how to handle an employee’s complaints about a coworker

A reader writes:

One of my employees has made many complaints against another employee. She claims that our clients have felt written off or discouraged by this person but the clients do not want to come forward. The employee who’s being accused doesn’t seem to be doing these things, but I am not fully sure now that I’ve heard these complaints. How should I move forward with this employee bringing up issues that are not her own?

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

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • Should I have a goodbye party for a hostile employee who’s leaving?
  • Applying to a company for a third time
  • Weight loss surgery and work
  • If I’m told to leave after I resigned, was I fired?

{ 102 comments… read them below }

  1. VanLH*

    That last question about resigning and then being told to leave? I am not sure that is correct. If you told them you wanted to work until the 30th and they tell you leave now? If it happened to me, I would regard myself as being fired and would apply to unemployment.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      It would depend to me on whether they paid me for the two weeks or not. If they were to pay me, I have resigned. If they were to not pay me for those two weeks, I would consider myself laid off or fired.

      No idea what the Unemployment Office would think, however.

    2. What's in a name?*

      I think you should have some recourse for two weeks of last wages. You could ask for it from your employer, but they have little reason to do it.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      For unemployment, absolutely — you should be eligible for those last two weeks in between when they had you leave and your planned end date, if they don’t pay them. But the OP didn’t ask about unemployment — I assume she’s asking because she wants to know if she has to tell future employers she was fired (she doesn’t).

    4. HugsAreNotTolerated*

      OP #5 should definitely check with HR to check what their status with the company is. It’s important to know what kind of information they’ll be giving out when future employers call. Just because you resigned, doesn’t mean that your manager filled out the paperwork that way, and your employee file may reflect that.

      1. goducks*

        Sure, but the LW probably shouldn’t sweat it too much, either. If I had a candidate who told me that they left job A to go to job B (or degree program C) and their reference check says fired, I might clarify with the candidate, and if they told me that they were told to leave when they gave their notice, I wouldn’t think too much of how their prior employer categorized it.

        Official HR file status and reality aren’t necessarily always aligned. Plenty of people are fired, but given the opportunity to “resign” to save face in the HR file. This is really just the reverse of that.

        1. Lifelong student*

          Yeah- they give you the ” opportunity” to resign- which means when you apply for unemployment they can say “but she quit” and then no unemployment! I have experienced this- in one case, they gave me two weeks severance – I did not resign- and when I applied for unemployment, the company objected to the date my unemployment started saying I was still on the payroll for two more weeks. They lost- I was unemployed even if still compensated. It meant I did not have to suffer a “waiting week” loss of income.

  2. Beanie Counter*

    I once had a difficult coworker – he fit the stereotype of the grumpy old man. Nothing pleased him and he was more than happy to give you a piece of his mind. He was a party-pooper, insisting we not decorate for Christmas, and making such a stink about it that we didn’t, among other thorns. It was my first career job and knowing that he was nearing retirement, I suggested (not jokingly) that we could throw a huge retirement party with cake, gifts, and decorations – the party being that we’re so happy he’s leaving, and hopefully a nice way to end his career. I meant it entirely as good will for both sides and not a malicious joke.

    Then one morning, he physically assaulted a colleague, was physically threatening to another and was escorted from the building promptly. I did not expect that.

    1. Susie Q*

      I can see why someone would “insisting we not decorate for Christmas”. It’s not very inclusive and can be uncomfortable for non Christian employees.

      1. Hazel*

        I was thinking the same thing. Last year at my then – new ish job, people started decorating for Christmas. I wanted to say something about not doing it because it’s not at all inclusive of everyone and can make people uncomfortable, but I didn’t because most of the people who had been there longer seemed excited about it, and I didn’t want to be a party pooper. I should have said something and I feel bad that I didn’t, but this shit is hard sometimes.

      2. Rachel in NYC*

        I love Christmas…well to be honest I love Christmas trees, decorations and songs. I start singing Christmas songs in May.

        Though my love of Christmas songs may only show how Jewish I really am.

      3. James*

        Maybe my experience is unique, but I’ve never encountered a non-Christian who was offended. I’ve met people who presumed to be offended on behalf of someone else, but that’s it. Non-Christians I know either accept it as a secular celebration (a lot of atheists view it that way) or have their own celebrations at that time (Christians adopted a lot of pagan imagery for Christmas and Easter, so I’m happy to have a tree and candles and whatnot).

        Again, maybe my experience is different. But in my experience when someone says “That’s offensive!” to Christmas decorations I’ve found they’re not personally offended, they’re trying to be offended for someone, which can be very problematic. I get trying to advocate for minority groups, but you’ve gotta make sure the minority groups agree with you–see what happened with Speedy Gonzolas.

