reach out. Depending on how they respond its actually a good additional data point.
      But with this specific cover letter example, I feel differently. I assume its a one-off mistake, so there’s less benefit in pointing it out. If they are making this same mistake for multiple other companies, they kind of deserve whats coming, since cover letters should be customized anyway. Its not like a resume where its safe to assume that the same mistake is going to get broadcast to dozens of places if they don’t fix it.

      Anecdote, I’m an obsessively detail oriented person, I swear. Its my job to catch errors in paperwork and I’m excellent at it. I check over resumes 3+ times and then have my husband and mom do another check. I just found out my resume has had a typo in the phone number for the last YEAR. I found out when I applied to my old company and my old boss couldn’t get a hold of me using that number. I was mortified. So, it can happen to anyone.

      1. Elizabeth Proctor*

        I agree, Veronica. This is a mistake that’s completely random and may or may not happen in the future. If someone has a typo in their email address in their resume, well, that’s unlikely to be noticed by them and changed unless it’s pointed out.

      2. Texan In Exile*

        My superpower and my tragedy is I can see a typo in anyone else’s work but mine.

        1. Veronica Mars*

          I think this is a human condition, lol. Try reading it out loud, or better yet, paste it into google translate and have it read out loud to you. Humans are conditioned to skip mistakes when they know what its *supposed* to say.

    2. Bagpuss*

      Yes, I think it falls into the category of “You are not obliged to tell them, but if you have the time, it’s a good thing to do” – so yes, I personally would default to telling them unless there is a good reason why that isn’t practical. Especially if the applicant is or appears to be someone who is at the start of the career or may not hav a lot of experience.

      But if you are very busy or dealing with large volumes I don’t think you are doing anything wrong if you don’t tell them.

    3. Tan*

      Sometimes it’s a kindness that goes ignored no matter how much you try to help. Once had a teacher friend’s student email me a asking about a possible summer internship /work experience. I took the time to reply in detail, pointing out we do sometimes take on students but on a case-by-case basis, it was not a standard process and how it might work. I highlighted where their CV and cover letter needed a revision as it was clearly aimed at another company that to us was ~50% competitor and ~50% client. Before telling them whom to contact. A week later they then sent their CV and cover letter without alteration to our head of HR and my manager. And yes there was a follow up email asking if we were considering the application a few weeks later.

    4. Bee*

      I dunno, I absolutely agree for the kind of typos that are likely to be in every resume they send out, but for something that’s clearly either “forgot to make that one last change” or “failed to save the document after they did,” I don’t think it helps at all. The one or two times I made this kind of error I noticed the next time I opened the document – the hiring manager pointing it out would’ve just been embarrassing, not helpful, and I was already embarrassed.

      1. Zillah*

        agreed. i did this once and when i realized, i was mortified – the hiring manager contacting me to say “we don’t have a position for you, but you forgot to change the name of the organization” would’ve just made me feel worse without helping me in any meaningful way.

  2. Lovely*

    # 4 – As long as you acknowledge it’s not great timing, you should be fine. And as we saw earlier, there are many companies that are proceeding like business as usual.

    Alison – I do have a request- any chance we can get an open thread on managing mental health when you are working from home in a situation like this? The work was one thing but my state is closing restaurants, bars, gyms, etc and I am on the verge of a meltdown feeling like a prisoner and not even having an office to go to for a break.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m going to do a coronavirus thread every Thursday for the next few weeks (will go up at 11 am ET), both because there’s interest and to keep it from taking over other threads. That would be good to post there!

      1. Cheese Cheese Cheese CHEESE*

        Are there still going to be coronavirus questions every day? Because to be honest if there are I’m going to have to stop reading for the sake of my mental health.

        1. Tortally HareBrained*

          Agreed. I appreciate having one place to discuss it- thread that happens weekly. But I am also trying to not expose myself constantly to news/talk about it for my mental health.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yeah, I want to be sensitive to that, while balancing it with the fact that I’m getting flooded with questions on it. I’m trying to get some of the most common questions answered this week, so there are more this week than I expect there will be after that.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            I’ve got a lot of experience and qualifications in virology (I moved into IT for health reasons but kept my knowledge current) so I’m happy to share knowledge if people have questions on the science side (viral family, severity, epidemiology, vaccine development etc) of it. I’ll make sure I’m online for those threads if it’ll help ease some of your question burden!

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Thank you! I think there will be a big hunger for that on the Thursday threads if you’re willing! On the other posts, it’s mainly questions about specific aspects of work that intersect with it — like job searching with everything shut down, etc.

            2. Quill*

              Would love that, I’m seriously considering hosting a kids’ explainer online for this (my training is mostly in microbiology though) and need to brush up.

          2. Aquawoman*

            And I don’t know about others but my questions right now aren’t about the virus itself but more about how people manage a team when everyone is teleworking and how to not get distracted.

          1. Sharbe*

            Honestly, I used to joke that I watched cat/cute animal videos for stress relief, but that is exactly what I’ve been doing to make my brain calm down at the end of the day.

            1. Matilda Jefferies*

              I literally just made myself a second Twitter account, to only follow Emergency Kittens and We Rate Dogs. And the penguins wandering around the people-areas of the aquarium!

              It’s just too. much. corona. everywhere else right now.

      2. Mozzarella*

        Alison, thank you for trying to keep the coronavirus talk condensed in certain threads. I live in Italy, and I’ve already stopped reading a lot of sites because I just don’t want to hear any more about it, beyond what’s necessary for me to know. I think you’re doing a good job of balancing the needs of people like me, and others who need a space to share their fears and thoughts.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Speaking of which — I just removed a bunch of off-topic posts here about corona that weren’t about the letters. The “stay on-topic” rule still does apply!

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I’d appreciate it as well. I’m currently unemployed and job searching while being in a high risk group, so I’m stressing about everything right now.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Oops, apologies for derailing or causing stress to others. I’ll keep any comments to Alisons dedicated posts.

  3. Vancouver*

    Re: OP 5, this is very, very common in academia. It’s more common for junior professors and instructors (the ones who are mainly there to teach end up not getting hired if the classes don’t fill). I don’t know from your letter what type of role you were applying for, but if it was even remotely tied in to coursework or research or supporting people who do these things, then enrolment numbers or grants may have changed. Even if it wasn’t tied in to one of these more tenuous areas, they may have transferred some of the duties to an existing staff member if funding changed in a different part of the organization. I’m sorry this happened, but the good news is that a cancelled position doesn’t mean you’re out of the running for ever – you can always apply next time it comes up, unless someone has explicitly told you otherwise.

    1. WS*

      +1, this is super common. I lost my university support job in a department merger after enrolment numbers changed.

    2. OP 5*

      This was a role at a newer research center within the university. It involved supporting research and the center currently does not have any employees, just affiliate faculty, so there is no one currently doing this work. It could have definitely had to do with funding though…

      1. SPDM*

        I’m in academia and depending on your timeline for writing this letter, it was either funding or that the whole university shifted to virtual/work from home/closing. Definitely wasn’t you.

        Source: Was on the academic job market in 2008/2009.

    3. Camelopardon me*

      Another thing that happens a lot in universities is that they write up a job description (especially for a new job or one that is changing significantly after someone has left it) without really thinking through what they need, and once they interview three or five or 18 people they realize they have created a ridiculous camel* of a job that no one person will ever be able to do. And so they cancel the job search, make the person who was next in line anyway the “interim,” and wait for them to retire, at which point the process is repeated. (Yes, I’ve seen this happen three times in the last five years.)

      *camel: a horse designed by a committee

      1. merp*

        I think a version of this happened to me – I got an email saying they weren’t hiring anyone and there was some vague language that suggested that based on who they interviewed, their job description really wasn’t getting the person that they wanted so they cancelled the job search to work on it more. (Or to never revisit it again and shove the work on someone already doing 3 jobs, who knows.)

      2. AndersonDarling*

        This is exactly what I was thinking. Or the description is so poorly worded that they get applicants 2 to 3 steps up when they only wanted an entry level employee. Once it gets to the end stages of interviewing and offers are made, the company finds out that they are seriously low-balling candidates.
        I’m in tech and I ask up front about salary because it happens so frequently. The hiring manager lays down the sauce in the job description but they are only offering $45K when the job they wrote out is a $90K role.

        1. AndersonDarling*

          I should add that I worked for a company that was advertising for an HR Manager. They inflated the job role so much that HR VPs from major companies were applying and asking for huge salaries + company cars + sabbaticals + crazy bonuses + fringe benefits like personal on-site babysitting, lunches delivered every day, and an army of personal assistants. This was a small company and they were so panicked that they shut down the search after a few interviews.
          They were trying to make their company sound super important and innovative in the job ad, but that turned into a job description for the top HR executives in the country.

