my frustrated employee is unlikely to advance

A reader writes:

I have a direct report, Jill, who has been on my team for a few years now. When I started out as manager for the team, we had an initial one-on-one partially to get a sense of where she saw her career going. (We had worked in the same department before, but different working groups.) She expressed that she was frustrated with her lack of upward mobility and felt like she was one of the best workers on the team but was not given any “good” projects or moving up.

Once I started working with her, I understood why she was having this issue. She is super challenging to work with. Any time she is given instructions, it almost seems like she is purposefully interpreting it wrong. As a hypothetical example, if I were to tell the team that the CEO is walking through the office tomorrow and we should all dress up a bit and throw out the example of wearing a blazer (a step up from out normal office wear), Jill would show up to work in PJs and an blazer, and then act like anyone could have gotten confused over what was said the previous day. It is like this any time she is asked to take on anything or do anything out of our typical day to day, and the result is I find I cannot trust her in meetings or project work outside our group.

The core focus of our department is a job that is very repetitive and straightforward. Jill does exceedingly well with this work. The issues only crop up when she is working on a higher level project or with people outside our working group. I have told her bluntly multiple times that this behavior is holding her back from advancing. (There is no opportunity for advancement with the basic task that is the bulk of out work.) While she still claims an interest in promotion, she has not taken me up on any offer of help or coaching on these issues.

From my point of view, while I would ideally like to see Jill meet her personal goals, I am totally fine with her continuing to do really good work in her current (entry-level) position. From time to time, she will tell me that if she does not get promoted or moved onto other projects soon, she will leave the company. When this happens, I always explain the behavior that is holding her back and tell her that I am happy to work with her on it but I understand if she decides that a different role elsewhere would be a better fit. So far she has not left, and this just seems to be a cycle of having this conversation every once in a while. Which to me is fine, because at the end of the day I have a team member who continues to do good work at the job she is currently employed in.

My previous boss seemed to think this status quo was fine, but I now have a new boss who is worried this is going to become an issue. He has cited just a general concern that it’s not really fair to know that someone is unfulfilled in their job and considering leaving and not either fire them or see them move into a new position. From my end, I guess I am not really sure what I should be doing beyond what I am. I don’t see the point of firing someone who is good at their job (we have a large enough team that there’s not a issue of needing to make room for someone who might reasonably advance, or being overloaded with work if someone quits). And I am not going to promote someone just because they have longevity or would like to advance. My new boss is really pushing me to put Jill on a PIP and get moving in one direction or the other.

At the end of the day, he is my boss so I will go along with his call on this, but I was hoping for some insight on if I am totally off-base with thinking our status quo is fine, and maybe there are some pitfalls I am not thinking off or if it might be worth pushing back a bit more on his thinking on this one. For what it’s worth, he seems generally reasonable and this is the one area so far where we cannot seem to get on the same page.

You don’t put someone on a performance improvement plan or fire them just because they aspire to a promotion that you don’t think they’re suited for. If that’s really what your boss is arguing, that’s strange and it’s worth pushing back.

But I wonder if there’s more to it. In particular, I’m curious about how often Jill’s problems with understanding instructions come up. If most of her work is routine and she’s not misunderstanding things on the reg, then fine. But if she’s regularly doing the equivalent of your PJs-and-a-blazer example, I’d come down much more heavily on the side of “we’ve either got fix this or we all move on.” (What qualifies as “regularly” depends in part on the severity of the misunderstandings. If they’re minor, maybe it’s not a big deal if happens a few times a month. If they’re major, a few times a quarter could be a huge problem and a deal-breaker.)

Ultimately, you can’t keep someone on your team who you can’t rely on to understand basic instructions and if that’s happening frequently, that might be where your new boss is coming from. But then the performance management, and potential firing, would be about that — not about the fact that Jill would like to advance.

So it’s worth pushing with your boss to clarify exactly where he’s coming from. Is he mostly concerned about Jill’s unmeetable aspirations or is it more about what sound like real issues with judgment and critical thinking? If it’s the former, I’d tell him that you don’t feel comfortable firing someone because they want a different job than the one they have, that you worry about the message that would send to the rest of your staff (who’s going to feel comfortable sharing their professional goals with you if they’ve seen a coworker fired for doing that?), and that your strong preference is to keep Jill in her job as long as she continues to do it well, while continuing to be transparent with her that she won’t advance without real changes. You could also point out that everyone will leave for a new job eventually and it’s not weird that you know Jill wants to move on at some point. That’s true for any job, but especially for an entry-level job.

It also might be worth having another serious conversation with Jill about what is and isn’t possible for her at your company. I know you’ve done that already — but you’re also dealing with someone who doesn’t comprehend information in the expected way, and that might be happening here too. In the past, you’ve told her what she’d need to do to be promoted, and she’s seemingly ignored you and then asked again later on. Maybe it’s time to stop focusing on “you’d need to do X to make that happen” and instead level with her that it’s probably just not going to happen. (Because based on what you’ve written here, it really sounds like it won’t, and probably shouldn’t.) It might be a kindness to tell her, “I know you’re interested in moving up. I want to be up-front with you that I don’t think that will happen here. If that means that you decide to leave for another job, I understand and fully support you in that. But I want you to have that info so you can make good decisions for yourself.”

{ 262 comments… read them below }

  1. Lily*

    Without knowing the situation, I wonder if Jill is also misunderstanding the coaching offer? Is she worried it will reflect poorly on her to need coaching, or that it will take away time from her current work? A compromise with the boss could be an informal weekly meeting established with Jill where you work on those things that need coaching in order for her to advance. While it’s not a problem now, I worry that she seems like she can’t take feedback and implement it.

    1. cubone*

      I thought this too. If Jill was asking to move up, and her manager is saying “first I’ll need to see xyz improvements”, I wouldn’t then ask if she’s interested in coaching to work on those improvements. I’d just tell her how we’d proceed: “I’ll need to see xyz first and you’re not there yet, so we need to set up bi-weekly coaching and see some changes within 1-2 months”… I get that her lack of initiative/response to the offer is a red flag, but I wonder if it’s giving Jill the wrong impression the coaching is optional and she *might* advance eventually anyways? If the issue is “I don’t think it’s worth investing coaching in you”, well that’s a different discussion (and Allison’s last lines are perfect).

      I would be framing it “if you are hoping to move up, we need to do coaching”. If she then declines the coaching, you can easier shut down her “I’m going to quit” lines with “as discussed, we need to set up some intensive coaching to get you there. You’ve expressed unwillingness to do this, so I’m not going to continue this discussion as it’s not really productive”. But someone who is great at their job but seemingly obtuse about new instructions and projects isn’t really performing well, no? I want more details and examples!

    2. Firecat*

      OP I think overall you are doing a fantastic job. I think the only place you may need to dig a little is your “misunderstanding so complete as to almost be on purpose”.

      As someone who, when the entire room is thinking of an orange kangaroo from Denmark is thinking of a nude carcarious charcharodon from the Dominican Republic, I have been accused of being purposefully obtuse. I’m not. I’m just very much wired differently. That said I’ve taken people up on coaching offers and I now make sure to state “This is what I am hearing. This is an example of me doing that” before leaving meetings.

      I think on your end it can be helpful to get away from the “purposefully obtuse” framing (because really how annoying would that person have to be!) And assume it’s a legitimate misunderstanding. I also encourage you to think of Jane’s divergence as a tool you can leverage. Are you stuck on something? Not sure you are seeing all the angles? Well then Jane can offer a fresh and diverse perspective.

      1. Anonys*

        I think this is a point the OP really has to figure out (and not just assume) – is she misunderstanding with “malicious intent” or are they genuine misunderstandings (even if caused by extreme negligence in figuring out the instructions). I love the pyjamas example, but I wish the OP had given an actual example(s) here to better help judge.

        The pyjamas example is really so ridiculous, it does sounds like she is doing it purposefully to be difficult or make a point. It sounds like the thing someone might think is funny? Maybe the analogy with the pyjamas was a little extreme? In OPs shoes, next time she has a serious misunderstanding, I would walk through that situation with her, ask her why she would think showing up the office in pyjamas was acceptable (hypothetically) and really find out where the disconnect is. Also, are these complex instructions she is misunderstanding (the pyjama example isn’t complex, but again, it might have been a little extreme)? Does she misunderstand if the instructions are broken down into smaller steps or written down?

        Also, does her “is challenging to work with” only pertain to the misunderstandings or are there other factors? I think some more indicators regarding her attitude and the frequency of the misunderstandings are needed. She also doesn’t sound like she is great at hearing feedback in general if OP is being honest about her serious issues and she still thinks she is one of the best employees.

        1. fposte*

          Though to some extent it doesn’t matter if it’s willful or not–what matters is that it’s not changing. There are abilities I don’t have and won’t be able to get, and it means that I can’t do jobs that require them.

          1. Anonys*

            Yeah, I think to an extent you are right – but I also think especially if she really might be neuroatypical (like speculated in the thread below), OP should make adjustments in communication style, break things down and generally be far more understanding and accommodating than If she is being wilfull.

          2. Firecat*

            I agree. That’s why I mentioned I think the reframing is really more to make it easier to coach the employee as well as see some of the benefits a different mind can bring.

        2. Hey Nonnie*

          Going based on the pyjamas example, and given that OP doesn’t seem to think this is malicious (or self-sabotage); I would first wonder if she is somewhere on the autistic spectrum? Especially since anything that falls within her firmly-established, limited routine at work is done well, and she seems to be unwilling to take initiative to expand outside of her comfort zone.

          Regardless, maybe try one last, excruciatingly in-depth conversation with her? Tell her (again) that her lack of initiative and bizarre lack of understanding (use examples!) are a barrier to her for advancement here, and that she either needs to take initiative to fix these issues herself; or you can help her with figuring out how to do that; or she needs to accept that she won’t advance there. Then encourage her to ask questions and ask her if she understands what you’re saying. Be very literal and specific, and if she misunderstands or nothing changes after that, you’ve reached the limits of what you can do.

        3. Hmm*

          I’m also wondering how she reacts when these things happen. Does she not notice? Does she get embarrassed? Does she laugh like it’s a joke? Does she neutrally explain as if her understanding of the instructions was logical?

    3. LPUK*

      Frankly, if it takes that much effort to get her one step up, only for her then to get stuck on that level doing an ok to unsatisfactory job, then long term she’s likely to need a PIP in that role, or be blocking a move up for someone with more potential…
      Time to be really frank and let her know that she’s not moving up – she hasn’t demonstrated either the skills or the attitude to d so. Then she has the info she needs to make her own decision- either to stay with your company and stop asking to move up, or go and find a company that values what she’s got. In my experience , there’s more to cultural fit than most people realise and I have seen many people who I advised were not going to make it in the company we were both working for, go on to greater success in other organizations. Poor Cultural fit is like riding a bike without gears up a hill and finding it really tough , only to switch companies and find it like freewheeling – your efforts and hard work suddenly take y so much further. Let Jill have the opportunity to discover this for herself and release yourself of the burden of trying to coach someone who’s not likely to work out. When I was first a line manager I used to put so much effort into trying to coach people into proficiency, until I looked around and saw that the most successful line managers spent that same time searching for and attracting talent to their teams and moving on people who didn’t gel- real lesson for me

  2. Alex*

    I absolutely do not have the qualifications or information to diagnose someone over the Internet. But “good at repetitive tasks but always confused by new information and distressed by an inability to communicate” seems like it could be something in how she’s wired, rather than intentional choices. There’s nothing you could possibly do about that unless she requests accommodation, but it might be worth considering —-is your office all verbal or all written instructions? Could there be problems there?

    1. Malika*

      I agree that you cannot make armchair diagnoses, but it screams of conditions that is outside of OP’s scope to solve.

      1. Renata Ricotta*

        And, regardless of the reason, OP obviously can’t promote someone who doesn’t use pretty basic judgment and critical thinking skills when a situation creates a minor variance from typical procedure. Whether she is unable or unwilling (or some combination) is beside the point.

      2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        The coworkers I’ve known who fit this description all fall into the “been here and doing this forever” category and had worn their routine-ruts into canyons.

        Boss’ stance really disturbs me. I get that job satisfaction is preferable to its absence, but that really comes across as a threat of “happy… or else.”

        1. Koalafied*

          And more than a little patronizing to boot! It’s not fair to know that someone is unfulfilled in their job and not get them out of the job way one or another? I can manage my own emotions, thanks. If I choose to stay in a job I find unfulfilling, I surely have my own reasons for it. I don’t need a boss to swoop in and save me from my own apparent lack of agency that stops me from quitting a dead-end job (that maybe also happens to pay well enough to afford my medical debt/little sister’s college tuition/etc). Right up until it starts affecting the work I was hired to do, remaining unfulfilled is my prerogative if I want it to be.

          1. Katrinka*

            Yeah, but as a manager, I’d tell you that you need to stop complaining about it, too. I think that’s part of the problem OP is having – the cycle of Jill complaining, OP telling her why she’s not ready and offering coaching, Jill refusing coaching, rinse and repeat.

        2. Jennifer Juniper*

          You’re not wrong. Job dissatisfaction is seen as ingratitude and not being a good team player, especially for junior roles and female employees.

          1. JustaTech*

            And given that, in the new standard surveys, any score less than 7 out of 10 is considered “dissatisfied” and only 9 or 10 out of ten are considered “satisfied”, some management wants you a bubbling cauldron of cheer all the time or you’re “not good for the company”.

      3. Firecat*

        I agree but I thi k reframing his thinking from:

        “Deliberately obtuse as a passive aggressive ploy”


        “Legitimately different decision making process”

        I think it will help make managing her easier. It would drive me up a wall if someone were doing this on purpose.

    2. Mid*

      Maybe, but also “PJs and a blazer” seems like more of a deliberate choice than a miscommunication. But, it’s worth talking to her about what methods of communication work best for her.

      1. Mid*

        Though on re-reading, that example was hypothetical, so maybe she is truly misunderstanding things. Or she’s feeling slighted and acting out because of that.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          That’s my suspicion: This is someone who kind of wants to move up because she feels she should want to move up, or because she wants more recognition and/or money, but who doesn’t really want to do the work or take on the responsibility of moving up, and her MO is to complain about it but then slack off and/or sabotage herself. It’s easier to tell yourself you’re not moving up because you’re not being given the opportunity than it is to look in the mirror and admit that you don’t want to put in the effort.

          1. Just Sayin'*

            . . . Or to look in the mirror and tell yourself you’re happy at your lower level job and don’t want to move up. So often, family or friends unintentionally put pressure on people to advance or get more money. Easier to tell them that work is keeping you back as opposed to “I’m happy and want to stay where I am.” Which would also engender endless conversations with them where they try to talk you out of your decision.

            1. Don’tWorryAboutAThing*

              I don’t myself complain that work is holding me back, but I certainly understand the pressure from others. I’ve had at least 2 opportunities for promotion in the almost 6 years I’ve been at my job. I like my job (mostly) and I have zero interest in the amount of work and the hours someone one step up from me puts in, for not that much more money. My boss works 6 and 7 days a week, starting before 5 am most days, and still going at the office til 4 or later, then taking work home. In between, she’s teleschooling with her kids. No thanks. I put in my time, leave at a decent hour and get a good check.

              Every time people, including coworkers, find out I didn’t apply for a promotion, I have to defend my choice to stay where I am.

        2. chi type*

          I think the point is they take things super-literally.
          “Boss said wear a blazer, I’m wearing a blazer,” rather than stopping to think that the blazer is synecdoche for a more formal dress code.