        1. WellRed*

          Oy! Someone pointing out that Christmas decorations may not feel inclusive does not mean they are saying it’s offensive. Why jump to that conclusion. Also, attitudes like this are what keep many people from speaking up in the first place. Signed, someone who loves and celebrates Christmas.

        2. anonymoment*

          Hi! I’m a non-Christian who feels uncomfortable with Christmas decorations at work! Glad I could help.

    2. charo*

      Could be dementia. It’s always amazing how people KNOW that dementia exists but when they see personality change or eccentricity in an older person they just don’t consider that could be why.
      Re: employee complaints about another, I would act sympathetic to the person and ask for it all in writing, w/dates, times, names, and details. And ask them to cite how they KNOW all this.

      They claim to know so much, let them prove it. My guess is they’re hoping to make claims w/o having to cite specifics. A grudge, maybe.

      I’d ask if anyone else at work can back up their claims, too. It could be true and they’re just being a pro who cares about the company.

      I would take it seriously but ask for evidence. And, nicely ask them how much of their time they’ve already spent on dealing w/these complaints. That’s a double-edged sword because they want to show they’re not being frivolous or jumping to conclusions, but they also don’t want to look like they’ve obsessed over this and taken up too much work time on a vendetta. So how they reply gives you a clue to their POV. As does their language. If they get worked up they may use “hot” words verbally to you that show they have an emotional problem w/the co-worker, like, “they always xxx” or “never xxx” and “they’re rude and sneaky” and other sweeping terms and adjectives that show high emotion.
      I wrote an analysis for the big boss I was Asst. to, of one of the top people. She eventually was fired, it was a big deal. It described her interactions and how they affected support staff, factually and w/o rancor.

      But if they do, you have it in writing.

  3. Accountette*

    Looks like a bunch of formatting issues at the link. First letter is not included, only the headline question and your answer, and final question and answer appears twice. Just fyi! ❤

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Glad to know it wasn’t just me with formatting issues. I am on a mobile platform, and there were ads on top of all the questions/answers for me as well.

      1. Tessa Ryan*

        This happened to me too, also on a mobile platform. I reported the ads that were covering up questions.

        1. Mid*

          Oh good! I’ve seen it on several Inc columns, not just yours, so I’ve been reporting it to Inc directly. I hope their fix works!

        2. Lady Meyneth*

          Mine is well formatted, in a computer. So either they fixed it, or it might ust afffect mobile devices.

  4. Buttons*

    When I have an employee complaining about another employee or telling me “people have complained to me” I say all the things Alison said, but I also ask them “How does this impact your work/reputation/reputation of the company?” I have found that it rarely does. If it does, if they are complaining to me about something that employee is doing or not doing that directly effects them I ask them if they have spoken to the person or if they would like to have a sit down with the three of us.

    1. Observer*

      It’s true that ideally people should talk to each other first. But sometimes there are good reasons not to. Also, a sit down with everyone is not necessarily the best idea. Which is to say that while this is a good way to handle it MOST of the time, you should have some other responses in your toolbox as well.

    2. Mockingjay*

      I had a co-irker who complained about everyone to management. In due course, it was my turn. During my annual review, my manager (who was reactive and played favorites – the co-irker was one) brought up several perceived incidents and grievances. I calmly asked for specifics and manager couldn’t provide any. I then requested that in the future to please address things with me as they occurred. Strangely, there were no further complaints. Co-irker and manager eventually left.

      1. allathian*

        Maybe you contributed to them deciding to leave? I hope so, because I really despise people who play favorites.

      2. Massmatt*

        Your “manager” was told of “incidents” and “grievances” and says nothing to you at the time so that you could actually address them or improve, and instead stockpiles them as vague and non-actionable dings on an annual review? Good riddance!

    3. Andy*

      I would expect that management is there precisely to solve human issues long before they escalate enough to endanger company reputation. I also assumed that management is there to solve problems even if the person reporting them is not directly affected or not brave enough to go into confrontation.

  5. Space Cadet*

    FYI might want to check out how this article is loading on their mobile version.

  6. PJS*

    For the last letter, what if the employee was about to be fired that afternoon, overheard it being discussed by eavesdropping on a closed-door meeting, threw a resignation letter together, and rushed down to HR to resign (with a long notice period) before they could be fired? True story.

    1. Picard*

      shrug. depending on how egregious the reason for their upcoming firing, the company could simply accept their resignation effective immediately. As for what to tell future references, easy enough to say they resigned and are NOT eligible for rehire. Says a lot without going into details.

    2. whistle*

      I am always happy to receive a resignation from someone I am considering firing/about to fire. That means my company doesn’t have the unemployment liability and I don’t have to fire someone.

