employee won’t let go of a mistake I made, how to politely end phone calls, and more

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

1. My employee won’t let go of a mistake I made

I’m a few months into my first management job and I’m still trying to figure out how to be seen as the manager. I’m in my early 20s and a large part of my time is spent doing the same work as the people I manage, so I think I struggle to come off as authoritative.

Right now I feel at odds with our new hire. Since the beginning, she’s challenged my authority when I give her directions. Recently I made a very small mistake with very little impact on her. She brought it to my attention the next day, and I thanked her for letting me know, apologized for any inconvenience, and got back to my work. But she keeps bringing it up. She’s on a work trial so I’m meant to do supervision meetings with her every other week. Instead of answering my questions about her work, she brought up my mistake. I told her we could address it at the end of the meeting but that we needed to focus on the task at hand first. Another time she brought it up out of the blue so I asked her what steps she could have taken to solve the problem. Now I’ve overheard her talking badly about me to her coworker. I’m starting to lose my patience. How do I get her to drop this?

“Jane, we’ve discussed this and it’s been handled. You’ve continued to bring it up. What’s going on?” … followed by, “I am happy to take ownership of my mistakes, but this has been dealt with. It’s becoming disruptive to keep bringing it up and makes me wonder if something else is going on. I need you to focus on your job, not mine. Are you able to do that going forward?” (The point of asking that question at the end is to get her to either agree to move forward or to air whatever is stopping her from that.)

But I doubt this will be the end of it, because this is the behavior of someone who has something else going on. I’d keep a very close eye on her and be prepared to assert yourself further if you see additional problems from her, which you probably will. Also, she’s new and on a work trial! Pay real attention to whether she’s someone you want to keep; if she’s toxic to your team, she can’t stay, and it’s much easier to deal with that now than have to do it later.

Keep in mind that authority, especially for new/young managers, comes from knowing what tools your authority gives you and being willing to use them — calmly and matter-of-factly. In this case, that means knowing that you have the option to let her go and being willing to do that if you need to, and not feeling you have to cajole her into being reasonable.

Here’s a set of posts about exercising authority that might help:

That look like an odd mish-mash of topics, but they all delve into how to use authority effectively.

2. Is my boss’s advice making me look bad?

I recently switched industries entirely, from a tiny retail environment to a national corporate company with headquarters in another state. My boss is at the senior level regionally and is awesome – she’s personable, smart, believes in my abilities, and has point blank told me she’s grooming me for bigger things. But as I’m trying to create a more professional persona for myself and learn how to navigate a traditional office atmosphere, there have been times when I worry that what she advises me to do will make me look out of touch if I do it.

A recent example of what I mean: we had our local office renovated and we’ve been taking turns going back to set up our new office spaces. My desk area needed a couple tweaks, one of which the construction company said should be done by whatever technology company we use. We recently outsourced our tech security to a remote company, so the people I would have called a couple months ago to come to physically fix something are no longer working with us. When I asked my boss who I should contact, she gave me the name of the senior technology manager in the corporate office three states away. Their team does more software technology stuff, like getting our remote desktops set up to communicate with the corporate office, not drilling holes and rewiring things in our local office. I fear that if I reach out to this person, who firstly is not oriented to this type of work and secondly is too far up in the hierarchy of the business, I’ll look like I don’t understand office norms. Typically, I just make sure to copy my boss and/or mention that I got the contact information from her, but I’m wondering if there’s a better way to navigate this? Or am I overthinking this and it won’t make me look like a naive corporate newbie like I worry it will?

Yeah, sometimes people in senior positions don’t actually know how to get stuff done at lower levels — because they no longer need to, or because the people they’re in touch with are higher level themselves, or because other people usually handle it for them. That doesn’t make your boss bad at her job, but it does mean she might not be well equipped to advise you on this kind of thing.

The good news is that it sounds like you’re able to spot it when it’s happening (at least some of the time), before you’ve taken her advice. When that happens, it’s fine to try a different avenue first if you can — like if there’s someone else you could ask, you could check with them to see if they have a different suggestion. When you do, make sure to say you also checked with your boss but weren’t sure if there’s a better way (because otherwise you risk looking like you’re wasting people’s time by asking for guidance from multiple people without acknowledging or following any of it, so you’ve got to explain why you’re seeking a second opinion). It also might be wise to start with those alternate sources first, if you have them.

Or, if you do contact the person she suggested, you can be explicit about the situation (politely): “I need to do X and Jane suggested I start with you. I realize you might just handle Y though — if so, any chance you can point me in the right direction?”

Make a point, too, of developing other ways of getting direction on this kind of thing without going through your boss if you can (whether it’s a friendly admin who knows everyone, just spending some time digging through your company’s intranet, or so forth).

3. How do I politely end professional phone calls?

This question seems so simple, but it stumps me a few times a day. How do I get off the phone on a professional call, when there is nothing else to talk about or when I have to go? I’m a divorce lawyer, so the subject matter is very emotional and personal and relationships are key. It is important that my clients know I’m listening and that I care. I spend a lot of time on the phone with clients each day, asking or answering questions and relying information. We start off with an agenda, but then we get through what we have to get through … and then what? It’s often painful awkwardness. I find myself saying something that feels really clumsy, like “well, that’s it” or “okay, I’ll keep you posted” – which, duh, of course I will.

I guess I don’t really have a better answer in my personal life, and usually just conclude calls with “I’ll let you go,” which is the universal signal that you are done talking on the phone. But, that doesn’t work professionally. There is obviously a simple answer here, but I can’t figure out what it is. What are the magic words?

Actually, the way you’re doing it — with something like “okay, I’ll keep you posted” — is fine. You just need to say it confidently rather then feeling awkward about it. But some other options are:

* “Okay, I’ve got everything I need. Thanks for your time, and I’ll be in touch soon.”
* “Well, I should be back in touch with you in about two weeks when X happens.” (Wait for response.) “Talk to you then, and take care.”
* “I’ve got to run to a meeting, but I hope this helped and we’ll talk soon.”
* “I think that’s it for today! It was good talking with you.”
* “Is there anything else we should cover before we wrap up?”
* “It’s been good talking. Let’s plan to touch base next week.”

4. My new job said I could work from home — but my manager is pushing me to come to the office

I work in an industry that was already remote about 50% of the time before COVID. I recently started a new job and emphasized during the interview I prefer working from home and was looking for a job that had that setup. The interviewer (who is now my manager) told me company policy was everyone had the option to work from home full-time until it was deemed safe to do otherwise. She also said the company would keep this setup once COVID was over. I told her this was great because I wanted to work from home as much as possible.

Now that my city is easing up on COVID restrictions, she is giving me a lot of pressure to work in the office full-time. I tried going in for a few days two weeks ago and was extremely stressed — I do not want to be in a small office space at all while my city still has active cases. When I told her I would return to working from home for the foreseeable future, she told me she would “strongly prefer” I work in the office. I asked if company policy had changed and she said no. I’ve been back at home since and she messages me every day asking when I will come back in person. I have a feeling my boss wants me there because she is a bit micromanagey and likes to track what everyone is doing at all times.

The job is otherwise great but I definitely wouldn’t have accepted if I knew working from home wasn’t going to be possible long term. How can I respond to my boss when she keeps asking me to come in? Should I take this as a sign of worse things to come and start looking for a new job?

You might as well address it head-on: “You’ve been asking about me working from the office, so I want to make sure we’re on the same page. Finding a job that allowed remote work was a high priority for me, and my understanding when I was hired was that I’d be able to work from home. I wouldn’t have accepted the job without that agreement in place, and I’ve been working from the assumption that that hasn’t changed.”

If you have decent HR, I’d raise this with them as well, especially since it sounds like your boss might be at odds with company policy. That said, even in companies that encourage working from home, individual managers are often allowed to set their own policies on it — so I’d also start thinking about what you’ll do if she won’t budge. Do you still want the job if that’s the case?

5. How do I approach my boss about time off for fertility treatments?

I started a new job about five months ago. Everything is great so far — my boss (and grandboss) are incredibly understanding and kind and supportive, and I love my coworkers. However, my husband and I have been trying to have kids for two years now. Our doctor said that the next step would require going into his office three times a month for fertility treatments. How do I approach this with my boss? Everything revolves around my cycle, so it’s not like I can say, “Every Thursday I have this appointment.” It’s going to be more of, “Oh, just got my period and so I’ll need to go in to the doctor in two days.”

It’s a small world that I work in, and someone I used to work with who knew my boss told me that my boss had had her kids via infertility treatments (I know, I was shocked she told me but obviously have not let my boss know that I know), so I know my boss would be understanding. At the same time, I feel so much pressure and anxiety around this and am so afraid it won’t work and am not sure I could take the “did it work?!?” each month. I also don’t want to seem flaky since I did only just start five months ago. What do you think I should do?

Treat it like any other medical appointment, meaning your boss only needs to know how it will affect your schedule and not any details beyond that. Even if she had fertility treatments herself, this is still your private medical information, and you’re right to worry it could lead to conversations you don’t want. Plus, as lovely as she seems, there’s a risk that she’ll be annoyed you’re missing work for something “optional” while still relatively new, or that you’ll face bias (unconscious or otherwise) if she knows you’re trying to have a baby, with all that implies about maternity leave, etc. Maybe not, but why introduce the risk when you don’t need to?

All you need to say is, “I have a series of medical treatments coming up that will require me to go to the doctor several times a month for a little while. It’s nothing to worry about, just something I need to get taken care of. My plan is to try to schedule for early or late in the day but I wanted to give you a heads-up.” (If this is an office where you’d be expected to make up that time, you could add, “I’ll plan to come in early or stay late on those days.”)

{ 274 comments… read them below }

  1. Diahann Carroll*

    Pay real attention to whether she’s someone you want to keep; if she’s toxic to your team, she can’t stay, and it’s much easier to deal with that now than have to do it later.

    This is really important. If she’s already badmouthing you to her coworker (do you also manage this person?), she’s bringing toxicity into your workplace and that cannot stand. She’ll drag down the morale on your team and have the rest of your reports questioning your ability to do your job. Then you’ll end up trying to justify yourself to your reports, which really isn’t something you should be spending time on.

    I’d tackle this head on like Alison suggested, no beating around the bush, and if she keeps up the passive aggressive behavior, cut her loose.

    1. T2*

      Yes. Trying to be gentle in cases like this just leads to more cases like this.

      “That is enough. We are done talking about this. Please go do your job” is what I would say.

      1. Crooked Bird*

        Yeah, and I’d add, LW, that remembering you can let her go and acting like it starting RIGHT NOW is doing the employee a favor. If you act wishy-washy the employee will assume you can’t do anything to her and not change her ways, and when she’s let go she’ll be blindsided. But if you make it clear with words and/or manner the consequences she could face for continuing to act inappropriately, she has the chance to shape up if she’s capable of it.

        1. AKchic*

          Absolutely.

          And to ensure that HR/upper management is aware of the situation, I’d loop in whoever is appropriate *now*, so Jane can’t try to campaign ahead of time (she probably will as soon as she realizes that she has to stop if she wants to keep her job) to try to smear OP1.

          I will go out on a limb and suggest that age is probably a factor here and Jane resents that there is an age difference, with OP1 being younger than Jane, and part of this is trying to put OP1 “in their place” and somehow humble them because in Jane’s mind, OP1 doesn’t deserve to be managing Jane (because as the elder person of the two, Jane should be supervised by someone older than her). It’s a very… juvenile way of thinking. Especially as Jane ages in the workforce.

          I recommend that OP1 document everything now, and keep documenting all red and any red or pink-shaded flags now. They are probably going to need them, and there are probably more than OP1 realizes.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            OP says below that she and Jane are either the same age or in the same age group.

      2. Massmatt*

        I would be even more straightforward than that. Let the employee know that her odd fixation on this error is putting her job in jeopardy.

        “You continue to focus on this error, bringing it up repeatedly. This is not the way we deal with mistakes here. Everyone makes mistakes, we deal with them and move on. If you cannot do that, I will let you go. Is that something you can do?”

        If this is what she’s like during a probation period, what will she be like as a regular employee? Ugh, I would get ready to fire her.

    2. allathian*

      The new employee in the first letter really does sound disruptive. The OP’s young and some peope have a hard time taking direction from a considerably younger manager. If the manager is also a woman, it can be even harder. There’s nothing in the OP’s letter to say they’re a woman, though. Sometimes, if the manager is also doing the hands-on work and not just supervising, there can be confusion about roles. It seems like the employee is trying to distract the manager from managing the employee’s work. This has to stop, or the manager won’t be able to manage effectively.

      1. Anonys*

        Yes, that she has trouble taking directions from younger people was the first place my mind went when Alison said “this is someone who has something else going on”. I think some people feel a sort of professional jealousy when someone younger is their direct superior. Also early twenties is obviously extremely young to be in a management role and some people’s minds will just go “well, no way that person already has the experience to manage”. I think part of the problem might be that once you move up the ladder and get to a certain seniority level at work, you will be made a manager, regardless of whether you have any of the necessary people skills (as Alison has mentioned before). If we saw management as requiring a very specific skillset (that some people might acquire at an earlier age or be naturally gifted at), we might be able to move away from thinking it’s something you only “deserve” once you have x years of experience.

        Anyway, if this person fundamentally can’t accept OP’s authority as a manager, for whatever reason, that’s not something that can be fixed. She should probably be let go.

        1. MK*

          It often is a problem with people who are younger than the manager too; people just expect those in authority to be of a certain age.

          1. snowglobe*

            Yes, even if the new employee is younger, she may see still see the LW as a peer, both age-wise and because LW also does some of the same work.

            1. Lady Meyneth*

              True, but regardless, it’s pretty crappy to keep bringing back even a peer’s mistakes. It’s a huge red flag that this may not be an emproyee you want to keep around

          2. Vina*

            I’ve seen authority challenged b/c of age, gender, race, ethnicity and national origin.

            Some people have a certain view of what “authority” looks like. They focus on the appearance of the person and not the fact that the company trusts LW to make decisions or the competence LW demonstrates.

            I can tell you so, so many stories of young female lawyers being taken for secretaries. Yes, even in 2020. It’s doubly so if the lawyer is also POC or has a notice LW accent. Or, heaven for fen, she’s attractive.

            We humans are absolutely horrible at judging people based on abilities. We use a whole lot of personal and cultural shortcuts. When things aren’t as we except, we find ways of rejecting it rather than adjusting our expectations.

            I also have a pro bono client who is the manager of our local Arby’s. Because she’s fairly young and really pretty and has a very soft, high voice, people assume she’s a cashier. People usually assume her older, schlubby male cashier is the manager. The also assume she’s too young to have any real authority. Unfortunately, she’s has a rather difficult life and has more hard-won smarts than most of her older employees.

            It’s everywhere.

            1. Anon for this*

              I can tell you so, so many stories of young female lawyers being taken for secretaries.