      2. Archaeopteryx*

        Yes, it’s hard to tell from example because the pajamas and a blazer thing sounds like a deliberate snub of the fact that she was given instructions, rather than something anyone could innocently misunderstand.

        1. Disability case worker*

          I work with people who have intellectual or cognitive disabilities and could 100% imagine some of my clients genuinely interpreting the instruction about wearing a blazer as being okay if over pyjamas. I am not diagnosing Jill, but ensuring instructions are conveyed as clearly as possible with no ambiguity, and possibly with reference to visual aids, could help in these situations.

      3. Karia*

        Whereas my first thought would be different brain wiring. I knew a guy who went to a job interview in a tailored shirt and shorts. He had been told to wear a proper shirt but no one had let him know that shorts were wrong for job interviews.

        1. XX*

          It also doesn’t help that for awhile, in Hollywood and in style mags, “formal shorts“ or tuxedo shorts were an actual thing that people would wear to red carpet events!

      4. Katrinka*

        I think there’s also a question of whether that really was a step up for Jill. What OP wanted was people coming to work in something like a nice shirt, nice pants, jacket or sweater (business casual in a lot of places, dressing up in a lot of others). But if they said “Hey step it up a notch, like throwing a blazer on top of what you usually wear or something like that and if Jill regularly come to work in sweats/leggings and t-shirts (which a lot of people would consider pajamas), then to her putting a blazer on top of that WOULD be a step up.

        All three of my kids are neurotypical. You have to be super precise in your language, or they will genuinely misunderstand or (like they were in ES especially) find a loophole and run a mac truck through that sucker.

        1. Erika with a K*

          Honestly, that was my first thought too. OP’s employee sounds anecdotally very similar to my autistic child (their preferred designation), in that they have a really pragmatic approach to language, and would absolutely have just put the blazer on! Being passive aggressive, or having another motivation would simply just not occur to them. They can only respond to the language input in a linear way…whereas the expectation in a workplace tends to be that people will interpret and personalize the message. Not diagnosing by any means, but this perspective deserves more exploration, rather than just assigning a pretty unpleasant motivation.

        2. Yorick*

          I think it’s unlikely that Jill’s regular work outfit is something her boss would consider pajamas. If that were the case, why would it be a problem to have them under a blazer when the CEO came but not a problem without a blazer every other day?

    3. Jack Be Nimble*

      Yeah, I’d be curious to know if switching up communication styles would lead to different outcomes. In the blazers-and-PJs example, if you sent an email with more specific guidelines (i.e., “please wear slacks instead of jeans and add a blazer”) would you have a different outcome? Is it possible, in your work, to incorporate more-specific directions for more tasks, or is the ability to work independently with minimal instructions part of the package?

    4. Greige*

      Agreed. If it’s possible for OP to adjust her communication methods to get better results from Jill, it sounds like it would be worthwhile to try, especially since Jill is already valuable in her current position. If this is just a matter of neurodiversity, having her on the team could even have unexpected benefits, as long as OP is able to find a way to communicate with her more effectively.

      Blazer over PJs does sound like an intentional misinterpretation, but that was a hypothetical exampe, so it’s hard to know whether it matches her real behavior.

      1. Yorick*

        I’m assuming OP created that example because it sounds like an intentional misinterpretation, and that the real ones at least seem like they could be intentional as well.

    5. Andrea*

      Thank you! I was coming here to say that. I was actually wondering for awhile if this letter was about me. I am on the autism spectrum, but too old to have been diagnosed or received any support as a kid. I always think I’m being crystal clear about what I need, about repeating back what people have said to make sure I understand them, and in work documents (like project status updates). But I almost never am, and if people are not inclined to ask themselves “she seems intelligent, why is she failing so badly at this?” — which most people are not — then I come off as incompetent and difficult and honestly kind of stupid.

      That’s just me; I’m not qualified to diagnose anyone either.. And it doesn’t make the PJs with a blazer thing OK by any means. But it really, really is possible that she’s perceiving instructions, even ones that seem obvious to everyone, in a completely unpredictable way.

      1. SallyJ*

        So my son is autistic and very very very very literal. But, to redirect your redirect to the OP, I will say that consistently throughout the years both myself and his therapists have told my son to confirm. Its actually something everyone should be doing to some degree or another anyway, and people with autism are more than capable of being self-aware.

        What the OP is describing here isn’t that this person is extremely literal in her thinking, but that they seem to lack the understanding that this is the case! So any issues here are around the fact that the employee is blind to their own behavior.

        Now let me give you an example of how this can play out if a person without this self awareness advances who has autism or autistic traits. In my last company, “Roldo” was someone who was really really great at flinging numbers (as we called it) in finance. Likely even genious level as far as analysis goes. But was Roldo couldn’t do was understand anyone else’s needs. We needed to run additional data off his reports, but every month, he would run his report completely differently! Structure would be totally different, there would be added content, content removed, and sometimes this report wasn’t supplied at all. Just his final numbers for what he needed in his role. And no matter how many times or ways we tried to communicate this to him, he never ever got it.

        Finally it was reconciled with a computer running the report. But my point here is that Roldo needed a lot of “baby sitting” to get him to focus on what everyone needed, and he was promoted eventually into a position where this wasn’t possible. The result was that people were very frustrated with him and no one in the end even wanted to work with him. It sucked for him and it sucked for everyone else too.

        Not every person is cut out for every type of work, and that is fine! I think OP has pegged this correctly in saying this person cannot be promoted out of her position at this company. A good manager understands that and catches it early.

        At the same time, boo to OPs manager for not understanding that its OK for someone to stay in a role long term that others don’t. We need those people!

    6. Public Sector Manager*

      I don’t disagree with the idea that there could be outside issues with the employee, but I’m thinking it’s more an issue of the employee being deliberately obtuse based on the example. If the OP had said that wearing PJs daily was appropriate office attire, but mixing PJs with a blazer wasn’t the right “look” for the CEO visit, I would think this could either be a communication problem (e.g. OP wasn’t clear enough) or a problem with the way the employee processes information. But I’m reading the example as something along the lines of the employee dresses business casual every day, yet for the CEO visit, honors the letter of the OP’s request (a blazer), and deliberately combines that with work attire that’s clearly not appropriate.

    7. Miss Muffet*

      My partner just described an employee he has as an old fashioned card-computer. She can do well with this set of instructions, but if you need to change it, she needs to add that card to the process first. This person kind of struck me as that way as well. It’s an inability to think outside the box that could be a diagnosable thing, and could also just be something this person never learned.

      I think the boss may be trying to say, Just doing the job well is no longer good enough. I want to move the needle from a fine-performing team to a high-performing team. Having been in this situation, though, where you are managing someone who is by all accounts “meeting expectations” it is very hard to PIP them – you’re basically left just managing them out.

      1. Ada Doom*

        Yup. I work with people I refer to as written in a basic programming file. They can execute their program, but if they hit a line that does not apply where it is, they cannot continue. They can’t just skip ahead to the next bit. Once it errors, you’re done.

      2. Katrinka*

        And if Jill really does process information differently, even managing her out may be a problem. It also sounds like maybe the OP doesn’t give a lot of feedback during annual or periodic performance reviews (and it may be that the company doesn’t structure them to provide feedback). If the OP gives Jill three improvement goals during the performance review (and goes over them during the review, changing the language as needed to make sure Jill completely understands), then the OP has something in writing that shows they’ve set Jill on these tasks and Jill has something to refer to as she’s working on them (or not). Then if Jill doesn’t improve them, then that’s a measurable failure on Jill’s part and further action can be taken (whether that’s writing on a subsequent review that Jill will not be considered for advancement because goals were not meant or putting her on a PIP).

    8. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      I had a Jill and I suspect this was also his case. Super nice guy, hard worker, tended to be a little too rigid in The Right Way To Do Things, very friendly but not the most socially adept, so sometimes whenever there was a subjective judgement call that involved bending a rule based on political factors, etc., he just could not do it. He also sometimes struggled with understanding the differences between jobs: ex, if a Llama Trainer got promoted to Barn Director, he’d complain that “he’s not spending time on the llamas any more, all he does is hide in his office.” But they are two separate jobs, with two separate sets of duties.

      We worked together a lot, and it was obvious that he had some sort of low-level special needs that had gone undiagnosed while he was in school.

      Myself and one of my other bosses have invested a lot of secondary time in making sure his career had a decent footing, we were really worried about him ending up unemployed as he aged or retiring with no savings. I still sort of worry about it, honestly.

      1. Look a name*

        Back when I was a supervising lifeguard, one of the regular lifeguards used to complain every single week to my boss that I didn’t lifeguard during my paperwork block which happened to be during her shift. Of course, my boss had assigned these hours to me and the rotation was fully staffed. She was just a jerk.

    9. Glitsy Gus*

      Agreed. If she is regularly not understanding instructions from you then it is also very likely that if you keep using the same format and delivery when you talk to her about advancing she is probably not really understanding that either.

      I may be wrong, but from your letter it sounds like you basically give her the same basic spiel every time she asks about advancing, these are the missing skills and she she wants to master them she needs coaching. Then leaving the ball in her court to ask for and arrange that coaching. If her brain works differently than your (for whatever reason) she may not be hearing what you think you are saying. It may be in both your best interests to change it up.

      Maybe put the skills she needs to work on and the kind of coaching you’re thinking about in writing. Go over it with her and set up a follow up meeting a few days later so she has some time to review it on her own and put together questions. In that follow up instead of leaving it lingering about if you want coaching… Make it more solid. “Do you want to work on these things? If so, lets set up a couple of sessions now.”

      Also, especially when it comes to talking about these miscommunications, don’t just lecture about how she did it wrong, ask her about her process, how she interpreted the instructions, what her decision making process was. Try to really figure out what she’s seeing and hearing. It’ll make it a lot easier for both of you to move forward if you work to understand her first. You may even uncover skills she has that you haven’t been fully utilizing.

      1. Massmatt*

        IMO a manager SHOULD leave whether to work on the issues holding her back or not in her court. Not everyone is cut out for promotion. It’s never been a manager’s job to handhold me through any changes I needed to make, generally I always had to ask, and then do the work. In some cases the answers on what to do were vague or not the real ways to get ahead. I had to figure this out. If she is being told she needs to do X before she’d be considered, and asked if she wants to work on that, that’s more than most people ever get. She is not wanting to do the work. This indicates she is not a good candidate for promotion. Most places I’ve worked you get the promotion only after basically doing the job already.

        That said, I think the LW’s boss is wrong to suggest a PIP. We just had a discussion on PIP’s recently where someone described them as a way to get rid of people. This employee does her core work well, she just isn’t suited for promotion. That is not “performance improvement”. Again, not everyone is suited for (or wants) promotion, it’s crazy to me that this boss thinks everyone who isn’t needs corrective action.

        1. Glitsy Gus*

          Right, I get what you’re saying and overall I agree. From the overall letter, though, it really sounds like there is a basic communication breakdown happening with Jill. This isn’t just about the things she needs to improve to get promoted, it’s that the OP can’t really trust her because she seems to be fundamentally not understanding instructions in general.

          As these two issues are really going hand in hand, using the discussion of improving skills with an eye towards the promotion Jill has said she wants is a good way to find the communication breakdown. If Jill is a more literal thinker, or if she understands better through reading rather than hearing, or whatever the issue is, this is the chance to figure that out. If you can understand the breakdown it will improve multiple facets here, and if improving those facets sets Jill up to move forward, great! It may also open the door to talking about how the next step up, at least the one Jill is looking at, may not be the best idea but another path may be.

          Essentially, as a manager, if you keep repeating the same thing over and over and it clearly isn’t getting through to your employee you have nothing to lose by trying a different tactic. It may still not work, but if it does you could see really great dividends both in your team’s output and your employee’s happiness.

    10. KJH*

      This was what came to mind for me too. And, like the other commenters, I don’t want to armchair diagnose, but as an Aspie myself, this is dead-on the kind of things that got me into trouble when I was younger in the workforce, before I found some friends I could bounce things off of. Note that I said friends (and colleagues), not my boss. I was nervous to ask my boss about day-to-day stuff like that because I didn’t want to look like an idiot. So it might be worth pairing her with a co-worker if that’s a possibility. Someone who might catch these weird misunderstandings before everyone sees them.

      1. Cary*

        Yes! This is exactly what my Aspie husband got PIP’d for. (Then he passed the PIP and got fired suddenly a couple months later so…IDK)

        It bugs me that it seems everyone’s go-to interpretation of this behavior is that it’s an issue with “judgement and critical thinking.” In an Aspie it’s not that at all–it’s an issue with *communication*. Speaking of which, having problems with *just* this stuff and not also having obsessions now gets diagnosed as “social communication disorder” (rather that “autism spectrum disorder”). So it’s definitely not *always* a judgement thing, and it’s a shame to see people being potentially…heh, misjudged…in this way.

        (I feel like I see both sides of this because I live with him–I’m used to his communication style. At the same time, trying to be just exactly the right kind of literal that he needs really can be exhausting.

        And it isn’t *just* literal…it’s also…IMX Aspies don’t always learn every meaning of a word that has more than one. Sometimes they only learn one meaning and then they always interpret the word to mean that. And there’s no way to predict which meaning they learned, so you can’t even *just* “say precisely what you literally mean.”

        That Hannah Gadsby routine “Anon for this” mentioned (search Youtube for “How Hannah Gadsby’s High-Functioning Autism Works”) is a good example. She starts out, “[The teacher said] ‘Imagine a box’….and then she said, ‘A preposition is a word that explains your relationship to the box.’ And that’s where my thinking just fell apart because I thought, ‘I’m related to a box?'”

        She’d learned the meaning of “relationship” that’s about being *blood* related, but not the *just as literal* meaning that’s about *spatial* relationship. She wasn’t just being literal, she’d actually learned only one meaning of a word that has several.)

        Do you think there are any accommodations that might help with this problem? Would “pair them with a coworker for this purpose” work as an Official Accommodation(tm)? Anything else?

    11. Yorick*

      We shouldn’t try to make diagnoses over the internet. Putting a little acknowledgement doesn’t change that you’re doing it. “I know we’re not supposed to diagnose, it’s not possible and also it’s against the site rules, but…”

  3. bunniferous*

    If this is your boss’s viewpoint I would just make the coaching mandatory, if what Alison suggests doesn’t solve the issue.

    1. orange*

      Yes, this is what I’m thinking. Make successfully completing this coaching part of the job she has now, and if she continues to not do that, you have an actual basis on which to give her a PIP.

      Not that I think that’s a GOOD idea, since you yourself point out she’s not really making problems for you. But if your boss insists it’s up or out, that seems like the only way.

  4. The Happy Graduate*

    If she has difficulty understanding instructions, it may help that when you sit down and reiterate with her again about the unlikelihood of her moving up, you ask her to repeat back to you what you spoke about to confirm that she actually grasped/understood what the conversation was about. I find it helps me to take notes and then confirm I understood what my next steps are when I meet with my supervisors, otherwise I have trouble remembering the details later on, so maybe she needs something like that?

  5. Tidewater 4-1009*

    If your boss actually wants to fire Jill because she wants to move up someday, that’s really not cool! Many people stay in entry-level positions for a lot of reasons. They need their job and it should not be taken away from them because a boss thinks they shouldn’t be there if they’re unfulfilled! It should be the employee’s decision.
    If Jill is not having some issue that makes it hard for her to comprehend instructions it could be that she wants to move up, but doesn’t feel ready, or is intimidated, or is dealing with other issues. If other things are equal the timing should be her choice, not your boss’!