      1. ToS*

        Agreed, resignations are often much easier to process, not only for unemployment, but for benefits and other processes.

    3. Massmatt*

      This would be a boon for the company as they avoid having to pay unemployment. Problem employees are often given the opportunity to resign for this reason. Also there is a perception of less legal liability for the company in a resignation as opposed to firing. The employee is probably thinking they can tell future employers they weren’t fired, but it’s pretty easy to read between the lines when someone quits without another job lined up.

      And I doubt a problem employee is going to get a significantly longer notice period. And it would seem odd that HR would be talking about someone resigning without talking to their manager. HR

  7. HugsAreNotTolerated*

    TBH I kind of disagree with Alison’s advice for OP#4. If it were a few days or even only just a week that OP will be out, I can see only giving 2-3 weeks notice, but OP said it could be 10-15 days. That’s potentially 3 work weeks, 75% of a month! As OP says it’s a small office that ‘does a lot of shuffling’ to cover, being surprised with a co-worker’s 3 week absence during which I’m expected to cover their tasks is going to create a lot of resentment. What if other people have planned PTO or appointments during that time and the office can’t afford to have that many people out?

    1. Daniel*

      Here’s the rub: the LW didn’t know what the date of their surgery was going to be. For the reasons you mention, I’d alert the employer once they knew that date, but in the meantime, they didn’t even have that.

      1. HugsAreNotTolerated*

        LW said the surgery is *typically* scheduled between 2-3 weeks after insurance approval. There’s no reason OP couldn’t ask to schedule their surgery 6 weeks after approval. If the surgeon/health center isn’t willing to work with your schedule, then that might be a sign that you may want to check other providers.

        1. Annony*

          I think they meant 10-15 days total, not 10-15 work days. So it would be 2 weeks. And pushing surgery back by a month is a big deal. When I had to have my gallbladder removed, I would have been pretty resentful if I was told two weeks notice wasn’t enough and I should push the surgery back by a month. It wasn’t life threatening, but it was something that I needed to vastly improve my quality of life.

          1. Kate*

            But is weight loss surgery in the same category? I have had breast tumor surgery that I scgeduled on Thursday before Easter weekend, so I was off work only one day. And I walked around with a dead fetus for a month before scheduling clean-up (admittedly, part of it was hoping it had been just too small to find heartbeat on ultrasound).

            1. Pomona Sprout*

              Weight loss surgery isn’t in quite the same category as gall bladder removal. (I say this someone who has had weight loss surgery and is very glad I did.)

              Gall bladder problems can be more or less urgent, depending on how bad the symptoms are (they can be anywhere from uncomfortable to agonizing), and whether a gall stone is blocking a bile duct (which can cause damage to another organ, such as the pancreas). There are times when it’s an emergency and times when it’s not.

              Weight loss surgery is almost never urgent. (I say “almost never,” because I’ve never heard of a case where it was, but I can’t swear there’s never been one.) Speaking from personal experience, I would have hated to have to push my surgery date any further off than I had to, but I would not have suffered any ill effects to my health from doing so. In my case, I was working in a two person office, and none of my work was so urgent that it couldn’t wait for my return. Because of that and my company’s generous insurance coverage and personal leave policies, all the planets were aligned perfectly for me to have the surgery at that particular time. (Lucky me!)

              I’m sure LW wouldn’t enjoy putting their sugery off any more than I would have, but given that they are in a position where giving only 2 or 3 weeks notice could cause problems with their workplace AND they seem a bit stressed about that, it might be worth the delay to them. Of course, only they can make that call.

        2. Observer*

          Not true – with stuff like this it’s often a matter of “take the date you get or wait forever.”

          1. JSPA*

            I have not found that to be so, with elective surgery. Or rather, it was “we can schedule you for X or Y, and if those dates don’t work, it might be two or three months.” And that was because the surgeon was going on vacation in the interim.

            However, if there are tests already done prior to the approval (or prior to the surgery, but they’ve already happened) the results (and potentially, the approval itself) are generally only good for a certain number of days.

            Three weeks is about what I remember, for some of the blood work. Any longer, and you have to repeat it, for anesthesia. Insurance can & may balk at paying for repeated bloodwork if the delay is a convenience delay for OP. All of which should make OP feel better taking the offered slot, when offered.

            This is very different from gall bladder surgery, in that the diet for maintenance before surgery is extremely limited; the risks of an attack, even with an extremely limited diet are non-zero; a gall bladder attack (beyond being moaningly painful) can lead to a full blockage; and full blockage means emergency surgery (at greater cost, risk, likelihood of having to do open surgery with several weeks’ recovery time rather than keyhole) etc.