        2. OP 5*

          I have a PhD. The job listed having a PhD as a preferred qualification, though in discussing the role, it looked like none of the day-to-day really required a PhD, or even a Master’s degree, at least for the first few years.

          They basically said that in the first two years, the role would be largely administrative responsibilities, but then would transition to research support once the center is established. Thinking about it now, I kind of wonder if they didn’t realize that they needed to just hire an administrative assistant and not worry about research qualifications until they wanted someone for the role.

          1. AndersonDarling*

            Ooo, yeah, that sounds like what happened. They probably did a few interviews and realized that they didn’t have PhD level work available and they could save a lot of money by hiring an administrator. I bet you will see another role posted in a few weeks that outlines that kind of position.

            1. OP 5*

              I can understand for a new role having administrative responsibilities in the beginning, but yeah, a couple of years is too much.

              I have noticed universities have a bad tendency of devaluing PhDs by posting it as a qualification for roles that don’t actually need a PhD. In academia, we talk about how hiring adjuncts rather than opening tenure lines devalues PhDs, but I think this phenomenon also contributes. At the time when I applied, it looked like a research role, and I was a little scared by the job market and afraid I would not find anything, so I may have also undersold myself.

        3. Elizabeth West*

          I applied for a job last week that had NO description. Not on the job board, and not on the company website. I figured it couldn’t hurt to throw a resume at it, just in case they had an opening and just put up a placeholder.

          The job title was Administrative Assistant I, so I said basically hey, there was no job description so I’m not sure what you’re looking for, but here’s what I’ve done in admin jobs in the past.

    4. Richard*

      This. There are a million reasons out of your control that an academic position gets cancelled and you can’t take it personally. Just take it gracefully and appreciate the interview practice and connections made.

    5. LunaLena*

      I work in higher ed as well, and I was on a hiring committee once where the search was canceled after all finalists had been interviewed (including a couple from out of state), references were reviewed, and they were ready to hire. What happened was that they offered the position to two candidates, and both turned it down, so they decided they needed to take another look at what they were asking for, what they were offering, and if they could restructure in a better way to make sure the role matched candidate expectations more closely. They posted the job again a few months later and were able to hire their first-choice candidate almost immediately.

      Also from what I’ve heard, enrollment numbers are expected to be down across the board (not because universities are doing anything wrong, simply because there aren’t as many high school seniors as there were in previous years), so that could be affecting their org structures as well.

  4. Waving not Drowning (no longer Drowning not Waving)*


    I have had an Abby as a Manager. In my experience you will lose staff over it either way. You’ll either lose Abby who will resign/be fired in fairly short order, or, you will lose your staff if she is promoted to a position she is not ready for.

    My Abby reverted to form when promoted, backstabbing, nepotism, favoritism, power tripping, and bullying behavior. At it was all glossed over as she knew how to get on with those higher up. She was a shining example of kiss upwards, kick downwards. HR brushed it under the rug saying she was an inexperienced manager and will grow with maturity, and told us to give her more time. I don’t know if she gave Abby any coaching, but as staff we were unsupported. It decimated the team. Even people employed by Abby couldn’t last the distance under her onslaught. We were very much a stepping stone in her career path. There was a steady stream of resignations from the team, some without jobs lined up. At least one staff member felt suicidal with the bullying and power tripping, particularly as she was a former favorite who fell out of favor. Complaints were made, but noone wanted to rock the boat and upset her, as it “would be too hard to fill the position”. She had some good initiatives, but, was an absolutely nightmare inducing manager. It was a complete clusterfudge and the reverberations are still being felt several years later.

    If in doubt, don’t promote. Please.

    1. Batgirl*

      Mmm. Id be interested to know why Abby wants this job so badly. From your description some people just see management jobs as a power trip license.

      1. Mookie*

        Possibly believes she’s “earned” it because she has achieved the lowest acceptable level of a non-dysfunctional employee. She feels magnanimous in no longer, for the moment, being a poor colleague and toxic employee.

        1. Jduts*

          LW 1

          Please, please don’t promote her!

          I was in a similar situation once. A peer of mine was a notorious bully and backstabber but the combination of him being connected to upper management and our immediate supervisor being conflict-avoidant meant that he was never managed properly. He was hungry to advance and his behaviour only got worse when he had a little bit of actual authority.

          One person can be like a cancer to a team, ruining morale. Hire outside the company and manage Abby out the door. I would be very surprised if her leaving didn’t result in your team improving.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I’d guess it’s from time, and in her eyes effort expended. She may regard the tiny improvements to behaviour as being things that took massive effort on her part (whether true or not) and feels that deserves some reward.

        It is, however, a bad idea to reward the absolute bare minimum.

    2. Impy*

      Yes. I had a new boss come in over my supervisor. I went from a well regarded star performer to being treated like a remedial employee, even though my work product remained objectively excellent. It deeply affected me.

      1. Waving not drowning (formerly Drowning not waving*

        Ditto here, I got dinged in my last performance review for projects that didnt go ahead because of my Abbys inaction (I had absolutely no control over it whatsoever). I queried it, was told oops, yeah, that’s a mistake, but so sorry, too late, I’ve already sent it to (her) manager and he’s signed it off (pay rises are not dependent on our performance reviews). That was the final straw for me. I had been high performer under previous managers. I ramped up the job search and jumped ship a few weeks later.

        Funnily enough, once I jumped, my psychologist noticed an immediate change in me, and we decided therapy was no longer needed. No more tears on my way home, and no more dreading Monday mornings.

        1. Impy*

          Yes, I had two final straws in the same meeting where I was told my biggest account was being taken off me and that my younger, less experienced colleague who brought in a 6th of the revenue I did was getting a promotion. When I queried this I was told that an agency had promised they could do better (spoiler – they did not, because it was not actually possible to meet the insane and arbitrary targets this manager had set).

          I had a new job within a week and a half. Similar situation; no more random crying jags, no more chronic insomnia. My binge eating and drinking wound down. Came off my anti depressants within six months. It still shocks me that the emotional and physical symptoms I had – which I had assumed were indicative of deep, personal mental illness – turned out to be nothing but a completely predictable physiological response to an extreme stress situation.

        2. Keymaster of Gozer*

          I upped and quit a job once, with no other job to go to, because I was breaking down in stress tears and having lots of sessions with a psychiatrist and it all was due to a boss who just had a personal dislike for me and wasn’t shy at telling me about it.

          1. Impy*

            Honestly, I’d have preferred that. The thing that I found extremely difficult with that boss was that she would treat me appallingly for no discernible reason – she obviously disliked me – then expect us to be BFFs.

            Half an hour after that meeting, when I was rapid sending CVs from my phone at lunch and trying not to sob, she waved her manicure in my face and asked “hadn’t the tech done such a good job!” I remember just staring at her.

            I know gaslighting is an overused and misused term but I genuinely felt gaslit in that job.

            1. Waving not Drowning (no longer Drowning not Waving)*

              oh yes, the gaslighting!!! That I was overreacting, that she didn’t mean it that way – it was a JOKE, can’t you take a joke, you’ve got no sense of humour!! (this was after she called me a control freak for attempting to do my job) and the flat out denials that conversations had taken place, even if several of us corroborated it. Then in the next breath, was wanting us to come to exercise classes with her….
              It was an absolutely awful time. She’s doing the same in her new position.

              1. Impy*

                Yes. I can handle a tough boss, a boss who yells, a boss who criticises poor performance. I *cannot* handle a boss who messes with my head. I’ve had bosses who yelled before and I thought that was bad.

                Except that a) they didn’t yell when I did a good job b) they didn’t lie about my performance c) they still promoted me and gave me raises when I did good work d) they didn’t lie full stop, and not about stupid things (once she told a colleague a form had generated 100 leads. I’d said, and by that point had email evidence saying, that the form had generated 20 leads) e) *they did not expect us to be friends*.

                You shouldn’t be friends with your reports anyway, but you absolutely cannot expect them to have a friendly relationship with you when they constantly lie about you, undermine you, yell at you for no reason and blame you for their shortcomings.

