my resigning employee is spreading lies about me

A reader writes:

I manage a large medical practice. One of my leads gave her notice about two weeks ago. At the time, we congratulated her because she has gone through some rough times lately and we were excited that a new job would give her a new outlook, plus a nice raise. She told us how much she loved her job and said she just needed a change.

Since her notice was given, she has done nothing but badmouth my director and me to other staff. A few staff members have disclosed this to me, and I have been stunned at some of the baldfaced lies she has told — most of which were witnessed by other staff. It got so bad that I spoke with HR to find out if we could let her leave earlier than planned. They understood but said to let it go and play out.

It became so toxic (to me personally) that I spoke with my director and decided to take three vacation days, the last three days she is in the office. Today I hear that was another thing she trashed me about to HR in her exit interview — I didn’t say goodbye to her.

I had planned to either call or text her on her last day and wish her luck because I really want to do the right thing, but honestly it wouldn’t be sincere at this point. Should I let it go or send a quick “take care and good luck” text before she leaves (so I have it in writing)? Also, do I just wait and see if HR says anything about the exit interview or should I address it head-on?

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

{ 136 comments… read them below }

  1. Sarcastic Carmen*

    I’m sorry, but I don’t believe this OP is telling the whole story. What reason would the resigning employee have for lying? More likely that people are asking why they are leaving and they are finally feeling like they can talk about it. OP should think about this again from the outside and reflect upon some of the comments being made.

    1. JB (not in Houston)*

      I agree that, as Alison suggested, the OP needs to reflect on why the employee is behaving the way she is. But if you’ve never worked for someone who lies about their coworkers for no real reason, you’re lucky. It happens. There’s nothing in the letter to give us a reason not to take the OP at her word that the employee is lying.

      1. Senor Montoya*

        Yep. I’ve got a former (Yay!) co-worker like that. After they left, discovered I was not the only victim. That person was known as “the snake”. Apologies to snakes.

      1. L Dub*

        While that is true, if the resigning employee is so willing to lie openly like that, I’d be very surprised if this was the first time that behavior was exhibited. I think Alison’s advice of reflection on whether there’s more to the story or whether the employee was poorly managed prior to this is helpful.

        1. Bleh*

          You’ve probably never worked with a sneak. There is nothing worse. They lie, and they lie, and they lie. And they tell different lies to different people, so that they match that persons weakness. Oh they get away with it – they certainly do.

          1. Paloma Pigeon*

            Amen. There are some truly evil people in this world. The worst is when they know how to play the game so that their lies ensare others, allowing them to wreak havoc. That’s why I will always take Allison’s advice to call people who are not on a reference list.

          2. Jules the 3rd*

            Yep. Yeppers yep. They get away with it, and get promoted. Yep.

            I don’t get the vibe that there’s any reason to doubt this OP. The ‘taking last 3 days off but should I give a token farewell’ seems way more professional than many possible reactions that we’ve seen or heard, like ‘angry confrontation’ or ‘icy shut out’.

        2. Tram*

          This can be both true and false. Yes, perhaps OP needs to reflect. There are also plenty of employees who never even attempt to address perceived issues, which COULD be a reflection on management needing to do something differently — but could just as easily indicate the employee’s own passive-aggressiveness and resulting bad faith in trashing supervisers on the way out (this needs to be a consideration ESPECIALLY when the trashing itself is passive-aggressive as here and is blindsiding the OP). I just want to be careful about the OP taking on unneccesary guilt over one person’s poor exit alone.

    2. Mediamaven*

      I think it’s important that she internalize what she’s heard, but people do lie and they grumble and they say crappy things that aren’t always warranted. Some people always look at the negative of a situation and tend to exude negativity. Can we not just always assume that because someone is in a leadership role they are ignorant and terrible?

      1. Just J.*

        Agree. The staffer leaving may feel a “what can they do to me” kind of attitude “I’ve already resigned.”

      2. Important Moi*

        Wide berth is consistently offered to leadership in responses to the letters and in the comments.

      3. Glitsy Gus*

        I don’t think the OP is necessarily terrible, but I fully acknowledge that there are times when folks sometimes also don’t feel comfortable sharing their real feelings while a manager has actual control over their livelihood.

        OP doesn’t share what kinds of stories this person is telling. If it’s “She totally cussed me out, called me a C-word, and threatened to fire me.” or ” OP told me to falsify information” and as far as you remember you’ve never had any kind of negative interaction with that person, and certainly didn’t tell them to lie, well that’s one thing. If it’s “she totally passed me over for a promotion and never gave me credit for X, Y, and Z,” well, it’s very possible she actually felt that way but never had the courage to say anything. In the second case, OP could be doing the best she can, but since the person never said anything before, she had no idea she felt that way. It may be a legit feeling on the employee’s part but, just because it’s a legit feeling, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a true statement.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          We discussed this a few weeks/months/years (idk time has lost all meaning) ago that different people perceive things in wildly different ways. For example when people say “I got yelled at at work, by my boss.”
          I saw this just yesterday I coworker told me a different coworket got “yelled at” by another staff person. I saw the email (coworker was ccd on it) the staff person who did the “yelling” was just asking for a certain request to be formatted in the proper way that they are supposed to be due to WFH procedures. I did not think that anyone “yelled” it was just a simple correction “Actually this is the way we need this formatted can you resend?”

          So the employee who quit can have an entirely different perspective from objective reality.

