HR won’t let me do anything about my horrible employee, coworker plays music all day, and more

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

1. HR won’t let me do anything about my horrible employee

I have an hourly worker who routinely comes in 5 – 7 minutes late and leaves 5 – 7 minutes early. I’ve been told by our HR department I can’t “legally” require her to be here on time (start of shift) and stay until end of shift, because we have the round up/down policy — anyone who comes in up to 7.5 minutes late rounds back to the start of that hour, and is considered “on time” and leaving 7.5 minutes early gets rounded up to the next hour — so according to HR, I can’t legally penalize her or insist she be here by the start of shift or stay until the end of her shift. This is a problem for me because she is supposed to be relieving someone when she comes in — mostly student workers (we are at a university) who have to leave to get to class, and I can’t make them late to class by insisting they stay until she shows up. She also has to open on Saturdays, and she keeps the rest of the staff waiting to get into our area while she strolls in 5 – 7 minutes late every week. HR says it’s a violation of the FLSA to require her to be here on time and stay until end of shift.

She is aware of this policy, and I believe is intentionally using it to inconvenience the rest of the unit (she is openly rude and dismissive to the student workers — this “late” issue is only the tip of the iceberg) and to be covertly insubordinate. She is later than the “allowed” seven minutes an average of about once a week, but she’s perceived by the rest of the staff as being late every day, and they are resentful.

She is a recent transfer to my unit, because her previous job was eliminated. She is openly unhappy about the transfer (she had to apply so it’s not like she was forced). She refuses direct assignments or delegates them to others if it’s something she feels is “beneath” her. Having her behave this way is causing a major drop in morale. I’ve got student workers asking to change shifts so they can avoid working with her because of her attitude, and she has twice made her views regarding transgender people quite clear (she refuses to use their chosen pronouns or names if not “officially changed” in the school records — she doesn’t believe transgender people exist), which has caused at least two student workers to ask to be reassigned so they can avoid her. Morale is plummeting in our unit and while my immediate supervisor sympathizes, HR is tying my hands since I’m not allowed to speak to her about the “sort of” late/early issue, as HR says that’s not really late or leaving early. I don’t know what to do.

Good lord.

First, your HR people are wrong about the law. It’s true that if you have a practice of rounding people’s hours up or down, you must do it in a way that doesn’t always advantage the employer (i.e., you can’t always round down). But that’s about what time people get paid for. The law in no way says you can’t require people to be on time or stay until the end of their shifts, and you absolutely can discipline people (including firing them) for routinely shortening their shifts. (That said while legal, it would be overkill to do that over a 5-7 minutes, unless the person is in a job where coverage matters and you’ve warned them repeatedly — both of which are true in this case.)

But you don’t even need to fight with HR about this because there’s so much else here that you should fire this person over: first and foremost, deadnaming colleagues and refusing to use their correct pronouns, but also being rude and insubordinate, refusing assignments, assigning her work to others. If HR is giving you a hard time on the lateness, pursue the other stuff. Each of these things should be fireable on their own, and you’ve got an obligation to your other employees to deal with those aggressively.

2. We have to bring “sources of consternation” to our meetings

I work for a state agency, and we have been working from home since mid-March. Just before the pandemic, we were supposed to begin a new organizational policy that involved an enormous amount of paperwork. I asked if we couldn’t streamline the process by having all the paperwork reduced to a shared spreadsheet, but I got shot down because they wanted it done the same way throughout the agency. I pointed out that everybody has different styles, and some people (like me) get very twitchy and unfocused when surrounded by mountains of paperwork, but I was brushed off because the agency wanted to use the new policy exactly as written. Then we all began working from home and the new policy was put on hold for months until they finally decided to do it virtually, and, just as I originally suggested, they ended up doing it with a shared spreadsheet. But they plan to return to the mountains of paperwork as soon as we’re back in the office.

Today my team of about a dozen people received an email saying that at our team meetings from now on, we are each required to describe something at work recently that has been a source of consternation for us. I am horrified and predict that it will cause a lot of tension and not be a productive use of our time at all. Even if nobody uses the time to lodge inappropriate complaints that would be better addressed in a one on one with our team lead, I still don’t like that we are being asked to focus on negative things as a group.