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      And, frankly, having people who do repetitive work and do it well is not something you want to push to get rid of! It gets tiresome to retrain for those role when they’re outgrown or don’t hold the interest of someone.

      I’m pretty confused by new boss’s thinking – how do you PIP someone who’s doing their actual job perfectly well?

      1. Smithy*

        This part here made me wonder if there’s perhaps another way of messaging this information to the OP’s boss. There are many jobs out there that are often entry level but for some people, do end up being long-term careers, and it may be an opportunity in talking to the boss about how to cultivate and grow Jill’s strength’s to benefit the whole team vs having a necessary entry level role that needs to be replaced/retrained/etc every two years.

        While it may not lead to promotion immediately, certainly there’s a way to talk about how she can be the best version of that entry level role that might ultimately make the case for being Sr. Entry Level Title or at least financial compensation. Either way, the OP can think more about Jill’s strengths at what she’s doing now and less about the negatives.

      2. Alex*

        I was also thinking about this. I loathe doing that kind of work (but have/continue to put in the time with it when it’s part of my role) and having team members that thrive on it is a godsend. If I have to cross-check 6 pages of construction measurements and legal requirements against each other I will, but my coworker who loves it as a puzzle is incredibly valuable to our team and to my morale. There’s value in someone who can do repetitive tasks cheerfully and competently.

      3. jamlady*

        I was thinking about this as well. I have 2 mid level staff roles that require subject matter experts in an exciting field to deal with the most monotonous part of our field, all day every day. One of my employees will outgrow the role in a year, and keeping this job filled is irritatingly difficult. Meanwhile, my other employee loves it, and as it would be a horrible fit to move her upward, I imagine she will continue in this role for a long time (she’s on year 10 right now). It works out great for us, and I’m not sure what the OP’s boss is getting at here.

    2. Sparrow*

      Yeah, the idea that you should put someone on a PIP because they want to move up seems very odd to me. If Jill exceeds expectations in her actual job responsibilities, what is the PIP even for? Because it sounds like she’s fine at her basic job but can’t be trusted with any stretch opportunities. Which is unfortunate, but if she wasn’t actually hired to do those things and it’s not a necessary part of the role, it doesn’t make any sense to require her to improve in that area.

      If Jill is unhappy…ok. She has a choice: work on the things impeding her upward mobility or find another job or continue in her current position even if it’s not her dream job. As long as she’s doing her well in her current position, I’m really not a fan of eliminating that third option on her behalf.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      I did not completely agree with this and may lean a little towards the boss’s perspective, depending on the situation. Some jobs are entry level with no opportunity for advancement. It’s a job that requires basic skills and people come and go. Other entry level jobs are designed to bring people into the organization, get them into the system, and people are supposed to move up. If someone is stuck at entry level, it can mess with the company’s way of doing business and training and advancing people. The term “up or out” isn’t uncommon.

      1. Paulina*

        The LW does address this aspect, though, in saying that the team is large enough that Jill staying in her position doesn’t block them from having other advancement-worthy team members. Maybe the new boss is coming from a different situation on that aspect, though his reasoning sounds more like “Jill will be unhappy and leave eventually, might as well have it happen sooner when we can pick the time and before her work goes downhill.” But I don’t see how you can put someone on a PIP for unrealistic ambition, or for not being good at things that aren’t a normal part of the job.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Okay, I skimmed too quickly.

          I think the PIP is really just part of the process to move Jill “one direction or the other”. I think the boss would just say let’s get rid of Jill, but they have to follow the steps. In my organization, some roles are supposed to be advancing and learning new skills to get “meets expectations” on performance reviews. So, she might be doing the current duties of her job fine, but she would have to learn more advanced stuff each year to really be meeting the letter of her current job description. Is it PIP-worthy? Generally not, but if someone has been floundering around for a long time and is difficult, this is how it goes.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            (I also wanted to add that I am currently the person in my department who has been in my position the longest. It’s a reasonably complex role and it’s not something you’re supposed to do for a couple years and move on from. Some of the people who were above me just moved to do the same thing in another division. However, from this perspective, I can see how leaving someone in a role that they should advance from can become a problem. The person may not want to change how things are done–stuff the boss wants changed–or may think changes being implemented are shortsighted because they have a long-term perspective vs. seeing what happened over the last 6 months. Jill’s comments make it clear she’s not happy about not moving up. It may not be easy for her to get another job, but wanting advancement and not getting it can create motivation and work attitude issues and she could be happier somewhere else.)

          2. Karia*

            I think what makes me uncomfortable in situations like this is that not everyone is capable of, or best served by, promotion.

            I’ve had a couple of occasions where I loved my job, then was summarily promoted into a role I hated. Instead of happily spending 5-6 years in a job I enjoyed I ended up quitting after 1-2 miserable years because I was actually not interested in managing other people, or huge amounts of clients, only nobody bothered to ask before they ‘offered’ the ‘opportunity’.

    4. Helen J*

      I agree. She wants to move up and it’s likely not to happen, but if she is good at her job and does not want to leave the company, why fire her? As NotAnotherManager! says, that repetitive work is necessary and she does well, why do you want to push her out? The next person in that job may want to move up, too, and maybe they will not do as well in job.

    5. sacados*

      I mean they definitely should’t just fire her. But it sounds like the issue is not just “because she wants to move up someday” but more “she repeatedly says she wants to move up and that she would be very unhappy staying in her current position but it’s clear that she does not have the skills to make that move.”

      1. Uranus Wars*

        This stuck out to me – she wants to “move up” but doesn’t want to do work associated with that. So does she actually just want a raise? Does she want to no longer be considered “entry-level” but also not add much to her role? Do they want them to create a another entry-entry level job and hire someone else so she is not the bottom of the proverbial totem pole? So much can be deciphered from that sentence.

      2. DrSalty*

        I think this is key. She’s not just happily doing her job, she’s complaining about lack of advancement.

      3. Jam*

        Yeah, it doesn’t sound like it’s a question of someday, but more that she thinks she should have already been moved up. Which could mean she doesn’t really understand why that’s not happened.

    6. Policy Wonk*

      That made me wonder if Jill is bypassing OP and complaining to the boss about her lack of upward movement. Boss doesn’t want to deal with it, so suggests getting rid of Jill, but tries to make it sound like an altruistic attempt to help her. I’d suggest OP check on this possibility.

  6. PollyQ*

    Side note, I guess, but I suspect that someone who espouses the notion that you need to fire an employee out of fairness to them is going to have other serious issues.

    1. Observer*

      I don’t think it’s a side note. It’s not the question the OP asked, but it’s worth noting. Because it means that the OP needs to make sure they REALLY AND COMPLETELY understands what the boss is after. And if this is actually what he is saying and thinking, the OP should keep that information in mind in dealing with this boss in general.

    2. cmcinnyc*

      Yeah, this jumped out at me as a Big Deal. I think it’s pretty horrifying to *fire* someone who is good at their job because said job doesn’t fulfill all their personal goals. Yes, put this in the “never tell the boss your goals” bucket because wow.

  7. MommaCat*

    I know sometimes I’ll come across someone who just…doesn’t speak my language, even though we’re both speaking English. In those cases, I have to be incredibly clear with my directions; to use your example, I’d use, “Tomorrow, I’d like you to wear clothing similar to what you usually wear, but add a blazer or something similar to make the outfit a bit more professional.” It always feels like overkill, but it’s necessary. You cannot assume she knows what you’re saying, unfortunately.

    1. JohannaCabal*

      This. Years ago, there was an AskReddit about what it’s like to be in the army. Someone who handled recruits chimed in that they often had to explain even basic concepts of hygiene, including how to shower (a number of their recruits came from backgrounds of poverty (no running water) or abuse/neglect. I took from that, that you can’t really assume people know what you know.

  8. Melissa*

    Removed. Please don’t armchair diagnose here, as explained in the commenting rules. (In case anyone is wondering, I’m leaving the replies because I saw this late in the day when there were already a lot and I think they’re useful.) – Alison

    1. Autistic AF*

      More than one in 68 when you consider all the people who aren’t diagnosed until well into adulthood! I’m in a supportive work environment right now, in a very high-autonomy role (i.e. requiring critical thinking and judgment) and my CEO calls me “wonder woman”. Unfamiliar social interactions are limited and everyone is mindful of clear, proactive communication.

    2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      How would this change the advice to the OP? Sure, Jill might be on the spectrum, but if she doesn’t ask for coaching or doesn’t seek support what is the OP supposed to do? As it stands, Jill isn’t qualified for promotion and isn’t doing anything to change that, or even asking for help to change it.

      1. Birdie*

        Right, OP seems to think that Jill is certainly capable of being coached in these areas. But if Jill doesn’t indicate she’s interested in coaching, and growing in these areas isn’t a required part of her current position, I don’t think it makes sense for OP to insist on it. But I do think OP can endeavor to be very clear about what exact steps would need to be taken if she wants to advance and what the coaching would look like, so that she can be sure Jill is well informed in making a decision about whether or not to agree to coaching.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Yep. And this is true whether or not Jill is on the spectrum. The OP can be very explicit with Jill and say, “Until you are better at X, Y, Z, so that $example, $example, and $example don’t happen again, I don’t see a path for you to promote. If you are interested, I can help you work on X, Y, and Z. There are also resources A, B, and C that can help you work on it. Do you want to do this?” Then see what Jill does or says.

          1. Littorally*

            Agreed. I think a lot of people are (understandably) getting distracted with the possibility of autism or another neurodivergence from Jane, when the real problem boils down to this discussion:

            Jane: I want a promotion.
            OP: You would need to make X, Y, and Z changes to be eligible. I’m happy to help you implement those changes.
            Jane: No. I want a promotion.

            Whether or not Jane is autistic, she’s not currently performing at a promotable level.

            1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

              Exactly. Regardless of what’s going on with her developmentally, if she struggles to internalize that she’s not performing at a promotable level, that needs to be taken care of. If not being able to internalize that ends up being a liability to her current position (which isn’t unlikely), then that needs to be taken into consideration.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              I think this is at the core of OP’s dilemma also.
              I think that the boss is saying Jane is not performing up to par therefore she should leave.
              OP is saying that Jane is good enough.

              I think I would ask the boss if he is ordering me to show Jane the door OR if he is asking me what I think. The boss may have a 5 or 10 year plan that would work out in such a manner that Jane would be woefully under-peforming.

              OP, I kind of get the sense that you would like this conversation with the boss to Just. Stop. If this is the case, I would directly ask the boss, “Are you directing me to fire her?” Find out what in behind the story here.

      2. Turquoisecow*

        Yes. It doesn’t matter why Jill is having difficulties, just that she is. If she’s neuroatypical or not is irrelevant to the OP – if Jill needs to have X skill to succeed in the job she’d be promoted at and doesn’t have it, she’s not going to get the promotion. Accommodations can be made, like how to communicate instructions to her or other types of instructions, but it’s ultimately Jill’s responsibility to figure out what those useful accommodations are and ask for them, not for OP to essentially be her therapist or counselor and figure them out for her.

        It sounds like OP’s boss is putting Jill on a PIP for the skills of the newer job she doesn’t have yet, which is not helpful but is maybe his way of saying that if she wants to move up she needs to have these skills and maybe the PIP will force her to either develop them or realize that the (new, higher) role doesn’t work for any of them. Will Jill be happy staying in the role indefinitely if she’s blatantly told that she won’t ever be promoted (unless she gets these skills)? Boss is assuming no, because that’s what Jill is saying, but that’s not what her actions are indicating since she’s not so far making any effort to gain those skills, and she hasn’t left.

        I think OP should create something similar to a PIP, telling Jill that these are the concrete skills she needs to work on. They can have regular check ins to see how she’s progressing. At the end of the set time period, either Jill is promoted, having gained the skills, or she is made to understand that she will not move out of her current position at the job, and other opportunities will not be available to her. Because at this point it sounds like Jill is all talk and the boss is taking this seriously and wants OP to either promote Jill or shut down the talk about promotions that doesn’t have any follow up. Ideally, after she fails the “PIP”, she permanently stops mentioning promotion possibilities, or if she does, OP can shut it down saying “we tried that and it didn’t work, remember? Unless you’ve done x, y, or z as outlined in that plan, you’ll never have a promotion.”

        1. Bob's Manager*

          I wonder if OP’s organization does quarterly or annual goal-setting for their team members. Acquiring the needed skills to advance could be part of those goals, with periodic check-ins and coaching in between, plus maybe some external training or reference guides if applicable. If she’s not meeting those goals, she’s not going to get promoted.

          FWIW, I’m empathetic to OP’s position here and honestly a little bit on the boss’s side. Last year, I wrote in about an employee of mine, “Bob” who wanted to advance to a specific role but who made no actual progress to acquire the knowledge or skills needed to even get his foot in the door. I spent literal YEARS coaching him and trying to help him achieve his goals. Eventually we had to tell him that we were done coaching him for that role, and that if he wanted to learn that role he should look elsewhere. I knew that he had some mental health stuff going on, and he may have been on the spectrum, but in the end it didn’t matter. No matter how much coaching we did, the problem was that he either wasn’t willing or wasn’t able to put in the actual work to succeed. He ended up leaving a few months after I wrote that letter, and is at another company, doing pretty much the same entry-level work he was doing with me.

          1. microgirl*

            The problem with this – and with a lot of what I’m seeing here around the same topic – is that it is assuming that what you consider appropriate/correct/the only way of coaching someone to a goal *may not be what they need* if they are neurodivergent.

            As an autistic person myself I have to stress that people have different ways of learning and different needs. Even coaching isn’t a “one size fits all”, and yet far too often that is the approach that’s taken. eg “This is how we tech people to get to X standard, so this is how we’re going to teach Bob. And if he doesn’t make it, then that’s his fault/that’s evidence that he can’t”, when really it should be “Okay, the end result here is that Bob gets to X standard/ability/position; how do we teach *Bob specifically* do get there?”

            If someone is not learning what you’re teaching it does not mean they can’t learn. The problem might be the way it’s being taught.

            THIS is the point all of us neurodivergent people are constantly trying to make, and where we want the world to get to.

            You admit you “spent years” coaching Bob to be a Llama Groomer instead of just a Llama Feeder and got nowhere, and so you conclude that is incapable of being a Llama Groomer. But it never occurs to you that spending years doing something and getting nowhere might be your failure rather than his? (and no, you having successfully and easily coached others is not evidence that it wasn’t your failure. It’s just evidence that you can coach people who aren’t Bob )

            To be clear I’m not trying to say that it’s all the fault of the coaches, that everyone trying to coach Bob is rubbish and a failure, just that even if the people coaching him changed if the coaching process itself didn’t that that might have been the problem.

            I’m sure we’re all familiar with examples such as kids doing really badly in a subject with one particular teacher, then getting a different teacher and suddenly excelling. The kid isn’t suddenly more capable, the concept is just being communicated to them in a way *that works for them*.

            1. FleurDeLys*

              This and this again!!!
              It DOES matter of someone is neurodivergent!
              I am ADHD and if you ask me to do something while I have something to finish. I will 1000% forget. Send me an email or leave me a note. But just saying do X when Y is finished won’t do it. My brain just don’t work that way.