          Or they are just a sneaky liar.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            “different people perceive things in wildly different ways”

            Yes! For example, my coworker and I were at a conference watching a panel discussion, and there seemed to be some tension between two of the panelists over use of the shared mic. I thought that one panelist was being rudely impatient about when it was her turn and grabbing the mic prematurely; and my coworker thought the other panelist was rudely hoarding the mic and forcing the other person to grasp for it in desperation.

            1. Intermittent Introvert*

              Yes. This. I worked for a director in a state agency. About half of us thought she was an ineffective, poorly skilled manager with odd priorities who was damaging our clients. The other half thought she was an amazing, compassionate, leader who could do no wrong.

          2. A Kate*

            YES. My former boss was perceived as being tough, although I never had any issue with her whatsoever. She has since moved on and I am in her role now, and to this day (years later) I occasionally hear from people in the company that they’re still “scarred” from being “yelled at” when they filled out a form wrong that my team uses. While I never want to deny someone’s feelings, I just…don’t believe that happened. Not couching everything in smiley faces and soft language doesn’t=yelling, or even disrespect. I have a feeling the exact same style/tone coming from a man wouldn’t have been received the same way (and before the usual brigade comes in, it’s often other women who complain about her; this stuff is systemic and cultural, not “men are terrible”).

            People, by and large, are very bad at taking any criticism. We tend to take “you did this thing wrong” personally, and hear “you are wrong.” However, I don’t know what managers (or people in editorial or QA or compliance roles) are supposed to do about it. You can be kind, but you can’t always soften everything, because too often softening language results in people thinking your necessary correction was actually a suggestion.

            1. The Rural Juror*

              You’re exactly right. My boss can have kind of a bristly personality when he’s frustrated about something that wasn’t done right. Is that very productive? Nope! But I’ve learned that’s just how he is and I can’t do anything to change it. He’s usually a pretty nice guy, but his frustrations are worn on his sleeve. My former coworker just could not get past that, which could be understandable, except they tended to internalize everything and think of their self as the victim. Our boss could tell everyone in the room the same thing – “Hey, guys, we need to clean up our filing system, we’ve all gotten a little messy.” – and that coworker would walk away thinking that comment was aimed directly at them and they were about to be fired.

              It was EXHAUSTING to ask that person how their day was going and then get an earful about how they were just so upset about something the boss said and how they’re probably not going to have a job next week blah blah blah. At first I would reason with them, like saying, “Well, you can’t file things in the wrong section and get upset when someone tells you they can’t find what they’re looking for. Everything will be just fine if we all pay a little more attention.” But then, they would think the “you” in my very general statement meant them specifically and they were think I was angry with them, too. So eventually I gave up and would just find a reason to leave the conversation once they turned into a sad sack. I have to say I was overjoyed when they finally resigned! Some people just can’t fix their perspective, no mater what you do to try to help them.

    3. Roscoe*

      Yes, this was my initial read. Its like CEOs who see Glassdoor reviews bashing them and the company and jump to “this person is obviously lying”.

      OP may really feel that the issues are untrue and out of nowhere, but in reality there is probably some kind of truth to them and the employee is just much more open now that she doesn’t have to worry about her paycheck being affected. There are 2 sides to every story, and I feel managers don’t often see the other side

    4. Massmatt*

      “What reason would the resigning employee have for lying?”

      This strikes me as nearly as obtuse as when Chris Matthews questioned Elizabeth Warren for believing the women who said Bloomberg sexually harassed them after Bloomberg denied it. “Why would he lie?!”

      But yes, the OP may want to examine whether there was anything to what the employee was saying, and re-examine her management style. That her reaction to the employee badmouthing her was to take time off suggests maybe she it too averse to confrontation.

      You don’t want to be a boss that bullies employees, but you shouldn’t allow yourself to be bullied by them, either.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I suppose if HR is not going to back her she has no other recourse but to take time off? The problem is we don’t know what was said and we have no idea of the frequency or intensity of what was said. These are factors that could change the picture a lot.

        But shame on HR for not stepping in here and for giving such awful advice.

        FWIW, OP, when a departing employee bad mouths an employer to me it’s either a) something I already know about OR b) something that I respond to with “You could have just talked that over with the boss rather than quitting over it.”

        I hope you talked to HR again to get a stronger plan for if this ever happens again.

    5. Anji*

      I endured a coworker that lied about me and other teammates. Some people are just outright toxic, and they need no excuse to stomp on others to lift themselves up.

    6. Bananahammock*

      There are lots of toxic people who lie for reasons known only to themselves. I’ve been on the receiving end of this and I’ve also seen it happen.

      My ex colleague Brian resigned for an incredibly dubious “business opportunity”. Our boss was concerned for him and offered to continue paying him for two months after his resignation due to a high likelihood that Brian would not be making any income for awhile. I thought that was really nice and Brian must be happy to be leaving on good terms. But then he began spreading rumours that our boss suddenly replaced him one day and told him to leave without any prior warning.

      When the boss called a meeting with Brian he asked me (I was in HR) to be a witness. When he asked why Brian thought he was being fired when he had in fact resigned, he started crying and said he was sorry. He didn’t explain why he pretended to be fired and was making our boss to be an awful person.

      My theory is that Brian knew he was leaving a good, reliable job for a dumb business idea. So he was embarassed and wanted to make himself out to be a victim and loved getting sympathy. Sometimes people do inexplicable things because they are stupid and enjoy the drama.

      1. sub rosa for this*

        I’ve been taken in by more than one of these types before. They exist, and there never seems to be any good reason for what they do.