I should add that I’m sure this new task was not my team lead’s idea, as he dislikes meetings almost as much as I do, keeps them brief, and ends them if nobody has anything to bring up. I plan on addressing my concern with my team lead at my next one-on-one, but I fully expect that I will not get anywhere because pushing back against red tape has failed before. I can and will speak up, but I do not have the standing to effect change to an agency policy. I also cannot stand the idea of regular meetings where we all have to talk about something unpleasant. I’m hoping the agency realizes it’s a terrible idea and discontinues it after the inevitable drama results, but if that doesn’t happen and we’re stuck with these terrible meetings, do I have any option other than just leaving?

So … I think you might be overreacting. Or at least reacting prematurely.

It sounds like your team is being asked to bring problems and challenges for discussion at your meetings — which is a very normal and common thing to do. If I’m wrong and they literally just want people to name problems with no focus on solving them, that would be odd — but it would be so odd that it’s much more likely it’s about problem-solving, not complaining (and not about interpersonal drama either, unless your team is highly dysfunctional). Either way, why not wait and see how it goes before drawing any conclusions? It’s possible it’ll be different than what you’re picturing, and if it does turn out to be unconstructive, you can raise that then. If you raise it now, it’s likely you’re going to be asked to wait and see how it goes anyway — and it’ll be much easier to raise concerns after you’ve given it a chance and seen what it’s really like.

It’s possible you’re assuming or even creating drama where it won’t exist. Or not — but wait and see how it goes.

To answer your actual question, though, if it turns out to be as bad as you fear, you can talk with your manager and talk with your coworkers and encourage them to push back on it too, but if management above you is committed to keeping these meetings, then yeah, you’d need to decide if you can live with that or not. Unless they’re truly dreadful, it doesn’t sound like something that would warrant leaving, but everyone draws their lines in different places.

3. Coworker listens to music on speakers all day

I have a coworker who listens to music on speakers at his desk in our open office, all day. I’ve mentioned to our mutual manager a couple of times over the past year how distracting it is, and she just told me she would ask him to turn it down. He does turn it down for a while after she speaks to him, but I still can hear it, and it always creeps back up over time. I have discussed this with other coworkers who sit in our office and they are also distracted by his music. We all wear headphones or earbuds in part to drown out his music, but what we all really want is for him to wear headphones too. A complicating factor is that the coworker who plays the music is a favorite of our manager (he clearly gets special treatment in other ways) and becomes a drama lama to all the staff if he feels he’s been slighted. How do you recommend I talk to my manager again about this?

Have you talked to the music-playing coworker directly? You’ve talked to your manager and you’ve talked to other coworkers, but is anyone talking to himIdeally every time you can hear his music, you’d say to him, “I can hear your music and it’s making it tough to focus — could you use headphones?” If you’re not doing that because he’s difficult when he feels slighted — well, this isn’t a slight, and if he chooses to take it that way, that’s on him. You could also try asking your manager for a rule that music can’t be played out loud, period, and that everyone needs to use headphones. It’s possible that would be more effective than her conversations asking him to just turn it down (and that’s a very reasonable and common rule for offices to have).

But most likely, you’ll need to take it to the coworker directly. If he hears from enough of you, there’s a decent chance he’ll eventually comply, even if begrudgingly. (And if none of this works … well, then at that point you know he’s an ass and your manager sucks too, but it’s worth taking these steps first because they might work.)

4. Should I send a note telling an employer I’ll send in a resume soon?

I have worked in a deadline-oriented position in print media for numerous years. Because of declining sales in this area, all of the employees at my company were moved to contractor positions with no benefits two years ago. I love my job, but I’m at a stage where I need to seriously save for retirement for the next 10 years, and the new contracted position offers less money and much less stability.

Enter: a posting for a similar job with a slight reduction in title, but a huge increase in stability (and I’m presuming benefits). But because I haven’t needed to have a resume for over 10 years, I’m having to rewrite my resume from scratch, which is time-consuming! And, I’m on deadline for current job so I literally am sleeping/eating/working only for another week.

Would it be appropriate to send a letter of interest (which I feel very confident writing after following your cover letter advice for years), saying that a resume is forthcoming? I feel like they might understand the time constraints involved, and might even be glad to hear about my deadline dedication? That being said, I don’t want to potentially jeopardize this opportunity by turning them off or by letting the job get filled while I’m overbooked. What do you think?