            2. Bob's Manager*

              Totally fair, and there’s no one size fits all approach to training. I talked about this in my post last year and a little more downthread, but I did keep telling myself that there had to be a way to get Bob in a place where he’d be a viable candidate for the role he wanted. We tried webinars and offsite training and books and videos and flash cards and cheat sheets and small practice projects and side-by-sides and networking events and setting him up with professional mentors. We signed him up for a couple of courses geared toward getting certifications. We adjusted his schedule to facilitate his classes (THAT was a bitter moment – he asked for a written guarantee that he’d be promoted to his preferred role as soon as he passed the class. I said no, we’re not even hiring for that role right now, but you will be competitive when we are. His response: “What’s the point of doing any of this then?” and chose to stop going to the class.)

              None of it worked, and a couple of those mentors eventually took me aside and said ” he’s not getting it. I don’t have time to keep meeting with him.” Believe me, if I could have figured out some magical combination of words and actions that would have helped, I would have been ecstatic. I wanted him to succeed.

              At the end of the day the cold hard truth was that he was an excellent Llama Feeder, and my job was to manage the Llama Feeding team. I was not a Llama Groomer Trainer. I had other employees that were growing resentful of the amount of time and resources spent helping Bob. I eventually had to tell Bob that he was on his own to continue to pursue the skills and knowledge he needed to succeed.

              To drop the analogies for a minute – Bob wanted to be a niche sort of Project Manager. I get it, it was a glamorous role in our company. But Bob’s challenges were things like, “I have a hard time presenting data to a group, and I hate going from person to person to get updates on things, and I have a really hard time reading spreadsheets, and when things are running behind I get really frustrated and angry and start yelling at or belittling my colleagues.” Repeated attempts to explain that gathering data and laying it out for analysis and bugging people for updates and presenting delays and challenges and concerns to stakeholders WAS THE ENTIRE JOB FOR WHICH HE WAS TRAINING just left him looking confused and miserable.

              For what it’s worth, I don’t think Bob was on the spectrum. I think some other stuff may have been going on, and while researching Ways to Help Bob I came across a personality disorder that left me glumly thinking “winner winner chicken dinner.” No matter what, though, I can say that I tried 999 ways to help Bob, and while that thousandth thing might have done the trick, at the end of the day time and energy are finite and Bob either needed to drop the plan to move to another role or seek some independent learning to build his skills.

            3. Tomalak*

              Great post, microgirl. I don’t have much to add but only because you have said it so well. In my experience huge amounts of corporate training is really just a soporific PowerPoint and then the expectation that you learn on the job. It actually makes things worse in some ways because you if you say “Can you explain x?” it can lead to “You received training in X two months ago”. It’s a perfect excuse for bad managers to avoid managing properly.

      3. Mae Fuller*

        The big thing that’s missing for me (which might be relevant regardless but may also be a change if it is a neurodiversity / communication issue) is any detail about how the OP has offered coaching. I can easily imagine a circular conversation ending with OP saying she’s willing to give Jill coaching, and Jill being left with no idea of how to actually organise that.

    3. Anon for this*

      Yes, this is what I thought too. I am on the spectrum myself and don’t work quite like this (we are all different!) but this is strongly reminiscent of one of Hannah Gadsby’s videos about the way in which she would be genuinely unclear about instructions she had been given and her teacher (in this case) thought she was being deliberately obtuse.

      I have, however, been in the position of knowing I would be asked what my career plans were and thinking “I can’t imagine I’m doing well enough to be promoted, but I better look as though I have a plan…” It was very difficult for me to admit that I could not learn some skills I knew I would hypothetically need for more senior roles, or even to take on more responsibility within my own. I ended up changing paths to a more technical role.

    4. Kella*

      I know that Alison discourages commenters from making armchair diagnoses.. and I also know that Jill sounds nothing like my autistic friends (who I’ve heard talk at length about what their experience struggling to communicate with neurotypicals is like) and I know most autistic people wouldn’t like to be described as having “a deficit.”

      From what I’ve heard, autistic folks may be more likely to “misinterpret” instructions (although that’s debatable because sometimes we expect mind-reading as a social norm), but not more likely to activlye defy them, which is what I heard described by the OP. Most autistic people are *painfully* aware that what they are doing is not matching what people want them to do, and they are baffled about how to correct it because the information we give them never seems to work. And because of that, I would expect many of them to jump at the chance of one-on-one coaching about how to do the things that no one is explaining to them how to do.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Thank you. If the pajamas and blazer example is equivalent . . . we already stand out more than we want to, thanks. I might wear the blazer over my usual business casual rather than pairing it with a skirt or dress or something more appropriate, but I wouldn’t downgrade the rest of my clothing to pajamas.

        (I know the example was theoretical.)

        1. L*

          Yeah … I’m on the spectrum and agreed.

          I know it’s a WIDE spectrum but I know a lot of people with autism and none of them would make the PJs with blazer mistake. (At least not people “high functioning” enough to get a job and keep it.)

          It’s kind of like people read “may take things literally” on WebMD and think that it definitely applies here. But I dunno. It’s not fitting well for me. And it does make me worried that people might think anyone on the spectrum is prone to mistakes like that, which as I said, doesn’t seem common in my experience.

          1. ampersand*

            Agreed. My first thought was, would Jill normally wear pj’s to work? If the answer is yes, then maybe she’s misinterpreting the suggestion to wear a blazer. If no, then it does sound more intentional and less like a faux pas. Really hard to know from the example given though!

      2. Karia*

        Whereas I know several people with different challenges. They don’t defy, but they’re often read as being defiant “because what sort of grown man wears shorts to a job interview” Etc.

        Mostly they just know they’ve once again failed the mysterious unwritten rules of the universe.

        1. Littorally*

          That’s not a mysterious unwritten rule, though. “What do I wear to a job interview?” is a very easy question to find a solid answer for.

          1. Happily Self Employed*

            Well, people had been coaching that particular interviewee with incomplete information: “Make sure to wear a proper dress shirt.” To them, that probably meant interviewees were showing up wearing blazers, slacks, and a casual shirt–so he needed to make sure to wear a professional shirt. To him, that meant “All I need to worry about is the shirt!” He didn’t realize he needed to search for more information.

    5. Bleah*

      As someone on the spectrum, I find this armchair diagnosis kind of insulting. Do you assume that if someone is autistic they must have communication issues? Or that every person who has communication issues, they must be autistic?

      Regardless of what is happening with Jane, it shouldn’t change the advice given to OP, or the actions the OP takes (unless Jane says she is having problems due to a medical issue). I don’t want to be treated differently because of a perceived or real diagnosis. I think that OP should have the same courtesy for the OP, and treat them like anyone else.

      1. Rach*

        I get what you’re saying but, as someone with formal accommodations, I am treated differently. If I didn’t need to be treated differently, I wouldn’t have a condition.

        I do agree we shouldn’t speculate about whether or not Jill is on the spectrum. She communicates differently and should be treated with compassion either way. Finding ways to effectively communicate with her and manage her should not be dependent on a diagnosis.

  9. Mid*

    Have you ever sat down with Jill and explicitly laid out what she would need to change to move up? Can you show her hiring criteria and lay out exactly where she is failing and where she is succeeding, and what would need to change to move up to the next level? It seems like Jill needs really clear, black and white instructions to thrive. You can also balance a desire to support her with your own workload—if it would take too much hand holding to do this, then don’t.

    1. Colette*

      I doubt there’s specific hiring criteria she’s failing. Most – if not all – higher-level jobs are higher-level jobs because you need to use your judgement, and you don’t always get clear, specific instructions. And it seems like that’s something Jill isn’t able to do right now, and isn’t interested in changing.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        This is spot on for higher-level jobs, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a hiring criteria or job description that would show Jill that. There should be a job description or some sort of information that shows what would be expected of her in a higher-level position, including exercising independent judgment to carry out assignments efficiently and effectively, managing projects/tasks, or collaborating effectively with others. I am fairly certain my upper-management job description lists something like each of those, and I know for sure my team lead job descriptions make reference to them at an appropriate level.

        My Semi-Jill applied for a an open supervisory position last year. They were found ineligible for the position because the job required the delivery of training, feedback, and performance coaching to develop and mentor their staff, and their response to every “how would you handle this [everyday, common performance concern]” was that they would escalate each one of them to me to address. They genuinely believe that they should be promoted because they’ve been there X years, and being able to point to the job description as something they would be expected to do really helped me NOT end up with someone who didn’t want to actually do the job.

        1. Colette*

          Yeah, if there is a clear-cut job description that the OP can point to, that could help. I’m more used to situations where there isn’t necessarily an accurate description before someone internal is hired.

        2. Happily Self Employed*

          If I were in Jill’s situation, I would really appreciate a boss who sat me down and showed me what would be involved in the job I thought I wanted to be promoted into. One of the wisest and kindest things my thesis advisor did was to correct the bad advice I’d been given about a particular career path.

  10. Autistic AF*

    I’ve been Jill, and what was described as issues in judgment or critical thinking were related to an extreme micromanager and confusing, contradictory policies. For instance, cannabis was legalized and we were told that no one was allowed to buy, sell, or possess it on company time (with the exception of medically approved and documented use). It makes no sense to me that the company auctioned liquor baskets for charity and served wine at the on-site holiday meal, but purchasing CBD oil on one’s lunch break to consume at home was prohibited. They thought their status quo was fine, too, which extended to ADA-violating treatment of me multiple times.

    I was not a good fit for that company, and I left, but it was because trying to get them to understand their legal obligations was not worth destroying my mental health.

    1. hbc*

      I think there’s a difference between having a policy that makes no sense because you can’t figure out *what* they want you to do, and a policy that makes no sense because you can’t figure out *why* they want you to do it. It sounds like their rule wasn’t at all confusing, just dumb in your (and my) eyes.

      I hate that I’ve lost really good candidates due to their legal use of a legal substance before they even could have known our company policy. But if I told those candidates that their test would be in a month if they needed a delay
      for unspecified reasons (wink wink), my boss would be right to be ticked off with me.

      1. Ally McBeal*

        I mean… you could be upfront with candidates, at the very first phone screener, that company policy is to drug test everyone before their first day. No one could be mad at that, a lot of companies do that (or have it listed on the HR website), and that would give candidates enough time – assuming that your search process is a typical length – to hit pause on their vice of choice.

        I know this is off topic but I feel really strongly that workplaces should never drug test employees unless they work with children or hazardous tools/materials, or if there’s a suspicion that they’re actually under the influence while at work.

      2. Autistic AF*

        It’s one example of very many – Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)* spoke well to the confusion piece here (and I don’t want to derail on cannabis use). Many of those examples are also about the *what*, though. I would be told “ask if you have questions”, ask if I wasn’t 100% sure, get a short-toned response implying (and sometimes outright stating) that I should know the answer, proceed if I wasn’t 100% sure next time, and be told after the fact that I did something wrong based on an unspoken assumption or rule. Repeat ad nauseam.

        1. microgirl*

          Oh God, so me, so all the time. And then it’s your fault for not magically being able to extrapolate.

          I’m a scientist, on the bench, and went into science because its very black and white – things are either correct or they aren’t. Now, my work was in a medical lab so patients were at the end of it so sometimes you had to let minor things slide, cut trivial corners, to get a “good enough” answer in a shorter period of time rather than an “exactly right” answer that took so long the patient bled out. But when you then get scolded or performance-review-critiqued for doing something on some occasion that all of your training and knowledge said must always be done, or even that you previously got scolded for *not* doing…… Well it makes an understandably stressful job suddenly non-understandably stressful and ultimately got me to the point where I was too fearful and anxious to be confident in my professional situational judgement, because what seemed to me to be the exact same situation – or close enough – would get a completely different reaction from management. I got to the point where I second, third, fourth guessed everything I thought or concluded, because I could never tell when I was going to be told that was the wrong thing to do despite it being the right thing to do for an ostensibly identical situation in the past.

          Looking back, the criteria for judging whether or not a decision was the right one seemed to be based on whether it had gotten a good result, rather than on the information or resources available at the time the decision was made. If that makes sense.

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      It makes no sense to me that the company auctioned liquor baskets for charity and served wine at the on-site holiday meal, but purchasing CBD oil on one’s lunch break to consume at home was prohibited.

      It doesn’t make sense to me either, though perhaps I’ve missed a subtlety somewhere. All I could come up with was the relatively established ‘social acceptability’ of alcohol…

    3. Griff*

      Are you in the US? If you are, cannabis can be legal in a state but it is not legal at the federal level, which is a very different situation.

          1. Autistic AF*

            There’s one more upthread, in addition to plenty of context from others as to confusion on the initial example. I’d rather not rehash the number of accommodation requests they didn’t think they even needed to consider.

    4. Uranus Wars*

      Wait, what? Unless its a paid lunch, why couldn’t you buy CBD oil and leave it in your car?

      Also, is CBD oil the same as cannabis? I ask because it is legal in our state, but our employer does not permit it due to the nature of our work. But I found out about CBD oil from our VP of HR, and people can use that because it’s THC-free.

      It sounds like from your experience with ADA they may have also just not be very legally savvy.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        CBD oil is made from the same *kind* of plant, but it has different characteristics. All cannabis plants have both THC and CBD (and other chemicals) in varying proportions. Think of it like different kinds of apples: they’re all apples, but some are green and sour when ripe (granny smith) and some are red and sweet when ripe, and some are better raw and others are better for pies.

      2. Autistic AF*

        You’re right about their legal aptitude… I don’t want to derail on that specific example so will keep this short, but CBD can be derived from hemp or cannabis. The former is typically unregulated, though.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        I want to know how management knew it was in my car. One day I had an entire chest of drawers (it was big) in my van and absolutely no one noticed. I am thinking a bottle of CBD oil would be down right obscure to them.

    5. Arctic*

      If you are in the US marijuana use is still illegal federally. And is more controversial than alcohol, which could create an optics problem for them.
      I don’t agree with it either but it seems like a perfectly sensible business stance to not be associated with marijuana products during work hours.

    6. Kate 2*

      There’s a huge difference though between not understanding a policy and why they have it and either not understanding or not being willing to follow a policy. The latter sounds like Jill’s problem.

      1. Autistic AF*

        We only know what’s written of Jill, but a lack of understanding has definitely been interpreted as unwillingness in my experience.

  11. Hey Karma, Over Here*

    I appreciate new boss coming in and wanting to be proactive. But I think he may be well served to view the department he’s leading for a longer time.
    Jill may be happy doing exactly what she’s been doing. She may think that ASKING is as good as GETTING.
    She goes along until she feels like saying “I wish I could do more.”
    OP states, “well, to do more, you need to do X, Y and Z and stop doing A, B and C”
    And then Jill goes back to her regular job thinking, well, I did my part to show I’m engaged and interested in moving up here. Back to my work.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I admit I kind of thought that Jill is just fine as she is, but nevertheless feels she needs to ‘perform’ the action of seeming to be interested in moving up. Or maybe Jill just gets bored once a year?

      I had to manage someone like this. He groused about his lack of upward mobility sometimes, but then didn’t really want to do anything that would’ve led to it. Sometimes, you just gotta let sleeping dogs lie.

  12. Blister in the Sun*

    I have an employee like this… though she’s not difficult to work with, I do find that I am sometimes blindsided by the things she does because she doesn’t seem to understand professional norms and regularly puts her foot in her mouth because she has no filter. I have no idea how to coach or guide her… inevitably she’ll do something so unexpected that I wouldn’t even think to expect it and I usually find out in a roundabout way (not through her) and then I have to fix it. As a result I have no trust in giving her new projects or tasks to do and will only assign those that are low risk or low profile. She does some things very well, so my boss believes we need to work within the parameters of what she’s capable of. I would have put her on a PIP last year.