              Ugh. And I somehow suspect that a young male lawyer would just be assumed to be exceptionally gifted, with no one questioning his lawyer status (did I guess that right or no?)

              Someone in my group of friends (someone who’s a partner, no less) had such an interaction with an older male client a couple of years ago, that she told us about. (He first assumed he was a secretary, and then, after being corrected, that she must be related to the owner.) Then, when we were discussing it as a group and being properly horrified, an older woman new to the group piped in with “I don’t see what was bad about what he said. He probably meant it as a compliment” and then, to everyone’s explanations of what was bad, (shrug) “I guess I’m just more tolerant”. Sigh. We as a society still have so much work to do on ourselves.

              1. Arts Akimbo*

                Gotta love internalized misogyny. I don’t think I could continue to be friends with someone who put the onus of tolerance on the person being discriminated against. She will probably accuse you of being intolerant if you should stop hanging out with her. :P

            2. CM*

              I’m a lawyer, and a woman and a POC, and early in my career, was mistaken for a secretary so many times I stopped counting.

              (Also, it’s “heaven forfend.” Hopefully this is helpful and not obnoxious.)

              1. Vina*

                Siri doesn’t like my accent. So a lot of times when I talk instead of type, I end up with a little word salad.

                1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  Siri has a better vocabulary than I do! I’ll have to look up “fen”. And, I have the same problem with Swype.

                2. Eukomos*

                  @ I Wrote This

                  Fen is a marsh. Also a slang plural for fan (as in fan of a TV show or something, not like for cooling off).

              2. AKchic*

                As a fan of the Magicians… I kind of like the idea of “heaven for Fen”. But, that’s my whimsical side coming into play.

            3. New Horizons*

              I’m a youngish female attorney myself, and I once tried to check in with the court clerk before a hearing and was told, “You can’t represent [party], you’re not an attorney.”

              At least he apologized profusely when I assured him that I was the attorney of record. Still though.

          3. New Horizons*

            Somewhat related anecdote: When my husband was in his late 20’s, he was a shift manager in retail. During his time there, a woman who was in her 60’s was hired and assigned to several of his shifts. As it happened, this woman went to church with my husband’s parents and had known him since he was a small child. She was NOT thrilled about the fact that he had any sort of authority over her.

            At first, she tried just point blank refusing to do anything he told her. When he made it clear that wasn’t going to fly, she threatened to tell his mother that he wasn’t respecting his elders. Yes, really.

            It gets better. Husband didn’t back down, so the employee did, in fact, call his mother. Her response was a bewildered, “Yes, my son is doing his job. What’s your point?”

            The employee was let go shortly thereafter. But yeah, some people really don’t deal well with younger people in positions of authority.

            1. Deranged Cubicle Owl*

              It gets better. Husband didn’t back down, so the employee did, in fact, call his mother.

              Good Lord… o.O

            2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              Yikes! Yep, my children’s classmates and friends, whom I remember from sleepovers and elementary-school field trips, have joined the work world several years ago, and are now moving up and getting better at their jobs. Some now have advanced degrees and/or are valued professionals in their fields. None manage people yet that I know of, but some will soon, I’m sure. As it should be. That’s… the whole point of raising and educating children? that they’d take over after us? And good for your MIL, that’s a perfect answer!

          4. Elizabeth West*

            I’ve had supervisors who were younger than me, and all my skating coaches were younger than me. One of my coaches actually had an issue telling me what to do because of it. I told her, Look, you’re the experienced skater, not me. I’m literally PAYING you to tell me what to do! It’s actually your actual job!

            I try to keep the same perspective with younger managers. Most of them knew the work at least, and/or they knew what they needed from me because that was their job to know. Age doesn’t necessarily go hand-in-hand with competence.

            Obviously, Jane does not see it that way.

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I think part of the problem might be that once you move up the ladder and get to a certain seniority level at work, you will be made a manager, regardless of whether you have any of the necessary people skills (as Alison has mentioned before).

          I find it to be true in my work experience, but with one caveat. It is true that my field of work is famous for promoting young people to management. First time I had a manager younger than I (albeit by a year), I was 32. With one exception, every manager I’ve had for the last 12-13 years has been younger than I by 10-15-20 years. Which is great, all of mine have been competent and good at managing, and I have enjoyed working for them all! But now that I think of it, every single manager I’ve ever had has been a white guy. I wonder how hard it is for anyone else to get promoted; much less automatically promoted because they are senior enough. I’m not having a good feeling about the odds of it happening to people in all other demographics, tbh.

          1. Quill*

            Anecdotal, but in all the time I was a lab rat in pharma anyplace where most of the work was done by labtechs, all but one of my bosses were guys. Lab techs were majority women.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              Where were they finding all the guys if the majority of techs were women? Did they, like, pounce on any new guy to promote him? Ridiculous.

                1. Airy*

                  Yeah, it’s this weird rooster and hens thing they keep trying to reproduce. I’ve seen it both as a teacher and as a stenographer – and male stenographers are even less common than male teachers.

              1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

                The glass elevator effect. Sadly extremely well-documented.

            2. IndustriousLabRat*

              I’ve found this to be all too often the case in Academia as well. I’ve never yet had a female supervisor in a lab setting. I toodled on out of there after about a decade of dealing with all levels of sexism from none at all, to a male professor who kept asking the female professor in the office next to his to make his photocopies (she eventually quit in disgust and got a very lucrative job elsewhere) and found myself a niche where I am THE lab rat, supervisor of my own domain. I still answer to an older male, but… he’s a VP with too much on his plate, and happy to just let me run my own show. It’s a breath of fresh air!

              The fitness of a manager should be judged by their skill at managing and prowess in their field. But the nuts and bolts of this situation are that the subordinate doesn’t have the standing to constantly challenge the boss’ authority, NO ONE has the standing to challenge it publicly, and DEFINITELY the dramamongering is worthy of a PIP. LW’s employee really needs to pull her head out and stop weeing on the fire hydrant, as it were. This is some strange territorial behavior that I wouldn’t tolerate from my dog, let alone a subordinate, and the fact that this is a VERY GREEN and new subordinate just makes it worse. It’s really quite bizarre!

            3. Starbuck*

              Yeah I think this unfortunately a common trend in any field that is female-dominated – you’d think that would be reflected in the leadership and advancement, but so often it’s not!

          2. Artemesia*

            Everyplace I have worked, young presentable men are singled out early for experiences that will lead to promotion. Decisions are made, often somewhat formally, to cultivate ‘promising young men’ for management. Sometimes women excel and are singled out or promoted but they have to be really outstanding whereas quite mediocre men get that treatment routinely.

            I laugh about law — my husband was in a class of 200 of whom 20 were women; on law review 10 of the 20 slots went to women as GPA is the sole determinant and the women were simply better qualified including having much higher LSATs than the men on average. As women begin to make up half the law students, I assume the gap in ability between men and women will lessen, but for decades, the women in professional schools were generally much better qualified than the men because of discrimination in admissions.

            1. only acting normal*

              In my university physics degree it was about 10% women, and we won the *vast* majority of the academic prizes, including all of them in the 2nd and final years. But our exams were marked blind so.
              As soon as work is “graded” with knowledge of who did it I (and other women, POC etc) end up inexplicably dropping way down the field.
              I was horrified to find out my (science) company only *just* brought in anonymised application sifting – like, come on, its been known to work for decades! And they’re always handwringing about (lack of) diversity.

          3. nellie*

            It breaks my heart a little to see so many comments that allude to a management promotion just being the automatic next step. (Even for a person who is just barely out of college, apparently!) This has not been true in my experience at all. I’ve got a career of positive performance reviews behind me and glowing references, so I’m not a total moron, but I never figured out how to make the jump to management. While some people can barely step foot into an office without being tagged for promotion, and there are probably some ugly biases under that. Not the fault of the people who get automatically promoted, but a bummer all the same…

            1. anon here*

              Yep. I had a similar problem in my former academic career in quantitative finance. All the guys I knew in the field did consulting as well as their academic job. I wanted to, and made industry contacts, and networked, and presented, and even advertised, but never got a consulting position. I asked some of the guys how they got their consulting gigs and their answers were universally, “My college roommate called me up..” “This guy I met at a party hired me…” None of them had made any effort to get into consulting (I’m sure some guys have, but not these guys I knew). It was all just based on ‘a guy I know’ relationships.

              I realized it was not going to happen for me because as long as I was in academia, all guys looked at me mostly as kindergarten teacher, warm and nurturing and caring and willing to mentor for free, rather than someone you’d ask to improve your portfolio allocation algorithm (despite only teaching graduate classes in quantitative finance). I’ve changed my career trajectory accordingly.

            2. Jane Plough*

              IMO transitioning to management shouldn’t only be about longevity because that’s how you end up with high performers with terrible people skills getting management roles and making their reports’ lives hell.. Management is a totally different skillset and if the promotion pathway in that direction isn’t open at the firm you’re in then it can be hard to make the jump at another company as they’ll be looking for proven skills. One way to do this might be to find opportunities to demonstrate those skills in your current role (can you ask to be involved in hiring committees, supervise interns, work on projects that involve coordinating input from a range of people, make decisions or contribute to team planning or resourcing decisions, oversee work of contractors?) or through volunteering. It does depend on industry but those are some of the kinds of experience I was able to draw on when applying for my first management role.

        3. Anon Anon*

          I also think the fact that the OP does the same kind of work as her reports probably also compounds things. For someone who already wants to challenge the OP’s authority, knowing that the OP does the same or similar work, can give the report the idea that OP is “just like her”.

          1. juliebulie*

            How would this new employee take it if OP went a step further with the “just like her” and seized on new employee’s first mistake, mercilessly mentioning it at every opportunity? (Not that I am recommending this!) I have to assume that this new hire is very new to the workforce if she doesn’t know just how out of line her behavior is.

      2. Mookie*

        Reactions to authority can be so weird and contradictory. Half the time it feels like people who fixate like this on small events that prove a manager is as human and fallible as the rest of us are, knowingly or otherwise, strongly attracted and deferent to brute and blunt displays of power and in the absence of petty autocrats act out like petulant schoolchildren, glorying in misbehaving and roping other people into it, perhaps subconsciously disappointed that their boss isn’t punishing their naughty behavior. This is particularly blatant when it’s someone new to the workforce. They are operating on boarding school rules—hierarchy is maintained through swift punishment, weak leadership is undermined and publicly humiliated—in a corporate boardroom world. For once in my life, I’ll take the suits’s way of doing things, which by comparison are less toxic than this crap.

        1. Anonys*

          You make a good point. When I used to tutor school children, I noticed that they would take any small mistake I made or thing I didn’t know as evidence that I was stupid and not qualified to teach them (I was also only in my early twenties so not that much older than the teenaged ones). I would think that being introduced to a normal working environment, one learns quite quickly that the boss doesn’t know everything and that everyone makes mistakes, both silly and serious, even at the highest level. Some people seem to miss that lesson.

    3. Jenny*

      I agree, there’s a lot of red flags. She’s brand new and resisting feedback? I really don’t see this working out. At my job we literally tell people in interviews that being able to take an incorporate feedback is one of the key things we are seeking and ask them about how they handle feedback situations.

      I do not see this person working out.

      1. linger*

        New employee, still in a trial period, may have some odd Gumption! ideas about how to display her ability to do the job fulltime, such as demonstrating that she knows better than her manager. Though I’m not sure that changes the advice for OP in any way; it isn’t behaviour that can be allowed to stand if this employee actually does want to stay on.

        1. Georgina Fredrika*

          Oh, that’s a good point. I used to have a writing job and allll my friends thought they’d be a good fit for it despite a lack of experience, so I always said “well we have an opening, so apply!”

          One friend, after receiving a rejection, emailed the HR manager back with two (grammar) errors she found on our site thinking it would show she actually knew what to do.

          Except the issue with her wasn’t basic English – we were each writing 50+ researched fashion product descriptions a day along with other work so we needed ppl with skillsets she didn’t ultimately have. So yeah little mistakes happen but it would have been more impressive if she noticed we called jacquard, crepe!

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Agreed. Some people are not happy unless they are complaining. Making mountains out of molehills is their specialty.

        OP, I’d be tempted to cut to the root problem here by asking her, “Is this how you handle small problems at work? People make a mistake, they take ownership of it yet for days/weeks after you are still talking about that little mistake?”
        Then I would let her stumble through what answer she has to this question and I’d continue on with:
        “You should be aware that making mountains out of mole hills does not contribute to the group effort here. People make mistakes. This happens. Part of this job or any job is to be able to role with the minor things that come up. If you find that you cannot move on from a minor mistake, then you need to consider that this job may not be a good fit for you.
        If this continues to be a problem area for you, that is, you continue mentioning it to me and to your cohorts it will impact your ability to become a permanent employee here.”

        Honestly, OP, she is in the honeymoon period of employment. This is where everyone is getting to know each other and all are on their best behavior. If she is willing to do this during her probationary period then in all likelihood this will get worse once she goes permanent. If you can, I would let her go now. And that would look like, “Employee, it seems that minor mistakes weigh very heavy on your mind. This type of concern will not work out well for you here as people need to be flexible and to be able to move on by realizing they, also , make mistakes themselves. It does not seem like this job is a good fit for you. With this in mind, we will have to let you go.”

        Key point, do not use the word “I”, don’t refer to yourself. Instead use “company”, “our department” or other any other collective term that makes sense in your setting.

        1. Ellie*

          Agree. No-blame culture – it’s the only way to be. You want people to learn from their mistakes, not cover them up.

        2. Colette*

          I disagree witth this approach. Your wording brings up an issue but then immediately lets her go. And frankly, this is the kind of thing where the manager should give her a direct warning. Maybe she’ll change – if so, great! If not, the manager can still let her go. But there’s no need to combine the two.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            Agreed. Jumping straight to firing without first giving a firm warning about needing an attitude adjustment is a little much.

          2. Coder von Frankenstein*

            I would agree, except that this employee is in a trial period. The whole point of a trial period is to identify problems *before* you make a long-term commitment to employ somebody. This isn’t a case where you’ve got somebody who’s been doing good work for the company for years.

            1. Colette*

              Sure, but there’s no reason not to give her feedback during that trial period! If I were another employee on the team and I found out someone was fired for a fairly minor issue without getting feedback in advance, I’d be job hunting.

              1. Polly Hedron*

                Oh, but there are reasons not to give more feedback:
                – Jane has already had feedback and has responded by doubling down.
                – Jane might respond to a firmer warning by temporarily improving enough to become a permanent employee, and then firing becomes more difficult.

                Jane is toxic. OP1 will lose more employees if Jane stays on the team than if OP1 fires Jane now.

            2. snoopythedog*

              Arguably, you would want to give feedback in a trial period to see how well the employee takes feedback. It’s a good marker of how they will be as an employee.
              I suspect the employee in this case won’t take it well, in which case you have a stronger case to fire her and have demonstrated that you exhausted options on your end.