        Some people lie for gain and some lie out of desperation. “Deedee” lied, as far as any of us could tell, for fun or to stir s**t. Or because she was bored. She’d play us against one another, sometimes very subtly. She’d memorize all of our good stories and then tell them elsewhere as though they happened to her. She’d flirt with your boyfriend, to the point of embarrassing him, then come and tell you all concerned-like that he had “come on” to her. We believed her over and over, until it happened when she didn’t know one of us was home and could hear her.

        I know it’s hard to understand, when you want to believe that everyone is basically a good person who’s the hero of their own story and this sort of thing is always a misunderstanding. Thankfully these people are rare — but they’re out there.

        I hope with all my heart that some of them eventually grow up, learn their lessons, and get better. That’s all I can do.

        1. Uranus Wars*

          I know this likely won’t be seen but I did work with someone like this. She told the CEO and my manager that I got really really drunk at a holiday party and left with a co-worker. I got a strong reprimand because I worked in HR – um, yea, I deserved one based on the story. He got a warning. I probably should have been fired. EXCEPT WE DIDN’T DO IT.

          While I was in the meeting she told my co-workers all these supposed things I said about them. It took until she quit (almost a year later) for us to realize what was happening. My coworker & I actually got an apology from the CEO and my manager, which floored me.

    7. lazy intellectual*

      I think the OP is being sincere, but like a lot of managers, is not aware of how they are really perceived by their reports. I don’t think my former manager knew I hated her. I said almost the same thing when I resigned “Thank you…I learned a lot…it’s just time to try something new, etc.)

  2. Clorinda*

    I came back to this part: she has gone through some rough times lately and we were excited that a new job would give her a new outlook.
    Something has been going on with this employee for a while now. Maybe it’s some personal issue that spilled into the workplace, or maybe she had some unrealistic expectations and reacted badly when they were not met, or maybe there’s a real problem in this workplace and this employee is the canary. Whatever the source, OP shouldn’t be so surprised. Rough times+needs a new outlook=whatever the problem is, OP has identified the OP as the cause of it. And that may not be entirely reasonable.

    1. WellRed*

      I’m not seeing where OP blames herself for whatever problems the employee had. even if she’s the direct cause of all that’s wrong with the employee’s life, the employee is handling this immaturely and unprofessionally. I agree with Alison’s advice to remain professional.

      1. Clorinda*

        I mistyped. The OP has identified the employee as the cause.
        I’m running low on coffee here, it’s a quarantine emergency!

    1. Okay, great!*

      While that may be, I don’t think it’s relevant to the advice being asked here. There are quite a few HR employees who are active on this site, who work really hard to be good at their jobs. “Oh look! Another bad HR!” type comments are not helpful and unnecessary.

  3. schnauzerfan*

    I suspect she may have wanted someone to beg her to stay, or to make a counter offer or she felt pushed out. Or maybe she just lies.
    My friends ex is still bitter about that time he was offered a promotion at work, told them he didn’t want the job and then got bent out of shape when they gave the job to a co-worker. Seems they were “supposed” to ask again…

    1. Delta Delta*

      I don’t know why it’s so hard for people to say what they want. “Would you like this promotion” should be met with “yes” if the answer is “yes.” If there’s some negotiating that needs to go with it, it can be “yes and.”

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This happened to my boss. The person before me was really angry he didn’t “beg” her to stay and didn’t “step up” to keep her. Instead he did the right thing, said “thank you for your work here, you are awesome and I appreciate you. I hope you are happy wherever you land.” and he’s the most genuine person I’ve come to know over the years.

      I recalled when I was starting and she did a couple limited trainings for me and then came back for a company event. I could feel her annoyance and I was new so I just filed it away under “be cautious and sniff around the corners as you learn the place.” Turns out after I gained trust and closeness to these folks, I heard their sides as well and I could suss out that yeah…the outgoing person was just bitter AF and even found some of the reasons behind it along the way.

      I know that she’s still out there grumbling about it, I ran into her a year or so later at a store and she noticed me. We chattered and she’s much happier but still throwing barbs. Where I’m over here like “I’m glad you’re happy, you deserve it!” [I’ve been promoted and advanced passed where she was within my first 18 months, when she had been there for almost four years when she departed…turns out she wanted to be ASKED and BEGGED and treated like she was irreplaceable. I’m over here like “I don’t want to be irreplaceable, that’s frigging stressful AF…” and going to great lengths to make it so that someone can slide into my shoes much easier than I slid into hers.

  4. Princess Flying Hedgehog*

    I wonder if employee was expecting Old Job to make her a counter offer and was mad that they didn’t.

  5. Delta Delta*

    Or maybe she’s just actually really sad about leaving and feels pushed away. Maybe when people were excited for her what she actually expected was people to become upset and say they didn’t want her to leave. I mean, this is obviously not the way to go about it, but it does seem like a possibility.

    In any case, when she’s gone, chances are there’ll be sort of a system-wide sigh of relief. People who heard the stories told and who know they weren’t true are likely to say they know that the person was saying things that aren’t true.

  6. Mama Bear*

    I had a bad relationship with a previous manager. The manager made no attempt to reach out to me after I gave notice, made no transition plan, didn’t visit our office during those weeks, didn’t attend my good-bye lunch and said zero when I left. Though there was no love lost between us by that point (this manager was most of the reason I quit) I thought the silence was unprofessional. I suggest that the OP simply wish the employee well on their last day. It can be very simple, but it would be taking the high road. OP can then at least tell their management, HR, and the team that they did wish the departing employee well.