    1. Coder von Frankenstein*

      I can imagine keeping somebody like that on when:

      a) They are genuinely good at the things they do well (not merely adequate), and
      b) There is enough need for those things to make a full-time job, and
      c) Those things are not considered “plum” tasks by other team members, who might justifiably resent having X getting them all to herself by virtue of incompetence at other things.

      It sounds like Jill meets these criteria. I’m guessing your employee doesn’t.

    2. Firecat*

      Some things my boss did that helped tremendously.
      1. Named the skill. Emotional Intelligence.
      2. Assigned self study like crucial conversations and service excellence is as easy as PIE.
      3. Did EI skill studies in our one-on-ones
      4. And last but not least, didn’t ever assume I was the problem for issues she heard 2nd hand

      It turns out that a lot of those complaints were either grossly misrepresented or flat out lies. Some co-workers had discovered I was an easy target to bully with false inter-personal complaints. Since I definitely had room for improvement there prior bosses just assumed I was the problem. Since they would not dig before jumping to conclusions, and would typically hoard complaints to drop at review time, it lead us all to think I was way worse then I was and hid other staffs integrity and/or EI issues.

      The meeting dissections were amazingly helpful and not that much work. I actually adopted it for my interns once I was promoted to management.

      After a meeting where it was emotionally charged and done well or poorly we would debrief the meeting during our regularly scheduled 1 on 1s. These were most effective when I was evaluating someone else and not my own performance. For example if there was a meeting Monday announcing benefit cuts then in our Friday 1on1 we would discuss how I felt. How I think the crowd felt
      How did the speaker manage those emotions. What would you have done differently? What do you think the results would have been?

      It was amazing and in 6 months complaints about me were 75% down. In a year I was able to identify poorly heading conversations and change course or disengaged. 2 years later I was considered one of the most emotionally intelligent employees and I just landed a job based specifically on my EI.

    3. Kiki*

      I don’t want to put more pressure on you or LW to put more energy into employees who just seem off, but I’ve found that for people who “just don’t seem to get professional norms” for whatever reason, giving them a book like Alison’s or having them start reading Ask A Manager regularly can really help. I think some people are really quick to jump on to what professionalism is and can guess the right thing right to do away, but some people need a lot of exposures and scenarios before they truly understand what’s needed of them.

      1. Firecat*

        I think it’s important to treat training on people who “seem a bit off” with the same legitamacy as training someone who doesn’t understand computers, teams, or doesn’t get finance. It’s really not any more work then other types of development.

        I highly recommend focusing one on ones on recent meeting dissections to evaluate other people’s presentations from am EI perspective.

        1. Kiki*

          I agree and my phrasing was poor, I just meant that it seems both these people have already spent a lot of energy into trying to get their employees more aware professional norms but it seems like it is not sticking. EI training and professional norms training are definitely things that should be offered more widely , but there is also a certain point at which an employee who wants to wear a blazer with pajamas is going to wear a blazer with pajamas regardless of the amount of training a caring manager puts them through.

  13. AnonPi*

    Another possibility is frankly she’s too lazy to really make the effort to move up. We have a person like that where I’m at. He does enough to skirt by, sometimes barely that, has almost been put on a PIP but management is more worried about appearances than actually fixing the problem (somehow they’ve missed that he’s a running joke in the entire division, so I don’t know how they think having an employee on a PIP is going to look worse). He comes across as very immature, and several of us have tried to work with him since this is first job besides basic retail/fast food, but it’s become obvious he doesn’t care enough to try. When he’s given the opportunity to do more complicated work and given training/coaching so he can be promoted or at least given a bonus or raise, he’ll sneer his nose at whatever work is offered as “too boring” or “not his thing”. But boy does he complain because he doesn’t get raises or promoted and others do.

      1. AnonPi*

        Yeah no, nothing like that. This guy sits and watches youtube videos and runs his side business while at work. Both of which he got a verbal warning about, and then went right back to doing both after a month or two. Today he just admitted he’s not been doing his work because “its not like it matters right now and no one has noticed” (his words) since we’re working from home. He also advised several of us to work on our on personal PC’s so the company can’t use their tracking software to see if we’re doing anything. Apparently he didn’t realize that when you log in with the company computer system on your computer, they can still track everything you’re doing within their ecosystem. The hiring committee was even concerned about hiring him since he admitted this wasn’t really the type of work he likes (sitting at a desk doing computer work), but because he was such a nice guy they hired him anyways. *facepalm* So coworkers are constantly stuck picking up his slack.

        1. Autistic AF*

          In those circumstances, I would direct the laziness labels at those who aren’t attaching any consequences to his actions, or even those who prioritized “nice guy” over what sounds like a better indicator of fit during hiring.

      2. RagingADHD*

        Selfishness and poor ethics definitely exist. There are people in the world who just want the easiest way to get as much money as possible, and don’t really care about fairly trading valuable work for it.

        Sometimes that leads to skating by at work. Sometimes it turns into some form of skimming & scamming.

        1. Littorally*


          I’ve read the article Autistic AF mentions, as well as other articles with a similar thrust, and I think they do raise good points about what looks on the surface like laziness potentially having other explanations, they go way too far in proclaiming that everyone who acts lazy must secretly be ND or whatever else.

          Some people are jerks. Some people are liars. Some people are lazy.

          1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

            ND or whatever else

            The author’s use of ‘neuroatypical’ tripped me up as I was reading quite quickly and read it at first as ‘neurotypical’… are they synonyms (neuroatypical and neurodivergent I mean) is it a case of identifying with one or the other, or what? I’m genuinely seeking to understand, as I feel like ‘neuroatypical’ is only something I’ve read quite recently.

            1. Littorally*

              Neuroatypical and neurodivergent are basically synonyms so far as I’m aware. Some people are more comfortable with “atypical” over “divergent” as a descriptor.

            2. Autistic AF*

              You’re right, and I prefer “neurodivergent” myself (for looking different enough from neurotypical to prevent my own occasional tripping up, among other reasons!).

          2. iliketoknit*

            I agree. There are a lot of important points in the Medium article, but there are some issues as well. 1) I think the implication that this is a new insight is overblown. I used to teach college (quite a while ago now), and sure, there are the rigid, “no exceptions to ANY of my policies EVER” types, and sure, plenty of them are just assholes. But the vast majority of professors I know (and I know a lot) have long ago figured out exactly what the author presents as some kind of revelation, that students who look disengaged are just as likely to be exhausted, overworked, and/or dealing with a whole lot of serious s*** that the prof doesn’t know about. 2) There are a WHOLE lot of “I”s in that article, which seems to spend as much time glorifying the author’s great sensitivity and insight as talking about his students. 3) The author also seems to assume that the standards that should apply in education should also hold everywhere. While I completely agree that generally, employers have a huge way to go in recognizing and accommodating mental health issues and the various complications humans have to deal with, I also don’t think employers can be held to quite the same standard as educational institutions, just because the relationship between employer/employee isn’t the same as the relationship between a professor (or college) and student.

      3. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        Interesting article, thanks for the pointer! (Just an aside as I know it was really a reply to someone else :) ) I’m not sure I agree with all the points they made, but now I have some thinking to do about my own procrastination lately.

  14. e.g.a.*

    I feel for this manager, and hope she can get her boss on board with how she is handling Jill, it seems fine to me. However, I found the blazer and PJs example hilarious to picture!

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      hope she can get her boss on board with how she is handling Jill

      Yes – it seems to me that the ‘grandboss’ has more involvement than he needs to in how OP is managing their team. Presumably OP hasn’t gone to grandboss (their boss) to ask what to do about the situation, as they were managing it perfectly well and happy with the status quo, so new grandboss seems to have involved himself a bit — especially as he is new to the organisation?

      I was wondering if there’s some dynamic of grandboss (OPs boss) not really allowing OP management authority in general.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I would trend carefully here, if I were the OP.
      It could be that the boss’ vision for several years from now precludes people with Jane’s work habits for various reasons.
      OP it is good that you want to defend your employee but make sure that is the appropriate stance to take. You dig your heels in too hard here, the boss may not see you fitting in to his future plans either.

      I know of a situation where employees refused to learn how to email and other basic computer activities. The rest of their work required a computer but they did master the baseline needs. As time passed and more people started using computers the additional skills of handling email and so on, became a necessity. Finally the request to learn this stuff shifted to a job requirement. If you can’t email then you can’t do a key part of your job and we cannot keep you. We no longer can accommodate your non-use of email.

      Now maybe I am reading this all wrong, but it seems that she is okay unless she has to interact with outsiders. It could be that the boss sees her job as changing to require better interaction with outsiders. IF she cannot do that then she cannot do the job.
      You are talking about the work she does TODAY. Is it possible that the boss is looking ahead to next year and thinking about what work she will be doing next year or the year after?

  15. Overmyhead*

    As somebody who has had a certain amount of longevity with a company before, and figured promotion was a great idea, I think I might have something useful to add.

    I put in my time, and much, much more, learned all I could, attempted to improve and adapt at every opportunity.

    I eventually earned my sought-after goal after many transfers between branches and a sabbatical to try something new.

    In the beginning of my new role, I excelled because I had great leadership from above. As time went on, I found less and less enjoyable, found myself not caring much about my role or responsibilities, was transferred to a different location (back with the old boss again) but not enjoying to location this time, which sent me on a downward spiral in terms of performance.

    Never once during regular performance reviews was feedback constructive with achievable goals for the year, and rarely were there rises other than basic inflation adjustment rises for those not the favourites of the worse boss.

    Had somebody been totally honest with me when I floated the idea, I may well have felt able to speak openly about my troubles, and come to a different resolution (I eventually left for good).

    Whether an issue is a personality trait or wildly differing expectations between what ai think the job is and what it turns into, had I felt able to openly discuss how I was feeling, and how my management felt, things may have been different.

    Be open about what more advanced roles will require, and where her performance is lacking those skills or abilities from your perspective. While you’ve been as helpful, generally as you could be, it’s definitely worth being much more direct than you may have been previously.

  16. Feeling meh today*

    If she’s good at repetitive tasks and not at others, is there another position in the company, even a lateral one that might be better for Jill?

    I also thing the LW needs to consider how they are communicating with Jill. If they’re having the same conversations over and over, maybe Jill is not understanding them. She doesn’t sound limited in intelligence, but maybe writing things down would be helpful or different phrasing. Also asking her to repeat back what she understood will help both parties.

    1. Kella*

      My understanding from the letter was that Jill *is* in a position where she’s able to do primarily repetitive tasks, and she is doing her *current* job well. It’s when she’s given more complex projects for the possibility of advancement that problems occur.

  17. Brett*

    I’m curious why there is not a high performing individual contributor ladder for Jill to follow.
    Presumably her productivity has gone up over time, and her directly relevant skills have improved.

    So why isn’t there a llama groomer II -> llama groomer III or Sr llama groomer -> Principal llama groomer path that she can aspire to that could increase responsibilities in the skill sets that she does improve in rather than targeting developing new skills that are outside her range?

    1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      It could be something like data entry where there might be a couple of levels of pay/responsibility (data entry 1, data entry 2), but at some point you have to move into managing people or projects since there are no other responsibilities available in the role.

    2. Colette*

      Most higher-level roles require judgement in line with the norms and business interests, which appears that Jill is lacking. In addition, there are some roles where higher-level IC roles just aren’t a possibility. Think data entry – it’s a repetitive job that requires skill, but higher-level jobs would be things like training or supervisory roles.

    3. irene adler*

      Yes-good point.
      I have to wonder if the PJ-blazer thing is a ham-fisted attempt at wanting attention for one’s self. And the “why can’t I advance?” talk as well. Everyone wants to be recognized for their good work.
      I think what you’ve suggested is a good way to acknowledge the advanced skills acquired and good work someone does.

    4. Kimmy Schmidt*

      She may already have maxed out on this individual contributor ladder. In the OP’s first paragraph, Jill complains she’s not getting “good projects”, but if those good projects involve high levels of critical thinking, decision making, collaboration, or understanding nuance, there may not be much higher she can go.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        She may already have maxed out on this individual contributor ladder

        OP described the primary responsibilities (i.e. the routine stuff that Jane is very good at and exhibits good attention to detail etc) as “entry-level” so it doesn’t sound like there is much of a ‘ladder’ or opportunity to ‘max out’.

        I got the sense that the bread and butter of the role is ‘llama grooming’ (e.g.) but then there are opportunities for llama groomers to be seconded to other projects in the company, such as developing/evaluating new grooming techniques, selecting a new supplier for llama grooming tools, developing a set of department-wide practices for camelid maintenance, etc. As such I think what’s happened is that the ‘llama grooming’ work is sort of the basis of knowledge for working on these other projects, but then it needs the critical thinking and other stuff to be able to contribute positively to projects outside of ‘just’ doing the llama grooming in itself.

      2. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        Exactly. It’s not as if senior individual contributor roles don’t require senior-levels of judgement. People who struggle with things like critical thinking, understanding nuance, and recognizing professional norms are pretty limited as individual contributors.

    5. FriendlyCanadian*

      Even in higher level individual contributor roles there is usually an increased need for strategy/critical thinking which seems like too much for Jill

    6. Dust Bunny*

      Some jobs just don’t work that way. I cannot advance in my job without an additional degree and certification, no matter how good I am in my current position.

    7. hbc*

      I’m really struggling to come up with any kind of individual contributor ladder that doesn’t include skills like “handling more complicated projects,” “working outside the group,” and “understanding situations where instructions aren’t 100% clear.”

      Maaaybe you could advance if your grooming speed is high enough, or if you have experience with all camelids. But it sounds like Jill wants the interesting jobs, and the interesting jobs are ones that require you to groom a llama in a non-standard way or to not take “give him a light summer ‘do” as license to shave every last bit of wool off the poor creature.

      1. Littorally*


        Every time I’ve looked at an individual contributorship hierarchy within a job or department, it has involved taking on higher-stakes work where autonomy and good independent judgment is more crucial to the work. Which, from the sound of it, is exactly where this employee is struggling.

        1. The Supreme Troll*

          Yes, it really comes down to a lot of this even in more senior roles that don’t require people supervision. You have to be “self-starter” (though I know that this is a huge cliche). You cannot be waiting around, so-to-speak, for your boss to say “do this, don’t do that” for multiple situations.

  18. Michael*

    My interpretation of “My new boss is really pushing me to put Jill on a PIP and get moving in one direction or the other.” is that the OP views Jill’s issues as an occasional oddity in non-essential parts of her job, but her boss sees them as serious issues in core parts of the job. I also think that most new bosses start by taking stock of every employee under them and try to build the strongest team possible. Jill may be OK at most parts of her job, but they could also fill this entry-level position with a rockstar who doesn’t need this kind of repetitive, basic coaching. Perhaps the boss’s wording of “it’s not really fair to know that someone is unfulfilled in their job and considering leaving and not either fire them or see them move into a new position” was an attempt to soften the core message that “Jill is mediocre and I’d rather have a rockstar.”

    1. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Maybe, but realistically you don’t get to have a team only made up of rock stars. They’re rare for a reason.

      1. Michael*

        I’ll grant that some fields are difficult to hire for, even entry level jobs, and you can’t always build a dream team. But in many fields, I’d say yes – the boss is supposed to hold everyone to a high standard, and replace them if they aren’t meeting that expectation.

    2. Xavier Desmond*

      I agree with you that there is a disconnect between the OP and her boss but the OP didn’t say Jill is ‘ok at most parts of her job’ as you have stated. The OP actually said Jill does ‘exceedingly well’ at the core part of her job.