            The incremental excess metabolic burden and general wear-and-tear on one’s body that can accompany obesity (and, “can” is an essential word, here) don’t have that high a likelikood of acute complications if the surgery is delayed. Or, putting it another way, gall bladder surgery, by the time it’s needed, is scheduled, but it’s not realistically optional. Bariatric surgery is, in the vast majority of cases, optional. Plus, the specific sort of surgery is highly open to patient choice (unlike cholecystectomy, where you sign a release saying that even if you’re going in for keyhole, they have the right to change over to open surgery if that’s what they need to do).

            1. Observer*

              You may not have experienced it, but it does happen a lot at busy practices / hospitals. And, even when you can swing the delay, as you point out, there is the issue of needing to redo some tests that the OP would wind up having to pay for.

              Which is to say that while it is not universal, it’s quite common to not have all that much flexibility in scheduling surgery.

        3. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          ” then that might be a sign that you may want to check other providers.”

          You know most people can’t just shop around for doctors, right? You have to go to the hospitals that are in-network with your insurance? And once you’ve gotten the ball rolling on consults and appointments, it’s highly unlikely your insurance will pay for you to restart that process again, you’d be out of pocket for the second consults.

          1. Lyudie*

            When I had surgery several years ago, my surgeon and his partner are the only ones who do that surgery in this area and they only work with one hospital. This is not a small rural area, we have one of the best hospitals in the country and multiple large hospital systems. I had very limited options on dates even though my insurance would have been accepted pretty much everywhere. Weight loss surgery is maybe not as niche, for lack of a better term, but there are all sorts of factors that go into it and shopping around is not always possible.

          2. Massmatt*

            I was going to say this. Surgery, and health care in general, is not a field where you can easily pick and choose among many providers and dump them if you find them inflexible, unless you are paying out of pocket. Most people don’t have tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars available to shop for surgeons.

      2. Annony*

        Yep. Since they don’t know the date (or even if it is going to happen), what benefit would more notice be? They can’t guarantee coverage unless no one is allowed to take time off until the surgery is scheduled (which would be absurd) so they really can’t do anything to mitigate the inconvenience.

      3. ZK*

        Yeah, and any time it’s a health issue, you give what notice you can. I was recently out unexpectedly for two full weeks due to a hospitalization after a mild heart attack, and then restrictions once they sent me home. Yes, it left them short staffed, but that’s the cost of doing business sometimes. But you shouldn’t have to schedule your surgery for 3 months out just so you can give extra notice. Especially right now, when a lot of hospitals are only just beginning to do non-emergency procedures again due to Covid. Now you take what you can get, when you get it.

      4. RB*

        I was in that situation, knew there was a good chance I’d be needing surgery but I didn’t know the date or even the month, just a general ballpark idea. I also didn’t know how long I’d be out. It was expected to be anywhere between 1.5 weeks and 3 weeks. As soon as I knew I’d likely need the surgery, I simply told my boss, “I have a potential surgery coming up but it could be May or it could be June. I hope to be back in about 1.5 weeks from the date of surgery but it could be as long as 3 weeks.” This was a couple months in advance so he had plenty of time to plan. I know he appreciated the advance notice, as did my co-workers. Everybody was great and didn’t ask personal questions. This was a year ago, so the pandemic was not a factor.

    2. Deliliah*

      What if she had to get sudden emergency surgery with no notice that required 10-15 days recovery? The office would find a way to make it work.

    3. Devon*

      I mean, at most, OP4 could tell their boss they have an upcoming surgery and may have a tentative idea of when they’ll be out, but that because of the way the surgery’s scheduled, can’t give solid dates for their medical leave. It would be great if the surgeon could work with OP4’s schedule, but from my experience, you can’t always get a planned surgery to be completely planned around your life.

      I had to get open heart surgery this January. I picked a date for it in October, and had already set up my medical leave plan with my boss by December. My family also had to work out taking leave with their offices because they wanted to be with me in the hospital and look after me after I got discharged. Then the week before my surgery, it got rescheduled (luckily only by 5 days). But long story short, trying to get the doctor/surgeon to work around your work schedule and recognize that you and the people looking after you have priorities outside of your surgery is sometimes just not going to happen.

    4. Observer*

      No one can schedule around it anyway, because the OP won’t know till they get a date. And the OP is still not even sure that the surgery is happening.

      It’s just not reasonable to expect the OP to share this much information so far in advance.