        3. Mockingjay*

          Key point, do not use the word “I”, don’t refer to yourself. Instead use “company”, “our department” or other any other collective term that makes sense in your setting.

          This is very good advice! It removes any hint of “you” versus “me” in OP #1’s interactions with and instructions to this problem employee (“OP #1 doesn’t like me! It’s a personality conflict.”), making it clear that all employees are held to these standards in work performance and team interactions.

      3. RecentAAMfan*

        Agreed, especially since she’s not just “resisting feedback”, she’s insisting on repeatedly giving her manager “feedback”! On a small issue that her manager has already properly taken ownership of!

        1. Archaeopteryx*

          I feel like, whether consciously or not, this employee is setting up a trap so that any time OP does try to stop her repeatedly bringing up this mistake, she can claim that OP is insecure/defensive/tries to bury her mistakes. I would definitely nip this right in the bud.

    4. Coder von Frankenstein*

      I would go further and say that you should plan to cut her loose unless there is a compelling reason otherwise. If she behaves like this while she’s still on her work trial, what’s she going to be like when she feels secure in the job? It’s like somebody behaving badly on a first date: You have to assume that a person on a first date is on their best behavior, and it’s only going to go downhill from here.

    5. SomebodyElse*

      This! Honestly, the OP at this point already has enough information to end this work trial and I highly suggest they do it.

      One of the common mistakes that new managers make (I count myself in this category) is to not face difficult decisions and employees head on. I think it mostly comes from not having enough experience to put these signs in context of normal employee interactions. Again, this is super common and I’d hazard almost all new managers have faced this and err’d on the side of being to lenient.

      Bottom line… This employee will not improve, will drag down morale on the team, will become a time and effort black hole, and will be harder to eliminate the longer this is allowed to go on. I’d advise the OP to discuss the situation with their manager with the goal of ending the work trial.

    6. BunnyMom*

      YUP – if she treats a BOSS with this much disrespect, just IMAGINE how she treats coworkers?
      TOXIC – get rid of her as soon as you possibly can. That ‘personality’ cannot be fixed.

      1. LifeBeforeCorona*

        Good point, if she is pouncing on small mistakes the boss makes, she may be treating her co-workers who presumably have been there longer and know what they are doing much worse. Also, if she is bad-mouthing her boss to them she is also showing a severe lack of judgment.

    7. ARTIFACTS. ART. LIFE-FORMS. AND. MISC.*

      #1: cut her loose. She’s not accepting you as her boss and it is unlikely that you can ‘fix’ the issue. Cut her loose and be thankful that you have the option to do so.

  2. sunny-dee*

    Re fertility treatments, with the caveat that every clinic and treatment plan is different, the routine blood work and scans that you have to do are almost always scheduled for early morning hours (7:30 – 8:30), and don’t really require appointments – you just come in when they say, they show you right in, and then you’re out. Some of the tests they do for IVF requirement more time, since you’re actually with the physician, and then the transfers (IUI or IVF, whichever) are during the day. But the bulk of the appointments are bloodwork, and you can pop in and out. I did 4 rounds of IUI and 1 round of IVF, and only had to have a handful of days where it actually affected work. The worst was I may start at 9:30 instead of 9am (and that was rare).

    1. Natalie*

      My recollection is that once we knew the first day, we knew all the subsequent days for that cycle as well. So it would be easy enough to tell your boss you have follow ups on this and that date if you’re trying to give more notice.

    2. Forrest*

      This was also my experience. It was just bad planning that we moved house between baby 1 and baby 2 and wanted to stay at the same clinic, so I had to drive an hour west at 6.30 in the morning, have a five minute blood test, and then drive two hours east to get to work for 9.30! Hopefully yours is a tad more convenient.

    3. Jenny*

      Although also the caveat that the meds can make you pretty sick. A friend of mine gets migraines from the hormones.

    4. Jeffrey Lebowski*

      Agreed with all these comments. My doctor had very early morning monitoring hours starting at 6, so even with ultrasounds I was out of there by 6:15. You’ll probably need to take off on retrieval day if they’re doing general anesthesia. I was not lucky enough to have anything retrieved so we never got to transfer day.

      With respect to making your boss aware and any awkwardness around it, you’re not obligated to tell her anything. I was open about it with my friends but didn’t tell anyone at work. It’s the most stressful thing I’ve ever done, and it didn’t work.

      If you haven’t already, it might be worth checking to see if there’s a local chapter of Resolve near you. It’s the infertility and pregnancy loss support group organization. It was incredibly useful to have this network of people who were going through the same thing and could answer all of my questions.

      Good luck <3.

    5. Anon this time*

      This has not been my family’s experience, especially with COVID. Previously, it was hit-or-miss whether you could get in first thing in the morning. Now, with reduced schedules and strict reduced on-site concurrent patient limits, it can be challenging to get appointments in desired time slots. Our provider is working very hard, given the timing issues that come with these treatments, but my partner might only have a very limited window (1 hour) for an appointment on the right day.

    6. Rusty Shackelford*

      It worked this way for me too. Keep in mind that “three appointments per month” may be the standard, but your body may not cooperate with the standard. If your body responds more slowly or more quickly, you may need more visits, so don’t commit to that number with your boss. Also, in my experience, some of those visits will be scheduled at the very last minute, as in, they’ll call you in the afternoon and say “you need to be here at 7 am tomorrow morning.” But my experience is a couple of decades old, so maybe things have changed?

      Anyway, good luck!

    7. Fly Away Bangs*

      Mine was a mix of mornings and afternoons, since I had to have every other day ultrasounds for sometimes up to two weeks prior to a transfer. Retrieval day was a full day off, as well as the latter transfer days, and yet another for a separate procedure after a miscarriage.

      We decided to take a break right before COVID after a few failed attempts, so I’m not sure how the new normal will affect the process once we start back up, but my experience had a few hours eating away at my PTO each week. But I also had to change my schedule to early mornings to accommodate my SO’s night shift schedule for the injections, so even morning blood draws required make up time or PTO. (I’m hourly, not salaried, so I think that makes a difference, too.)

      I did end up telling a few people at work. My manager has been pretty amazing. She’s always just let me volunteer the “how’s it going” stuff if/when I felt like it. I also let my team in general know since I’d be in and out all the time, but I wish I could walk that back. Most have been great and haven’t asked follow up questions other than an initial round of the “how does IVF work?” type, but one well-meaning coworker has made random “you’ll be a great mom!” comments and emailed mother’s day cards (I don’t have any children at the moment). I know she thinks she’s being supportive, but when your head space is all work and then boom! – ALL THE EMOTIONS, it’s like a slap to the face.

    8. Turquoisecow*

      Yes, this is how it worked when I did IVF as well. They specifically scheduled the routine bloodwork and ultrasound appointments for very early in the morning, so people could go to work afterward. The window actually wnd d at 7:30 am. I was working from home so it didn’t apply to me, but if I’d had to go to the office I would have maybe been a little late.

    9. ampersand*

      I had routine blood work every other day and was able to get it done before work, then get to work on time or even early. But with the actual doctor’s appointments: I didn’t get to choose a time; they told me what time to be there, and often they were running late. I made up almost all the time I missed at work, but I was also in a position where I could discuss with my boss what was happening, thankfully. Everyone who knew at work was very supportive, and my normal 8-5 schedule got so weird for a while that I kind of *had* to tell management what was going on. Again, I was in a place where I felt comfortable doing so and am very grateful for that. Not everyone can do that. Also, IVF meds can be brutal; they messed with my ability to think clearly (which I warned colleagues about). Brain fog was a temporary but noticeable side effect.

      I guess it depends on what kind of treatment LW is having and how/if she’s affected by it both physically and emotionally; there may come a point where it makes sense to have a more in-depth conversation about the treatment with her supervisor depending on how it goes.

    10. OP for #5*

      Thank you all for this information! It’s really helpful. We are starting with IUI, so they wouldn’t be doing retrieval yet at this point. This is my first time, so I just have no idea what to expect. It starts my next cycle, so as I approach that I’m getting a little nervous about scheduling. It’s helpful to know what to actually expect, so I really appreciate everyone’s advice, especially to check out Resolve. I’ve been looking for some online support boards but wasn’t sure where to start. I am a bit worried with COVID, because my provider said they’re only letting one patient come in at a time, so I’m not sure how that is going to affect timing. I’m currently working from home, but if the appointment is during the day, I’d have to account for time to go into the city, the appointment, and then time to get back and start working again, so all in all, maybe 3 to 4 hours, which is why I was worried about randomly taking half days off without any explanation.

      1. New England Career Coach*

        Ditto to all the other comments, but in terms of practice specific information just go ahead and call the office. The front desk staff may be able to answer your question or they may transfer you to the nurses line, but you have some basic questions that can be easily answered in a minute or two. Once you get into the process, you’ll be amazed how many women and men the practice will see before 9AM every day!

      2. Grapefruit by the Pool*

        Another great resource is the Reddit infertility sub (r/infertility). It is pretty strictly moderated and many commentators are very knowledgeable. I wish you luck!

        1. Anonymousaurus Rex*

          If you’re looking for online support, I would highly recommend reddit’s r/infertility subreddit! It’s a fantastic resource full of people who have been through everything.

          I echo what everyone says here about the appointments being early morning for the most part, and not as disruptive as I feared they would be. I did two rounds of IVF (skipped IUI) but other than the stims making me anxious/moody/bloated, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I worried it could be and hardly impacted work at all. I thought about telling my boss, but in the end decided not to, and she was great about the vague “series of medical appointments” I needed.

      3. Anonymousaurus Rex*

        If you’re looking for online support, I would highly recommend reddit’s r/infertility subreddit. It’s a fantastic resource full of people who have been through everything.

        I echo what everyone says here about the appointments being early morning for the most part, and not as disruptive as I feared they would be. I did two rounds of IVF (skipped IUI) but other than the stims making me anxious/moody/bloated, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I worried it could be and hardly impacted work at all. I thought about telling my boss, but in the end decided not to, and she was great about the vague “series of medical appointments” I needed.

      4. anon for this*

        CW: early pregnancy loss

        Speaking as someone who went through fertility treatments for three years, I will say that infertility becomes a secret language that you learn. After going through it I found that I always knew when my coworkers were doing treatments, had experienced a loss, etc., based on things they said that they probably didn’t realize were revealing. If your boss went through it, she’s very likely going to understand what’s going on without you needing to spell it out – this may be uncomfortable for you to know, but the good news is she should be very understanding and accommodating. Hopefully she will be good about keeping quiet about it unless you make the first move to be more open. Good luck!

  3. Caramel & Cheddar*

    I think Alison’s examples for #3 are excellent because they’re specific and provide next steps, but I don’t think “I’ll let you go” is necessarily unprofessional, LW, at least not in general. It might feel too informal in your phone call context, of course.

    1. Sooda Nym*

      I often say something like “Thank you for your time. I won’t take any more of it right now.” It’s a good signal that the conversation should end so everyone can get other work done, and bridges lots of formality levels.

      1. RecentAAMfan*

        Especially since this is a divorce lawyer, so I’m sure the client is well aware that the meter is ticking. You’re certainly doing your client a favour by ending the phone call promptly when business is finished.

        1. emmelemm*

          I think the issue is, especially with a divorce lawyer, that clients’ emotions can get high during a call and they temporarily forget that they are paying by the minute! :) Which is why reminding them of that and then gently ending the phone call is the right thing to do.

          1. OP3*

            That is a big part of it. Reminding of the bill doesn’t seem to help. Sometimes people get better about it after they get the first bill, but some people complain about the bill and just keep calling and talking. People aren’t there best selves during divorce.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Once you get to know people you can work with more and more phrases such as “I will let you go….”.
      I have gone with, “Well, I will get out of your way, I am sure you are busy…”. If there is follow-up at a later point, then I will add, “I will email on Wednesday with my follow-up on X.”

      Some folks are just plain a delight to talk with. In those cases, I might say something like, “It’s been really great talking with you, thank you so much for helping [adding inputs, whatever].” People understand this to mean that you are rapping up the conversation. If they do have something else to touch base on they can say, “Oh, and I have one more quick thing…”. It’s good to remember that you are not slamming a door in their face, they are free to say they are not quite finished yet.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        wrapping, not rapping. I suppose you could make it into a song, but that might seem a little strange.

    3. Trout 'Waver*

      I use “I’ve got to get back at it. Anything else before I go?” as my go-to get off the phone phrase.

    4. Always Late to the Party*

      I particularly think the one that asks if there’s anything else the client needs is good for OP if the client is in a particularly sensitive place.

    5. EPLawyer*

      Divorce lawyer here — I end conversations with “well I think that covers everything, do you have any more questions?” If they say no I say “well if you think of one later, jus shoot me an email.” That signals the end while giving them room to ask a question if they have one right then but an option that they don’t have to wait if they wake up in the middle of the night and think Oh No I forgot to ask how titling of the cars works after the divorce.

      Giving them the option for follow up is important. As the LW noted, these are emotional cases, we give people a lot of options and information. It takes a while to process it while also dealing with the emotion. What do you mean the house has to be sold? My kids and I will be homeless. Uhhhh, you can buy another house, they let you do that you know. You will get money out of the house that you can use to buy another home.

    6. Another JD*

      Lawyer here. I usually say something along the lines of “That’s everything on my end. Do you have any questions?” If the answer is no, I briefly reiterate the action item and say goodbye. For example, “I’ll send you the settlement agreement by COB tomorrow. Have a good one.”

    7. JJ*

      I personally don’t care for “I’ll let you go”. For me, that sort of phrasing has too much potential to sound passive aggressive or sarcastic. It makes me instantly feel like I’m holding the other person hostage, or somehow have been signaling to them that I want to get off the call (making me the passive-aggressive one).

      I usually just end with some variation of “OK great, I will [next steps] and get back with you on [date]. Talk to you soon.”

      1. Phone monkey*

        I work in a call center so, I have plenty of experience with emotionally charged professional calls and stressed out people taking advantage. Best thing is to set the tone that says you care at first and when they go off on rambling tangents about whatever emotional issues they’re having write down the emotion, tune out to avoid temptation to get involved because truly listening or caring will exhaust a person. When they stop emoting simply say in the most sincere voice you can muster, “I hear you. I can’t even imagine how (insert the emotion) is or how I’d be in your situation but I can make the process as easy as possible. (Insert statement or question about what your actual service is here)” When you do that the normal ending phrases don’t sound so short because the impression that you care has already been established. If you wait til the end to establish that feeling, it’s already too late.

      2. Filosofickle*

        I’m not a fan of it either, because it sounds insincere. If you are, in fact, ending the call because I’ve let you know I need to go, then it’s accurate. But I bristle when someone says that, and it’s not me that wants to get off the call, it’s THEM. Don’t make it sound like you’re doing me a favor when it’s really for you.

        1. Ms. Pessimistic*

          EXACTLY!! I also hate this phrase and would prefer you tell me that YOU have to go.