    3. Black Horse Dancing*

      You do realize rock stars are paid oodles of money, catered to, and allowed to do things the ordinary can not? (As most wealthy people can). A whole team of rock stars would end up bashing guitars on each other’s heads.

        1. Black Horse Dancing*

          Most exceptional employees are high maintenance because they can be. They can demand and receive more money, flexibility, benefits, get forgiven for serious sins that get another fired, etc. Again, exceptional (extraordinary) employees are rare. To get a team of them would be a huge endeavor and a serious commitment of resources.

          1. Observer*

            Not true. Truly exceptional employees are NOT high maintenance unless there is a direct payoff for the company (eg they will ask for advanced training or higher end tools etc.) Because the cost of that “high maintenance” winds up being more than the value the “rock star” brings. And smart companies recognize this, even when you can’t (easily) point to a line on the balance sheet.

            1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

              I’d agree, but there’s some nuance to this – they’re not high-maintenance in ways that create more work for managers, which is to some extent a function of what managers do with the issues they create.

              Black Horse Dancing might have been thinking of the “brilliant jerk” stereotype; a lot of those employees aren’t really high-maintenance, though, because managers go out of their way to use their skills while cordoning them off from the rest of the team. Same goes for the otherwise weak individual contributors whose survival mostly depends on their organizational knowledge. None of these people are exceptional employees, though – they’re just people whose strengths can’t be leveraged without preventing their weaknesses from coming into play.

    4. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      I disagree about ‘rockstars’ for the same reasons other commenters stated, but you got me thinking.

      “it’s not really fair to know that someone is unfulfilled in their job and considering leaving and not either fire them or see them move into a new position”

      I think this could also be taken at face value, albeit I think new boss is oddly invested in minutiae of managing teams that he has OP and (presumably) other managers specifically in charge of handling.. but that’s another issue..

      It could be taken at face value in that new boss perhaps really does see firing Jane as a ‘kindness’ in some way, in cutting her loose, in order to ‘force’ her (for her own good!) to seek out options elsewhere… I don’t agree with this line of reasoning, but I think it is a potential motivation.

      Not sure about the PIP aspect though. In OPs position I would push back to the grandboss (if it hasn’t already been discussed but was just left out of the letter) to explore why they advocate for that.

    5. cmcinnyc*

      Rock stars stay in entry level jobs for a year, get promoted, and have to be replaced. If it’s a boring job, you don’t go looking for an endless supply of rock stars to fill it a year at a time if you’ve got somebody solid. That’s a really expensive rock star habit.

      1. miss chevious*

        Exactly. Some roles, some departments, some jobs benefit from a stable populace of what I call Worker Bees. These are the people who show up and do the work every day to a reasonable level of professionalism and don’t cause a lot of drama. I don’t need or want a “rock star” in every role every single minute.

        Some Worker Bees turn out to be Rock Stars (I have someone who started as a Worker Bee who, as she grew into the role, has become a Rock Star and is going to come in to some great opportunities), some Rock Stars revert to Worker Bees depending on what is going on in their lives at the moment (I have a current Rock Star who is dealing with some personal issues right now that mean she needs a bit of break from Rock Star demands and to just do her core work well and take the rest of her time for herself). I think sometimes managers don’t recognize the value of both types and think they want only Rock Stars and that means they have a good team. Maybe, in some jobs, that’s true. But that hasn’t been my experience in the companies I’ve been at.

    6. anonforthis*

      I agree that the boss does not see Jill as a good fit for his/her team long-term, but worded it poorly (or deliberately didn’t say why) when talking to the OP. How does Jill interact with her colleagues? It sounds like she doesn’t work well with people outside the team, how is she viewed inside your team? Do her routine comments about not getting good projects and wanting to advance affect morale, or are other team members annoyed with Jill? How does your company recruit? Does it recruit from within, pulling from a talent pool on entry level positions? How long is a colleague usually in an entry level position at your company? Is Jill out of the norm? Is there innovation required on your team, or is Jill’s job today the same as it was 5 years ago, the same as it is expected to be 5 years from now? If generally at your company someone is in an entry level position for 2-5 years, and then either moves up or moves on, and Jill’s tenure is a lot longer or if your company and she doesn’t get along with people, that may raise eyebrows. If your company has gone through a huge shift (or is trying to go through a huge shift) in how they do business, and Jill is seen as inflexible and not able to adapt, that could raise eyebrows. Is Jill more expensive due to her tenure than a new person would be? There’s big financial pressure on companies right now and if a person with less tenure can do Jill’s job at a lower salary, that could explain your boss’s request. All this to say – I would see if you could ask your boss for more insight about what s/he has in mind. Sorry for the running stream of consciousness.

    7. Happily Self Employed*

      Well, if Jill wants to get promoted out of the repetitive stuff she’s good at, how do you think a rockstar employee will feel about it? Does the OP’s boss have a grand plan that he’s going to use this position to hire potential rockstars into the company, then promote them and hire the next? Will there be enough growth that they can promote out of this position before a true rockstar gets bored and looks elsewhere?

  19. tg*

    How long has this been going on? I get the feeling from the letter that it is quite some time. If Jill keeps saying she want’s to be promoted or leave, and then goes on to neither do the work to get promoted or leave, then at some level she’s happy with where she is. So long as you have been clear about what she needs to do to be promoted then I think you can leave the issue. I don’t know what your new boss’s problem is though.

  20. Kella*

    I’d be very interested to hear specific examples of the directions Jill has received and how she has interpreted them. It’s so hard to know where communication breakdowns like these are occurring because it’s also natural for us to believe that *we* are communicating clearly, even though sometimes we aren’t, or there is a very specific communication mechanism that works for this specific person every time, but others don’t etc.

  21. Lady Heather*

    OP, you may enjoy reading some criticisms of “up or out”-policies, which is the (ridiculous) idea that if an employee isn’t moving up, they need to get out.

    (Interestingly enough, it’s been described as a way to counteract the Peter Principle of “everyone will eventually be promoted to a job that is above their capability” – I don’t see how that works, as 1) you’re making it harder for people to stay in a job they can do, and 2) at least according to the book “The Peter Principle” (Lawrence J. Peter), incompetent people frequently get promoted anyway. But I digress.)

    It may give you some arguments to throw at your boss regarding “Why lose a good employee?”.

    1. JanetM*

      I briefly worked under (not directly for him, but in the IT department) CIO whose philosophy wasn’t even “up or out,” it was just “out.” He said, more than once, that anyone who’d been at the same company more than five years was deadwood. Of course, he also said that anyone in a clerical / admin support / business office position could only be classified as the lowest level of employee (“requires constant supervision” was one of the characteristics).

    2. Gazebo Slayer*

      “Up or out” is a great way to make the Peter Principle happen, because it pressures people into management who are not suited for it just to keep their jobs.

      It’s so wasteful.

  22. NW Mossy*

    I think it’s worth asking your new boss for some insight into his perspective – that context will tell you a lot about why he’s pushing you to do something about Jill.

    Let’s say that your new boss has been brought into this role because his boss wants him to make changes in your area (this is often the case with new bosses). Your boss may very well be looking at the scope of those changes, seeing Jill’s struggles with expanding her zone of effective work, and thinking “yikes, when XYZ change happens, Jill is going be a major liability.”

    One example of how this might play out is drawn from my own experience in management through a period of significant automation and outsourcing. Automation and outsourcing is normally targeted first at roles like Jill’s – repetitive, straightforward, low-judgment tasks. If the Jills that currently hold those jobs don’t demonstrate an aptitude for the higher-level work that will still be done by a person in-house, they’re in trouble.

    Organizations that want to automate/outsource but avoid the bad PR of layoffs will tend to ramp up their efforts to reduce their headcount in Jill-roles through managed attrition. Managed attrition works through three main levers – voluntary departures, promoting the highest-potential occupants of Jill-roles, and managing out the weakest performers. The vacated roles disappear or (rarely) the headcount is moved to another part of the organization that can make a compelling business case for it. Given enough time, you can reduce your overall headcount by 25% or more this way with nary a severance package or buyout to be found.

    Late stage capitalism is brutish and nasty sometimes, and one of the best strategic advantages you can have in coping is recognizing its early warning signs.

    1. hbc*

      I think you’re right, his perspective could be really useful. He might think that being able to spend 5% of time on those oddball projects is a job requirement, and then OP can discuss whether they agree with that or not. I can see arguments on both sides.

      But if I had to bet, I’d guess he’s worried that Jill’s morale will start to tank and she’ll take down other people with her. That might be wrong, and she’s content to live the six month cycle of “request promotion, be told what to do to get promotion, make no changes, repeat” until retirement. But I had a guy who was a lot like this, and in the end when he put in his notice, there were a bunch of his coworkers who’d heard how badly I’d done him wrong.

  23. Ana Gram*

    I’m just confused about what the PIP would say. Like, what would the goals even be? She’s good at her job and the projects don’t seem required so where’s the problem? I work with plenty of people who aspire to things they’re not suited for. Some will realize this and some won’t. But it’s not PIP worthy.

    Now, if she actually does things like show up in PJ’s and a blazer, yeah, maybe a PIP for appropriate office behavior is in order.

    1. Kimmy Schmidt*

      I think OP needs to get with their boss ASAP for some context and clarity on why boss feels a PIP is warranted. If boss subscribes to the ‘up or out’ mentality, OP should push back hard. But maybe the boss is more concerned that Jill’s constant claiming she’ll leave is making her difficult to work with, or maybe the inability to follow instructions is harming the company in business-related X, Y, Z ways, or some other piece of context.

      1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        I wonder if it’s less “up and out” and more “you have a credibility issue when your professional maturity four years in falls short of what we’d commonly see in brand new hires”? Like I don’t think that requires a PIP either, but it’s a legitimate issue.

  24. RagingADHD*

    I have worked with business leaders who want to foster a culture in their organization (or team) of independent thinkers and problem-solvers at every level, who pursue personal/career growth at every opportunity. They believe this attracts and retains the best talent, and creates a pipeline of highly motivated people who have leadership ability and just need to master knowledge & skills as they move up.

    The philosophy is that if you can’t coach someone up to a higher level, you should be coaching them out of the company.

    I don’t have an opinion one way or the other on the merits of this philosophy, but I have encountered it in the wild. Perhaps LW’s boss subscribes to this way of thinking?

    1. cheeky*

      Thanks for this comment, it helped me understand this perspective. It seems to me, though, that this idea assumes that everyone is intrinsically motivated to higher and higher levels of achievement in their lives, that people naturally all want to be executives or leaders, but that doesn’t square well with the reality of being a human person for most people, I think. I think that would get you a group of rabid workaholics who might have incentives to hoard information and not collaborate, for fear of being outshined or accidentally training a replacement. I think of Microsoft’s employee ranking system that they had for years and years. It created a lot of ruthlessness and backstabbing in the culture that is arguably counterproductive. Or you’d have people who’ve done nothing but dabble in jobs as they move up, and you lack depth and special knowledge, like institutional knowledge, in your workforce. How do you retain talent in a hierarchy? Or do you just splinter and expand your leadership, diluting the pool? Endless growth?

      1. RagingADHD*

        No, they don’t believe everyone is intrinsically motivated. They just don’t want to employ people who aren’t.

        I know of one business owner for whom this isn’t about endless growth or hierarchy, or internal competition at all. He’s deeply invested in his employees’ wellbeing. He allocates every employee a substantial budget for learning and training. His company regularly shifts people’s roles to try to maximize their strengths and time spent doing work they find satisfying.

        And if someone outgrows their role and there’s nowhere for them to go within the company, he will leverage his personal network to help find them a better job somewhere else. (If they want).

        Like any philosophy, there are good & bad ways to apply it.

    2. FleurDeLys*

      What if I find my fulfilment in my personal life and my job is just the way I get a roof over my head and food on my table because you know capitalism…..
      Not everyone wants to go up and up the corporate ladder and firring good employees for that is really unfair.

      1. RagingADHD*

        Then you definitely shouldn’t work for bosses who think this way. The ones I’ve encountered, for good or ill, are very up front about it in screening.

        1. The Supreme Troll*

          Except here (and I’m not even going into the possibly “cluelessness” issues that were displayed with the attire and other things)…it is totally unfair to Jill, as this is coming from an indirect superior – a grandboss.

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

      GMTA! I thought the same thing about the blazer; either this woman is Amelia Bedelia, or she’s just a middle school troll who thinks she’s being clever by “misunderstanding” what dress up means. For that err in judgement alone, I can see why the Big Boss might want her on a PIP or out. If you can’t trust her to have a basic grasp of professional judgement, is she really a good employee?

      PS, while I loved the books when I was a kid, Amelia Bedelia should have totally.gotten.fired…OMG!

  25. Richard Hershberger*

    It just happens that I am currently reading The Peter Principle by Lawrence J. Peter. I have known about this book in a vague way nearly my entire life, but I had not realized it is hilariously subversive. I recommend it wholeheartedly. The basic idea is that competent people are promoted because they are competent, until they reach a level where they no longer competent. Then they stay there. They are never promoted again, because they are incompetent. They aren’t fired, because that would be an admission that the previous promotion was a mistake, and face it, if you fired everyone who was incompetent, where would you be? The book makes a surprisingly strong case for this principle explaining all sorts of hierarchical organizations.

    So turning to Jill, promote someone because they are good at a repetitive and straightforward task, into a job that is not repetitive and straightforward? We would need make no alterations to the story to use it as a textbook example of the Peter Principle, even if we did not already have clear evidence that she is bad at non-repetitive non-straightforward tasks. Firing her doesn’t obviously fit the principle. He talks about how hyper-competent employees will get fired, but that isn’t what is going on here. Firing Jill here would be too crazy even for Peter.

    Oh, and she isn’t likely to actually go elsewhere. She would have shown clear signs long ago if she were. She is solidly in her rut.

    All in all, what you have here is a non-problem. Talk your boss out of making it into one.

  26. anon73*

    You say you’re blunt and direct with her about why she isn’t advancing, but have you had a “why do we keep having this same conversation” conversation with her at all? She tells you she wants to advance, you explain what you need from her to be able to advance, offer her coaching opportunities, and then she makes no effort to change. Rinse and repeat. At this point maybe it would help to explain that this has become repetitive and you don’t know what more you can do to help her, then maybe try asking what she thinks may help her. Because honestly, I see nothing more you can do if she refuses to follow your advice on how to move forward in her career.

    1. Just Another Zebra*

      I think this is a really good point. Having a frank conversation to the effect of “we’ve had this same conversation X times; I’ve told you to do A, B, and C to work towards a promotion. As none of those things have happened, I’ve surmised you aren’t truly interested in the promotion.” Prompt an answer. She may truly believe she’s meeting the goals laid out for her. Or she’ll think they were merely suggestions, and a promotion will magical come to her anyway.

    2. Public Sector Manager*

      Exactly! If the employee comes in twice a year with “promote me or I’m leaving,” at some point the OP has to shut down that conversation. I think it’s time for some tough love on the OP’s part: “You need to do 3 things to promote. So far, you’ve refused to do those 3 things. Either work with me to get on a path to promotion or give me the date of your final day in the office. But if you stay in your current position, we can’t keep having this conversation.” I get the impression that this has been going on for years.

  27. ThinMint*

    OP, your blazer/pj example put something into words I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Thank you! I have an employee like this as well, and similarly don’t want this person on any projects outside their normal scope for this reason.

  28. learnedthehardway*

    I think that perhaps the OP needs to start including communications and team-orientation type expectations in the employee’s performance evaluation, rather than putting her on a PIP. That PIP sounds like a really good way to demoralize an already frustrated employee, and to result in worse performance. Given that the employee is performing her current job quite well, punishing her for not performing to the level of a future job (in terms of communications) seems very unfair and counter-productive.