Nah, not unless they’ve asked for applications by a date that you’re otherwise going to miss. On the employer side, it’s not really useful to get a note that a stranger’s application is coming. Without a resume I have no way of knowing if this stranger will be a strong candidate or not — and if they are, I’m going to see that when they apply anyway. It doesn’t help me to hear that their application is forthcoming; just send the application when it’s ready and I’ll look at it then.

You’re concerned about the job being filled before you apply, but an employer isn’t going to hold off on hiring because someone they don’t know said they plan to apply in a week. You might not even apply, and now I’ve held the job unnecessarily! Or you might apply and not be competitive with my current top candidates. (Which, statistically speaking, is the case for most candidates.)

Send everything at once.

5. Gifts for less than $7/person

I work as a manager in the IT department of an academic medical center. In March, our department became remote for COVID. In May, that decision became permanent and we will be remote going forward, so my employees now work from home.

Typically for Christmas, I get my direct reports a small gift in addition to our Secret Santa gift exchange. There are 14 of them this year, and this gift comes out of my pocket. I enjoy getting this gift for my team, but I do try to keep it to less than $7/person. I haven’t found anything that I like for that price point, and I’m having to factor in delivery or shipping this year. Any ideas?

$7/person including shipping … I’m going to throw this one out to commenters to weigh in on. Personally, I’d skip the gifts at that point and just do notes to each person about what you’ve appreciated about working with them this year — which I think people will appreciate more anyway.

{ 535 comments… read them below }

  1. My Dear Wormwood*

    Does anyone else find the wording of “sources of consternation” very odd? There have been things that annoyed me at work over the years that I probably should have brought up with my supervisor, but I don’t think anything has caused me consternation except that time the crocodiles got out. (Working in the zoology building has its moments, I’ll admit.)

    1. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

      Ha! That sounds quite consternationy!

      My source of consternation in a former job would be the coworker who would constantly reply “bow chicka bowwow” to anything said to her, and also released one of the monkeys in the sick bay, because she wanted to sign his cast.

      But to the point, I think “source of consternation” may just be a fancy way of saying “please bring up issues you are having.”

        1. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

          Ah, well, that was also the job where a different coworker tried to burn down yet another coworker’s house, so…. lots of issues all around. Come to think of it, that place was basically all consternation, all the time.

            1. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

              Yeah, the more I think about that place, the more I realize just how insane it was. Hellmouth Lite, perhaps. It definitely deserves a full post at a suitable time.

          1. 'Tis Me*

            I’m consternated that a coworker trying to burn down another coworker’s house doesn’t merit consternation status in your books! ;-)

            (Yikes – that takes interpersonal drama to a whole new issue… What happened in the fall-out? Was the arsonist fired/prosecuted? Did the arsonist and intended victim at least not need to work together any more?)

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        I immediately thought of the formal “airing of grievances” during Festivus on Seinfeld.

        We’d have to block off a solid month, maybe two, for that.

    2. Fabulous*

      Yeah, it’s strange wording. My workplace does something similar but calls it “pain points” which I’ve heard used elsewhere too.

    3. Mockingjay*

      It’s just a buzz phrase.

      OP2, I have a similar team weekly meeting (without the terrible choice of words). We bring up issues large and small. It’s become a very useful forum. Everyone saves things for that day (except true emergencies), then the team uses group think to solve things quickly. We’ve gotten so efficient we’re down to a half hour and are considering meeting every other week.

      Ignore the terrible wording and use the time efficiently.

      1. pancakes*

        I don’t think it is buzzy. If anything it’s a bit old-fashioned, and it seems people are unfamiliar with it for that reason.

    4. LQ*

      It sounds to me like someone read a leadership book and decided this was how they were going to manage this agency. (I could be a little biased because that’s something that comes up frequently.) My quick google didn’t find one to directly tie it to but it seems very likely to me.

    5. MCMonkeyBean*

      I guess it’s just their attempt at making it sound business formal?

      The odd thing to me is that they expect *every* person to have a complaint *every* week. I think having a part of the meeting designated for “this is the time to bring up any issues” makes sense but, I would hope that sometimes people just don’t have any issues. If someone is doing just fine that week then forcing them to come up with something to complain about does seem odd to me so I agree with OP a bit that this might get frustrating. But I definitely don’t think it’s something to consider leaving over. I’m also really unclear how the spreadsheet vs paperwork story fits in so I’m thinking OP may just be feeling generally frustrated by this job and is currently aiming all that frustration at this new thing.