      3. SweetTooth*

        I hate it too!!! My husband and I argued about it back when we were dating because I was like, I don’t need to go, you do, stop telling me how I feel! But his mother says it, and she’s a passive aggressive, manipulative person, so I think I extra hate that he picked up on it due to that. But he doesn’t say it to me any more.

        In a work context, I would understand it if someone called me to ask a question (so if there was a perceived imposition) and then signed off that way. I guess I just don’t care for people implying that they have control over my schedule/behavior/whatever, like they are being so gracious to allow me to hang up the phone. Admittedly, I am probably taking this a bit to the extreme. Still, it’s not a great sign-off.

        1. Eukomos*

          “I should let you go” doesn’t say anything about the other person’s feelings, though. It’s a statement that you’ve taken up as much of their time as you think is appropriate and are therefore ending the interaction. It’s an attempt to indicate respect for the other person’s time, not to psychoanalyze them. If someone said “you sound like you want to go” or similar, then we’d have an issue.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Agreed! It’s also a bit like objecting to “how are you?” from your check-out cashier on the grounds that the person doesn’t really want to know the details. It’s a social nicety that serves a specific purpose, it doesn’t need to be taken literally.

    8. Exhausted Employment Lawyer*

      Another lawyer chiming in! Like EP Lawyer and Another JD, I also always ask if the client has any questions. Then after any questions have been asked/answered, one of the most helpful phrases I use – particularly if the conversation has been emotional or charged – is to say “I appreciate you: working through this with me / giving me this information /clarifying these points / taking the time for this discussion.” That sets up (for me) a perfect segue: “This has been really helpful, and I will be in touch as we move forward.” It’s a small conversational way to compliment the client and make them feel a part of the process, while acting as a nicety for wrapping up the conversation.

      1. Playfulfish*

        My go-to ender for calls is, “I’ll get to work on that as soon as we’re off the phone, we can touch base *later point in time*. On emotional calls where ‘have a great day!’ feels out of touch I’ll often go with, “Have as good a day as you can, we’ll talk soon.”

  4. Drag0nfly*

    OP1,

    I’d make a point of pulling Jane in for a conversation. Alison’s script should do it; however, the main point is that you don’t need someone on your team who behaves like Jane. Every one knows that probationary periods are meant to evaluate if someone is a good fit for a team. The company knows that’s how probation works, and the employee knows how it works.

    And yet … Jane is acting like *this.* She’s supposed to be impressing you and the rest of the office, but she’s set out to antagonize you instead, and badmouth you. That should tell you something about her judgment. If she’s willing to behave like this *before* she has “tenure,” what would she do once it’s harder to fire her? Have a talk with her. Find out if she’s salvageable. If’s she’s not, let her go.

    1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

      That!
      Could it be her (weird and misguided) tactic to secure employment? She might be thinking “if LW fires me, she would look like she can’t handle criticism, so she has to keep me”?

      1. Jenny*

        It’s weird because literally every manager or trainer makes the occasional mistake. When I am training, I am overseeing the work of three or four people. Sometimes I’ll make a mistake. I acknowledge, apologize and move on. My own trainer occasionally made mistakes. That’s 100% normal. Not letting it go is not.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        “if LW fires me, she would look like she can’t handle criticism, so she has to keep me”?

        If this is how the employee views a boss/employee relationship then one conversation is probably not going to change that perspective. The employee needs to figure out that she sounds like a whiner/trouble maker who does not contribute to the effort of the group.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      I agree. The probation period is when the employee should be putting her best foot forward and trying to make a good impression. If this is her trying to do that, she’s doing it wrong.

      OP, if you have a talk with your employee and things don’t improve, don’t keep her around. Someone who acts like this when she should be trying to learn the job and doing her best to show she can do the job is likely to become worse over time.

      1. irene adler*

        Yep.
        I hired a version of this Jane. She was lovely when we interviewed her.

        Then she was telling me (her boss) that she wasn’t going to do certain tasks I’d assigned her. She felt that certain people didn’t like her so she didn’t want to interact with them. So I did them myself. Not a big deal.

        Then my boss discovered she was very difficult to interact with. He wanted to extend the probationary period before we hired her on permanently. I thought otherwise. In hindsight, he was right.

        Then she decided to spend most of her work time on the company phone (this was before cell phones were common). So little work was done. She was planning her wedding, and coordinating numerous outside activities.

        I asked her to limit her phone use to breaks and lunch. MISTAKE.

        She got in my face about how she was required to have access to the phone at all times. She was a reserve police officer and in the military reserves too. Never know when they might need to reach her. Not sure how her making wedding plans factored into the police or military needing to contact HER. But, I wasn’t sure if the contact requirement was her lying or an actual law we needed to follow. I let it go.

        Meanwhile, it was a constant battle to get her to complete tasks. Less and less got done. I did more and more to keep the company moving. Excuses galore as to why things were not done, or had to be corrected. She was always feeling “under the weather” so didn’t want to push and get all the job tasks done. But she worked two jobs, played in a band, served as reserve police officer and reservist in the military. So she didn’t let her “under the weather” excuse limit her activities outside of work.

        Then she started calling in sick -telling me she was needed at home to help her mother or she had to work extra shifts at her second job because they were short-handed. Who uses a second job as an excuse for not showing up at the first job?

        Last straw: she spent one entire day clipping coupons. She had an assignment but chose not to do it until the last minute. And, surprise, she did not complete it. We canned her.

        I was supportive of all of her exploits because I figured that the situation was temporary (like planning a wedding) and she’d get back to work when the situation was over. MISTAKE.

        Learned later she was “judgmental” regarding my management of the department in comments to other employees. No one mentioned this to me until after she was gone.

          1. pcake*

            So far. People like that tend to get worse, and their behavior over time wears on you more.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      And yet … Jane is acting like *this.* She’s supposed to be impressing you and the rest of the office, but she’s set out to antagonize you instead, and badmouth you. That should tell you something about her judgment.

      No kidding. Her attitude is not likely to get *better* once she’s out of her probationary period.

      1. Silly Janet*

        I agree about thinking seriously if you want to keep her around. I was at my last job for 18 years, and we had a 6 month probationary time. A number of employees got passed it and then proceeded to be big problems for years, one of them for 8 years! (We were union and people did not get fired easily). Save yourself future headaches!

  5. Jackalope*

    LW #3: Alison has some great ideas. In case you want a few more options, here are some of my favorites:
    -Is there anything else I can help you with before I let you go?
    -It’s been lovely talking with you. I hope you have a great afternoon.
    -(If the conversation was emotionally intense) I need to let you go now, but please take care of yourself. I’m rooting for you. (Or something else like that which indicates both care and also the boundary that I’m getting off the phone right now.)

    Hope those help too!

  6. JSPA*

    #3: “as I sign off, I want to reconfirm that I’ll touch base by email if the information on X comes in, but otherwise, you’ll hear from me when Y and Z are available, or in two weeks, whichever happens first. In the meantime, text me for anything so urgent that it needs same-day response, email me if you have additional information I should know.” Or whatever. Refocusing on how, what and when is a great sign off.

  7. NoLongerStuckInRetailHell*

    I have a different take on Letter 2. The LW thinks she’s being given bad advice, yet didn’t provide a single example of advice that turned out to be wrong. The only example she does give she hasn’t tried yet, so how does she know it’s wrong? I don’t think it’s that strange that the technology manager be asked a question about, you know, technology. Perhaps this person knows what company needs to be called in to do the work, perhaps they even need to be the one to authorize it or put in the work order. Or else maybe they were the one who had the bright idea and made the decision to outsource to a remote company, without a plan for when hands-on work needs to be done. So they need to hear from the field that this is a problem that needs to be solved.

    In any case, the LW asked her boss, and was directed to do this. I don’t think she should be worried about looking unprofessional simply by following that direction. “Hello, I was told by my manager X to contact you about Y issue” wouldn’t look bad on you.

      1. TechWorker*

        Yep fair – but if the advice *is* good then deliberately avoiding it could also be a negative, so I was surprised the answer jumped to ‘yes obviously this is bad advice good spot’.

        In my huge company one thing fairly senior people do *is* connect people, whilst mail aliases and webpages exist, they don’t necessarily reflect the most recent answer on ‘who is responsible for x task’. If I told my report that in order to get something done they should email y senior person (who will likely reply by copying someone else into sort it out), and they instead spent a bunch of time trying to get the info via wiki or by asking around other people I would really not be best pleased.

        1. BethDH*

          I think the “good spotting” is to recognize that this COULD be a problem. As you say, company culture is big here. I think the OP should use this to do a little exploring. What kinds of requests do they get from other departments and are they all direct? For example, if boss often forwards OP messages from other departments that are below the senior level but have been directed to boss, that might be evidence that this is a company practice. Or if OP can observe in meetings with other departments — are senior level people connectors, as you mention? Do they act as point person on projects and filter things to their direct reports? One example might be how they handle scheduling or event planning, as that probably comes up more often than re-wiring a space.
          Another way to get a sense of company culture for that kind of thing is just to look at whether departments have another likely central point person. I’ve noticed that at places where there is a named admin, either for the department or for the senior staff person directly, you should usually go to that person first. At places where there isn’t, it’s more common to go directly through a senior staff person.

        2. Just J.*

          Yes, I agree with TechWorker. The job of your manager, in situations where they don’t know the answer, is to point you to resources to find the answer, i.e. connect people.

          I am trying to think how I would handle this with my junior staff and so I am going to say this: How confident was your manager in her reply? If she was spoke with 100% confidence in saying “contact the senior tech manager”, then that is probably the right answer. Even though the senior tech is multiple offices away, they are probably still very aware of what is happening in your office. If you manager was wishy washy on it, saying “I’m not really sure who to ask, start with the senior tech.” Then you spidy senses are probably kicking in and it may be worth it to get a second opinion as Alison advised.

    1. Myrin*

      I would assume she spelled out that one specific example because it’s the one that’s still “active”, i. e. where she hasn’t done anything yet. She says “there have been times when I worry that what she advises me to do will make me look out of touch if I do it. A recent example of what I mean”, so, like Alison says, this is just one example meant to be representative and I think we should believe OP that the others were of that same vein.
      (And also, I can guarantee you that even if she had given three detailed and reasonable examples, people still would’ve found a way to argue over every single one of them. Over the years, many commenters and letter writers have taken to being more vague because anything you give can be potentially dissected until that’s everything everyone talks about without interacting with one’s actual question.)

      I agree with your point that if OP were to contact this senior person and mentioned that she was instructed to do so by her boss, she probably wouldn’t look unprofessional. However, I very much understand where OP and her hesitation are coming from and I concur with Alison’s advice, especially since some of what happened at the previous times OP hinted at might not be as easily explained by “my manager told me to”.

      1. Mookie*

        It wouldn’t look unprofessional, but it would hardly get her a step closer to finding someone to do her re-wiring and it could definitely make her look tech-illiterate. According to the LW this work is inarguably not within the purview of this manager and his team. The LW is explicit about this and she would know.

    2. OP #2*

      Hi, I’m that OP!

      Like Alison and other commenters have guessed, I don’t necessarily think I’m being given “bad” advice, just slightly askew advice where the way Boss suggests will eventually get me to the right place, but involve 1-3 higher up people that probably don’t need to be bothered with my questions. We’re such a small satellite office that we don’t have our own admin and there’s definitely been weak communication among our region about what resources are available to employees (which the regional bosses have acknowledged and are working on this year – it’s noticeably better already!). So in part, this is also connected to the larger issue of feeling, in the 8 months I’ve been there, I haven’t really been given any training or walkthrough on how the company is organized, where I can best find information or other people’s job titles – it’s always been a bit loosey goosey.

      I do always follow Boss’s guidance unless I’ve bounced the questions off of other coworkers and have other options, so I was more looking to Alison to see if I was handling this well or if it was making me look out of touch by contacting other high-up managers since I have no experience in a regular office setting, let alone one spanning several states! Luckily so far it’s just gotten me more connected to the other regional offices (which are more “main” offices) so it’s had a good outcome, but I wanted to stop second guessing myself!

      Thanks for your answer, Alison! Love the site and the comment discussions :)

      1. Just J.*

        Hi OP2! I am in the same boat as you. I am a very remote employee in a very large company. Geography and distance make it impossible for me to get to know everyone in every office and what their roles are. Two years in and I still have the same questions as you. And BTW, I have 30 years of experience, so this situation will follow you whenever you start any new job.

        My suggestions for you: Ask if the company has an organization chart. Ours does not have a detailed one, but I was able to get enough of one that if I were directed to contact VP of such and such, I knew my question wasn’t pertinent to the VP, that I could start with their assistant.

        Second: The script,as Alison suggested, of “I have a question regarding X, and was directed to contact you. Can you direct me to the best person to help?” is a good script. It’s professional and fast. I still use it a lot. The people you work with want to help you and they all have been in this same boat too. Good luck!

      2. Reba*

        That context helps, and I definitely relate! I started in my organization as a freelancer/contractor, then later became staff, and I think because I had already “been” there I just never got told things a new employee would be told?

        As long as your emails are polite and don’t presume — which it sounds like you’re in the clear there — I think you are fine!

      3. Aquawoman*

        Yeah, I think the boss is telling you the people SHE’D contact, who are folks on her level, who would make it happen for her. Without thinking it might not work the same for someone not on that level. These kinds of questions might be better directed to peers at your own level or admins.

        1. TechWorker*

          I really think this is workplace dependent? Maybe this is true if your workplace is super hierarchical but in many places a) requests bouncing around a bit until they find the right person is totally normal and b) the person to contact to find out who’s responsible for x,y,z is the same across multiple levels. Sure if you’re *very* senior you might be able to just contact someone and basically delegate your problem/chasing entirely to them… but I don’t get the impression that LWs boss is doing that. In many cases deliberately avoiding the senior person and asking a peer is irritating, if the first thing the peer has to do is go check with their manager then you’ve just introduced an extra step for no reason…

      4. Uranus Wars*

        I think the last sentence in paragraph 2 about making connections with other regional offices might be what your boss is trying to do. You mentioned she has you groomed for bigger things. I am not saying her advice is spot on, but I had a manager who would have me reach out to people I thought were a little too high in the chain but she was trying to get me in front of them – and it worked; I have the ear of a lot of VPs and Directors. I think Alison’s advice to say “Hey, boss told me to reach out to you about X, but someone else might be more appropriate – can you tell me who that would be” or something along those lines would be your best bet in this case.

      5. Lauren*

        This is a facilities question for whoever manages the building. Call them up and ask for help making adjustments / drilling holes.

      6. Important Moi*

        Thank you for providing more context because your question seemed odd to me until you explained that you have no experience in a regular office setting. Contacting more senior people because your boss told you to is not a problem.

        Now I have a question, are there where it is frowned upon to contact Senior people?

        was more looking to Alison to see if I was handling this well or if it was making me look out of touch by contacting oth

        I am just going to point out based on experience meeting Senior people in a low stakes environment is never a bad thing.