    That said, building in performance expectations that the employee will improve her communications skills (because that is what this is – it’s about reading the room, understanding instructions, anticipating what is appropriate), and then ensuring that the employee gets the training and support to build those skills – that could be exactly what the employee needs.

    Assuming the employee is not being maliciously compliant with instructions, but rather is genuinely clueless in some areas, it is reasonable to assume that she has NO idea of HOW to improve herself to be able to attain the promotion she seeks, and that she is not even quite able to understand WHAT needs to change, exactly. To be honest, this situation reminds me very much of someone I know well who is on the spectrum, so my advice is biased towards that. Still, it makes sense to assume the person is trying their best, rather than that they are trying to be difficult. (The example of the suit jacket over PJs is almost exactly what the person I know would do, and they would be genuinely astonished that you meant they should dress up entirely, if you hadn’t specifically told them to put on dressier pants, shirt, and jacket.)

    1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

      +10000000. Honestly, reading some of these comments makes me wonder if people don’t think it’s necessary to hold entry-level staff to reasonable standards regarding how to read the room, etc. if they’re not aiming for management. OP’s organization needs a clear soft skills competency standard for entry-level and non-managerial employees if they don’t already have one.

  29. AKchic*

    The pj/blazer example felt like an example of malicious compliance more than a misunderstanding. I mean… Jill *did* wear the blazer that was given as an example of dressing up, so she did follow the letter of the task, therefore, in theory, a blazer does make any outfit more “professional”. In her mind, she was already dressing professionally, and did not necessarily need to wear a blazer or look “nicer” just because someone special (to C-suite) was coming in, but if she was going to be made to wear the blazer, then fine, if a blazer magically makes everything more professional, then obviously it will make pajamas look professional too.

    Without knowing the particulars of what she’s doing in meetings that are problematic, I could see it as being a hindrance because it’s not necessarily Her Job, and if it’s technically something for someone in a higher role, or something she feels she should be doing if she were in a higher role or for higher pay, then by Chuck, she is going to prove that it’s not within her scope until she is actually in that position/getting paid for that position.

    But, being purposely contrarian / playing dumb doesn’t actually get you that promotion. You have already admitted that Jill isn’t going to get a promotion. Jill has been saying “promote me or I’m walking”, but she isn’t actually walking. Your boss is tired of her empty threats and her (potential) games. I think your boss may actually have the right idea. Jill needs to be given one final, very clear message. She will not be advancing with the company. While she is good (not great, good) at her job, she has not shown the judgement and discernment necessary for advancement and has previously turned down offers for coaching to actually help her potentially move up. If she threatens to leave, accept that and ask her if she is giving notice and ask for an official letter of resignation. If she backpedals, tell her that this will be the last time you will accept statements like that.

    I am all for “playing dumb” when the situation warrants it. If you want to advance within a company, you cannot “play dumb” or maliciously compliant in order to be contrarian. I think you’re too close to the situation and have been immersed in the situation for too long to see this as objectively as your (new) boss is seeing it. I hope things get better with Jill.

    1. Bette Davis Eyes*

      Agreed! I wish the LW did include more specifics about the other mistakes Jane has made. The “PJs and a blazer” story certainly sounds like a total lack of social awareness at best and malicious compliance at worst (especially if Jane never wore PJs in the office before!).

      It seems to me, that the LW has the perspective of, “Yes, Jane makes the occasional embarrassing mistake and doesn’t get along well with people outside her usual working group, but overall her output is where I need to be and I’ve told her what she needs to do to advance. If she doesn’t want to take me up on it, I don’t see an issue with Jane staying in her current position forever and ever so long as her work stays decent.”

      Meanwhile, the new manager has the perspective of, “Jane’s been here X years and we still can’t trust her to handle tasks above a certain level of complexity without a lot of handholding, she doesn’t get along with people outside of her usual working group, and she keeps claiming that she’s going to leave the organization because she’s not advancing even though we’ve told her what we want from her. Why should I keep an employee like this when I could theoretically find a new employee who can do what Jill does and be trusted with the occasional complex project?”

      I don’t know if a PIP is the way to go if Jane isn’t having issues at the moment (like, messing up a project or having another conflict with a co-worker) but at the very least, another firm talk about “I’ve outlined these expectations, I’m here if you have questions, but we can’t keep having the same convo about why you’re not getting promoted and you saying you’re going to look for a position elsewhere without any real changes.”

    2. learnedthehardway*

      I’m taking the PJs and blazer story as illustrative of the issues, rather than what Jill literally did. Reading into it, I am thinking that while malicious compliance is a possibility, it’s probably more likely that Jill is an extremely literal thinker and not able to extrapolate beyond the specific to the general. (Admittedly, this is exactly what the person with ASD in my life struggles with, so my perspective is biased towards thinking that Jill is probably doing what she thinks is expected of her, and that she is probably bewildered about the issues her manager sees. At any rate, her manager is probably better off to think that way, in terms of helping Jill develop and succeed.)

  30. Anonosaurus*

    I’m thinking that much depends on whether Jill would come to work in PJs and a blazer to yank your chain, or because she has processed your instructions completely literally.

    A lot of organisations seem to struggle to manage people who are competent in the role but don’t have the aptitude required to operate at a more senior level. Part of that is the mistaken belief that everybody has to become a manager. Perhaps if there was a more nuanced way to compensate and recognise Gill in this role she would be less focused on promotion – I appreciate that isn’t the sort of problem you can probably solve yourself.

    However, has anybody told Jill that the boss is thinking about managing her out if she doesn’t either leave or move up? She clearly isn’t going to leave, because she would have done so by now if she was serious. That being the case, it doesn’t really seem fair for your boss to put her job in jeopardy just because she’s formed the (very bad) habit of threatening to resign when dissatisfied. I guess on one view if one day the company says “ok then, when do you want your last day to be’ then that’s what she gets, but I think it’s only fair to let her know that continuing to express her dissatisfaction in this way is actually putting her job on the line. She might decide that she doesn’t want to do that anymore which would solve the problem, no?

    1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      I think this is true. I’ve worked with people who would do that and then be like, “Oh was I not supposed to do that? Oops” as some sort of weird power-play to show they could do whatever they want.

      It was very slippery to discipline, because you’d say, “Jill, unfortunately I am going to send you home to change, because you are wearing pajama pants and a nightie top,” and they’d of course get back, “Well but you said we needed to wear blazers today, I’m wearing a blazer, you didn’t specify what we had to wear under it. There’s nothing in the employee handbook that says we can’t wear pajama pants and a nightie top. I had food poisoning last night and I couldn’t go to the laundromat and these were my last clean clothes and now you’re bullying me over what I’m wearing?”

      And it was still 100% an “I don’t have to listen to you” sort of power play.

    2. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

      I agree with you, yet I’m not sure it’s as simple as believing that everyone has to become a manager. A lot of what’s been described about Jill suggests that she might not have the aptitude to grow even in a non-management role. In some ways, that’s a far more challenging management problem than someone who’s capable of becoming a really great senior individual contributor but who isn’t cut out for management.

  31. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

    The blazer incident as described does not strike me as a misunderstanding at all, but rather a deliberate act of defiance. Exactly what she hoped to communicate is something for the OP to determine but my impression is that she objects to the idea that she will have to change her behaviour if she wants to move up, and is acting out, for lack of a better term.

    1. Karia*

      Removed. Please don’t armchair diagnose here, as explained in the commenting rules. (In case anyone is wondering, I’m leaving the replies because I saw this late in the day when there were already a lot and I think they’re useful.) – Alison

      1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        I’m no expert but I had two female colleagues who were obviously on the spectrum and very open about it. I can’t imagine either one doing something like that.

      2. Observer*

        So, firstly, a number of people on the spectrum have explicitly explained why they think it is NOT autism. In any case, it is totally not relevant. Certainly on this site, the kind of excuse making you are talking about gets shut down pretty quickly. And Alison is quite explicit that certain behaviors (including screaming at people) are NOT ok, and it needs to be stopped by management, without regard to neurological or other status.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      I think it would be a mistake to assume this. I mean, Jill seems to be quite competent and to perform well in her role. She seems to struggle with things that are best thought of as communications and emotional intelligence issues, things that are needed to progress. If she’s sincere in wanting to progress, she’s hardly likely to shoot herself in the foot.

  32. Former Retail Manager*

    Sorry if this is a repeat…no time to read all the comments, but if it turns out that the employee is content to remain in her entry level position (a big unknown right now I realize), I think it’s worth noting to your boss that having a long-term, reliable employee in an entry-level position (that I assume is high turnover), can be a great asset to your department. Is her communication at the tasks she is good at good enough for her to train new people? If so, she could be a great asset if she remains. Even if she can’t train new hires, but is good at what she does, and can carry her own weight, then that’s an asset to the company, and not someone that should be put on a PIP.

    When I was a retail manager, I had a handful of these employees over the years….good at their job, didn’t want to advance or learn new things and didn’t want to quit. They also didn’t like doing anything “extra” that they hadn’t done before (special displays, holiday resets, etc). But they were consistent and reliable. They were a godsend by keeping things running smoothly in the “background” so the rest of us could work on all those extra projects without worry.

    1. Malarkey01*

      This. I think some managers take for granted how much it costs an organization in time and hiring costs to have a revolving door on entry level positions. We had one absolutely fabulous long term entry level person that was managed out. In her place we had 8 people in 12 months cycle through. One person spent almost her entire year training these new hires since as soon as one was trained, out they went, we had almost a perpetual hiring cycle, and you can imagine the work quality and productivity suffered tremendously. At the end of that year, they re-hired that fabulous woman they managed out at a 35% raise and 50% vacation leave bump. It was so perfectly poetic justice.

    2. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

      It sounds like what you’re describing is a breed of consistent, reliable employee who doesn’t want advancement but can be trusted to do well with minimal oversight. I’d guess that they’re also not the types of employee whose interpersonal skills lead to random gaffes? If that’s the case, that’s different from the Jills of the world whose skill profiles tend to be uneven in a way that creates issues even in an entry-level role. We really shouldn’t conflate the two. If Jill had a better understanding of professionalism and more tolerance for ambiguity she might not be on track for promotion but chances are OP wouldn’t need to write to AAM about her.

      1. Former Retail Manager*

        My understanding is that the OP’s employee only runs into problems when she is assigned to do projects that have more leeway for misunderstanding and when she’s assigned to work with people she doesn’t work with regularly, essentially “extra stuff.” OP says she does well at the repetitive, straightforward day-to-day core tasks of her position and I didn’t get the impression that her remaining in her position doing well at her core job duties would be a problem long-term, even with her intolerance for ambiguity, because it sounds like those things don’t come into play routinely unless she is being assigned additional work that she doesn’t normally do.

        As for your assumption that my reliable retail employees didn’t lack interpersonal skills, HA! :) There are some really odd folks that work retail long-term and many have their quirks. If they didn’t have these quirks, quite frankly, they probably wouldn’t be a low-level, career retail employee. These weren’t “trust fund babies” working at a high end boutique because they love luxury brands. None of them were rude or treated customers badly, but odd is definitely a word I would use and many of them were just like the employee in this letter. When things went according to plan, within what they’d been taught, things went smoothly, but when unusual issues cropped up, they would get flustered and struggle to handle the situation. I had to choose whether I wanted to deal with those quirks and limitations or hire and train a new person (when most of the other employees were also new….it’s a revolving door), who may or may not stay, and potentially start the process over again, and over again, and over again…..I chose to keep them.

  33. Ann O'Nemity*

    I can understand the perspective that it’s not great to have an unfulfilled employee who periodically threatens to quit. But going to a PIP seems like a huge leap!

    I’d be curious about the boss’s reasoning for a PIP, and how it meshes with the company’s culture and values. Some bosses/companies are happy with “average” employees who do their basic job well but aren’t doing enough to advance. And I know some that want every employee to be excellent and on the path for promotion; average isn’t good enough.

  34. Jessica Fletcher*

    You could also point out to your boss that it would be more expensive to the company to fire Jill and hire someone who will get promoted and leave the entry level position after a couple of years. Jill could stay there, doing the same basic work well, for 6 years, for example, or you could spend those 6 years recruiting and training 2-3 better skilled employees who will leave.

  35. Karia*

    Two quick points.

    One: is Jill neurotypical? Because what OP is reading as irritating obtuseness reads to me as very similar to non-neurotypical instruction parsing.

    Two: she absolutely does not deserve to be on a PIP and also maybe you should create a non managerial recognition track? I agree that it sounds like she can’t manage people. But she deserves to be recognised for doing the core pieces of her role well.

      1. Karia*

        Because a lot of people have been labelling her malicious. I find it a bit odd that so many commenters are assuming malice when there are dozens of other explanations. A lot of people are clueless. Their lack of social skills are not an attack on other people.

  36. Fairness Question*

    Somewhat tangential to the letter, but is Jill trying to get more senior within her role, or to be promoted out of her role?

    If she’s an entry-level Teapot Maker, and does that job well and efficiently, it seems that she should be promoted to Senior Teapot Maker. “There is no opportunity for advancement with the basic task that is the bulk of out work” seems, in itself, unfair.

    If she wants to be Director of Teapot Making, then it makes sense that she would need to do side projects and interact well with other groups. But that’s not what seems to be going on here.

    1. Observer*

      What makes her a “senior” teapot maker? Is she troubleshooting teapot problems? Is she making teapots SO much better than people who have been in the job 6 -12 months? Longevity in a job does not make you “senior”.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Agree. Where I work I would expect a teapot maker to look at how the last teapot was made and repeat the steps to make a new one. Whereas a senior teapot maker would analyze the teapot and look for things to change. It seems like they are saying the former is something she excels at but the latter is not.

  37. Karia*

    One thing this letter both flags up and clarifies for me; I’m very good at specific tasks. This has led to me getting promoted when I haven’t warranted it or wanted it. I then get disappointed supervisors, who think I’m ‘not trying’ at the things I’m bad at it. This pattern has followed since school and I don’t know how to counteract it.

    In agencies I do well, get promoted beyond my capabilities and flame out; in house I get on with colleagues, but stagnate or even get demoted because I don’t know how to parse office politics. I’m tired of my career being a game of snakes and ladders where I have to choose between my mental health and my pay packet.

  38. Am I Jill? Yikes!*

    I’m *pretty* sure I’m not the Jill being written about (I’m not sure how literally to take the “Blazer with PJs” story, but I’ve never done anything like that). But I do have a job with fairly receptive tasks that I’m very good at, I have expressed some frustration with upward mobility and not getting “good” projects, and I do tend to be pretty literal and need someone to be *explicit* when they have a specific expectation of me. Okay, you don’t need to tell me not to come to work in my pajamas EVER, much less when the CEO is dropping by. But I’ve never had a conversation with my manager about how I’d need to do X, Y and Z in order to be considered for advancement, and I wish that my manager *would* tell me if that were the case.

    I feel like a lot of managers punt when it comes time for the “I need to see X, Y and Z” conversation. Or they think they’re being specific when they’re not, like the Office Space “I want you to WANT to wear more flair” scene, where they refuse to actually define what success looks like. 17 pieces of flair? 20? 40? How close am I? Give me some targets. Give me some KPIs. If, instead, this is the kind of job where advancement is a purely subjective decision based on personal rapport, then that would also be a good thing to know, if for no other reason than to figure out one’s professional satisfaction given that info.