    It kind of feels to me like the employee had issues already, and maybe was hoping to be begged to stay instead of being wished well on their journey. Kind of like how some people want others to beg them to stay in a relationship. Very speculative b/c we don’t know, nor do we know what exactly was said about OP. Sometimes people go sideways at the end of a relationship and must scorch the earth to make the leaving easier. It could be their own anxiety and not about OP at all.

    1. New Job So Much Better*

      I had a good relationship with the president of the bank I worked at for 18 years. After I gave notice (only because of an upcoming merger with no guaranteed jobs for any of us) he went on vacation. He skipped the little send-off party the others gave me and I never heard from him until one day he wanted to drop off a bunch of personal items still in the bank after the merger. Even then, he never asked how I was doing, how the new job was, etc. And yet I’d been friendly with his whole family for 18 years. You just never know.

    2. Mediamaven*

      This actually happened to me. I had an employee who was incredibly negative, attention seeking, dramatic, spoiled and very needy. But she did good work most of the time and I put her up on a pedestal. She got fast promotions and raises and was sent on exciting trips and received presents and was always celebrated for her accomplishments in front of the whole company. I was afraid I was playing favorites. Then, she decided to quit in spectacular fashion! She told me off oh man! I was completely blindsided. I believe she wanted me to beg her to stay and was shocked that I didn’t. Literally shocked. I actually reprimanded her very harshly and sent her on her way. She cried and apologized. She’s still reaching out to people months after she left and I think she’s unhappy she left.

      So, I’m in the minority but I don’t think closing the loop with a conversation about why this trash talk was happening is a bad idea. Obviously diplomatically, but I do think she needs to know she burned a professional bridge and it would provide some closure to the LW. I have no regrets and I was far more harsh than the LW needs to be.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I worked at a place where a senior assistant was like that: dramatic, attention seeking, spoiled, and needing to be publicly praised at all times. The head of another department came and spoke with her department head about some difficulties that his assistant was having with the senior assistant, and the senior assistant’s boss started to broach the conversation with her. It turned into a heated argument, with the senior assistant finally shouting, “I QUIT!” and her boss immediately shouting, “I ACCEPT YOUR RESIGNATION!” That was on a Friday afternoon. the next Monday morning, the assistant tried to come back as if nothing had happened, but she was basically told no backsies.

    3. Alternative Person*

      I had a similar experience with the job I left recently. Honestly, it really hurt. As you say, taking the high road is simple and I did. I made transition reports, cleaned everything up, brought in a thank you gift (traditional where I am). It wasn’t fun but I did it and that was all I could do.

  7. Batgirl*

    OP, your reaction here is a bit like you don’t realise you’re in an untouchable position of power.
    She’s not only the subordinate, and on her way out, but she’s also a bad liar and drama llama who absolutely no one is taking seriously. She can’t hurt you. Instead of taking time off, I would have just brought some popcorn to the show, along with a notebook to jot down any thoughts concerning her reference.
    Then I would have waved her off into the sunset with a big shit eating grin, letting her have as much delusion pie as she wants; correcting her isn’t your problem any more!
    I’m assuming of course that she didn’t label you a sex criminal or anything like that. Equally I’m not saying that HR didn’t drop the ball badly. But there’s no personal relationship here, and no need to react like it is personal.

    1. KR*

      This – OP was concerned this person was “trashing her” by saying OP didn’t say good bye but .. OP told her manager what was going on and honestly if I was a halfway reasonable person in this exit interview I would disregard that feedback because it’s not that important and it’s obvious this employee just wants to complain.

    2. Just J.*

      Agree all around to this post. HR should have had her leave early and acted to protect you. More importantly:
      There is not personal relationship here. OP, do you, at this point, really care what this employee thinks of you? If this person ever applied again for a job at your practice, would you ever hire her? No. So write her off.

      I would also not be saying good-bye at all. No emails, no phone calls. Nada. This employee tries to trash your reputation then gets upset you didn’t say good-bye? WTF? She already burned that bridge. Not you. She earned your cold shoulder.

      1. Batgirl*

        Actually by saying “wave her off” I did actually mean “say goodbye”. It’s part of the formalities, it’s not a personal gesture and although I wouldn’t hug her like a firstborn going off to college, I would probably enjoy being cheerful and happy while she isn’t. I’d particularly use some bonhomie to try to make her as unsuspecting as possible that she’s tanking her reputation and references. Why help her out with clues? Plus, coals on foreheads; works a surprising amount of the time.

    3. Anonymity*

      No one anywhere is in an untouchable position of power. Maybe in North Korea. Certainly not a business managerial position.

        1. LiarLiarPantsOnFire*

          I disagree. As others mentioned, there could be a reason why this employee never felt they could be open and honest about their concerns. For all we know, OP is the delusional one and they are worried for a good reason. It speaks volumes that HR didn’t budge. Perhaps they were waiting for what else this employee needed to say.

  8. Seal*

    Regardless of how toxic this woman’s behavior has become, absolutely make sure you say goodbye to her and wish her well on her future endeavors. Alison is absolutely correct that not doing so gives her a legitimate reason to complain. Even if it’s not sincere on your part (although I would think being able to say goodbye to someone that’s trashing would would have at least a note of sincerity, since you won’t have to work with her again), as a manager it’s the right thing to do. A former boss of mine couldn’t be bothered to goodbye to me on my last day over a decade ago; all these years later, just the thought it still fills me with rage.

      1. Seal*

        Nope. In fact, I went out of my way to wrap things up and leave detailed notes about ongoing projects. I even wiped down my desk and computer. People were coming out of the woodwork to trash him once they heard I had given notice, but I kept my mouth shut.