    5. Krystal Morris*

      I had weight loss surgery in March 2019 and was out of the office for one full week and worked from home for one full week after that (I had to drink shakes every 2-3 hours and had regular episodes of nausea, so I needed to be near a fridge, blender and bathroom). My team of four people had to cover for the week I was out, so I let my boss know that I needed surgery and then told her once it was scheduled. There’s no perfect time to have the surgery, you are weak before the surgery and for a while after until you can eat solid foods. I didn’t plan to tell anyone at work, but I decided to tell my boss and very close coworkers, whom I could trust. I’m glad I did, because it helped to have that support system (they asked me how I was doing regularly, cheered me on and moved team lunches/meetings to accomidate my post-surgery timeline, so that I could be included and eat lunch with the team/clients as normal). It entirely depends on your workplace culture and your boss’s management style, but for me, letting my boss know what was going on made me feel like I could be more authentic at work and set realistic expectations for what my coworkers/team would need to manage while I was out. Good luck, OP!

  8. Pink Glitter*

    That first letter could have been written by my former wishy-washy boss about me and a coworker who brought up issues with a third person who also happened to be boss’s romantic partner. Of course, nothing was done about these issues, even when we got clients to put them in writing so boss could read them without taking our word for it.

    Partner ended up leaving, I can’t remember what prompted it, and then I ended up moving on as well.

    Apparently Partner came back at some point though and was up to the same crap. Former coworker was laid off for covid 19 and then told they were not welcome to return because they had again brought up the issues with Partner.

  9. Cautionary tail*

    At a prior place of employment where people handled money, as soon as they gave their two week notice they were escorted off the property.They were paid for the two weeks. This policy was to keep the financial counts accurate, the thought being that if someone had given their notice then their loyalty was no longer to the company.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      I guess at least they paid them out their notice, but the message that, once someone had decided to take another job, they would steal from the company is pretty insulting. Not to mention the whole idea of “loyalty” to an employer is outdated and should go in the same bin as most “gumption” advice. Employment is a fee for service arrangement, not a mafia family.

      I have been in a position to tell people who gave notice that they wouldn’t need to return after that day and we’d pay out their notice, but those were people who were disruptive or were doing so little that there was no reason to have them stay. They are a tiny minority of total departures, though.

      1. generic_username*

        It’s pretty common in some fields to be asked to leave as soon as you provide notice, particularly if you deal with sensitive information. I don’t think it makes a lot of sense considering they were considering leaving for however long they were job hunting so could easily cause whatever problems/take whatever information they want at that point before telling the company, but it’s common nonetheless. I worked somewhere once where the owners let a manager continue working through the end of the week after he gave his notice – he stole our entire customer list (for his new competing business that he opened) and all of our employee information, which he used to hire about half of the staff away from us. It was a mess….

        1. Massmatt*

          Well, that’s terrible, but he could have taken all that information before he gave notice, and might have–do you know when it was taken?

          If a competitor is able to hire away half the staff, that is a sign that something is amiss with the business–underpaid, dysfunctional, etc. People don’t generally want to take the hassle and risk of switching jobs (especially to an unproven start-up) unless they are given a big reason to do so.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Couple of jobs I’ve been put on gardening leave as soon as I gave notice/was given notice of redundancy (“we’ll pay you but you’re not to show up”). This was because I worked in IT and had massive access to most systems. Could have taken the entire company offline in 5 minutes if I had no professional behaviour (and I do so I’ll never do that).

  10. Amber Rose*

    As a humorous warning of sorts, our company can no longer have pizza because they kept ordering it every time someone was fired or left and now everyone instinctively goes “oh crap, now who’s been fired” any time a pizza party is mentioned.

    1. reelist1*

      Your company is weird! That is such a strange thing to do! Hey we canned Sally, do you want veggie delite or pepperoni?

    2. No Tribble At All*

      Wait, they had pizza every time someone was fired? As a farewell party? Every time someone’s been fired at my work, they just don’t show up to the office and we get an email saying they’re no longer on the team. Or is it a pizza party to celebrate them being gone??

      1. 40 Years in the Hole*

        I’ve been in offices where, instead of a going away function, staff held a “gone” function…which says something about the person leaving and just how badly they laid waste to the office.
        Not fired, but I was 5 years in an office where the b!tch-bee boss knew months in advance I was leaving (normal transfer, which I asked for), and everyone was waiting for my luncheon to say formal goodbyes (great staff and coworkers), but b-b-b “was too busy/forgot to set something up.” Longest, loneliest bus ride home on my last day.

      2. Potatoes gonna potate*

        Maybe it’s just me, but I read it as a total coincidence. I can see it happening where the last 2 times someone was fired, the company had already decided to order pizza and someone noticed the pattern so it became a running joke.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      That’s so bizarre to have pizza for a firing. I have to wonder if y’all are so polite up there in Canada that you even feel the need to say sorry and give people who got fired a farewell ;)

      Pizza here just says “we met a goal” or “we worked mandatory OT” or once in awhile “they got tired of BBQ and got us pizza.” LOL

    4. The Ex-Trombonist*

      The enterprise database management office at a former employer of mine used to have an annual customer appreciation reception for the “power users” in the organization known as the PITA Party and at which the menu was pita-bread sandwiches. It got its name because it started as that office’s “No-more Pain In The Ass” party that they threw for themselves one year after a particularly-difficult co-worker left for a new job.