        Also, your phrasing “probably don’t need to be bothered with my questions” just strikes me as oddly deferential.

        1. Important Moi*

          Ok, all my edits are included in the post. Read the first 2 paragraphs and ignore the rest. I was thinking, typing and editing at the same time. :(

        2. TechWorker*

          +1 on the seeming a bit overly deferential here.

          Yes, it would be quicker if you knew exactly who to talk to without asking… but if it’s going to take you asking multiple folks to find out and the senior person basically no time to fire off a response, them being involved isn’t necessarily a terrible thing. It might literally be part of their job! Now if they’re responding in a way that sounds tetchy or saying ‘please direct requests to x person in future’ then sure I would understand feeling like asking them was a mistake. But if not I’d try to avoid assuming you’re doing anything wrong!

    3. Mockingjay*

      It can be uncomfortable for a junior employee to contact unknown people at senior levels. It’s natural to be hesitant. As their career progresses, OP #2 will become accustomed to these “cold” contacts.

      Alison’s script of “Boss gave me your name for X problem; if you don’t handle these things, please forward me to whoever does” is one OP #2 can always use, when dealing with a different department, changing companies, calling the DMV, etc.

    4. Emilia Bedelia*

      I think you should take the letter writer at their word that this is an issue – I do think that “you don’t know til you try it” is a reasonable point, but I have been in exactly the same situation as the LW and I certainly believe she can catch when advice is not super helpful.

      This letter exactly explains an issue I’ve encountered with my boss. She has been at the company for so long that most people she has directed me to have changed roles or moved up the ladder, or her knowledge of who the director of the department is doesn’t really help me find the specific detail that I need. When it comes to questions like this, I wouldn’t really think of it as “being directed to do something”. If my boss came to me and said point blank, “Please email this person about this topic”, I would. But when I come to my boss for suggestions on how to do things, half the time we are just brainstorming, and her guess is as good as mine.

      I have been at the receiving end of random emails from lower-level people that start off with, “X person suggested that you would be the best person to reach out to”, and if I don’t know how to help, it usually just makes me feel bad for the requester. It does make me feel like X person does not understand what I do, so to the LW’s original question, I don’t think it will reflect poorly on them if they say that they were directed to ask by their boss.

      It’s not necessarily unprofessional or bad to be reaching out to people who can’t help, it just comes across… touristy, as though you’re standing in Times Square and ask “Does the Hilton have free breakfast?” to a random passerby. They may or may not be in a better position to help you figure out the answer, and it probably would have been easier to figure it out some other way. Realizing that my boss does not always know everything and that it is okay to find answers myself was really helpful in figuring out how to do my job more efficiently. YMMV obviously, but at least LW and I seem to be in a similar situation.

      1. CM*

        Exactly, I also have a boss who will direct me to somebody at the VP level with just about any question because that’s who he would call. But especially when I first started, that would have made me look really out of touch and annoyed the person I was contacting. The approaches Alison suggested have worked for me: I no longer start with my boss when I’m looking for resources, and if I do have to contact somebody that doesn’t seem like the right person, I’ll say “Bill suggested I contact you, would you be able to answer my question or direct me to the right person?” or “If I should be asking someone else about this, please let me know. Thanks for your time.”

        Fortunately, this is a problem that goes away with time, as you develop relationships and learn how the company works. And I think when you’re relatively new, a halfway decent person won’t be too annoyed if you ask them a question that really should go to somebody else.

  8. Observer*

    #1 – I think you need to REALLY think about if you want to keep her. She’s making a huge deal about a mistake – and she brought it up at least once in a context that sounds like she was trying to move the spotlight from her performance to her manager’s (The OP’s) “poor” performance.

    I could be wrong, but I am sure that Allison is right that her behavior sounds like someone who has SOMETHING fairly broad going on.

    1. Auntie Social*

      I think she thinks SHE has manager written all over her, she is having difficulty having a young manager, so she’s pointing out to everyone but the mail carrier that the LW isn’t truly manager material, but she is.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Refusing to accept authority. It’s a thing.

        The fact is that everyone has a boss. The CEO has public opinion, government regs, shareholders, etc that they must answer to. There is always a higher rung on the ladder and there is always someone over us.

        Unfortunately for this employee she tipped her hand a bit too much. It’s easy for OP to assume that if her peer makes a mistake then this is how she will treat her peer also as she is so willing to do this to a BOSS.

        It’s a shame, really. OP sounds like a fine, fine boss. OP is role modeling how she expects her staff to handle mistake- admit it, apologize, fix it and move on. We don’t find good bosses often enough. Employee really blew it here.

        1. Vina*

          Or refusing to accept authority that comes in a wrapper other than we expect.

          It may be she hates all authority. It could be she hates being bossed by other women. It could be age. Who knows?

          I agree it sounds like LW is off to a flying start on being a good manager. The employee is really an idiot.

          The only reason I have hope is that she is young. The employee can learn. She’s still got time.

          That’s why, in LW’s shoes, I might try and correct the behavior. But I’d be very wary of keeping her.

          1. OP1*

            Thank you all for the very kind words! I read this blog a lot and really try to take it to heart. This is my first time writing in so I’m ready to start implementing the advice!

  9. nnn*

    #5: If you’re concerned about the short notice, a possibility is something like “I just found out I have to go in for a medical appointment on Thursday morning.” Or, if you feel the need to apologize, “I have to go in for a medical appointment on Thursday morning. Sorry for the inconvenience, but I just found out myself.”

    There are some situations where you get a medical test and then, depending on the results, someone calls you and tells you you have to come in for further testing. You could (without even lying!) present the situation as though you’d just gotten one of those calls.

    1. Katrinka*

      If you know you have a series of appointments coming up, it’s better to give your boss a heads-up, even if you don’t know the exact dates and times. This is three times a month, and may be for as much as half a day (depending on where the doctor’s office is, etc.). Having the occasional unexpected appointment is totally different from every week or so. There may or may not be coverage issues, but the boss should be told to expect these absences so they can plan accordingly.

    2. Just another opinion*

      These days, I think most people understand that nothing is normal and that scheduling things with doctors right now is pretty unpredictable. General notice for something that needs to be taken care of and then specific notice when you have it is really the most anyone can hope for these days.

    3. Taniwha Girl*

      And OP, your boss went through the same thing, so if they are understanding, they will also understand you not wanting to tell them! They would understand that it’s a private family thing (after all, the boss didn’t tell you! And it wasn’t that other person’s business to tell to you either) so surely they would understand that you want to keep a medical procedure and private family decision to yourself and not tell your boss.

      So you can go ahead and keep it private without feeling any sort of guilt whatsoever!

    4. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Yes, what nnn said. When I had egg retrievals I only knew two days before that they were happening and because it’s surgery I had to take the full day off (turns out I felt fine afterwards but I didn’t know ahead of time that I would). So I just told my boss and coworkers “I’m going to be out on Fri for a minor medical procedure” and no questions asked! I did end up telling everyone after the fact that everything went well and I was fine, because I work with really lovely people and they were worried about me. People have last-minute medical issues all the time, so you can just say it’s a medical issue and you should be fine.

      1. Lauren*

        I’m starting my retrieval process now. First injections are today. Freaking out about that alone, but I also don’t want to tell my boss since I still want a promotion. She is in a diff state so I can get away with not telling her or anyone cause of COVID for a bit if I was to get pregnant (high risk anyway if I did). I don’t want to be written off just yet as un-promotable or on the baby track therefore no need to keep her happy since she needs us for insurance. I likely will be able to take the day off when it comes for the procedure with just calling out as sick. Its not that I don’t expect her to be happy for me or accommodating if I did tell her, I just don’t want to have any subtle discrimination from others that would delay my promotions and raises to see if I come back after leave.

    5. OP for #5*

      Thank you nnn – that’s a good possibility too. I did worry about what Katrinka said, which is if this is happening 3x a month, and I would need to take a half day likely each time, I wouldn’t be giving her enough of a heads up. But I like the idea of saying “sorry for the inconvenience,” because since I did just start working there five months ago, I don’t want to seem cavalier about needing to take this time off.

  10. LizM*

    My son was conceived through fertility treatments about 6 years ago, and I’m currently going through another round of treatments.

    The challenging part is that based on what kinds of treatments you’re doing, you may end up only having 1 or 2 days’ notice, and you may not get a ton of input on what time the appointments are because they’re being scheduled last minute.

    I told my boss that I was going to have a few appointments over the next few months, and some may be with relatively short notice. I added that everything was fine, it was just something I needed to take care of (because I could tell by the look on his face he was worried it was serious).

    1. Anonymom*

      Exactly.

      Heck, I’ve had to tell my manager “my child has a minor procedure scheduled for date. We aren’t going to know the time until the day before, as it’s outpatient and that’s just how it works. I’ll keep you in the loop.” and all my manager said was “if you need me to meet you in the parking lot with coffee, since its probably on my way in to work, let me know. Otherwise, let me know when you’re available and I hope everything goes well.”

      A decent manager will understand that sometimes, we just don’t get to schedule medical appointments for our employer’s convenience. Honestly, sometimes it just isn’t possible.

        1. Anonymom*

          I honestly work for a great company with great people. I learned that last year when I had an incredibly ill (as in hospitalized) child. They made it okay to work remotely during her prolonged hospital stay; honestly, it got to the point where working made things a bit more normal for me and it was needed. They made sure my family had what we needed, all calls started with not “when will you be back?” but “how’s our girl doing, do you or anyone else in your family need anything?”

          It is also reflected in how they handled the pandemic. All of our collective safety was prioritized.

          I’m taking thorough notes on “how to do things” should I ever be promoted to management. Prior to this, I had significantly more “man don’t ever do it like this” examples!

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            I also work for a great company with great people and what a difference that makes. I’ve been lucky to mostly work for great people in my life so I don’t know what I’d do if I worked for someone terrible, but I know from reading AAM how very very lucky I am and I do not take it for granted. Still, it’s really nice to hear a real example of a company that has your back when you’re going through a tough time. (Hope your kid is doing okay now too!)

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Yeah, if you’re doing IVF you have literally zero control over when the egg retrieval is. At my clinic they have to schedule it exactly 36 hours after your trigger shot and you don’t know when the trigger will be until the day they tell you to do it (so you have two days to prep for the ER surgery). YMMV, of course; I don’t know if this is SOP for IVF or if there are other ways to do it, but IME that’s how it works.

    3. OP for #5*

      Thanks LizM, it’s really helpful to hear your experience. This is my first time going through this and I haven’t really found any support boards yet (though I will be checking out Resolve, per a post above), so it’s helpful to hear what you went through. I’m not doing IVF yet – we’re starting with IUI. For now, then, I’ll just be taking Clomid and then having to go in and have the “stuff” transplanted in. Since this is the first month though, my doctor wants me to see him a bit more the first month because he said he wants to make sure my body is reacting the right way. I’m hoping after the first month, it’ll be fewer visits, though maybe that’s just hopeful thinking.

  11. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP1 – my first thought on reading this letter is that the “something else going on” is that for whatever reason, the new hire thinks she ought to be the manager, or would be better at it than the OP, has more experience, or something similar.

    I wonder if OP has full management authority over her, or is more of a supervisor/team leader who does stuff like coaching and assigning work but doesn’t have full “hire and fire” privileges. I thought it was interesting that she described the person as “our new hire” almost as if it wasn’t her (OP) decision to hire her.

    1. WellRed*

      I got this impression as well. Doesn’t change the advice but I think could make the situation more challenging to manage.

    2. OP1*

      You’re right about this. I’m the site manager but not a Big Boss by any means. She also wasn’t initially hired for my site but due to COVID my staffing dropped drastically so she was sent to my site. I wonder if she has a sense of “they need me more than I need them”

      1. SomebodyElse*

        I’d say as a site manager that makes you a Big Boss at your site. I’m not saying this to turn you into Captain Bligh, but to point out that you do have the authority to act (assumption here).

        At the very least you should tell your boss that you do not want her reporting to your site as she is disruptive… can’t take direction… more trouble than she’s worth…etc and ask for a replacement. I’m saying this, because this sounds like it could be a temporary thing (another assumption) and she’d eventually be sent back to her original site. This also opens the door for the larger discussion if she is a good fit for the company (It doesn’t sound like she is) and that with the state of the world, it’s a good opportunity to find a better employee.

        1. The Rural Juror*

          That’s a good point. When you talk about her to your boss, us unemotional and matter-of-fact language. She’s disruptive and can’t take direction – should be red flags to them!

      2. Diahann Carroll*

        This explains so much – yes, this is exactly what she’s thinking. Talk to her and then talk to your own manager about her behavior because I don’t see this ending well.

      3. learnedthehardway*

        That complicates things, somewhat. It sounds to me like this employee is under the impression that you don’t have full authority over them. That may be reading into things a bit, but given that she’s pushing back against your reasonable directions AND badmouthing you to other employees, I would seriously consider whether she’s trying to supplant you as manager. ie. that this is the opening salvo of that type of campaign. It sounds like she is new to the company, at least – it would be worse if she were a longer term employee who had been moved to your area due to the recent COVID situation.

        I would follow Allison’s advice about shutting this down with her directly, and I would also rope in your manager to tell them that the employee does not take direction well, tries to justify this by deflecting onto a minor mistake you made (whenever she is called out about not following directions), and that she is creating morale issues within the department. I’d make sure I was crystal clear on what the reporting lines are – does this person report to you directly? Do you have hiring/firing authority here? If not, I’d make the recommendation to let her go now – I don’t think it will get better unless you have the ability to impose and enforce consequences for her undermining behaviour.

      4. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        … Is it true that you (collective you, obviously) “need her more than she needs you”?

        If she isn’t actually reporting to you under your ‘management authority’ but is rather reporting to another boss on a “dotted line” sort of basis (as I suspect) – you would also have the possibility of speaking to that person who is her more direct boss.

        The language you use about this sounds quite passive (I say this as a reflection of the situation, not of your choice of language!) … “our” new hire, and now “she was sent to your site” — I’m inferring that that was without a request by you, probably without your knowledge that you were going to have her until it was done and dusted!

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

          Sorry, I should have added on the ‘language’ point as I know it’s a rule here not to “nitpick” other people’s choice of language, which this isn’t. The reason I mentioned the type of language being used is that I think it’s actually quite revealing or telling in this particular situation. I feel like OP whilst being a ‘Site Manager’ which sounds like it should be a pretty authoritative position on her specific site… is actually “out of the loop” on some of these management decisions. That’s why I brought up the use of language.

  12. Rosalita*

    OP #5 I just went throught this wtih my male boss (then CoVID happened so I havent started yet). I just explained that I had appointments and then explained that I had fertility issues and that I would be in late. I then explained that I woukd let him know as far ahead as I coukd when that would happen. It was nerve wracking to explain but it was fine andnhe was more than happy.

    1. OP for #5*

      Thank you Rosalita – I really appreciate your advice. It sounds like being upfront was helpful since everything is out in the open. I’m tempted to go that way as well, but the only thing holding me back is what Alison noted in her advice, so I’ll see. I have a few days to think about it before my 1:1.