    1. Batgirl*

      “being able to say goodbye to someone that’s trashing would would have at least a note of sincerity, since you won’t have to work with her again”

      Yes: I wish you well! Well away from me.

      1. wendelenn*

        “Rabbi, is there a proper blessing for the Tsar?”
        “A blessing for the Tsar? Of course, my son.
        May God bless and keep the Tsar. . . FAR AWAY from us!”

        (Fiddler on the Roof)

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      A former boss not saying goodbye to me on the last day was the cherry on top of my decision to leave and set in everyone’s mind that he was as bad as they had all also experienced.

      I laugh about it it though because I was literally going around and saying goodbye to everyone, people were tracking me down and it was a really heartwarming exit for me. It gave me a lot of strength in the end, he sat in his office and kept pouting. I could have drank a cup of his angst while driving home knowing I was starting a new job the next morning as a night cap.

  9. Bopper*

    Sometimes people “soil the nest”…they need to start psychologically distancing themselves so they act up.

  10. Jess*

    I suspect the truth lies in #2 of Alison’s answer. And I have to wonder if the OP isn’t doing the same thing to this employee, talking about her performance with her coworkers. I had a boss who was bad about doing this, always acted like her subordinates should rise above petty squabbles but let something happen to her and she would bend our ear for hours about it. Do as I say not as I do…

  11. lazy intellectual*

    I give the OP the benefit of the doubt, but I could also see my clueless former managers saying the same thing about employees giving legitimate reasons for leaving. Literally all of their employees, save a couple of favorites, resented them. We would bring up the same issues to them over and over again in informal individual and team meetings. Yet whenever they got the same exact criticisms formally through anonymous surveys or exit interviews, *surprised Pikachu face*. Our team had a 60% turnover rate, and according to my manager, it was because “millennials are flaky, young people are immature and don’t know how the workpalce works, blah blah blah” (despite the fact that the older employees had the same criticisms and also left eventually.)

    It is also possible the employee is problematic, but the OP doesn’t seem to reflect that in the letter.

    1. Roscoe*

      Yep. I left a not pleasant glassdoor review of my last employer. Before that though, just about every negative review, which tended to have a lot of similarities (because they were true) were responded to with some version of “I’m sorry your time wasn’t good, but we make very clear that this environment isn’t for everyone, and if you couldn’t take it, thats on you”. Never once taking the complaints seriously

      1. lazy intellectual*

        It’s possible we worked for the same exact company! My former employer leaves the same type of passive aggressive responses to negative Glassdoor reviews. It actually makes them look worse.

  12. Roscoe*

    So, random question. Are exit interviews supposed to be somewhat private between the person and HR? Like, aren’t you supposed to be able to be honest without your manager hearing about it? Because, the fact that HR immediately told OP what was said in the exit interview really makes me wonder what else is going on there. I mean, she wasn’t in the office and they called her that day to tell her that the employee complained? That seems more than a little sketchy in my opinion.

    I’m not sure what, but something about this really reads to me like OP doesn’t realize that there may be some truth to what this employee was saying. It may be embellished, but that doesnt’ mean there weren’t legit issues

    1. Random Commenter*

      That’s not what I’ve ever encountered or expected.
      I’ve always seen the purpose of the interview to be wrapping up loose ends (here’s where X documents are, turn in company equipment), not some kind of confidential deposition of why you’re REALLY leaving.
      I’m not sure what the point of the meeting with be if only HR got the information from it (also, I don’t expect it to necessarily be HR conducting the interview)

      1. Roscoe*

        I mean, I’ve had 2 types. I’ve had my final meeting with my boss, and I’ve had an “exit interview” with HR where we discuss my overall experience there, benefits ending, etc. I’ve been told in the HR ones that I could be open during those conversations so they could make things better for employees

        1. Random Commenter*

          I guess I still don’t see why there’d be an expectation that the information wouldn’t be shared.

          1. Roscoe*

            Because if you are worried about a future reference, you will never be honest with them. So by them saying they would keep it confidential-ish, then they can get better info

    2. PollyQ*

      I wouldn’t expect it to be confidential. The point of them, from the company’s POV, is to get actionable info on what might need to be changed. Unless there’s tons of turnover, it would impossible to make that feedback anonymous, so why bother trying?

      1. Roscoe*

        Eh, I mean I get it can’t be totally anonymous. But I also feel its weird to run and tell the manager exactly what was discussed minutes after the meeting.

    3. Jam Today*

      The exit interviews I’ve had have been with HR and were expressly “why are you *really* leaving” lines of questioning, ostensibly with the aim of reducing voluntary attrition. I have taken the opportunity three times to be blunt and honest, and at least in one case resulted into people being sent to all-day training classes on how not to be gigantic a-holes in the workplace which was moderately satisfying, but I know in the other cases (because I still know people from those companies) that nothing actually came of my feedback, most of which was related to specific individuals and inappropriate -> illegal behavior in the workplace.

    4. Tempanon*

      I always wonder how frequent exit interviews are whenever this comes up. I’ve never had one, and know only one person that has. Is it more common in specific industries? I’ve worked as a manager in retail, for a nonprofit, in the health insurance business, mostly for a large company, and several large financial firms. I have quit/moved on (after giving noticed) several times, and been laid off once. No exit interviews.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I have only had one in my working life. At least one formal exit interview. I did have bosses say, “So what’s up? What’s next?” just in casual conversation.