    3. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff*

      Yes! We had a similar situation in our department when it was leaked that someone who is a bully and condescending to everyone was being groomed for promotion. I know quite a few people (myself included) who would quit if this happened.
      LW1, you are concerned that morale will suffer if you don’t promote Abby, but morale will be *destroyed* if you do. You would be sending the worse message ever, which is: “we reward bad behaviour”. Who is going to be motivated to work for you after that?
      Also, don’t assume that your team now respects her: maybe they don’t currently have anything to complain about, or maybe they just figured out it’s pointless to complain. Please give them the courtesy of assuming they have a better memory than a goldfish’s.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        It’s very much a ‘lesser of two evils’ situation? One person gets offended or you risk losing the team itself.

    4. SweetestCin*


      Previous job promoted a bully into a massively important role and put him in charge of an entire office, over the gent who had always been in charge of said office. The bully was racist, sexist, classist, and a straight up miserable human being.

      Bully wanted to force me into a promotion that would have forced my relocation to a city where I had zero interest of living, especially since I’m not single and childless. I refused it. Living in a major city does not work for me personally, and moving six hours away and completely upending our sense of being wasn’t going to work for my family. After that, he tried to change the terms of my offer letter, which limited travel. I started looking for other positions, as traveling like he wanted me to did not fit into my world.

      I wasn’t the only one he lost. I was just the first to offer a polite “nope, I’m out”. The entire department changed over, save one. However, after the first year, the bully left, and now, a full year later, they’re still picking up after the chaos he caused!

  5. in a fog*

    Ugh, when I was pretty new to the workforce, I got a nastygram from a hiring manager when I made a slip up on the name of the company on a cover letter. LW3, if you point it out (and I don’t think it’s a bad idea to do so), just be kind.

    1. Lady Heather*

      My sibling was applying at a school, and I reviewed her letter of application. I noticed that she wrote the name of the school once with ‘The’ and once without, so I looked at the school’s website to see which one was right.


      The school’s website and materials on website had six or seven different ways of referring to themselves. With article, without article. With pedagogy (e.g. Montessori) in the name and without. With the ‘parent school”s acronym and without.

      Eventually, we just picked one and stuck to it throughout the letter and they got the job, so either they didn’t notice or we picked the right one (or they didn’t mind).

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I got a snide remark way back about how I said I’d ‘learnt maths’ because the firm hiring was primarily American so a lot of my spelling and use was not their company standard.

      I don’t mind corrections. So long as they are kind and constructive. Knowing that I’ve made a mistake is beneficial in stopping me doing it again! I spelt one employers name incorrectly once and only realised months later when my husband unit pointed it out!

  6. evolution in action*

    LW2 – I received a rejection email from an academic staff job after 2 years. I had already gotten the hint. This was just a generic rejection email, but in the interim I had been hired by the university. I asked about this particular job, and it had been canceled. They wanted a unicorn to work for cheap, but only got shiny horses to apply. (They had multiple good applicants – but unicorns do not actually exist. They didn’t even interview anyone, because they couldn’t even agree on that.)
    Other reasons: retirements reshuffle supervisors, hiring freezes, infighting among the search committee (academia is rife with that). You had someone reach out to you personally – take that as a very very good sign that it was not about you, but all about them.

    1. AGD*

      Seconded. Recently I’ve seen e.g. “search committee couldn’t come close to a decision,” “applicant offered job took months to decide and then said no too late for another offer to be made this year,” “job ad was drafted by interdisciplinary group and aimed to attract the sort of profile no one actually has,” and “none of these positions exist anymore because Wisconsin elected a bunch of people from a different political party than usual and suddenly the school doesn’t really have any money.”

  7. Grand Mouse*

    LW3, I am not sure even besides the limits on your time, that contacting the applicant would even do any good, because they have to know that using the wrong company name is bad. Hopefully for them it is a one time slipup, and are kicking themselves over it. If, however, they are mass sending out their cover letter with the repeated mistake, that says something about them as an applicant too.

  8. valentine*

    OP2: You’ve got to tell her you’re not close because “We don’t have the relationship you think we have” is very different from “We must set aside our closeness for the sake of the work.” You don’t want her hinting that you’re secretly favoring her, or whatever else she wants to add to the fantasy, because it could really hurt you.

    1. Impy*

      I mean… I think most humans would have difficulty saying “I don’t like you as much as you think I do,” and Alison provided a kind and face saving script.

        1. Zelda*

          Indeed. Laying out how things need to work from now on is the constructive part. There’s no need to dwell on what the coworker thought before and whether it is or isn’t true, just on what’s happening in the future. LW2 can know that they’re moving from point B to point A, and coworker can think they’re moving from point C to point A, as long as everyone ends up at point A.

          1. valentine*

            I think most humans would have difficulty saying “I don’t like you as much as you think I do,” and Alison provided a kind and face saving script.
            As a manager, OP2 will have to become comfortable with difficult talks and saving face shouldn’t be the priority. When the coworker doesn’t like the feedback, will she interpret and report it as OP2 overcompensating for their closeness by being more harsh with her?

            OP2: We weren’t close. I thought it kind to let her believe we were.
            Team: They often hugged and coworker was more delighted for OP2 than sad for herself about the promotion.

            If OP2 doesn’t do the hard thing, is their future the destination wedding letter?

    2. Clementine*

      I’d be inclined to say something like: It’s been terrific having colleagues like you and X and Y, and I am looking forward to working with you more in the future. I have to let you know, though, …

      In other words, this is not so focused on this particular colleague, but more about distancing from her former peers in general.

  9. OP 5*

    OP 5 here.

    I’ve gone back and forth on whether to include these details, or whether they would be identifying, but seeing your advice and the comments, I think it makes sense to include them:
    1. This was a new role in a new research center. They have associated faculty but no dedicated staff. Cancelling the posting means they would continue to have no dedicated staff.
    2. The hiring manager was actually a mentor from my education who has hired me for multiple different roles in the past with progressively more responsibility. She is still actively mentoring me and we talk on a regular basis, though I’ve followed her lead during the interview process and not asked about the search since she hasn’t brought it up.
    2a. I did not know she was the hiring manager when I applied for the job, as she has her hand in a number of university initiatives. I found out she was the hiring manager when I was invited to interview, and she was weirdly formal and pretended like we did not know each other in the initial screen, but then talked about my PhD work quite openly in the in-person interview.

    1. PollyQ*

      I can’t say why they’ve canceled the position, but I’m entirely sure it’s not because of you. Even if you’d been the worst candidate/interviewee in the world, if they still needed someone to do it and had the money to pay them, they’d keep looking.

      1. Oxford Comma*

        Coming here to say this. It could be: abrupt change of funding, someone much higher up pulled approval for the funding, leadership change in the dept/school and they pulled the position, possibly coronavirus related, they are rethinking the position, any number of reasons that you will likely never know.

        If it was specific to you, they would have given you an outright rejection.

        It is very easy to think that it was something you did. This time, it’s on their end entirely.

        1. AndersonDarling*

          It’s very possible that they put all hiring on hiatus because of coronavirus. They may not be socially prepared to do video interviews, and they may be reducing staff so they won’t be able to train/on-board anyway. It’s more respectful to cancel the jobs than drag them out for a year.

          1. DataQueen*

            Came here to say this. We’re about to announce a hiring freeze because there’s so much uncertainty. Who knows what’s going to happen. Last recession we lost 10% of our revenue and it took 3 years to get it back. So we can’t afford to hire more positions right now in case this happens again.

      2. BRR*

        ^This. I’m not sure the reason why they cancelled the position but it’s 100% not because of you. Being a new research center, that makes more sense why they cancelled a position and your mentor sounds like a good mentor and would tell you if it was something.

    2. WS*

      Cancelling the position means they have no dedicated staff, but it doesn’t mean they have no staff! The terms (or total amount of money) in the grant may have changed, and they’re now sharing staff with somebody else. Alternatively, someone who already has that position in the university may have been moved into the role if the role in their usual department was closed.

      But you have somebody to ask, if you really want to know! It just seems unlikely that it’s anything to do with you personally, or anything that you can act upon.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      This is not personal. There are so many reasons positions get canceled, usually because of money. If it were about you, then they would simply not hire you and try to find someone else.

    4. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I don’t think your additional details change Alison’s advice. It’s not a personal attack on you or your abilities that they cancelled the position. It’s best to just let it go and not analyze it any further.

      1. Oxford Comma*

        Exactly. You would have gotten an out and out rejection if it was about you. They don’t mess around with that. This means there’s something internal and unrelated to you.

    5. Observer*

      This additional information makes me even more sure that it wasn’t about you. In addition to what other say, the idea that they simply couldn’t agree on what the actual job should look like it EXTREMELY high.