  13. Cassie Nova*

    OP3, please choose any of Alison’s scripts over “I’ll let you go.” It may seem like a small thing but this has always bothered me. I think because the person who’s saying it is acting like they’re doing you a favor – like you’re the one who’s pushing to get off the line – when really it’s them. Which is fine! But I think a short summary like “Okay, I have everything I need, I’ll be in touch with you on the next steps” is a better way to go.

    1. Phideaux*

      Especially if they are the one who called you, it just says, “OK, I’m done with you now.”

    2. OP3*

      I’ve actually always disliked “I’ll let you go” – but I say it anyway, for some reason. But yeah, it sounds you’re doing them a favor, which is odd

  14. NotJennifer*

    LW2, I recently had to deal with something similar with our IT, also outsourced. I had a thing to be set up, and was pretty sure that what administration told me wasn’t correct/sufficient, but I contacted IT anyway. I was right that what I was told was laughable, but IT was able to help figure out how to get things working. It was clear they were used to this kind of thing happening, and since I came in with a positive attitude, it was all fine. They knew it wasn’t me suggesting ridiculous things, but just me as an employee trying to figure out how to get X set up.

    Similar thing happened again a few weeks later. Similar resolution. Oh the fun of getting things set up for WFH when your company didn’t do WFH before Covid!

    In both cases I was able to give some constructive feedback to my company about what was needed from the employee’s end and from IT’s end when doing those set-ups, so things go more smoothly in the future. My company is not anywhere close to being a tech related company, and our leadership is not known for its tech savvy. So there is a lot of learning to do.

    1. OP #2*

      Same here, not a tech company, and we’re also doing a major tech system overhaul, so it’s been a doozy!

      A big part of it (I’m guessing, at least), is just that I’m also trying to calibrate what types of people/levels/titles I should be reaching out to with what kinds of questions – the corporate office setup is so different from my background, so I suppose I’ve been a bit worried about looking inexperienced even when I know I’m very capable of doing the actual work I need to do. But reframing it this way is helpful – that it’s just a part of working out the kinks and getting answers eventually. Thanks!

  15. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP1 – agree with everything about the employee’s being disruptive – but also wanted to touch on a feeling I got that you may be having difficulty letting it go? I could be wrong! but I picked up a bit of self-blame because you made a mistake.

    Managers make mistakes!

    You do not have to feel bad about this mistake in the slightest. You modelled good behaviour in dealing with it – aknowledge, fix, move one – and the fact that your employee keeps bringing it up does not mean you need to keep worrying about the mistake. It is past. Her behaviour is current, but the mistake is not.

    1. OP1*

      You’re absolutely right! In general I take my mistakes a bit too seriously. As my partner pointed out, I don’t answer to her so it’s not really appropriate for me to feel this much guilt

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        Yep. And even if you did answer to her, carping on about it would STILL be inapproriate.

        I guarantee this is not the only mistake you’ll make. What matters is not that often and how you handle it. Sounds like you’ve got both covered!

  16. Mookie*

    LW4 writes:

    The interviewer (who is now my manager) told me company policy was everyone had the option to work from home full-time until it was deemed safe to do otherwise. She also said the company would keep this setup once COVID was over. I told her this was great because I wanted to work from home as much as possible.

    I kind of think each of these three sentences is saying something different and that, because they don’t agree with one another, this may explain the discrepancies between how the boss sold the job and the policy, how the LW bought and agreed to it, and now how it’s being implemented company- and state-wise both.

    “Until it was deemed safe to do so otherwise” suggests the policy is optional and on a time limit, but doesn’t name who will determine when safe conditions have been met and by what standards, internal or otherwise. The second sentence contradicts this, suggesting the policy (full-time vs the industry standard of 50 percent remote) is permanent. By the looks of the third sentence, the LW appears to have committed to primarily working from home but not exclusively doing so, meaning above that standard 50 percent and indefinitely.

    So, as Alison says, it’s time to nail this down precisely and see whether the boss has wiggle room to accommodate her but is choosing to be a stickler here in contradiction to the spirit of the hiring negotiations or whether the company is the one pushing back on continuing full-time remote work where feasible.

    1. Ali G*

      Yup! It isn’t clear what “this set up” referred to. Was it full time WFH or 50%? LW interpreted it as 100%, but boss may have meant the standard 50% WFH. Then LW said she wanted to WFH “as much as possible.” Well if the policy is 50% then the Boss thinks that is “as much as possible.”
      Or the Boss pulled a bait and switch. LW won’t know until they talk to Boss.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        If Boss is asking for full time in the office, that doesn’t fit with any reading of permitting WFH. I’m leaning towards bait and switch in the absence of any catastrophic communication error.

    2. JustKnope*

      Yes! I thought the same thing. The boss doesn’t appear to actually be promising full WFH here – the two sides were probably thinking very differently here.

    3. Ann O'Nemity*

      Yep, I picked up on the same discrepancies.

      The OP should totally bring it up with the manager. It’s possible the manager doesn’t remember the interview conversation at all, or at least doesn’t remember it the same way that the OP does. It’s time to get on the same page about expectations.

    4. High Score!*

      OP4 will keep the job longer if she just keeps responding to inquiries with, “I have a high risk family member so cannot come to the office until we’re all immunized” and then thereafter, “I’ll be in on Wednesdays” and WFH the rest of the time. While job hunting unless having a micro managing manager is something she wants.

      1. High Score!*

        Whereas directly confronting the boss will result in boss realising that she hasn’t set up the exact terms and deciding that she wants OP4 in office all the time.

      2. Colette*

        I … doubt that’s true. Her employer is allowed to say she has to work in the office – I don’t believe having a high risk family member is a legally valid reason for not showing up, especially if it’s not true. And not showing up is a good way to get fired.

        She should have a conversation with her boss, but just refusing to do what her manager asks is terrible advice.

    5. OP #4*

      Hello, OP 4 here! This helps me rethink how everything was discussed originally as well as what my actual problem is. I also was a little vague in my question to keep it short.

      My boss mentioned in the interview that the company’s goal was to be entirely remote within a year. I told her I really liked this and was looking for a company that embraced working from home. She strongly emphasized no one had to return to work in person until they felt ready and it was deemed completely safe by the government (HR confirmed). Because the company is moving towards being remote, she said even in a post-COIVD world everyone would still have an option to WFH providing they weren’t needed in person. I was emphasizing this more to highlight the image I was presented during the interview, it’s not really the problem.

      The problem is that currently she wants me to come work in person and I don’t feel safe. Seeing the actual physical office last week stressed me out. No one followed the 6-foot apart rule, no one wore masks, and meetings with 10+ people were happening in a tiny meeting room. There were also over 30 people there. At the time, I told her I wanted to work from home for at least the next two weeks but she brushed it off and went into a meeting. When I asked for clarification, she just repeated what was said in the interview but then added she didn’t feel my department worked well from home (for what it’s worth, this isn’t job performance related as those I work with have told me I’m doing great). My friend also worked here back in April and told me the same manager was extremely anti-WFH in the face of COVID which made me immediately defensive and nervous when she started being pushy.

      Next week I am going to tell her that I need to work from home full-time for another week and that we can re-evaluate after that. I’m also going to ask if there’s anything I can do to make communication easier for her or the other team members but really emphasize that I won’t be coming in. Long term… I guess I’ll see if they follow through on their eventual remote-work promises and if not, I’ll start looking for somewhere else.

  17. Bookworm*

    #3: I can relate. I think all of Alison’s suggestions are good. And would add: depending on your relationship with the other person/people, “I’ll let you go” can still be okay. Sometimes I’ve found that if one of us starts going off tangent because we’re at the end of the call this can still be used as a slightly less serious way to end the conversation. Context matters, though.

    Most people should take the hint from the suggestions Alison lists. MOST people. (Yeah, I’ve had a few who didn’t seem to get the message that the conversation was over). Good luck!

    1. CM*

      Maybe it’s just me, but I hate “I’ll let you go.” It feels really disingenuous to me, like saying, “I want this conversation to end but I’ll pretend that you’re the one who wants it to end and I’m doing you a favor.”

      I do like all the other suggestions above that are variations of “we’re done here, do you want to talk about anything else, if not, bye.” I tend to say things like, “I think I’ve got everything, is there anything else you want to talk about before we wrap up?” or “Thanks for your time, I think we’re all set now unless you have anything else,” and then transition into, “Great, take care / have a good weekend / I’ll be in touch next week.”

      1. Bostonian*

        Oh, I find it interesting that some people hate this phrase. My parents have always used it, usually after a lengthy phone conversation, so I’ve had positive feelings about it. But I definitely wouldn’t use it in a professional setting.

        I like the option Alison gave along the lines of “is there anything else before we finish?” It signals that the convo is winding down, but leaves it open for any outstanding items the other person might have.

  18. B*

    LW5, I would also consider your office culture and what you know so far about maternity leave and medical treatments. Have your boss or the larger company given you any reason to be concerned that they would treat you differently if they knew you might go on maternity leave? It may be that it would be helpful to just tell them what’s going on.

    I am in the same situation, and I told my new boss about it in her first week, because I know the appointments can be last minute and not flexible because they need to be on specific cycle days. It will also help us plan for what happens if I do go on maternity leave. Now, I’m in the UK in a highly unionised public sector, and I knew my new boss slightly before she started (she herself is a maternity cover for my current boss, who I also have a very good relationship with), so I felt confident that there will be no negative impacts from sharing. Most normal managers will not pry and just want to be supportive (I am also a manager and I would be supportive of any of my team going through this). I am just generally in favour of talking about infertility and miscarriage because you often don’t realise how common it is because it happens to you, and it’s not something people should be made to feel ashamed of.

    If your manager is a decent person and has been through this herself I think it’s likely that it won’t hurt to tell her if you’re comfortable with that, and if not just saying “I have some medical things that will require X and X” is fine.

    1. Amy Sly*

      I’d add that since LW5’s boss has gone through fertility treatments herself, she is unlikely to ask “Did it work?” every month, as she has first hand experience of how difficult it is to deal with those questions.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        The “did it work” question is the worst part about fertility treatments. It’s for this reason that I have limited my group of “in the know” people to a couple of very close friends and my mother. I don’t even really tell my friends when I’m doing a cycle, I’ve only just mentioned after the fact that it didn’t work. (Sigh.) My mother is the only one who really knows the whole story and that’s because she’s the one who’s brought me to the surgery appointments. And I know she’s really holding back on asking “did it work” because she’s aware of how frustrating that question is, but she still does ask it when she’s aware of the timing of the treatments. And even getting that question from the one person who knows is still hard.

        So, yeah, I understand why OP wouldn’t want to have to answer that question. Even to someone who has gone through it, and even the tacit question that would be posed by her boss even if boss never actually voices the question. It’s just so hard and frustrating.

        1. Amy Sly*

          A-bloody-men. Been there and done that myself. What I wouldn’t give for a working reproductive system.

          I’m not saying the boss wouldn’t ask, just that she’s unlikely to given her own experiences. But if there’s anything true in this world, it’s that people can be more thoughtless than one ever thought possible.

        2. OP for #5*

          I’m sorry – it really is frustrating. Thank you for information about what you’ve been going through – it is helpful. It has been hard even in these past two years of just trying, and I’ve had to tell my mom “I don’t think I can talk about it anymore each month” because it was getting too painful. I wish you the best of luck though and am sending positive vibes your way. I hope you are successful :)

    2. OP for #5*

      True – that is a good point. I have no reason to believe so far that my office would be against it. In fact, when I interviewed, my boss said “two women on the team just got married and we are hopefully going to see kids in the near future.” So it sounds like the office culture is very supportive. It really is just the fact that I’ve been there for only five months, and like Alison said in her advice, I don’t want to have that unconscious bias of “she just started and now she’s potentially going to have to leave for maternity leave right away.”

      1. OP3*

        FWIW, I went through basically the same thing three years ago, when I started my current job, and everything worked out fine.
        I was nervous about getting pregnant so soon out of the gate, but we had just moved to a new state for my wife’s job (I’m a lesbian), and I couldn’t really wait any longer to establish myself in my new job (I’m 40), so timing was out of my control. We did IUIs, with daily monitoring for 4 or sometimes more days before – plus all the in between blood tests, etc. Really time consuming and really really time sensitive – the day your body picks is the day, and if you miss it, then you have to wait until the next month, and all the investment for that month is a loss.
        Then, of course, if you’re successful, pregnancy just means MORE appointments (especially if you are high risk).
        Anyway, it ended up a complete none issue.
        I said I had a doctors appointments. People didn’t really seem to notice, actually. If they did, they didn’t let on. No one asked – I think most people know know to ask WHY you’re going to the doctor. People were also great about my maternity leave, and I’m back at work now and my career is fine.
        My advice is: Take care of yourself and don’t stress about having to leave for appointments. You have enough on your plate! Trying to get pregnant was absolutely the most emotionally exhausting experience of my life. 9 or so unsuccessful IUIs, 1 miscarriage (at 4 months), 1 life saving emergency surgery (ruptured etopic), 1 lost overy, 3 years, thousands of dollars, and…we got lucky. Hang in there, and save your energy for the things that matter.

        1. OP for #5*

          :) Thank you. This comment means so much. I am so happy you got lucky and that you have the outcome you want. It’s nice to know that focusing just on doctor’s appointments isn’t that big of a deal after all. I wish you and your wife the best of luck and that your family is safe and happy :)

  19. LuckyLlamacorn*

    For OP 1: Jane may be coming from a toxic workplace or family dynamic where “blaming” and repeatedly harping on mistakes is the norm. It might be worth mentioning once that on your team (and in most workplaces), mistakes are addressed, learned from, and then everyone moves on. And if she can’t adjust to those expectations, then she may not be a good fit for your team. (If there’s other concerning or disruptive behavior I’d still let her go, but sometimes people need a reminder that the office does not operate the same as their home / social circle / old toxic job.)

  20. Perfect timing*

    I don’t have any further advice for the letter-writers, but this post was exactly what I needed this morning. This week I’ve gone from managing 1 person to managing 6, and I’ve been wondering how to use the tools my authority gives me (and what those tools even are). I’m also planning to start fertility treatments soon and will need to tell my boss something about why I’m in late so many mornings.

  21. OP1*

    OP to question 1 here! Firstly, a big thank you to Alison and everyone in the comments for feedback. Just to clarify, this employee is about my age. I’m not sure exactly how old she is, but I suspect a year or two younger. At first I simply chalked up her attitude to inexperience but now I really suspect she does not view me as an authority figure. I’ve been letting my higher ups know the difficulties I’ve been having that way nothing comes out of the blue. Obviously I’d prefer to try to work things out rather than having a revolving door of staff so I’m looking forward to (yet very nervous about) implementing all the advice given!