        I don’t think the interview did any good. And from what I am hearing 20 years out the conditions remain the same. So that was a waste of my time. Exit interviews do strike me as odd. So now that I am leaving you want to know about the inner workings of your company? Okay but why now?

  13. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    My response echos Alison’s, it’s always to take the higher road when there’s an exiting employee. You treat them respectfully, even if they do not share that respect for you. You’re in the power position and more importantly, you have other staff still around that are watching, listening and anticipating your reactions for their future conversations and interactions with you.

    I know that not everyone loves me, some will straight out lie or have wildly different interpretations of our relationship or interactions, they’ll question my decisions, they’ll question my intentions. They’ll often not like my choices and trash them to others, etc. In the end, be able to feel secure in yourself. Be secure in your decisions, in your interactions, in your intentions and your behaviors.

    Treat even the nastiest most annoying person with respect because it’s not about them, it’s about the bystanders in the end. Someone who is going to trash talk and be bitter is going to do it regardless. You can’t control them, you control your own actions.

    So be kind, go to her exiting lunch if there’s one, wish her luck and all that standard stuff. She’ll be gone soon enough but she can leave a dastardly stain on your staff if you don’t act well.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I so agree with what you have here.

      It’s really important to understand our own actions and why we did what we did. We need to know our reasons and stand by those reasons. We also have to understand that we can apologize and correct course when we are wrong. We need to know that we do not have to be 100% correct the first time, but we do have to know when to say, “I am sorry.”.

      Part of leadership requires shouldering stuff and some of the stuff that comes at us can really blindside us.

    2. Snuck*

      All of this.

      I got the impression also that the OP is a person who might be more a ‘feeling’ person than a ‘thinking’ person (Myers Briggs generalisations ahoy!) and more emotionally wound up in this. Having to take three days off to avoid an employee whose behaviour isn’t offensive enough to cut short their exit days suggests this.

      Stop. Step back and become professional. Rise above all of this, paste on your manager-esque smile, and put the usual amount you put in for all your employees who are going, whether it be for an overseas move, a promotion or a retirement. Give this the same credence. You can then reflect on this in your references in future if needed “X was a great employee at Y, Z and P, but there were shaky moments in A.B and C and when she gave her notice suddenly her professionalism slipped. As a result of that we wouldn’t hire her again”… at most.

  14. pegster*

    If I found out someone was lying about me, my first reaction would be to reach out to them and ask why. Not “why are you lying” but “I heard this and that’s not how I remember it. Can you explain why you’re saying that?” Otherwise it just grows. I get the feeling the OP avoids hard discussions (taking 3 PTO days off when things are a bit squishy at work suggests that to me). I get it, they suck, and squishy situations at work suck, but I’ve found the best thing is to just deal with these things head-on (ie first conversation with the person, not HR). It similar to problems with neighbours. Sure you can just call the police, or you can take a deep breath and just talk to your neighbour.

    1. Anonymity*

      Taking three days off because you can’t handle what’s going on with your staff already signals a problem to me with manager. Run and hide doesn’t work and it may be reflective of a deeper issue. I suspect we don’t have the full story.

      1. Saberise*

        In the original thread she said that HRs solution to her wanting to have the employee go early was to have her take the 3 days off so she (and they) wouldn’t have to deal with the employee. It wasn’t her call at all.

    2. Glitsy Gus*

      Yeah, this was my thought as well. I kind of understand at least giving HR a heads up, just in case, but why didn’t you, at least once, talk to this employee and just put it out there? You don’t indicate what kind of stories she was telling, but if they are the standard, ‘this is why so-and-so isn’t good at their job/didn’t appreciate me/etc.’ a simple conversation could have probably aired out a lot of the issue. “Hey, I’ve been hearing some things that you are putting out there and they aren’t great. Is there something you want to discuss with me? Because these views are coming out of left field for me. I’ve really enjoyed working with you, and I thought you liked working with me, but if there is a problem I definitely want to be aware of it.”

      You have nothing to lose, she’s leaving. Taking PTO for the last three days of her time there probably felt really dismissive and kind of insulting from the employee’s perspective. Hiding rather than just asking her about it possibly turned it into a bigger deal than it needed to be. I had a manager who did something similar when I quit and, honestly, I lost a lot of respect for him because of it. I understand how stressful it felt, and I’m not trying to be overly critical towards you here because I know these things are tricky, but I do think there was a better way to handle the situation. You’re the manager, you still had the power here.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Oh yeah, I had a big boss who stopped talking to me when I gave notice. My respect for him absolutely plummeted. It was the last straw and it led me to believe this was not a person who should be leading people. (This was the same boss who in effort to comfort me about firing someone told me a story of being held in his office at gun point by someone he fired.) I concluded this person needed to be away from managing people.

        A couple of years later his own life blew up and he quit the company. He went to work for a competitor. It was well known that our former company would never rehire anyone who went to work for that competitor. He knew that the gesture was on a par with saying FU to our former company and he went to the competitor anyway.

        I finally realized that I was expecting a big boss to be some one he was NOT.

  15. Bella Ciao*

    I’d really love to hear the worker’s story. Was she lying or were there issue the OP and company are blissfully ignoring? OP mentioned she’d had a rough year–was this work wise, did work assist her in any way or just expected er to barrel through it? If she badmouthed in front of other people, hy didn’t OP take her in the office and ask “What’s up?”

    1. Charlotte*

      This. There’s 2 sides to every story, and as my last boss was a bit delusional about the company (she felt the Company was always right, I tended toward the opposite opinion), I wonder that this might not be the the case here.