  10. Kella*

    Regarding OP#1: You’re afraid that if you don’t hire Abby for the position, that she’ll regress to her bullying ways. You’re also afraid that if you hire her, she’ll abuse her new power and return to her bullying ways. You also said that your previous assistant manager left early in part… because of Abby’s bullying ways. Abby hasn’t stopped her harmful behavior and there isn’t a path to take where she’s likely to stop.

    1. Jane Gloriana Villanueva*

      I came here to say nearly the same thing. Whether Abby does or doesn’t get the role, OP #1 fears she will return to being a very hard person to work with. Lose-lose situation. Even though this isn’t a typical office environment, Abby hasn’t “dressed” for the job she wants. Presumably, she has aspired to be a manager for a while but not thought about what will go into being a manager other than familiarity with the environment and enough time served at the level below. She’s not yet qualified for the job, honestly, and in the meantime you’re expecting her to show you she hasn’t really changed – hasn’t examined her behavior and understood why it was inappropriate. At the very least, she doesn’t deserve a promotion, and after all the failed attempts to get her to the standard of dedicated and reliable, she might not really be a good continued fit for her current position.

      1. Kella*

        Also, Abby claimed she would “do anything” to get the role, but apparently that does not include halting the problematic behaviors that she’s already been asked to stop. I’m not clear on why OP1 has continued to tolerate that.

    2. Kes*

      Agreed, and I have to wonder, if those above her are so impacted by her bullying (to the point of the AGM leaving early to get away from her) whether her relationships with those below her are really as improved as OP thinks.

  11. lobster*

    LW #3 – I recently misspelled the name of a company in a cover letter and, speaking from experience, I bet your applicant probably realized their mistake shortly after sending the email and then had a long lie down about it, haha. I’d say don’t feel bad about not emailing them back over it because they almost certainly realized and quietly resigned themselves to not getting any jobs with you in the near future. Maybe just don’t hold it against them if they send a (correct) application in a year or two?

    1. A Silver Spork*

      I was applying for a job early last year and riiiiight after I hit “submit” I realized that I’d accidentally sent the wrong cover letter meant for a different company I’d applied to a few days before. I spent several frantic minutes trying to fix my error (nope, not possible in this case) and then spent a few minutes feeling utterly mortified. I did not get an interview!

      So yeah, the applicant probably realized after the fact that they’d done goofed. Let it goooo, LW. I think I would have died of embarrassment if someone had emailed to point out I’d sent the wrong document.

      1. Jean*

        I think all of us have at least one “oh well, I guess THAT company’s not going to be calling me for an interview” moment in our job search history. And the realization always hits RIGHT after you hit “send.”

    2. Rexish*

      This. I really don’t need the Company point out that I made a mistake. Fresh graduates know that this is not good, so I don’t think this is something that requires coaching. Maybe if they call a follow-up, you can tell them.
      I’ve noticed too many times that I’ve left something dumb on the application that I thought I had edited. ooking forward to moving to another city and this job wasn’t in that city, wrong job title, misspelled Company name etc. I’ve just accepted that I won’t get the job and hoped I’m not on some Blacklist.

      That being said, my bf has Still gotten a job where he had sent the wrong application that had a different Companyt and position name.

    3. Just Another Manic Millie*

      At one of my previous jobs, it was my responsibility to review resumes. One applicant misspelled her own name. I knew this because she spelled it differently in her resume and in her cover letter. I asked TPTB if I could let her know that she had made a mistake, and they said no. She was not considered for the job. Her resume and cover letter were faxed, not emailed, to us, so I don’t know if she realized her mistake right after sending them to us. And I obviously don’t know if she ever found out that she had made a mistake, and if she did, if she discovered the mistake on her own, or if a potential employer told her so.

  12. Batgirl*

    OP1, you’re not her parent or teacher and even if you were, you still can’t fall for the oldest manipulation in the book known as ‘I’ll behave for long as I call the shots, get what I want, while I run roughshod over anyone without the power to give me what I want”.
    That is not learning better behaviour.
    Let’s assume hiring someone else will cause her to throw her toys out of the pram. Great! Its the perfect opportunity to fire her and show your staff that this isn’t bully coaching school and actually, there is order and consequence. If all the coaching you’ve offered her in the past really has been accepted then she will pass that professionalism test; it’s not your fault if she doesn’t.

    1. WS*

      Yes, this isn’t the only time there will ever be a promotion available! If Abby takes this well (or even just complains to you and doesn’t take it out on staff) you know that she is learning and she will be ready for this position in the future. And if she does revert to her old ways, you know that she has learned only to fake it when you’re around and that she shouldn’t be in charge of anyone.

  13. Caroline Bowman*

    Re the new manager with the colleague who feels they’re closer than they are…

    Definitely emphasise that your actual relationship needs to change. Be clear that you are now in management and must be completely even-handed and feel comfortable giving truthful feedback to all of your reports, including her. Of course you still like her and regard her highly (which I assume is truthful) and were extremely touched by her generosity when you obtained the position, that kind of nature is always an asset to any team blah blah, but that you need to work very hard on keeping personal and professional separate.

    She probably will be a bit upset by that, you cannot avoid it, but if she is a kind soul – and it sounds as though she is – she will come around.

    1. Oh No She Di'int*

      I second this very kind and diplomatic approach. I had an employee who left to do long-term care for a family member. I rehired her years later when we had a project that called for her exact skills. In the interim we’d become somewhat social friends (think seeing each other once a year with lots of promises to “get together” in between).

      One of the first conversations I had when she started was that I didn’t want our prior personal relationship to get in the way of the business relationship, and the best way to accomplish that is for me to be the best, fairest manager I could be and for her to be the best, most productive employee she could be. She took that quite well and 6 months in we’re doing quite well so far.

  14. Mystery Bookworm*

    I may have had a different read on #2 than others. From the letter alone, it doesn’t sound like your colleague is trying to ‘step-up’ interactions with you, she’s not pushing for levels of intimacy or arranging to meet outside of work. She’s just more effusive and perhaps more of a hugger than you are? I know plenty of people who throw around the word ‘friends’ more lightly than others, and especially if she’s worked with you for years, it might just be her default.

    I could be way off base, so this largely depends on your sense of how she is with you versus others.

    But if she’s this effusive with most people (and not exclusively demonstrative with you) then there’s a chance that what you are seeing is her trying to be gracious about a disappointment.

    1. Daisy*

      I’m not sure that your reading affects the main thing OP is worried about: ‘I am concerned that unless I nip this in the bud before we start our new roles we will both end up looking unprofessional, other members of the team will be upset at our being “close”’. She doesn’t want the idea that ‘OP and that person she supervises are close friends’ getting traction with other people.

      1. Mookie*

        I agree with both of you. Bigging up the LW’s promotion and her own role in this new team does sound like she’s doing some reputation-preserving, while also signaling “no hard feelings” about ‘losing’ the job to the LW. But the way she’s communicating those things is problematic, self-serving (in a mostly benign way), and misleading and the LW’s concern there is valid. She doesn’t get to deem herself the LW’s unofficial right hand, and what she’s saying all but implies it. So if the LW manages to get her to take it down several notches, the team will grow accustomed to her effusive manner and not resent how that manner is aimed at LW as boss/ally.

      2. Mystery Bookworm*

        I don’t disagree with the advice. Just adding my two cents because I think OP’s interpretation of why the colleague is behaving this way is likely to color the conversation (intentionally or not).

  15. Cheetos*

    RE: #1:

    As someone who used to manage an Abby, who in turn managed another person, please do not promote this person, OP. I’ve seen first-hand what it does to a team and it’s not something you want or need on your plate, nor does the company. It will eventually tank the morale of your team and drive your best people away. You might think people respect her, and maybe the ones that haven’t been around long enough to know the old Abby do, but most likely they’re just going along to get along and are doing it out of respect for you, not her.

    I came into my company as manager of the department and inherited Sue. We had about 10 people at the time. Sue, who had been there the longest of anyone in the department, supervised one person. She should never have been given any kind of supervisory responsibilities. (Not only was she not fit, but it made absolutely no sense within the structure of our department. Turned out it was to “help her grow and keep her happy.” They should have let her walk–it would have been best for everyone, including the company.) As with Abby, Sue was very driven, worked hard, and was the go-to person for many things. And as with Abby, Sue was always the center of the drama and loved the attention that brought. She was petty, instigated trouble, gossiped, sometimes had a hard time getting along with others, was extremely sensitive, and just didn’t understand how to behave. She’s someone I’d never want as an employee ever, much less a manager. Creating a position and promoting her really tanked the morale of the team since they all knew these things about her before she was promoted. People didn’t want to deal with her so they worked around her. They felt like they couldn’t speak up about certain things because they knew Sue would have a meltdown. In general, she was a black cloud over their heads and people just kept to themselves. It had the appearance of respect for her, but it was really that they just wanted to get through the day without a big emotional display from Sue. We became known as the department with all the drama. Eventually Sue rage quit because of something very minor that 99.99% of people would just shrug their shoulders at. We eliminated that management position since it didn’t make any sense to have it, and created a new position which allows for growth. It’s been almost a year and morale is higher than it’s ever been, people are sharing ideas, they’re not afraid to speak up in meetings, and there’s a much lighter feeling overall within the department. Shedding the department’s reputation as the center of all the drama has been hard, but it’s happening.