    What’s not fair is leading an employee to believe there are KPIs they can hit, when in reality, their personality is the barrier and it’s just never going to happen as long as it’s the same work path with the same decision-makers along the way. OP says they’ve been blunt about what Jill needs to be promoted, but really, have they? If Jill woke up tomorrow and hit all her KPIs for promotion, would she be promoted? Really? Or would she still be the challenging person who wore PJs and a blazer for the CEO? It might be time for a *really* blunt conversation. Not to punt with a “up or out” PIP that comes from a place like, what, poverty builds character? Come on now.

    1. Am I Jill? Yikes!*

      Honestly, the “pieces of flair” scene is a great reference for this kind of disconnect. The manager is really saying, “I want you to be the kind of person who takes joy in going above and beyond,” and Joanna wants to quantify it into a concrete metric. They think they’re solving the same problem, and they’re not. A manager should examine whether they’re dealing with a “pieces of flair” problem.

    2. I've got a 'What's Up With Jane' theory*

      @ Am I Jill? Yikes!
      You put this SO much more succinctly than I was able to! *cringes at self* I just train-of-thoughted for like a mile of text… I knew it was unlikely to be read but it felt nice to put it all out there/vent.

      Yes! Exactly, re: what does success in this role look like? Outside of maintaining the day-to-day, I’ve never been given a goal to accomplish. Only told, “You’re doing so well, it’s like you’ve always been here!”
      I have had moments at my current company where I felt like it was all a personality game. I will *never* win those. I *can* win things with actual performance measures. But my company resists a lot of organization – partly due to a change from old-school management to a newer-school type who doesn’t have the authority to take full-reign yet.

      Of course, I’m glad to still be employed right now. But I feel like I can be grateful for the work chair under my butt at the same time as wondering what my next steps should be? I had set future goals for myself that can’t currently be met – and I’m frustrated and floundering a bit with unclear direction.

  39. nonegiven*

    >Any time she is given instructions, it almost seems like she is purposefully interpreting it wrong.

    I have to ask are all her misinterpretations caused by taking the instruction literally? Like did someone put the blazer instruction like, “Just put a blazer on over what you are wearing,” while opening a hand towards her outfit? She woke up wearing her pjs and threw on a blazer.

    Try giving her instructions with that in mind. See if it works out better.

  40. Going Anon For Testimony*

    Ha. I’ve got a Jill in my team. And she was recently promoted.
    Long story short, I believe she has horrible interpersonal skills and I’m really not thrilled to have to share team management with her.
    Enough so that I’m currently measuring my other options, while that wasn’t on the table a week ago. And she doesn’t even manage me.
    I hope you won’t have to let an undeserved promotion happen. It might not be good for morale.
    Jill has agency. Let her leave if that’s her choice. Firing her would just frighten people for no benefit

  41. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

    There’s a really aggravating red herring here, which is that a lot of the competencies that Jill would need to become a manager are ones that would also be required for progression along a non-management track. A lot of this is why it’s fairly difficult to say that this problem could be solved by providing more non-managerial advancement opportunities. Even outside of management positions, it’s not really enough to act as if it’s okay to hold the bar fairly low on critical thinking, professionalism, and communication skills, especially for someone in an entry-level position who’s “experienced”.

    While Jill doesn’t deserve to be on a PIP, I think it’s fair to be a bit more nuanced in evaluating Jill: her hard skills are adequate, but her soft skills are somewhat deficient even for the position she’s currently in. It already sounds as though there are instances (i.e. the blazer incident, OP’s vague references to issues with Jill working with people from outside her team) where Jill’s soft skills and professionalism have an impact on the job she’s doing today. She’s good, largely with respect to the tasks for which she’s responsible, but far from great. Conversely, many of Jill’s peers probably demonstrate better judgement, even if they’re not aspiring to or ready for a management position.

    In short OP, holding the line on soft skills expectations even for non-managers solves a lot of problems.

    1. Minerva*

      Definitely. I’m in a senior individual contributor role. I literally manage nobody. I’m expected to mentor more junior folks, evaluate potential new hires, define work for myself and others, review work (including that of others at my level), and manage improving our processes. It’s not that I’m really good at implementing other people’s ideas, as an individual contributor I have to take more responsibility for defining the ideas and ensuring that our collective work isn’t missing pieces. I’m expected to listen in meetings and say “wait a minute, there’s an issue with that and we need to (test, redesign, verify, ask…)”

      Actually, even an entry level me would be expected to be starting on these skills. The question is whether the op needs someone with the only do routine role, or if not making progress towards more autonomy is really a sign the whole job is a bad fit. In my field, needing steps laid out after a few months as an intern would be a bad sign, and the individual might be encouraged to move to a different field.

  42. Disability case worker*

    I work with clients who have disabilities and my first thought was that Jill may not be “neurotypical”. She excels at a task which is repetitive, but misinterprets instructions by taking them too literally – the wearing a blazer over PJs example really sounds like something I could see some of my clients doing. You may need to ensure that any instructions for situations out of the ordinary are conveyed super clearly with no room for ambiguity.

  43. Jennifer Juniper*

    Autistic woman here.

    Jill’s behavior (good at repetitive work, but can’t comprehend instructions or deal well with nonroutine things at work) sounds like that of someone who is autistic.

    Maybe sending her to Employee Assistance (if they have that program at OP’s office) could help here.

    Also, Jill may need everything spelled out to her in basic, explicit, black-and-white information. She may, for instance, genuinely not know what formal wear is.

    I’m also getting a sense that the OP’s boss is mistaking Jill’s professional aspirations as ingratitude or not being a good team player. Many jobs expect their employees to have no professional aspirations whatsoever unless the employee is a rockstar in their current role, particularly if said employee is female and/or in a junior role.

  44. Bob's Manager*

    It sounds like Jill took her current position with full knowledge of what it entails, and is aware that she’s succeeding there, but would like to move up the ladder. If I’m understanding correctly, there’s no real chance for promotion within her current team, and she’s not demonstrating the appropriate skills (technical and soft) to move up into another role. Which leaves her very frustrated. If she’s anything like the employee I had, she sees her peers moving up and out of the department and wonders “why not me?”

    I’m not sure how much coaching OP has done (she says that she’s offered) but I know that in my case, no amount of coaching seemed to help “Bob” understand that the things he was struggling with were actually the bedrock of the job he wanted and not something he could simply learn on the job. His solid performance on our team was evidence that he could follow task-based activities in a timely manner and with few errors, but the role he wanted involved none of that. The role he wanted involved clear communication, strong time management and leadership skills, and an ability to roll with last minute changes and additions to the scope of a project. He failed miserably at all of those things, and during one of our many, many coaching sessions he ranted at me that if we’d just promote him he’d learn on the job and everything would be fine. I had to tell him that those skills WERE the job, and that if he couldn’t demonstrate some competence there, he probably wouldn’t advance beyond entry level at our company. At a certain level, figuring things out without a lot of handholding is what the job is all out

    For OP, if they make it down this far – my bleak “this isn’t going to work” moment came after I’d spent a couple of nights watching long tutorials for a piece of software that Bob wanted to learn to improve his chances of getting the role he wanted. Bob was having a hard time understanding this software, so I’d bought books for him, I’d sent him to an external training class, I’d given him small projects to help him practice using the software, I forwarded endless YouTube videos on it, and each week I spent an hour or so hearing him complain about how hard the tools were to use. Finally, I condensed the long tutorials into some engaging snippets and asked him to try some of the tips and tricks given there. Bob shrugged and told me that he just wasn’t “getting” this program so he wanted to move on to another one. He asked to start training on another tool.

    I was feeling utterly defeated, and in one of my least professional moments ever I said something like, “I’m not your life coach. I’m not here to get you your dream job. I’m the manager for the job you already have. I’ve given you tons of tools to help you grow and succeed. You are going to have to STEP THE FRICK UP to advance. Good luck, and we’ll talk about your progress at your next review.” He left a month or so later.

    At a certain point, making solid judgement calls, speaking up when something seems out of whack, politely demanding answers and refusing to leave when other departments just shrug at you…those things are the job. The real part. And I wish I knew how to train people on critical thinking and problem solving. I wish I knew how to inject employees with the self-esteem and drive they need to move up. But I can’t. I can only meet them where they are. The rest is up to them.

    1. Bette Davis Eyes*

      I hope the LW does read your comment because what you’re describing about your employee sounds like what her future is going to be with Jane.

      If Jane wants to advance but can’t or won’t put in the work to meet the new goal posts, it’s not enough to be really good at Data Entry Level 1 or whatever her role is.

  45. CommanderBanana*

    I think this is great advice, with the caveat that you need to be sure that Jane’s behavior isn’t affecting your team. I work with someone like this, and 80% of the time it’s fine, but every once in a while we’re overloaded and really do need her to take something off of someone else’s plate, and she can’t/won’t, which sucks.

  46. HJG*

    Apologies if I’m rehashing any previous comments (I didn’t read them all), but I’m curious- is the new manager new to your company, or new to your team from a different part of the company? I work for a company that stack ranks employees and pushes managers to meet targets for employees on PIPs or managed out each year (yeah, it’s sucks). The team I’m on has a number of employees who do pretty rote repetitive work, which is very unusual on the corporate side of the business, so it can always be a pain to have the “no really, we benefit from people who know how to do this well even if they don’t have a future here beyond this specific job” every time stack ranking exercises come up. Maybe your old boss was protecting you from this culture, or maybe (if your boss is new to your company) they’re stuck in this mindset from their previous job.

  47. Am I Jill? Yikes!*

    I’m kinda concerned that OP’s new boss thinks that anyone who expresses a desire to further their career should either be promoted or fired. That seems pretty drastic.

    In the interim, what about offering Jill opportunities to shadow a person who currently has a role in the area she’s interested in? Or, to use an example from my own work, I led a project but had a senior person between me and final approval, just to review my work and give me any recommendations. If the issue is that Jill doesn’t understand the norms of other groups who would be part of these higher level projects, then gradual introduction might be to her benefit. (First you start attending the meetings, then you get some minor responsibility, then you contribute something to one of the meetings, then you get assigned a little part, then a slightly bigger part, and a bigger part.)

    If this is actually a matter of “We can’t take Jill anywhere because she makes the team look bad in front of the VIPs”, well…that’s a performance problem on its own, and OP would have a case for requiring a PIP just for that.

    But assuming Jill isn’t causing problems on a regular basis, such that as long as she does the core job, everything goes fine and all you have to do is hear “I’d like more robust projects or I might look elsewhere” a couple times a year at review time, then it would be not only wrong-headed to fire her, but send a pretty crappy message to everyone else. Like, sure, you’re great at your job, but if you say you want to advance and you don’t get a promotion, you’ll get fired because the boss will assume you’re not happy and should go somewhere else. Considering there logically can’t be as many promotions as people who are interested in being promoted, then everyone would logically conclude they’d be on the chopping block. Watch your retention tank and turnover skyrocket in real time. Bad move.

  48. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

    I suspect that Jill wants the rewards of a promotion (higher pay. etc.) without being willing to put in the work to get there. But I don’t see why she should necessarily be fired, if she’s good at what she’s doing now. And since she’s not failing at what she’s doing now, I don’t think a PIP is appropriate either. Maybe you need more clarity from your boss.

  49. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

    Ok, I need to strongly object to putting Jill on a PIP when she is doing a good job of her current job duties. A PIP is used to make sure you get yourself up to the performance level expected of your current job. Have you asked your manager what this PIP should look like? What will it include if she is adequately performing all the functions of the job she currently had? Put the question back on him and maybe he will realize that a PIP is not the right approach here.

    Also, I do not understand where your manager is coming from. She has expressed a desire for promotion, but is not working towards it. But if she is performing her current job well, then there is no reason to fire her, and if she is not showing the skill level necessary for advancement, there is no reason to promote her. She is free to leave if she wants, but there is no real business related reason to fire or promote her. And even if he was simply worried about retaining her, her inaction on seeking another opportunity so far leads me to believe that it’s an idle threat. Plus an unfair PIP will be the thing that will likely send her running, because it really would be unfair in this situation. I think you have been handling the situation correctly, OP, and if you do anything, maybe just listed to the advice of other commenters on trying to sell the coaching idea to Jill in a different way. But otherwise, please do everything you can make your boss see reason on this PIP plan of his.

    1. Kevin Sours*

      The more I think about this, the more it comes down to: She hasn’t expressed the desire for a promotion, she’s threatened to leave if she doesn’t get one. That’s not the same scenario.

  50. Kevin Sours*

    I feel like there are three mostly separate issues here
    a) Jill’s inability to do complex projects and unwillingness or inability to learn how. This doesn’t sound like a serious issue. There is enough work that she’s good at and enough people to do the work she can’t. It doesn’t sound like here holding on to an entry level position is impacting recruitment or training.

    b) However “I cannot trust her in meetings or project work outside our group” sounds problematic. Managing around people’s weaknesses is part of management. And if it works, no harm no foul. But it’s possible that the problems here aren’t as hidden as the OP thinks.

    c) “she will tell me that if she does not get promoted or moved onto other projects soon, she will leave the company”. This is also potentially a problem. It’s not that she “wants to be promoted”. It isn’t really so much that she’s threatened to leave — it sounds like that was done in a professional manner. But the combination of threatening to leave without doing the work to advance — and unwillingness or inability are pretty immaterial here — isn’t a good look. Especially if she’s complaining to other people or hinting that she’s not being treated fairly. It’s probably fair to ask her to either start moving up or accept the status quo.

    At the end of the day it’s not inappropriate to respond to “I’m leaving” with “bye bye”

  51. matcha123*

    I don’t think I can give much advice, but this sounds like someone I know. Unlike the Jill in this letter, the one I know was quickly promoted, but bulldozes through people and pretends to not understand instructions at times because she thinks she’ll make the person giving them look stupid. I can say very confidently that my Jill would not take an offer for improvement because she believes that her approach is close to perfect as it is, and other people are dumb.

    Maybe the next time she complains you can say, “I’ve offered to help you in specific areas and you haven’t taken me up on it. Until you come to me with a concrete plan on how to improve, I’m not available to hear the same complaints from you.”

  52. EchoGirl*

    I’m not going to try to diagnose any specific condition, but the way OP describes Jill sounds a lot like my brother-in-law. He does his best but he tends to follow instructions to the letter and no more; a classic example that’s used to illustrate this is the time my husband asked him to “put a pot of water on the stove”, and BIL did exactly that — put a pot of water on the stove, but didn’t do the obvious-to-most-people next step of turning the stove on. He wasn’t trying to be difficult, he just didn’t recognize that the request carried an implication that he was meant to turn the burner on.

    All this is to say, to an outsider, this behavior can seem like “malicious compliance”, but some people really just don’t make the minor leaps of logic that most people do, so they do exactly what they’re told and nothing more because they only recognize the part that was spoken out loud and not the implicit part that most people would automatically infer (in this case, getting from “wear a blazer” to an overall standard of dress). If this is Jill’s only problem, she may just need things spelled out for her in a way most people don’t. This may make her not good for the promotion and I get that, I just don’t think OP should assume (as they seem to be in this letter) that she’s doing it on purpose or TRYING to be difficult.

  53. Caitlin Donnelly-Pierre*

    Do you think perhaps she could be Autistic? I am, and the points about her taking the blazer and PJ situation literally and the need for routine – “do anything out of our typical day to day” definitely sound like she has something going on herself that she may not understand (particularly if she is not diagnosed). I’m not sure the laws/rules around this subject, but it might be worth bringing it up with her in a way that is non confrontational.

Comments are closed.