    2. BunnyMom*

      I KNOW!!!! I know that people don’t want to give any identifying info, but it sucks when you have absolutely NO point of reference as to what the ‘lies’ were, etc.

  16. Bella*

    this story feels… odd.
    There was a manager at my last job who was fairly despised by everyone under her but she clearly had no idea – she didn’t realize her own employee had been one of the people to talk to HR about her, etc. She was fired and kept trying to communicate with the employee who had been pretty much crying over the way she had been treated.

    There’s no evidence that the same thing is going on here, BUT I have noticed that managers are often completely oblivious to the “true mood” of employees, even ones they work closely with. You can’t necessarily expect someone under you to speak their true thoughts when they have to pay bills. It does seem like there was likely underlying tension for a while and the asker didn’t pick up on it.

    It might be worth re-evaluating what the ex-employee is saying after there’s been cool-down time – maybe what they said is technically a “lie” but holds some truth about behavior ? Or maybe they felt their interpretation of an event was “true” because something hadn’t been explained to them properly?

    1. Fikly*

      Agreed. That the LW felt the need to take 3! days of PTO to avoid the situation is a giant red flag to me that there are likely other issues. Someone this conflict avoidant – I can’t help but wonder how they can effectively manage people, given conflicts will unavoidable come up and have to be managed and dealt with.

      1. Anonymity*

        Exactly my thought. More is going on here than meets the eye. I’ve seen managers who are completely oblivious to how their staff REALLY feels about them.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        This. I’ve had some lousy workplaces and some coworkers I didn’t like but I’ve never taken time off to avoid them. Either the antagonism was so over-the-top that it should have been addressed, or the OP didn’t handle it well.

        She’s leaving. Unless she’s throwing punches, it costs nothing to paste on a smile, wait out the two weeks, and come through looking like the bigger person.

  17. Anon Anon*

    It may not be that the person is lying, just that her perspective of her experience is different and now she feels free to share that.

    The last report that I had that resigned we did ask to leave early. She had been toxic (and she resigned just as we were gearing up to start the firing process), but during her notice period that toxicity became amplified. And, I don’t believe that my direct report was lying. I think she genuinely believed many of the things she was saying. But, it was also clear before her resignation that there was an issue. So I wonder what was this employee like pre-resignation?

  18. Red5*

    Alison, the link provided to isn’t working for me. Is this behind a paywall now? Thanks!

    1. Roz*

      I’m having the same issue. Not even loading. Says site is nonresponsive. I’m using Chrome

  19. Galinda Upland*

    Am I the only one getting an “under construction” error page when I click on the link?

      1. A Penny for Your Idea!*

        I’m able to get the site when I go to but this particular page says “under construction” with some dodgy ads.

      2. Sun Tzu*

        Page is still down with a message “Error. Page cannot be displayed. Please contact your service provider for more details. (19)”
        It looks like has no clue about what’s happening, because my ISP has certainly nothing to do with it.

      1. Tabby Baltimore*

        In the D.C. area, too. It’s still down at 6:02pm. It may be inaccessible for the next 21 hours, if they’re upgrading their site.

  20. sciencenerd*

    My former advisor could probably have written this letter about me or any of her advisees, had she ever found out how we really feel about her. She is the director of a large department of over 100 people. As such, she puts on a happy face and is the go-to person for faculty members and students alike. She is seen as logical, even-keeled and caring, and is THE sounding board for everyone’s issues. She makes everyone feel as though she cares about them and is loved by all. None of those people have ever seen her true self. To those under her direct supervision she was passive-aggressive and cruel. A few examples: 1) leaving notes all over the work area about minor infractions e.g. turning off a sensitive piece of equipment (which you’re supposed to do after each use) because then she has to turn it on before using it and it takes, literally, 5 extra seconds of her time; 2) making passive-aggressive comments under her breath so only the person they’re directed at can hear them; 3) giving random people the silent treatment for days with no explanation; and 4) telling people out of the blue that she’s been mad at them for the past 4 months and is now furious because they hadn’t noticed. She would be so angry over all of these things and badmouth all of us to each other. That’s how we all knew what was going on. And all of those people outside of our direct group who think she’s so nice and wonderful? She would sad terrible things about them to us the minute they left our office area.

    No one who she directly supervised/supervises would have ever addressed these issues with her because it gets you nowhere. I tried a few times and she acted like I was crazy and had no idea what I was talking about. Also, no one outside of our direct work area would ever believe us because of her stature in the institution and the public face she presents. I used to believe that she had no idea how her behavior affected us and perhaps didn’t realize how she was acting. But there were enough times when she would be acting like a complete jerk to us and her entire demeanor would change when someone from outside of our group would show up to our office area. And she would change right back to her miserable self the second they left. With all of this, we (myself and her other previous direct reports) know she would be completely shocked to know that any of us feel this way about her. So, OP, I’m not saying this is how you operate at work, but as others have said, really think about how you interact with people day-to-day.

    1. V*

      sounds exactly like my ex boss! beloved by all but totally jerky to her direct reports. worst part is you can’t talk to anyone about it because they’ll think you’re nuts.

  21. Youngin*

    I am also getting an “Under Construction” web page. I hope they didn’t add a paywall because I love your guest articles.

  22. Anonymity*

    While I disagree with this behavior, a formerly good employee does not suddenly go bad in their final two weeks. Search your soul for the truth in what she is saying. Doubtful that it is totally baseless.