    5. just a random teacher*

      I once resigned from a teaching job under basically “neither of us is going to recommend the other in any way, let’s just not talk to each other anymore” circumstances. Not only was I expected to stay on the rest of the school year (standard in basically any case in which the teacher is leaving but not “getting fired for being arrested in a way that also makes the news” level fired since it’s really rough for students to get a new teacher mid-year), but they included me in the end of year “retirement party” for all of the “retiring teachers”, complete with gifts and speeches. It was about 50/50 people who were plausibly retiring and people who were in their 20s and 30s and clearly quitting to take other jobs. The principal insisted on pretending we were all “retiring” the whole time, which was pretty typical behavior for her and part of why I couldn’t stand to work there any more.

  11. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    RE: Party for exiting hostile employee.

    You say that she’s difficult with management but good with patients. How is she with colleagues though? If she’s well liked among colleagues like she is with patients, I’d classify this as a person who is bad with authority figures. You shouldn’t accept that but you chose to, given her ability with patients, so that’s moot now. If she’s well liked by other coworkers, you run a risk of feeding her “Ef the Man, man” attitude that she seems to have here. So I’d go ahead with the standard exiting party. It’s to not feed her “they hate me, they’re against me” mentality that she may be feeding your other staff who got along with her and sympathized with her.

    This all feeds into optics and morale in the end, it’s the whole take the higher route idea of being the manager who may have put up with too much BS from day one but that’s again, on you as the manager who decided to accept her behavior in return for her skilled labor. Then remember not to let these people get into your hive again, it’s not worth it!

    1. Rose*

      Who cares what mentality a crappy employee who’s leaving has though (IMO someone who is disrespectful and can’t take feedback is a crappy employee no matter how good with patients they are).

      Optics-wise I think it’s totally fine to draw a line where if you don’t give two weeks you’re not going to be celebrated in the same way. If nothing else it puts a large time burden on getting something together.

  12. reelist1*

    For all the bosses upset when people don’t give two weeks-please see #5!
    I choose to celebrate employees when they gave me notice- make a big deal about how happy I was they found something that they thought they would like more, tell them they would be hard to replace because X, Y, Z and say I would provide a reference. I only had a couple of short notice givers after I started doing this, and they were more in a situation where the offer was dependent on a certain start date. I did not vilify them to others.
    As managers, we need to keep in mind that people are very dependent on their paychecks, and fearing losing it when giving proper notice leads to no notice. Treat someone leaving your employ as just that-not an adversary or jerk for leaving. They are just a person moving on to something they hope is better for them. We are humans, not robots.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I agree with you completely. Honestly, there are very few positions that truly require 2 weeks notice, having one of those kinds of positions, I understand the crunch and horror people feel when someone in that position leaves. However it teaches you not to wrap so much up in one position let alone one person, it puts you both in a very ugly spot.

      Employees are there to be mutually beneficial, they are there to make money and possibly do something they enjoy doing or at least don’t dislike doing and you’re getting their services. Both parties can part ways and it doesn’t have to be so personal.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        When you do project-based work, particularly projects where the clients expect you to bill only a limited number of people, it’s hard not to have a specific person/limited group of people people as the key point of contact or primary source of historical knowledge. We can and do have systems around documentation and knowledge-sharing, but I rely heavily on those two weeks to transition work as seamlessly as possible and in a way that doe not affect clients. The key point of contact also usually knows things that don’t necessarily make it into the official documentation but often come out in two-week transition periods when they’re reading in new people (like, “Don’t ever mention the Dallas Cowboys to Bob or you’ll never hear the end of it.” or “Susan has a weird obsession with landscape printing.”). However, we also don’t perp walk people who give notice, and, unless they’re really disruptive or have a history of laying waste to more than they contribute, we let them work out their notice period.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          This is certainly one of those positions I understand need 2 weeks notice! That makes sense.

          I’m a one person accounting team, so I’ve seen people suffer even when I’ve given them two weeks [note though, two weeks from me means you ef’ed me over and I’m only doing it because I have a personal code of conduct I expect from myself!]