    Please do not promote Abby. Who cares if she’s devastated? That’s her problem, not yours. It’s not all about experience and her drive to work hard. That doesn’t mean they’ll be a good manager. All it means is she knows the mechanics of the job. A manager needs to be someone people can respect and who doesn’t cause problems within the team. I’d rather hire someone who might not have all the experience, but has a level head, works well with people, is able to command respect, and won’t have a daily meltdown over trivial things the vast majority of people would shrug at.

    1. Cheetos*

      Also: “Her feelings surrounding this have caused me to leave a position I desperately need filled empty for several months.”

      Why are you letting her have this much power over you? Again, her feelings are her problem, not yours. Be kind, but firm. It’s business. Its not personal. Don’t give her so much power–you’re the manager.

    2. Myrin*

      Yeah, this question had me break out in metaphorical hives because I’m living a version of it from the other end and… no. Just no.

      Some regular readers may remember Danielle, the assistant manager at my part-time drugstore job. I see a lot of her in how Abby is described, although the “drama llama” role is filled by someone else, so she isn’t always in the centre of drama but she’s always in the centre of upset and anger, which really isn’t any better.

      We’ve had people quite because of her. At least five of my coworkers have a downright trauma because of how she treated them when they were new. Everyone but her own mother (who also works here) loathes her. People make nice with her because it’s easier on its face, but rant about her behind her back and constantly complain to our boss, who does nothing (and has, consequently, lost a lot of respect from basically everyone). Let it be said that I don’t wish a prolapsed disk on anyone, but when she was out with one for ten weeks early last year, it was heaven. You could, as an employee, literally feel how morale was higher and the atmosphere was tons lighter.

      People wish that she’d leave in whatever way imaginable, but it’s just not happening. And everyone is living in fear of when the boss will retire in two or three years, because Danielle has made it clear that she wants that position. And… people tend to be a bit complacent in that store so I’m not saying there’s going to be a mass exodus should Danielle really end up in this position but… there might indeed be a mass exodus.

      And you don’t want that, OP. Get rid of her, seriously. I can promise you that even with one person down, even with an unfilled hard-to-fill position, more work will get done and people will be much happier.

    3. James*

      I’ve had good experience not promoting my Abby. I had someone working for me that was hard working and driven, but also abrasive, obnoxious, and loved starting drama. At a certain point it made sense for me to delegate management of specific tasks to two deputy managers (very informal project hierarchy, so there was no official title). I ultimately decided to go with two different people, leaving my Abby in a low-level position.

      I never had to have a formal discussion with her, but I did single her out for specific tasks to sort of mitigate the fallout. This was environmental compliance monitoring, and the construction crews were not thrilled to have us there, so we often got pushback when we did things that delayed construction schedules (like not allowing folks to run over protected species in front of regulators, for example). Frankly, there were times when having someone abrasive and aggressive, and unafraid to hurt feelings, was very useful. It took about two weeks for the crews to learn that when I sent Abby to ask for something I was serious, and it needed done, and I was through being nice about it. And she enjoyed the role.

      1. RC Rascal*

        Good management story. I had a college friend like your Abby: abrasive, aggressive, and unafraid to hurt people’s feelings. My friend Abby had a hard time making her way after college–she was a giant political management shark in a 23 year old body. If she could have ever made her way to senior management, where she thought she belonged, she would have been the devil. But no one could give her the opportunity.

        Eventually my friend Abby got into the credit card collection business. She has been incredibly successful at that, and worked her way up into senior management for a major credit card company. There are roles for different kinds of people.

        1. Quill*

          This is also the college friend you use to run off boys who won’t buy a clue that you don’t want to date them.

  16. Impy*

    As someone who has had a couple of bully bosses, do not promote Abby. Fire Abby. She is pretending improvement in order to get promoted and will then make her staff’s lives a living hell.

    Think about it – you’re considering promoting her because otherwise she’ll make your life difficult. That is manipulation, and could even in itself a form of bullying. Don’t let her bully her way into a promotion.

  17. Fikly*

    If Abby “is also immature and instigates drama” then she cannot be, and is not “very good and efficient at her job.”

    Causing drama is causing inefficiencies. Not causing drama is a job skill. Your concern, based on her past behavior, that she will act out if not promoted shows that she shouldn’t be in her current position, nevermind be promoted.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      Yes, there’s nothing in the letter to indicate that she’s a good employee other than being a reliable, hard worker. Part of one’s job is getting along with others, not instigating drama, and not bullying people.

      1. Fikly*

        Right, but then they go on to say how they fully expect the behavior to return if they aren’t promoted. If they cannot or will not choose their behavior if they do not get promoted, they are not ready to be promoted, because they cannot or will not handle disappointment professionally, and that is a job skill.

      2. Observer*

        No, the OP does not say that. They say “ have seen slow but gradual improvement“. That’s a very different thing.

  18. Grits McGee*

    Curious what others think about this- obviously OP1 shouldn’t promote Abby. But how would you address the inevitable highly likely fallout? Would you lay down the law and your expectations of professionalism before the new manager started, or wait until there’s an issue?

    1. Mookie*

      Part of the approach ought to be informed, in my opinion, by the LW’s past dealings with Abby when they were working on her collegial and social skills. Abby may or may not respond to a direct, pre-emptive, and transparent approach.

      1. Mookie*

        Which I should think would acknowledge Abby’s campaign for the position, giving her a heads-up about the new hire before the rest of the team, and then closely monitor her reaction and subsequent behavior (prior tjo AGM’s first day) in case a follow-up is needed to reign in Abby’s disruptive and negative instincts.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      My personal approach would be somewhere between the two. I’d advise Abby, maybe in private if I feel she’s going to go dramatic/cry etc, that someone else has got the job she wanted and will be starting on X date. I’d also say something about how I appreciate she likely feels disappointed but that I trust her with her experience to be totally professional in welcoming the new person.

      Little white lie that, but may help to modify any fallout. I’ve used phrases like that before with success.

      Of course, if she then goes off the deep end and acts horribly in the office it’s time for the harsher talks about how if this bad behaviour continues she’s out.

      1. Batgirl*

        “I’d also say something about how I appreciate she likely feels disappointed but that I trust her with her experience to be totally professional in welcoming the new person”

        I’d totally go with that one and if she then throws away the vote of confidence, it is on her.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I’d have a talk with her ahead of time. She has a history of bad behavior and has made it clear she wants the promotion. Generally when someone applies for a job and doesn’t get it (especially internally) you have a conversation about why they went with another candidate. And in that meeting, OP needs to be clear WHY she didn’t get the job and the consequences of her actions if she starts to behave badly again.

      We see plenty of stories on here about bad managers who have no business being managers. OP1, don’t add another one to the list. You may think it’s going to be difficult having the position open for months, but it’s going to be more difficult having the position filled by someone who isn’t qualified and could potentially cause others to leave.

  19. NYWeasel*

    OP #2: I was promoted from within a tight group of coworkers to manage half of them plus some new hires. There are people I’m still FB friends with, people I eat lunch with, and people I mostly interact with just on a work basis.

    If I walked fresh into the situation, it would have been different, in that I wouldn’t have started by accepting FB requests, etc. But I was there already, so I had to navigate it instead. The first thing I did was make sure everyone has monthly 1:1s with me. I also added in a standing time each day when I’m not scheduled in meetings so people know they can access me. I let everyone know that I have some of the team on my FB, and add “My rule is that I don’t intrude on anyone, but if you’d like to friend me, I will gladly accept.” I also invite everyone to join me at lunch, and if they decline, I make sure to periodically re-invite them so they know they are welcome.