    1. Roscoe*

      AMEN. I can’t imagine someone being good at their job, leaving of their own choosing, yet deciding to just become a monster overnight. I mean, slacking off a bit? Sure. But doing a 180 on behavior? Something doesn’t smell right.

  23. Mrs. Wednesday*

    One of my favorite bosses ever gave me a great thing to keep in mind as a supervisor: Some people don’t know how to leave a relationship without anger, and that includes leaving the people they’ve been working with.

    We’d had someone announce they were leaving and suddenly start getting into fights with multiple people. Another person was accepted into grad school and then began telling colleagues their job duties were degrading. (We jumped on that and, nope, answering phones was still answering phones.) Somebody else on their way out began accusing their supervisor of the same problematic behaviors that they’d been on notice to correct (not that other staff would have known that).

    This is just a dimension to consider. Sometimes, yes, being free to leave means finally being free to speak about things that have been wrong. But sometimes it’s about an employee’s perception changing or them working through ambivalence about leaving people they’ve spent so much time with.

    Work colleagues, like life, are a rich pageant.

    Give her the professional goodbye as the professional you are.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      This is an absolute gem of advice. And it applies to personal life also.

      I had a friend whose friends moved. When the big date approached the friendship tanked really bad. My friend was devastated. I mentioned this pearl of wisdom about it being easier to leave when angry and I think my friend thought about it.

      It was maybe 10 years later, my friend said he ran into his friend who moved away. The friend who moved away said that there was a lot of tension about the move and eventually he and his wife divorced after the move. He freely admitted to and apologized for his poor behavior. My own friend was so happy to have the friendship restored that it was very easy for my friend to forgive and forget. In his joy, my friend said to me that in this case HIS friend did not want to leave and the only way he could leave was if he was angry. He was actually happy with his present life and did not want to start over somewhere else.

      We have had more than a few letters here with exiting OP employees saying, “This is my last week and I think I am going to cry. I am scared/worried/lonely/etc.” Some people think crying is on a par with a felony and they will go to extremes not to cry.

      1. Mrs. Wednesday*

        Thank you! Yes, emphasis on this applying to non-work relationships. Once I started seeing this dynamic, I saw it a lot and pretty much in all types of relationships.

  24. Lucia Pacciola*

    Needing three days’ PTO to avoid an outgoing employee seems weird. My understanding is that generally you pay managers to handle people issues, not avoid them.

    Also, wanting to have a record of your good-bye in writing seems like a red flag to me. What’s the audience for that?

    “She says you didn’t even tell her good-bye!”

    “That’s false. I have have the texts to prove it!”

    [massive eyerolling ensues]

  25. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

    I’m seeing an Under Construction page when I click the link. Is that just me?

    1. literal desk fan*

      Not just you! I got that too. Now it’s saying “error, page cannot be displayed.”

  26. boop the first*

    This story as presented seems kind of odd. OP is digging in pretty deep, here. I’m curious to know what they are so afraid of. The employee is on their way out, OP will remain and thus have all the power over the narrative over the long run.

    Are employees genuinely believing the lies?
    Are they acting different around you, now?
    Is there a reason why they would agree with the liar?
    Are you currently presenting yourself as if these lies could be true?
    Is this something you can change?
    Do you realize that calling someone a liar, hiding, trying to get rid of them, general worrying makes you look like you are guilty?

    I guess what makes the story sound odd, is that when someone says such an obvious lie, as you describe, the reaction is usually to laugh. If anyone knows you, they won’t believe them. If you don’t believe them, they aren’t very hurtful. The people who worry about insults are people who believe in some way that the insults may be true.

    Maybe you’re just new and don’t trust your coworkers enough to believe you, but hiding away is enough of a strange reaction to it that they’re going to question your own confidence in what you say is the truth.

  27. Tyler*

    I am in the minority but I get where the letter writer is coming from. I’m a manager and, up until recently, thought I had an outstanding relationship with one of my direct reports. I have spent a great deal mentoring her and supporting her. I was absolutely dumbfounded to find out that she wrote extremely nitpicky and negative things about me in an evaluation (assessing me as a manager). I understood that there will be criticism–what I took issue with was that she seemed like she was grasping at straws to say something negative an did so multiple times. I had been an open book and extremely open around her—after that, our relationship changed. Was some of what she said useful–yes, SOME. But a lot of it was literally taking shots in the dark. What I learned was that some people are miserable and dumb—and don’t even know that they’re burning bridges. And even if the employee felt a certain way about OP, it was highly dumb and unprofessional to choose the voice those concerns on her way out. Sounds like she might have had a good reference before that and now she doesn’t.

  28. Patti*

    Hello all – I was the original letter writer on this thread. I learned very quickly that I was not the only target of this employee. Unfortunately, many of her complaints were from management previous to me, so it was difficult to make any changes or correct past issues for her. I’m not saying this to excuse any of my behaviors, it was just a fact that this office had issues long before I arrived that continued from upper management while I was there and alas, long after I left.

    Yes, I left in 2017 after having a nervous breakdown caused by the management there. I often tell the story of leaving a meeting with one the doctors in the practice, entering the elevator, and having him brush the back of my coat. When I asked him if there was dirt on it, his reply was Nope, just brushing the tire tracks off your back. That was my life almost every day of the 3 years I worked there, and I am forever grateful to have escaped. Since I left they have gone through 3 more office managers, providers have left, and the office is barely functioning. I don’t know if anyone could have fixed it.

    Thank you for your comments. They helped at the time, but in the end it was a situation that couldn’t have been fixed.

Comments are closed.