    1. WellRed*

      What feedback have your higher ups given you about this? If any? Also, it’s commendable to want to work things out, but not everything can be and that’s not on you if this doesn’t work out. Please give us an update!

      I love how so many commenters assumed it was an older worker.

      1. OP1*

        At first I didn’t say anything about the behaviour but once I noticed it was a pattern I called the supervisor who CAN fire people and let her know I’ve found the new hire challenging for x y and z reasons (this isn’t the only thing). Today after yet another interaction where the employee became extremely defensive the moment I asked her to clarify something she had said, I sent a detailed email detailing the patterns I’ve seen and how I’ve handled the interactions and what I plan to do going forward. Luckily the supervisor seems to trust my judgement.

        1. Polly Hedron*

          Excellent! You are on the right track.

          What happens next depends on whether
          – the supervisor could fire Jane immediately: then ask for that (don’t even let Jane finish her probation)
          – the supervisor wants you to give Jane more warnings: then keep supervisor’s trust by warning Jane (but secretly hope Jane doesn’t respond, because any improvement would last only until Jane becomes permanent )

          I’ll be eager for an update!

    2. EPLawyer*

      Letting one person go because they are toxic does not mean you will have a revolving door of staff. It’s not a “make it work forever and put up with crap” or “never be able to have good people ever for very long” situation.

      You can try some minimal coaching of the person. If she commits to be being better, hold her to it. If she won’t even commit – let her go. Don’t keep tryng to find SOMETHING she will be agree to.

      Part of being a manager is having to let people go. Especially if they are so disruptive it will cause the GOOD people to bail. Always remember that.

      1. SomebodyElse*

        I would even add to this.

        Sometimes there is just a bad string of employees and issues. When this happens a good manager will reflect to see if they are contributing to the problem; bad hires, unclear objectives and management, bad communication, etc. Along with that, they will also make sure they aren’t making decisions based on optics alone; too much turnover in a department, don’t want to appear to be a bad manager, don’t want to appear they don’t have a handle on their department or work.

        Trust me it can suck to have ‘the cursed position’ in your department, and a really good look needs to be taken to see what the problems of it are, but sometimes it’s just mismatches in the employees hired to fill the role.

    3. Sara without an H*

      OP#1, it’s good that you’re briefing your managers. Keep good documentation on Jane’s behavior, especially on how she responds to The Talk. (Alison’s script is excellent, btw.)

      Be careful of any tendency you may have to “fix” Jane. I know when I started out in management, I felt that, to be a good manager, I had to save marginal employees. While some issues can be fixed with coaching and training, I really don’t think Jane’s issues fall into that category. She’s on probation, but whenever you try to give her feedback about her performance, she shifts the focus to your minor mistake??!! If she’s like this now, how will she behave after she’s off probation?

      Keep thorough documentation on Jane’s behavior — that includes gossiping with coworkers — and consider very, very carefully whether you want to recommend that she be retained after the probationary period. I’d advise against it.

    4. Coder von Frankenstein*

      Just keep in mind that this sort of thing is exactly what trial periods are meant to suss out.

      It’s good that you want to work things out, but ultimately it’s the employee who has to fix this problem by changing her behavior. If she doesn’t, you can’t do it for her. But you can say “This person doesn’t belong on my team.”

    5. Colette*

      Keep in mind that if you don’t deal with poor performers or employees who contribute to making the work environment less pleasant, you will lose good performers.

      Give feedback and coach, but if the employee doesn’t want to change (or isn’t capable of change), let her go and get someone else in.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Keep in mind that if you don’t deal with poor performers or employees who contribute to making the work environment less pleasant, you will lose good performers.

        This is the most important thing said on this subject today.

    6. Anon Anon*

      Don’t worry about letting someone go if they toxic. It doesn’t make you look bad. Even if you were to have a revolving door of employee’s it doesn’t always mean that you would be viewed in a poor light. Sometimes it’s reflective of other issues within the organization. And some roles just naturally have high turnover. And keeping someone on, when they are disruptive and toxic is more likely to drive any other good reports that may have now or hire in the future.

  22. Delta Delta*

    #3 – Lawyer here. I try to be direct with clients and others where a call is a billable situation. If clients go on and on, they find out about it in their bill. For billable calls I usually try to have an agenda for the call and I’ll say something like, “I think we’ve covered everything, I’ll be in touch ____” And that usually works.

  23. Bagpuss*

    OP3 I’m also a divorce lawyer and I will oftern end a call with something along the lines of “Thank you, I have everything I need, do you have any [other] questions before I go?”
    Or “Thanks, I will get on with [whatever we’ve discussed] – is there anything else you want to discuss before we go?” then if they say no, you can simply say good bye, if not, then you deal with the further questions. It ends the call professionally but also ensures that the client feels reassured that it’s OK to ask questions and that they do speak up if they aren’t sure on something.

    1. Delta Delta*

      That’s a nice way of doing it. I will often end afternoon or Friday calls with “have a beautiful afternoon” or “have a gorgeous weekend!” which is often a great way to get off the phone.

  24. OP #2*

    OP #2 here – Alison thank you so much for your advice!

    It’s in line with what I was guessing you would say, but man it’s a weird switch from casual retail to corporate-main-office-with-casual-satellite-office and I’m constantly thinking “Is this the right way to tackle this question/task/issue/whatever in office culture?” So my question is most likely a symptom of that larger calibration. Then add in regionally-recognized weak communication between offices, and you’ve got a whole ‘nother layer of second guessing myself – “Wait, is there a correct avenue to go through for this or just asking around?” But I’m getting there!

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      At my job it’s not that uncommon to have no idea who can help me get what I need. This usually results in emailing multiple people asking if they know who I should be emailing, so your boss’ advice sounds pretty normal to me! It sounds like she knows this guy wouldn’t personally be the one to fix your setup, but that he might have insight as to who would be.

      In that situation I would send a message that was basically like “Good morning! I am trying to figure out who is the best person to talk about about needing to do X. Boss thought you might be able to point me in the right direction.” Depending on how out of nowhere the request is I might add a little “sorry if you’re not the right person to be reaching out to” caveat or something.

      Sometimes they come back and say they have no idea what I’m talking about, sometimes they point me to the right person to help, and sometimes they come back and say they are in fact the person to help me themselves.

      1. Clisby*

        This. I often added at the beginning of an email request something like: “(First, if my question really should go to someone else, please let me know.)”

  25. Amy*

    I’m sure the LW has looked into FMLA / maternity leave but just a voice to be aware about the timing.

    I gave birth last year at 30 weeks and took 6 weeks of short-term disability for bedrest from 24 weeks onward followed by 12 weeks of FMLA. Since FMLA doesn’t kick in for 12 months, it might have been a tight squeeze with having started 5 months earlier. Obviously it’s unusual to give birth that early but it’s not unheard of either.

    It’s just worth running the numbers in terms of the benefits and coverage since you’ve been there less than a year. Good luck!

    1. OP for #5*

      Good point! I actually held off starting treatments until now because I was worried about the timing. But you make a good point that things are always unexpected. I’ve been trying to save my PTO since I tend to hoard it, but you make a good point that I could use it in case this happened.

  26. WantonSeedStitch*

    Alison’s script for OP #5 is almost exactly the script I used when I told my own manager about the appointments I was planning for IVF. I let him know that sometimes the timing of the appointments might be unpredictable, but that I would keep disruption to a minimum, and would keep him informed of when I would not be in the office. I also gave a heads-up to my direct reports, and told them that I’d keep myself as available as possible by e-mail and text even when I needed to take some time off work.

    1. OP for #5*

      Thanks for telling your experience! I really appreciate it – it’s always helpful to hear how other bosses have responded to certain scripts.

      1. WantonSeedStitch*

        My boss is always really cool with stuff like this, so I wasn’t too worried. It turned out that the pandemic stopped all new IVF cycles before I could start…but then I ended up pregnant naturally…so it ended up being a whole different set of appointments that were much farther apart and more predictable! Good luck with your treatments, and with your manager!

        1. OP for #5*

          That’s so exciting! I’m so happy that you were able to get pregnant!!!! I wish you the best of luck during your pregnancy and hope for the best for you and your family :) Thank you for the luck!

  27. Bob*

    LW1: The employee is trying to take you down with her. Or instead of her. Document everything and keep others who need to know in the loop. Once the trial is over you will have already notified those who are in charge of deciding if she continues with what they need to know.

    LW3: You can also try doing a quick recap along with next steps then leaving on a hopeful note that you will speak with them again (on whatever schedule or appointment is applicable).

  28. CynicallySweet7*

    #2 my boss does this all the time, I could have written this questions 2 years ago (and I work for a med sized real estate company). The name dropping Allison (sp?) suggested is actually really important. It’ll stop a lot of people from thinking you’re unnecessarily escalating sometime “minor” issues.

    Also forging ur own new contacts is important. Sometimes it’s worth it to reach out cold to someone and be like “are you who I ask about this”. It feels awkward but as long as ur not spamming people w/ questions they can’t answer constantly most people won’t mind pointing you in a direction.

    1. Littorally*

      Yeah, the “are you who I ask about this?” tactic is extremely useful. Having to tell someone “that’s not even close to my function” is never comfortable for conscientious employees, and signaling up front that you’re completely open to the idea that you’re in the wrong place defuses a lot of tension before it has the chance to build. So does “my manager told me to ask you” because if the manager is wrong, that lets the person who takes your call know that they need to reach out and correct assumptions.

      My team does this a lot — we have a handful of highly specialized tasks that we complete, and other parts of the company often don’t know which specialized tasks exactly we do or don’t help with. So if I see that a particular team or person is referring folks to us consistently for things we don’t do, I can reach out to that person and clarify.

    2. Turanga Leela*

      I do this when I need advice from a peer at a new job, too. “Dana told me you’re the person to ask about X” explains why I’m asking someone I don’t know well for help. People are either flattered or, if Dana was wrong, they’re happy to point me in the right direction.

  29. Employment Lawyer*

    1. My employee won’t let go of a mistake I made
    This is a dominance / authority issue. Your employee is trying to prevent you from asserting authority.

    The trick is to be
    1) calm. It isn’t up for discussion. What you say just, to use a phrase, “is what it is.”
    2) Clear. Most new managers are unclear because they don’t want to be impolite. For example, it’s usually impolite in a pure social setting to tell someone “you have done a bad job” but not if you’re managing them. So newbies duck and weave to try to sound polite. But politeness rules are different for manager and you can be a lot more direct.
    3) Willing to follow through. DO WHAT YOU SAY YOU WILL DO. If you say “do not do that” and someone does it, and you say “if you do it again you’ll be written up,” YOU MUST DO IT.

    2. Is my boss’s advice making me look bad?
    If you’re higher-up enough, you may want to develop the skill of “making a subordinate deal with it,” which–believe it or not!–is both hard to do (it’s hard to let go) and crucial for high level work. Maybe try pushing this onto someone else, and ask why you’re going to your boss in the first place.

    3. How do I politely end professional phone calls?
    “Bye, sweetie; love ya!”

    I said that to a client once when I had just talked to my wife. So whatever you’re saying, I offer reassurance it’s probably fine.

    5. How do I approach my boss about time off for fertility treatments?
    AAM’s advice is good. Were it me, I would start by figuring out what my rights were under state and federal law (leave, sick time, etc.) Your confidence during the discussion will be enhanced if you know you can do this and if it feels less like a favor. Also, to be frank, you should know whether or not you’ll be fired if they find out, and/or when you have kids (not all businesses are prevented from pregnancy discrimination.)

    1. OP for #5*

      Thank you for this advice! I don’t think they would discriminate against me in terms of employment. But I guess I also don’t want to have them think I’m flaky or trying to “get out of there” by getting pregnant, because I truly love working there and would 100% still work there even if I have a child. I don’t know if I’m being too timid too but I don’t necessarily want to approach the conversation in terms of “this is my right” because I want them to know I understand the potential impact my having a kid would have for them, and that I would do everything I can to make any transition during my maternity leave as easy as possible for them.

    2. Arts Akimbo*

      3. HAHA, I have done this and wanted to melt into the floor! Fortunately most people have also done this or a variation thereof, and turns out no melting is required.

  30. jay*

    “I need to do X and Jane suggested I start with you. I realize you might just handle Y though — if so, any chance you can point me in the right direction?”

    this is a GREAT script and I use similar wording on an extremely regular basis at my job, as we often have supervisory folks who are “in charge” of something (Tech Stuff is a common example) but don’t necessarily have the most recent technical knowledge about how to do it — and my boss is the kind of person who actually DOES know who to send me to 99% of the time, but I still say it or similar.

    Like I might shorten it to “I need to do [very short and clear summary of the issue so they don’t have to read about a paragraph of my nonsense in case they’re the wrong person, can you tell I talk too much?]; my supervisor suggested you might be the person to start with, but if that’s not the case, would you mind pointing me in the right direction?” I might also add whether there’s a timeframe, like, “No urgency; I’m just trying to get this off my to-do list in the next couple of weeks” or whatever.

    That way, if they DO know how to do it, but they can’t or don’t want to — like, say, because they’re on an urgent deadline or are juggling competing requests from people who are higher up the food chain than me or just think I’m annoying, they can easily hand me off to someone else without it reading as “I can’t be bothered or don’t know how to do this”

    (With that said, I am a VERY casual person at a job that is generally fairly formal, and I ask a LOT of questions, but I’m lucky enough to have been here for a decade so everyone kinda knows that’s how I am and the attit, so I can be really casual but I try to balance it with being polite and giving people an “out” if they need or want one.)

    1. jay*

      I have no idea where the “and the attit” came from, I think I meant to type it in another document or something, haha. Apologies y’all!

    2. Colette*

      I’d probably say “I need to do X, and Jane mentioned that you’d know who I should talk to”

  31. Anon Anon*

    OP #5 — This is a rare time I disagree with Alison’s advice, if you are doing IVF, you believe that your boss has first hand experience, and you feel comfortable disclosing the nature of your appointments. There are a lot of caveats there. I’ve done multiple rounds of IVF, and I used similar language to what Alison suggested, and I found it incredibly stressful. Mostly because I had zero control over anything in the process, and I ended up missing multiple meetings that my boss was not thrilled about me missing. If I had had a boss who had undergone similar treatments and knew how stressful and little control you have over the process and I had disclosed that I was going through the process, then I think the process would have been easier. Especially, when it came to co-workers being irritated that I was gone.

    If you are doing IUI’s then I wouldn’t disclose at this time. There tend to be far fewer appointments involved (only a 2-4 a month), and you typically don’t need to be away from work for more than a couple hours if you are seeing a local RE.

    1. Meredith*

      I think it depends on the nature of her relationship with her boss and her other experiences at the company. Would the boss ever disclose it to anyone else? Would the boss knowing she wants to get pregnant potentially impact OP’s growth at the company?

    2. Meredith*

      And for the record, my boss knows about my fertility journey as I’ve had 4 miscarriages, all after IVF transfers, while working for her over the last 3 years, and it happens that she also had similar experiences. For a multitude of reasons, I trust her with that information.