          And my experience is when you’re a good employer, everyone gives you those 2 weeks notice that aren’t your “problem” employees anyways. So if you’re not getting 2 weeks, you had a problem on your hands either by treating employees poorly or they were just a bad egg anyways. But seriously, don’t grind an axe, it’s not going to do any good for anyone. Just deal with the situation, it’s why you’re paid the big bucks ;)

  13. Llama Zoomer*

    Oh! Something I have some expertise to weigh in on– weight loss surgery and work. It’s been 3.5 years since my gastric bypass and it has been a great journey – not always fun, but I’m (still) down 90 pounds or so from where I started and I went from someone who would complain about walking down the hall to exercising daily! In my experience, the scheduling staff with the bariatric clinic was more than happy to schedule months in advance if needed – I worked it in before my busy season at work. With COVID and elective surgeries just starting back up, it might even be easier if you want a larger time gap before surgery. The comparison to the gall-bladder surgery is not quite right — this surgery takes months to see improvements in your health anyways, so a few weeks before or after would not make a difference (obviously, unless your doctor says so!). I started the process almost a full year before my actual surgery – depending on the clinic and your health status, some clinics have a mandatory 3-month program before you are even approved for surgery. This is all info the letter writer may know already and just was not relevant to share in the letter, but I found that most patients did not realize this when they started looking into to weight loss surgery and just assumed it would be like scheduling a dentist appointment a few weeks out. In my office, I had to plan in advance due to the nature of our work so that my coverage could be arranged – it would have happened one way or another if it was an emergency, but it was easier on me and coworkers to plan as soon as I knew I would be having the surgery and requesting specific timing (if possible). As far as time away, I’d say minimally 2 weeks – I actually felt great and was able to walk around and could have worked remotely, but, going into an office was really tough on week #3 when you are just starting to eat and drink non-liquid food. I would not have been able to hide the surgery from coworkers as we often eat together and my portions were literally baby-sized for months. Even though my surgery was a huge success, there is a steep learning curve about what food/drink will sit well, and I made many dashes to the restroom or even had to throw up in my office trashcan. My coworkers were amazingly supportive, but I know that’s not everyone’s situation. I think you could say it was something to do with your stomach/digestive issues, which would also explain your restricted diet – but not saying anything at all will likely make people very worried about your health. In the first few months, you will lose a TON of weight very quickly; I even had a friend who did not know about the surgery but saw recent pictures contact my sister to ask if I had cancer because I had lost so much weight. Obviously, YMMV, but I have found that being open about the surgery was extremely helpful – incidentally, I have since had multiple colleagues approach me to talk about the possibility of weight loss surgery and they have shared that me being open about the process is what helped them consider it as a healthy option for them. I’m happy to talk more with the letter writer if they would like and Alison is willing to connect us!

    1. DiscoTechie*

      I’m about a 14 months from a gastric sleeve, (Down 110 and holding steady through lockdown). I worked in a male dominated industry and just said that I was having routine surgery (pretty sure I looked on AAM for some guidance.) For some reason, my male coworkers thought I was having my lady parts adjusted (tubes tied, etc.) and that shut down the conversation quickly. I let a few work friends know the real deal and let it grow organically from there. I didn’t want to make a fuss, mostly because engineers (myself included) are generally interested in how things work, how’s the progress, do you have a chart. (Yes I’ve kept a spreadsheet.) That seemed to be the way it worked for me, I left that job last October and was a bit more open with it at my new place, partly because in a small office (3 people) you notice coworkers habits and eating patterns more and didn’t want to explain it repeatedly.

      I took two weeks off and it worked for me. I found that having a plan of what to do at lunch time to get out of the building and not have to navigate getting lunch with people, ie running some errands, was a good thing for me. I ended up cruising all the thrift shops in the area to get some walking in. Good luck.

      1. Arts Akimbo*

        >I didn’t want to make a fuss, mostly because engineers (myself included) are generally interested in how things work, how’s the progress, do you have a chart. (Yes I’ve kept a spreadsheet.)

        I love this, this is awesome! I’m so glad everything worked out well for you.

    2. history geek*

      Would you mind answering some questions about your surgery and the process next open non work thread?

  14. Coalea*

    LW #4, I had weight loss surgery in 2015. I think giving your boss a heads-up as soon as you know the surgery date is reasonable. Initially, I planned on not disclosing my surgery, but ultimately I ended up telling people about it for a couple of reasons. First, in the weeks and months following the surgery, I was on a very restricted diet. When I would turn down a trip to the cafeteria at lunchtime or cake at a birthday celebration, people kept insisting, so it was easier to just say “I recently had surgery and am on a restricted diet at the moment.” Then, when I started losing weight, it was very noticeable and people commented, which I totally get – it’s human nature. The conversation usually included a coworker asking me to “share my secret,” at which point I would explain that I had had bariatric surgery – but LW definitely shouldn’t feel that’s required if he/she isn’t comfortable with that. What I didn’t get was the people who would ask exactly how much weight I had lost! I would just say something noncommittal like “Oh, I’m not really sure, but I feel so much better and have so much more energy now!” and then change the subject. Now I kind of wish I had had the balls to tell them what a rude and inappropriate question that was!