    The biggest adjustment is in sharing information, which is more complicated bc one of my team members is more plugged into the gossip than I am. We have developed a system where she tells me what she knows and wants to talk about, and only then do I talk, so that I’m never revealing confidential information to her. (It’s quite beneficial to me bc she often knows more information than I do!). For the rest of the team, the nature of our work means that occasionally Eleanor will hear about something before Chidi bc it’s critical to what Eleanor is working on. But I work hard to make sure that it’s never just Eleanor getting info early. Chidi, Jason and Tahani all get info in the course of their projects too. And once it’s appropriate to share widely, I make sure to discuss it in our team meetings. I occasionally share challenges with my team as “soft coaching” (ie giving them a view into how I handle things), but I’ve stopped using my coworkers as my main confidantes.

    As I said, I would have started out differently if I was in this role from day 1, and I definitely still do some things that Alison would advise me not to do, but I compensate for it by making sure I give all my team as much access to me as possible, so that no single person feels like I’m slighting them. Naturally, I have grown a little more distant from the coworkers I was super close with, but I treated it more like “I support you *and* these other ppl now” rather than “I have to cut down on being pals with you”, so it was a very positive message. I could see having someone still think they should have more access than other team members, and at that point I’d revert to Alison’s scripts, but I started with a more gentle approach. Knock on wood, it seems to be going well, as I’ve been commended for having the tightest team in our department!

    1. JustaTech*

      That sounds very evenhanded and professional!

      One of the things my boss does that seemed weird initially but now I really appreciate is that he never eats lunch with everyone else unless it’s a team lunch. Partly it’s because my boss eats earlier than the rest of us (and woe betide anyone who keeps him from his lunch with a pointless meeting), but it’s also about building a professional distance.

      The other bosses in our group used to eat lunch with us periodically, and sometimes when things weren’t going well it just made everything super awkward.

      So kudos to you for building a healthy, respectful structure!

  20. Keymaster of Gozer*

    LW: 4 (do not read if you’re avoiding virus talk)

    As someone who is actively job searching right now I’ve got a few things I’m trying to do/remember in this situation that might be useful or not?

    That it is still possible to get a job. Friends of mine have got through interviews and job offers even with the actual offices themselves closed down and everyone remote working. This gives me confidence.

    That everything takes longer though, due to the situation. I allow myself only a certain amount of time a day to actively worry about job searching, say an hour spent drafting (but not sending!) chase up emails or searching vacancies. Then I log off my personal email and go do something else. I check email again at the end of the day briefly.

    I’ve got escapist hobbies like gaming (mostly Skyrim) that I’m devoting more time to. Or sewing while watching funny videos of husky dogs or cats doing silly things. Fill up the downtime with something that I can concentrate on.

    Also, I’ve taken to reading TVTropes (and other similar sites) as a break from worrying about work while I’m online.

    1. OP4*

      OP #4 here. Thanks so much for responding! I’m extremely fortunate to be employed right now, but the anxiety about putting yourself out there for a different opportunity and then waiting a LONG time to hear back is real. I hope you’ll get some good news, soon, and that you’re enjoying your hobbies in the meantime :)

      1. Avasarala*

        OP4, just realize that anyone handling HR/administrative things/employee and workforce related stuff is running around like their hair has caught fire right now! Implementing work-from-home and sanitation policies, looking up the latest info to set and clarify company policies and communicating them to employees, coordinating staff in and out of the office, trying to minimize the business impact and communicate that to stakeholders, oh and then doing their actual everyday work… HR is working crazy hours right now and not getting a whole lot done, so cut them some slack!

  21. Allison*

    For LW5, I once had a scheduled Skype interview for a position and the search was cancelled that morning. They restarted the search maybe a year or two later and I reapplied since it was the right organization, right location, right time. It turns out that someone in the organization had convinced the leadership that the position (my position) was not necessary and that’s why they cancelled it the first time. When I was hired, they said they were happy that I had reapplied because they wanted to hire me the first time.

  22. WellRed*

    OP 5: it’s not about you. Seriously. They did not cancel the position because of you. You aren’t even the only one who interviewed. Raise your gaze.

  23. Random Commentor*

    “She made it known before my AGM resigned that she wanted this position and would do anything to get it. This made my former AGM very uncomfortable and she ended up leaving before her two weeks had been worked out.”

    She would do anything to get it. Would anything include stopping actions that make people uncomfortable?

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Ha. I read “would do anything to get it” as “would do anything, no matter how cruel, underhanded, or unethical, to get it” myself.

      1. JM in England*

        That was my take too. All that matters to Abby is reaching her goal, regardless of what it does to others….

      2. boo bot*

        Yeah, and I think the fact that the OP is thinking about it in those terms is telling – when we say someone “would do anything,” to get a job (or whatever) we rarely mean, “work hard, support the rest of the team, have a positive-yet-realistic attitude, and take criticism seriously but not personally!” We use it to describe either someone who’s willing to be exploited themselves, or someone willing to exploit other people.

        And so, if the OP is framing Abby’s desire for the job as “she would do anything to get it” in their own mind, it’s worth considering whether that actually implies anything positive.

        1. Impy*

          Yes. I worked with an Abby who interpreted “To get a promotion you need to do higher level work,” as “act as though I am a boss / rebook caterers / go over my bosses head” when what our boss meant was, “Improve your work quality and quantity and stop condescending to people.”

  24. Bookworm*

    #4: Agree with Alison. My org has been undergoing some changes and we WERE in the process of looking for new people, with one person who accepted a position for us right before the org mandated we all work from home and she will begin her work from us in a telecommute position until…whenever.

    Since money is involved I’d say by all means, follow-up. Their HR/operations crew may be trying to deal with tons of other logistical things and this wasn’t meant to fall by the wayside (like, maybe to physically cut you a check they can’t access funds or the checks themselves because they’re in a physical office which they can’t access, which is my current situation).

    Good luck!!

    1. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

      I feel for people who are in their job searches now. It’s going to be a tough time. I had been talking to candidates about an open position on my team, but my focus for the last week has been on the 10 people I already manage, keeping an eye on their mental health, making sure they are supported, making sure they have what they need to work from home (on top of checking my own mental health and making sure I have what I need to work from home!). It’s not that I don’t want to keep the hiring process going — it’s just that it has, by necessity, dropped lower on the list of things I’ve got to think about.

  25. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    OP1 here’s an alternative, based on this: “I have sat down with her several times and coached her on how to talk with her teammates and have seen slow but gradual improvement”.

    1. Do you have trusted team members who will give you honest and objective feedback? Ask them what they think of Abby in this role. And then don’t ignore that feedback.
    2. If you don’t have people running for the hills after [1], ask Abby what she understands the role to be about. Does she see it as a chance to throw her weight around and be The Boss?
    3. If [2] goes well, consider putting her into the role on a trial basis.

    The role must be hers to lose if she doesn’t demonstrate, consistently, the type of behaviour you need to see. And she must know that, and she must know that you have not dealt harshly enough with her bullying in the past and that is going to change. Her targets must include staff turnover and satisfaction and not just efficiency and whatnot.

    But if you do all that you have to be prepared to
    – not give her the job
    – remove her from it if she does poorly
    – deflate her temper tantrum and fire her if necessary

    Both of these will be difficult for you if you’ve kept someone like this around. It sounds as though you’ve been letting her have her own way to an unhealthy extent.

    Remember that keeping Abby happy/working for you/avoiding a tantrum should not be your goals here.

    1. Batgirl*

      I think all these bad outcomes you’ve mentioned spell out exactly why it would be such a risky, disaster to promote Abby; aside from the basic unfairness of giving her a job that no one except Abby wants her to be in.

      1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

        OP seems to think that the team “respect” Abby now… I am hoping that OP would get better data on that by actually speaking to the team. But yeah, it’s probably not going to work out well.

    2. Observer*

      What makes you think that Abby is going to give the OP a useful and completely honest answer?

  26. Amethystmoon*

    I left a job in huge part because one of the managers, even though not directly my own but I had to do things for her daily, was a bully. It wasn’t the only reason I left that job. I also had an incompetent coworker whose work I always had to fix after he did it, but I had figured out how to work around the said incompetent coworker, so while he was irritating, wasn’t an immediate quit-your-job reason. However his issues combined with a woman who liked to literally raise her voice, actually not figuratively, yell at people over minor things in front of all with hearing range in an open office plan, made me want to leave that job. Beware, you may lose more than one good person over your bully.

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      While my previous manager was in post we had such high turnover that it became known as the Defence Against the Dark Arts job. This manager was not so affectionately known as Professor Umbridge with good reason. We lost lots of good people because of Umbridge.

  27. Hiring Mgr*

    I might say something about the cover letter typo, though it’s certainly not required.. But if it’s on your mind, why not perform a ten second act of kindness, especially in these uncertain times.. (unless you think it’s going to lead to a lot of back and forth, etc..)