    3. OP for #5*

      Thank you for your experience! This is really helpful. I am starting with IUI, so I haven’t gotten to the IVF stage yet. But I really appreciate this information – it definitely gives me a starting point of “ok, maybe I won’t share this right now.” I do get the feeling that if IUI doesn’t work, IVF would be much more schedule and labor intensive, and you make good points in that my coworkers and boss would be slightly annoyed if I was missing important meetings and they didn’t have a full understanding of why.

  32. Bopper*

    #4: Maybe the boss wants to get to know you and your work at first since you are new?

    1. Not So Super-visor*

      This was my thought too. OP4 was hired during the pandemic, so hasn’t been with the company for very long. most of the companies that had WFH plans pre-pandemic usually had some caveats about how long someone had to be with the company before the could be fulltime WFH or even WFH at all.

  33. Welcome to the Hellmouth*

    I’m not sure I totally agree with Alison on number 1 (though I’m not a manager so she definitely knows more than I do).

    OP, you say you made a mistake that impacted Jane, and then apologized for any inconvenience. But did you fix your mistake? If I’m reading what you’re saying correctly, you just left Jane to deal with the consequences of your actions. Which, if so, I totally understand why she’s bitter (though that’s not to say that her badmouthing you is okay–it’s not).

    I’ve been in situations myself where a manager screwed something up and then left it to their employees to deal with the fallout while they absolved themselves of responsibility.

    Feel free to correct me if I’m misreading this.

    1. Uranus Wars*

      OP says she apologized for inconvenience but also that Recently I made a very small mistake with very little impact on her.

      I read it as LW type thier instead of their, so Jane has to fix it but it wasn’t a hardship. I could be way wrong though!

      1. Welcome to the Hellmouth*

        I did misread that part a bit. I thought she said that she made a mistake that did impact Jane, but had not done anything about it but apologize. Still, I’m not entirely sure what OP means by “very little impact.” It could be A) it did not affect her at all and there’s no reason for her to even worry about it, or B) Yeah, she had to clean up my mess, but it didn’t take her that long.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      The thing is, you may have all the reasons in the world to be bitter but in the professional world, you have to let it go or it’ll lose you respect and over all, jobs.

      Sure, Jane may be completely right to be annoyed, pissy and untrustworthy of the her boss to repeat the mistake. But you still have to drop it. Always. Unless you want to be fired because nobody wants to work with someone who can’t swallow their bitterness.

    3. OP1*

      By the time I found out I had made the mistake, it couldn’t be remedied as it was something for that day. I’ll try to not give away too much info. I essentially printed out an old version of the days schedule that was missing one item. The employee and her shift partner knew about the item so it got done. It wasn’t brought to my attention that I gave her an old version until the next day despite the fact I was there for another 4 hours after giving it to her, we spoke on the phone after I left, and all the schedules are kept on an unlocked computer. By the time I found out about the mistake I couldn’t fix it, otherwise I would have happily given her the correct schedule

      1. Deanna Troi*

        What you’re describing is so minor that if someone who worked for me did it, I wouldn’t even call it a “mistake.” You overlooked something or misread a file name. This just solidifies for me that this person is not going to be able to work for you in a reasonable way while respecting you as her supervisor. I would encourage you to talk to your bosses about not keeping her past her probation.

    4. LGC*

      Line supervisor here – in a position similar to LW1’s.

      LW1 might not have handled it perfectly – I’d have probably said “Sorry about that! Thanks for letting me know, I’ll keep that in mind for next time.” (It sounds like the mistake was already fixed by the time the employee told LW1, so the best course is to say that you won’t mess up again.) But it’s gone beyond the initial mistake into the employee derailing other conversations to mention the one time she caught the boss’s mistake. So even if LW1 isn’t taking responsibility for their mistake, that’s still counterproductive – two wrongs don’t make a right.

      Also, LW1’s responses…invite further discussion of the matter. I don’t think they’re doing this intentionally, but:

      Instead of answering my questions about her work, she brought up my mistake. I told her we could address it at the end of the meeting but that we needed to focus on the task at hand first. Another time she brought it up out of the blue so I asked her what steps she could have taken to solve the problem.

      I’m an outside observer (and about 10-15 years older than LW and have six years of experience, so…), but in both cases LW1 is still asking for feedback and solutions. (At least with their words.) They haven’t told the employee to stop giving this explicitly, which they really shouldn’t have to do, but some people are dense. What would work better is Alison’s scripts, or – since it’s not clear from the letter what authority LW1 has – “Thanks Jane, I’ve heard your concerns, but we need to move on from this.” It does feel power-trippy, but…like, you’re the boss, this is a time to use your boss powers.

      If LW1 really wants closure, they could hear Jane out once more about this, and then close the book. I’m a bit iffy on this since I don’t want to encourage Jane and reward her for inappropriate behavior, but I also don’t know whether her criticisms are actually valid.

  34. britbacca*

    LW #3: As someone whose job is 90% managing client relationships on the phone, I’ve had a lot of luck with “It looks like we’re near the end of the [hour/appointment], and *I want to be respectful of your time*, so I think we can go ahead and wrap it up here.” If we finish early, I’ll say, “I’ll do [x & y follow-up items], and we’ll wrap up here, so you can get a few extra minutes back in your day. Take care.”

  35. Turanga Leela*

    OP #3: My wrap-up line (in a similar field) is “Do you have any questions for me?” If there are no questions, I tell the person what happens next and when to expect to hear from me: “Ok, then I’ll be working on your brief, and I’ll send you a copy of it when it’s filed,” or “We’re just waiting on the court at this point, and I’ll let you know as soon as I have any news. Call me if you have questions.” And then I get off the phone.

  36. Scarlet*

    OP #1 – this person is actively and deliberately undermining your authority. Clearly this is a lack of respect. I don’t blame you for beginning to lose your patience – this behavior is infuriating, especially for a new manager who’s trying to find their authority-footing.

  37. daisies*

    I’m not a huge fan of phrasing like “I’ll let you go”. It’s not exactly passive-aggressive, but it’s dishonest. You want to finish the call, and you phrase it as if you’re doing the other person a favor. If what you want is to finish the conversation, why not say something like “I should get going” or “That was all I needed to discuss for today, thank you” –??
    Then you can shift into the true ending, the thank yous and the goodbyes.

    1. Deanna Troi*

      I agree. I talk to members of the public sometimes and believe me, the vast majority of them have no interest in being let go. I said this once and the person said “that’s okay, I don’t need to go.”

  38. drpuma*

    OP3, when it seems like a conversation is coming to an end I will usually ask a question like, “Any last questions or thoughts? Anything else you want to add? Anything we missed?” Assuming the answer to any/all of those questions is no, it’s pretty natural to proceed to some variety of “Thanks so much for taking the time to talk,” “This was helpful!” “Talk to you again soon, take care,” etc. Thinking through how I end calls, now I’m wondering if a more obvious wind-down to your conversations would help goodbyes feel more natural?

  39. Mannheim Steamroller*

    OP #1…

    [“Instead of answering my questions about her work, she brought up my mistake. I told her we could address it at the end of the meeting but that we needed to focus on the task at hand first. Another time she brought it up out of the blue so I asked her what steps she could have taken to solve the problem. Now I’ve overheard her talking badly about me to her coworker. I’m starting to lose my patience. How do I get her to drop this?”]

    Her plan is to lord it over you for as long as you and others let her get away with it…

    “My llama count must be correct because YOUUUUUUUU made that mistake last month.”

    “Are you sure about the alpaca teapots? After all, YOUUUUUUUU made that mistake last year.”

    “I researched the musk ox proposal, but YOUUUUUUUU made that mistake back in 2020.”

    So far, she is clearly failing her work trial. Tell her that (1) she is failing, (2) she’s failing because she insists on repeatedly bringing up that one error, and (3) she will have to let it go. If she defends her self by mentioning it again (“I can’t be failing because YOUUUUUUUU made that mistake”), then she has made your decision very easy.

  40. Meredith*

    LW #5 – This depends on both your work schedule and how your clinic works. All the clinics I’ve used have morning monitoring appointments, starting at 7:00. Depending on how far your office is, your start time, and how flexible they are about it, you might be able to get away without having to mention anything. Or else a brief heads-up that you might be 15 minutes late due a medical appointment.

    I do understand your concern about so many appointments, though. Honestly, if your boss keeps hearing you have medical appointments each week, it’s something she might suspect given her experience, but is unlikely to bring up for professional reasons (I would hope). Even with the earliest appointment, I used to give my boss at my old office the heads up that I might be late due to a medical appointment. After a while I got some fake concern (masking curiosity, I think) about whether or not I was okay, so I stopped mentioning it, and mostly arrived on time anyway.

    I’m a bit confused by your statement that you’ll need 3 appointments per month. In my experience, this is very flexible. It depends on the treatment of course, but it could end up being more. I can’t even count how many times I’ve heard, “okay, the doctor is actually going to want to see you again in 2 days before we schedule your procedure…” So just be forewarned.

    Good luck!

    1. OP for #5*

      Thank you for this information! That’s definitely helpful. My doctor said 3x a month as a starting point. He said I’d need to go in to make sure I’m responding to the medicine the right way. He wanted to make sure we’re not increasing my chances of having quintuplets or something, and that I’m only releasing a few more eggs per month, not a ton more. I got the feeling from the call with him that this was only needed the first month, so hopefully in the following months, I would only need to go in 2x a month. You definitely bring up a good point though that if my boss is hearing that I have medical appointments each month, it would bring up some curiosity in her. I am still in the dark a bit though because my doctor didn’t give me a sense of what time the appointments would be. Plus, with COVID, my doctor said they’re taking measures to be safe, which includes only having one patient go in at a time. I’m assuming that would probably change what time I could go in as well.

  41. Jaylee*

    OP #3, I’m a divorce lawyer too! Most of the time when we have calls with clients, it is for a specific task right? You’re either getting info from them so that you can respond to the other side, or asking if they want to send out discovery, or scheduling a hearing, something like that. Or sometimes you’re calming them down over something (in which case usually you are presenting them with a plan to address what they’re freaked out about, right?). So I generally end my calls with repeating what the plan of action will be, something like “Okay so I’ll get you that draft tomorrow at the latest,” or “I’ll get that email out now and let you know when I hear from them,” or “alright let me know what days works for you next week.” That usually signals to people that it’s the end of the call but it’s more specific than “I’ll keep you posted” so people feel better that there is a plan. For some folks you might have to say it again because they’ll add on something more or whatever, but most of the time people get it.

  42. I love Matcha*

    OP5, I think Alison’s advice and script are spot on. When I first started my treatment I also had trouble figuring out how to tell my 1st ex-manager that I would need to take time for a series of appointments (and that they will be short notice), thinking that I would need to share I’m undergoing treatments with him to validate (which I did not want to, because he had no struggle with fertility and often being somewhat insensitive to other people’s reproductive plans/struggles). So what I did was I said something similar to Alison’s script and no one would even ask a question!
    (And I actually used the same script 3 times since I had 2 manager changes after I started treatment, which all worked out very well)

    That being said, I think many clinics also have very early appointments in case some patients cannot take too much time off from work (and some doctors also prefer to perform the actual procedures such as egg retrieval or embryo transfer only during early mornings). I think you can ask your coordinator to get a better idea :)

    I wish you the very best with your treatment!!

    1. OP for #5*

      Thank you so much for this information! I really appreciate it. That’s good to know that you had a good experience using Alison’s script – it’s always helpful to hear what people’s responses have been to different scripts. I’m not sure about appointment times, since my doctor wasn’t clear about what times the appointments would be (and I didn’t think to ask). It would be awesome if I could get in early and start work on time though, so I’m hopeful that will be the case. Thank you for the good wishes :)

  43. OP for #5*

    Thank you everyone for your input, and thank you Alison for your script! Based on the comments I’ve read so far, I think I’m going to start with Alison’s script since I’m not doing the more intensive IVF right now. I’m doing IUI, which, based on what I’ve read, is not as schedule intensive. If it ends up not working and I go into IVF, I think I would use other people’s suggestions of being more upfront. Plus, if I do get to that point, I’ll then have been at my job for probably 10 months, so I’ll have had a bit more time there. I have my 1:1 with my boss this coming week, which is when I was planning on talking about it, so this article came at a perfect time. I’ll let you all know how it goes. I really appreciate this community’s support and love. Thank you :)

  44. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    #2, You’re over thinking this issue.

    She gave you her contact at the company, it may not be the correct one but it’s a contact that she’s found reliable at that company, it’s the perfect place to start.

    If you start calling 1-800 numbers and getting in touch with people even more wildly out of touch with your account, you run into a lot of issues. Don’t do that.

    I always start with our account reps whenever possible for accounts we hold. If we don’t hold an account and it’s a casual vendor, I will still reach out to whomever I worked with previously for assistance getting to where I need to be. It’s okay, it’s professional and it’s a norm in most instances.

    You will find this pop up a lot in the future, not just from this boss but from just about all bosses. Please stop worrying so much! I know being new you’re absorbing it and you’re unsure of the footing, follow those who seem confident in where the foot holds are! It’ll get you further than challenging all these small things in the long run.

    Be kind, courteous and personable and believe me, even if you call a CEO by accident, they’re going to be pretty easy going with pointing you to where you need to be. Don’t fear landing on the wrong phoneline so much. It’s not offensive to call someone and say “Jane has worked with you and thinks you can put me in touch with whomever can set up our physical workspaces?” Don’t act like they are required to know or to do the job for you! That’s the key.

  45. LGC*

    LW5 – like, I’d suggest giving an estimate of your availability. What I mean is, just say you’re in medical treatments, you might need to leave early x times a month, you might need to take off y times a month, and you’ll try to give as much notice as possible but you expect it to be around z days. (So like, you might need to leave early three times a month, you might need one day off entirely, and you’ll try to give two days notice.)

    It really depends on the boss! I’m speaking for myself (and I am in a demographic that is absolutely not the baby-making demographic), but I feel most comfortable not having things constantly sprung on me. So I’d love to have an outline of things. The only thing is that she might figure out what’s up, but you do not have to confirm or deny. Your doctor can only see you on short notice because they set appointments with short notice.

    (Also, I will care as much about your health as you feel comfortable about me caring.

    1. OP for #5*

      That’s a good idea – being more specific would probably help her plan around it and not be so shocked when I’m saying “hey, so can I use my PTO day for this day coming up” so it’s not so out of the blue when I’m asking for a half day vs. a full day, etc. Thank you! And thank you for caring :)

  46. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    OP1: this is a gaslighter technique. This person needs to show you that they are perfect and you are not. If you ask about a report she hasn’t finished on time, she will deflect and remind you that you are not perfect. It’s early days so she only has the one thing to throw back at you, but later she could build up a whole litany. Knowing what I now know about gaslighting, I would get rid of her as quickly as possible, because she’s pure poison.

Comments are closed.