  15. Shannon from Handy Car Rental*

    I’m a manager living this! Of my group of 10, one employee has been very very open about waiting for a joint surgery appointment that pre-COVID, she thought would be scheduled in March. Obviously that got pushed out, but once elective surgery started getting scheduled in our area, we had an open dialogue about when she would be trying to reschedule it – because everyone else has not been taking vacation due to COVID, we have a lot of staff who want/need to take a week or two in July and August, so the reminder that she is taking medical leave is important to plan around. As it happened, she was offered an appointment with two weeks’ notice and will be out for 8 weeks this summer. As the manager, I am glad it wasn’t a total out of the blue shock, I’m happy to figure out coverage for that length of leave, and try to let other employees take their pent-up vacation leaves in weeklong chunks during it. More notice is good IMHO even if you don’t have specific dates.

  16. nnn*

    Options for the weight-loss surgery LW:

    – Once you are assigned the surgery date, you could present it as “I just found out I have to get surgery on [date]”. If someone asks why you didn’t give more notice, you could say “I didn’t know if it was indicated in my case.”
    – If you want to give more notice, you could say “Just a heads-up that I might have to get a surgical procedure – I’m still waiting to hear back about whether I will or not. I’ll get about 2 weeks notice and need 10-15 days off work.”
    – If you want to explain your weight loss without telling people you had weight loss surgery, you could say “I wasn’t able to eat as much in the aftermath of my surgery”. Or, if you don’t want to link it to the surgery, you could say “I had a medical situation. Nothing to worry about – it’s now under control!”

  17. arcya*

    Oh man, I once had a terrible co-worker like OP#2. I mean the whole place was a disaster but you know, she somehow made it worse. She was finally pressured to resign. Our boss scheduled a going away party, which was a weird move honestly, but I think he didn’t want to give her anything else to complain about. Anyway it fell to us low level employees to organize cake and stuff, and we didn’t know what the cake should say.

    So at the final party there was a sheet cake that just read “GOOD LUCK.”

  18. Bopper*

    Goodbye Party:
    We had an irksome coworker that was laid off…usually someone who was friends with the employee would organize a lunch for a departing coworker. This guy was difficult to work with so nobody put together a lunch…so our boss did a “Cake at 2:00” thing as a bare minimum.

  19. Anonymous at a University*

    The two places I worked at where someone who was hostile quit, they did have a going-away party but the person didn’t show up to it. I think it would be fine for that manager to plan a party, as long as they don’t get hung up on having the departee’s attendance.

    1. allathian*

      Yes, this. And if the departing employee doesn’t show up, you can turn it to a celebration of getting rid of the difficult coworker.
      A friend of mine had to organize a going-away party for a departing coworker. At her org, it was simply done unless the person was fired for gross misconduct and escorted off the premises or if they said that they absolutely didn’t want a party. It was also OK for employees to avoid going to a party by saying they were too busy. There was one employee who really didn’t fit in to the company culture and who was difficult to work with to the point that people simply worked around this person. They decided to look for another job. Anyway, my friend bought a cake, but it turned out that only she and the person who was leaving showed up. Everybody else (about 15 people) just claimed that they were too busy, and since that was OK in the company culture, there wasn’t much my friend could do even though she was the manager. Anyway, the next morning lots of people had cake for breakfast…

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      We had one where the hated person showed up but proceeded to get absolutely hammered in under 20 minutes, tried to grab the head of HR’s boobs and then threw up all over a director. Comment from senior management the next day was ‘now we understand why you all hated her’ with a p.s. of ‘anyone know a good dry cleaner? I’ve got bits of ex-employee on my suit’.

      Made us all laugh and actually helped dispel a lot of the lingering hatred in the office, from that moment ex-coworker was an object of humour, someone to laugh at and not be afraid/angry of.

  20. A*

    At entry level, I applied for three jobs at a company before I got the fourth. They were all the same job title (just different content focuses) and though I obviously would have preferred to get the first or second job rather than go through more declines and interviews, they did remember me positively (I think I was top 2 early on) and it worked in my favor.

  21. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

    OP2 – schedule the party on what would of been the last day of their two weeks notice. Just a thought…..

  22. charo*

    The link to the “inc.” site is kind of a mess! They didn’t format a question correctly and repeated it. Surprising. Why don’t people proof their work? It happens all the time on the internet where it goes to a ton of readers.

Comments are closed.