  28. Miss May*

    I once had a phone interview about a position and the person interviewing me told me I had a spelling error on my resume. He told me to fix it and send my resume back. The problem? I didn’t have a spelling error! I checked twice and had my partner check for me. I’m still baffled by that one.

    1. Jean*

      Sounds almost like he was trolling you. Or, more likely, he had a spelling error in his own head.

  29. Allison*

    #4, anyone who works in hiring right now has had to seriously shift their focus. At my job, we’ve had to pause hiring until the summer, and I’ll bet lots of other companies are doing the same. Others might be hiring, especially in healthcare, but they’ve had to pivot to different priorities. Candidates are getting lost in the shuffle despite people’s best efforts, so I recommend reaching out for an update.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      I interviewed a couple of weeks ago and hadn’t heard anything in a while. I know that is not unusual and would normally try to just be patient, but in this case I did let myself reach out to the HR guy I was working with to say I was just checking in to find out if they were still proceeding with filling open positions as normal or if they were planning to halt their hiring process for a while as I had heard some other places are doing that. I was surprised at how quickly I got a response; he said they were currently proceeding as normal and that he was working with the hiring manager on the “next steps” for me.

      I’m glad I reached out because he made it sound like I’m definitely still in the running and now I don’t have to wonder if I somehow blew the interview so badly that I would just never hear from them again. Now I can put it out of my mind until they reach back out.

    2. OP4*

      OP 4 here. Thanks for the response! I reached out for an update today so we’ll see what/if I hear back.

  30. CupcakeCounter*

    This actually sounds like a win-win for you. Someone you aren’t close to, but thinks you are, is not working under you. Perfect out without having to be overly harsh. Alison’s advise is great and simple. “Jane, with the changed dynamic of me now being your manager I have to step back from our personal relationship. I am thrilled to have you on the team and I think you will be hugely helpful getting us off to a great start.”

  31. BridgeNerdess*

    OP #5 –
    Unfortunately, this is common in academia. My husband is a department chair and had 5 open positions, from staff to tenure-track faculty. They had all the appropriate approvals before posting and it was their best class of applicants since my husband has been in this role. Then they found out that there was a screw up at higher levels of the university and all hiring was halted, wasting everyone’s time and effort, and canceling all postings until they can get the financials figured out.

    It may have had nothing to do with you. And they most certainly won’t tell you if something like this happened because it’s embarrassing for the hiring department and demoralizing for the hiring committee.

    1. Nerdy Librarian*

      OMG I posted the same thing! We interviewed people and THEN found out that there wasn’t even a position to OFFER them anymore – thanks, HR.

  32. I Will Steal Your Pens*

    Allison – thanks for responding as such. Back a few jobs ago I worked in a company where the Payroll Director was UNBELIEVABLY toxic. Rude, bullying, condescending, you name it. And not only was it condoned, it was encouraged by the president of the company because it “was effective in getting it done”.

    However she had a 300% turnover in her staff in 18 months, and while she wasn’t the only one who acted like this, she was by far one of the worst. One day her manager came to me because it was merit time, and she said to me “she does a good job, but she is caustic and rude to people”. I told her that she in fact didn’t do a good job, as being able to work with others in a way opposite to her current behavior shouldn’t be tolerated. As such, she doesn’t deserve an increase as it is pretty much telling her the behavior is acceptable”. But in reality it was.

    They gave her the increase, and allowed her to not acknowledge that she needed to change her behavior and attitude (which I told them had to go into her review). The reality was that it was overall a toxic environment so her behavior was acceptable.

    I left – but not as soon as I should have as I had that fear as I went into other organizations, and have been unfairly defensive when I work with Payroll partners.

  33. MuseumChick*

    #1, don’t be held hostage by a bad employee. I had a manager tell me this once, “People, generally, don’t leave jobs, they leave managers.” Abby needs to show she is able to conduct herself professionally even when things do not go her way. Be prepared for a tantrum and to have a discussion with her about it. Something to the effect of, “I know you were interested in the AGM position. Over the past X time frame, you and I have had multip discussion about (insert behaviors) I have seen improvements but I will need to see more, over a long period of time to be able to consider you for a promotion.”

    1. I'm a Rabbit*

      And they leave managers who promote bully managers!
      I would be looking for a job because of lack of trust in the OP for promoting Abby.

  34. Lives in a Shoe*

    LW 1 food service is brutal and finding good people can be beyond difficult, but Abby is ALREADY holding you hostage. Her potential response has you so concerned that you wrote to Ask a Manager! Imagine how difficult things would be if she were your AGM.

  35. Buttons*

    Not only can’t you promote her, but you also have to tell her exactly why, with examples of specific things she has done. Get her to own the need to change and let her know that if she wants a promotion she will need to stop doing those things for an extended period of time. Give her some direct coaching “When you are upset with someone because they wouldn’t cover your shift, instead of being snarky and talking about them, tell the person you were disappointed that they couldn’t help you when you had helped them in the past.” “Do not talk about people. If you want to vent you can vent to me in private or to your friends and family.”

  36. Rationally Neurotic*

    LW#4 Not necessarily tone-deaf, but I would definitely acknowledge that you know there is likely to be delays because of everything going on and you were just hoping to get a sense of the timelines going forward and/or if they would still be fulfilling the position as planned. I just left a role where I was coordinating all the hiring competitions for our team and I can tell you that the processes went from super-urgent to re-evaluating whether we should wait until the subsides before holding more interviews (and in some cases, the work load for the position has dropped dramatically as a result of the coronavirus and the work load of the people that would need to coordinate the onboarding has increased dramatically, so the timelines will be pushed back a month or two. That said, there are other roles for which the need has increased which are now being prioritized).

    For the cost reimbursement, I would ask and also ask if there is someone you can follow up with as it may not be the hiring manager that is responsible for reimbursement and they may be glad to redirect you to their finance contact for that piece).

    And all that said, people know that money is tight and people looking for jobs need them, so no one is going to judge you for asking as long as you don’t act openly annoyed that the process may have slowed or there may be barriers to moving forward as planned).

  37. SheLooksFamiliar*

    OP 4, I think some industries are slowing down or even stopping hiring, while others are still active – depending on the level of the role, of course. A friend of mine works for a F100 company, and her team is still working on active openings. My own organization is slowing down, and we’re seeing a big drop in applications and networked candidates. But we’re all still working every day, whether it’s at home or the office.

    Please do follow up as Alison suggested, and keep looking for a new role if that’s your goal. Hiring never happens as quickly as we’d like, especially now – but that doesn’t mean you can’t ask about previous activity. Good luck!

  38. MissDisplaced*

    Oh Lord #1 Why on Earth would you want to promote someone to a manager position who “has no management experience,” and is also “immature and instigates drama?” WHY?

    If you truly think this person has some untapped potential, at least send them to some classes on management and managing people first and then gradually give them some additional duties. But do not make your poor employees test subjects!

  39. TimeTravelR*

    I was passed over for a position because “Abby” wanted it and thought she deserved it. I was later hired to fill Abby’s position and some of the hiring panel shared this information with me. Whatever, people can do what they want. But after meeting Abby and trying to work her, I vowed then never to give someone a position or promotion just to keep the peace. That’s a coward’s way out.

  40. Blot*


    You seem stressed because you need the position filled, and you also want to keep Abby because she’s a hard worker. But will her absence, should she quit, be *worse* than if 3 other people quit instead because she got promoted? Is Abby really the only hard-working employee you have?

    I’d also be wary of how accurate it is that her behavior has improved as much as you think. I work with a troublesome person, have brought up their unacceptable behavior so many times to my boss (who just keeps going “I’ll to to them about it”) and then there is very little change. So now, while this person still has a lot of bad behavior that *really* needs to be corrected, I don’t bother bringing it up anymore with my boss, because at least the worst of it has stopped (or at least isn’t directed at me anymore).

    Had I been bullied by someone, and my boss KNEW about this bullying, and then still promoted them, I would not only start job searching that very same day, I’d also make it crystal clear to anyone interested in the company that they thought promoting a known bully to the position of manager was a good idea. So not only would you be losing people because of Abby, but she’d also be costing you *new* talent.

    If you are thinking of promoting her simply to avoid having to deal with her tantrum if she doesn’t get it, start planning how to deal with that now rather than actually promoting. Don’t let her quit after bullying her coworkers for an extended period of time, let her know from the very first instance of regression that this behavior is unacceptable and she will be fired if she doesn’t change course post-haste. Yeah, it will take more effort from you, but it will also send a really great message to everyone else who works there and has to deal with her that you aren’t going to stand idly by – which will also mean that they will be more willing to come to you with feedback on how she’s actually doing.

  41. The Rural Juror*

    LW #1 : When I was fresh out of college I moved to a new city with more job opportunities. I had worked in restaurants and bars through college, so I started looking for a job in the service industry to get by until I could find something more permanent. I was hired at a Bar and Grille, but the emphasis was more on the drinks than the food, and it was very popular on weekend nights and Sunday morning for hangover brunch.

    I started out as a server, but had told the hiring manager that I was more comfortable behind the bar and would like to prove myself deserving of any open positions that might come up. The head server who was responsible for the schedule and management of the wait staff did not like me right away. I couldn’t figure out what I had done wrong, but she was very cold and short towards me and would talk down to me like it was my first job (even though I’d been in service for at least 5 years). She would instruct me to do things in a way that seem counterproductive to me, and the more I got to know her the more I realized SHE was the one who was in inexperienced. I found out a couple of weeks into the job that she was the bar manager’s girlfriend and that’s how she had gotten the head server position.

    I knew I needed to get out from under her management, so I did my best to be a good employee and be helpful to everyone – bar staff, kitchen staff, hosts, managers – whoever needed help at any given time. I made a lot of friends there very quickly and enjoyed most aspects of my job, but any shift I had where the head server was there was like hell for me. She would put me in a bad section at times when the hosts weren’t on duty and the customers could seat themselves. She would give me extra duties to do on those shifts since I wasn’t as busy with tables, so I would end up having to do an unfair share of grunt work. Then I would go home at the end of the shift having made next to no money. It was really demoralizing, and pretty much everyone there knew she had it out for me for some reason. I suspected she was insecure in her position as a manger and the insecurity manifested in cruel ways. Some of the bartenders were actively advocating for me to be moved to bar staff, but it never came to fruition.

    Luckily I was able to find a full-time job in my field within a few months. At first I only adjusted my availability to working on weekends since I had no savings and the dual income was really needed. I would work my 40 hours a week at my new job, then work Friday-Sunday at the bar. It was exhausting! Eventually I realized it just wasn’t sustainable and I was working myself to death, especially considering I kept getting the short end of the deal. I gave my two weeks notice and spread the word around that I was leaving soon.

    Before my notice period was up, the bar manager came to me asking if I’d be willing to just work Sundays behind the bar when it was really busy for brunch. Everyone was getting really burnt out over the weekends, especially when they would close on Saturday and open on Sunday. I could still have extra income and not work so many hours, so it would be perfect for me. I gladly accepted that offer, but the next shift I had the OWNER came up to me and I told me not to come in to work anymore, even to work out the rest of my notice. I was really confused and hurt by that. I had busted my ass for that place for 6 months, finally been giving a silver lining, and then it was swiftly taken away. Turns out the head server had gone to the owner and accused me of something (I never found out what) and told them I shouldn’t be allowed to work there anymore.

    I know this is a long story, but I want you to know that some people just aren’t suited for management. Your Abby sounds like she’s not going to do well in a position of power, just like my Abby didn’t. I suffered because of her, and there were times when the restaurant suffered as well. We would be busy and other servers would be in the weeds, but my Abby would put me in position where I couldn’t be effective in helping them. She’s was also messing with my livelihood considering I wasn’t making the tips I had the potential to make in better conditions.

    Your Abby has a history of bullying her coworkers, which will NOT get better if you give her a position of power. Your other employees would resent her promotion, possibly resent you, and you’d be likely to lose good people that your locations need. Do not give her the promotion, and if she gives a fit about it later or acts out, use that as grounds to fire her. Your teams deserve a better working environment, and you deserve the peace of mind. Good luck.

  42. Nerdy Librarian*

    LW 5 – Oh, this happens ALL THE TIME! I work at a university. We have actually INTERVIEWED people, then found out that HR had frozen the position, (thank GOD we hadn’t actually offered to position to anyone.) And yes, in my field (university librarian) it’s a day-long gauntlet from Hell. I don’t know if the LW is a librarian but, if so, be prepared for lots of disappointment like this, I’m sorry to say. Also, be prepared to spend all day interviewing, (sometimes even being flown to the location), only to find out that they had an internal candidate that they intended to hire all along, and you were just a ‘legality’. Sending hugs and wishing you the best of luck in your career.

    1. OP 5*

      Not a librarian, but applying to PhD-level roles at university research centers (in addition to TT faculty roles, but I’m in a small enough field that it would not be a great idea to restrict myself to just faculty and postdoc searches). The hiring processes I’ve seen have felt like tenure-track search lite a lot of the time.

      Fortunately, I received an informal offer recently (informal as in “we’re having HR write up the offer, but it could take awhile because of Covid-19, send us your timeline for a start date”) for a role that feels like a much better fit than the one that was cancelled.

  43. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    #1, You cannot NOT have a “#2” who you cannot trust to behave themselves.

    The “No management experience” thing made me go “well she can get that by giving her a chance, we didn’t have any of that either at one point!”

    But the fact that she has a history of bad behavior. She’s only recently “recovered” and that you’re currently worried about reactions in both directions is screaming “listen to your gut, it’s not the right choice.”

    You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. You don’t want any of that. Abby needs to go start over. She can do that somewhere else, with a fresh slate. It’s more fair to her in the end. You say she’s a great worker and wants to be in management, then she needs to go find somewhere that will allow her to start out and not know her for the little pissant she was in your place of employment.

    You cannot risk your entire team’s health and happiness for this one Abby. She needs to learn her lesson that by acting out so awfully and having to be reeled in by you, she doesn’t get this promotion. This is REAL LIFE consequences unfolding for her. Do her a favor and don’t cave to the pressure you feel inside because you’ll probably lose her in the end. She made her bed, it’s time to lay in it.

    You can also let her know that she was passed over for someone with more experience and also the fact that she has only recently started showing her ability to be professional. Let her know that over the course of time of showing she can sustain her professionalism and continue to grow her relationships with her colleagues, then she may very well be considered again in the future. It doesn’t need to be a “nope, done forever.” it can be a “not this time.”

    1. Batgirl*

      I agree with you that not only could Abby do with a fresh start, she could also use the teachable moment of firing. You can’t use pouting and hurt fee-fees to still get your way into adulthood.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        For real! And I don’t subscribe to the idea that people cannot grow and change with experiences, so this could really be that “you goofed extra hard and now these are real life consequences.”

        Then she gets to decide her next route. Is it to wallow and pout some more? Well EXTRA byeeeee. If it’s to shape up and treat others better, everyone wins.

        I was a brat for a good portion of my life, lol. I get it. Then I hurt someone’s feelings I never wanted to and I destroyed something I really cared about [friendship in that case]. I haven’t slipped up ever since that brutal life lesson.

  44. acorn*

    Error in materials- 20 years ago, my husband accidentally sent his resume and cover letter applying for a job to the wrong company- and they liked what they saw so much that they called him for an interview, even though they hadn’t advertised a job. He was surprised about the call but figured he had sent out so many applications he had just forgotten this one… long story short, they hired him. It wasn’t until he had been working there for a a few years that someone told him how they had received his resume!

  45. The Rafters*

    OP 1. I sat on this for a while because I want to be direct but not unkind. You said you believe the team you have *now* respects her, and much of the drama has subsided. How many staff have you lost due to Abby’s bullying? I guarantee not just the one. Sorry OP, but by allowing Abby to hold you hostage like this, you are a major contributor to the problem. Promote another competent team member or hire a competent individual from the outside. Let Abby go where she may. The team will likely hope that will be far, far away and I believe the remaining team members will be much more productive and relaxed.

  46. Millennials: The generation wiped out by high rent, student loans, the recession, and the impending coronavirus recession. No, I don't buy avocado toast regularly.*

    I have been the recent grad that’s put the wrong company name on a cover letter before. It was never because I wasn’t careful or didn’t proof. It was because I couldn’t think straight. I was a college graduate resigned to a 30k per year job where I was berated daily by clients and management. Turnover for my position was common and in a year over 5 people left (department size of 10). My hours were long, there was zero opportunity for advancement, and the job had nothing to do with my degree. My commute was over an hour in pricey NYC. A win for the day was avoiding the need to talk to my boss. But I needed the job and stayed for over a year as I searched.

    When I got home (often from 9-11 PM), I applied to anything and everything to try to escape that situation, but as a liberal arts grad it wasn’t easy. A few months of the horrid job plus the job application process took a toll on me, and I started making mental errors. Cue the wrong company name on an application. I probably read over the application 10 times and missed it each time due to mental exhaustion. Not pointing that out was a kindness.

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