      OP, I would try to think about whether this is really the thing that has you frustrated. And if it’s not, then maybe whatever other things are making you get fed up with this place are things you can bring up at these meetings!

      1. Casey*

        I would be so tempted to say “my source of consternation is being required to bring a source of consternation to every team meeting.”

      2. Arvolin*

        My jobs have usually been ones where either I usually didn’t have significant complaints often or ones where I knew better than to complain, because it was more likely to harm than help.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        Yeah, it reminds me of when they encouraged us to receive Penance every week in my childhood church. I always wanted to say something like, “I’m a kid with strict parents; you’re not gonna get anything big from me in here. What do you want me to do, make something up?!”

    6. Momma Bear*

      I think it’s a little odd, but many places have scrums or other meetings where blockers or pain points (or insert your jargon here) are mentioned. If I were OP, that’s the way I would interpret it – what is blocking me from doing my job effectively? What is a “pain point” for myself or team?

    7. Farrah Sahara*

      Wild animals on the loose and burning down a coworker’s house? I need to hear more, because my workplaces have definitely not been that consternation-y!

      1. My Dear Wormwood*

        Things were always getting out in that building – it was one of the original buildings on campus and not really fit for purpose. Anyway, the crocs were about a foot long lived on the roof, and someone forgot to shut the gate of their enclosure one weekend and they went walkies. The front door of this building was always open so they went walkies all the way down to the university lake, where they were discovered after a short search on Monday morning. One of those gates that automatically swings closed behind you was swiftly installed.

        1. Lavender Menace*

          This story is very amusing to me. They always put the animal labs in the worst buildings on campus.

    8. pancakes*

      No, not at all. The context strongly suggests these are meant to be meetings where people discuss challenges they’re having with their work. I don’t know how to see what you’re seeing as odd in that.

    9. Me*

      Not from a government agency which this appears to be. Bureaucracy loves fussy words that would never be used in another context.

    10. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Right.

      Like did somebody read about Agile stand-up meetings, and turn “blockers” into “consternation”?

    11. Massmatt*

      You are not alone, I find the wording very odd also. It makes me think of people running with scissors or using wet electrical outlets. Given how frequently meetings without an agenda devolve into complaints anyway, this really seems to be fishing for unproductivity. And because little to anything will be done to address the issues (which we know, because there is no such focus on the agenda) morale is likely going to suffer because these complaints are going to be made and then tossed in the circular file. Upper management seems to think having people air their concerns is the beginning and end of a productive process. It isn’t.

      I would be tempted to “share” “this very idea” as my “source of consternation”.

    12. Lavender Menace*

      There are things that have caused me consternation at my job, but they’ve almost exclusively been how my coworkers have reacted to some of our problems rather than the problems themselves. So.

  2. Crivens!*

    Nobody who refuses to use correct pronouns and who is openly transphobic should be working with students, ever, period. You’ve gotta escalate this part of it to HR, stat. It is likely that this person is doing real psychological harm to students, or anyone around her who is trans or simply isn’t a transphobic bigot.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, this is definitely where I’d start. This is just so inappropriate that it has to be dealt with.

      Perhaps HR has got the idea that the LW is focused on the lateness and early leaving, which wouldn’t really bother me occasionally but this person seems to be doing it on principle just to annoy people and because she can get away with it.

      1. anne of mean gables*

        The 10-14 minutes a day they are losing of this person’s time honestly seems like a blessing for the office, rather than a major issue to correct. It’s a “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic” or “criticizing Christmas decorations in the Trump White House” level issue – the transphobia and refusing to do her work seem like plenty to go on if you’re looking for leverage to fire her.

      2. Uranus Wars*

        Yes, until I read the part about making them stand around in the morning to wait on her to open I wasn’t seeing the huge deal in 5-7 minutes…and then the attitude along with it! I know in academia timeliness is important – especially when opening. I mean, you don’t have to be early but especially if you are in a service area or student-facing unit you need to be timely.

        OP: Can security arrange it so no one person HAS to open the door on time? Can they shift rounds, maybe? Not knowing the size of your campus, this might not be possible but it also accounts for someone getting stuck in traffic or waking up sick.

        BUT, for this employee specifically. Let the time go and focus on allllllllllllllll the other issues. I agree with Crivens! this person should NOT be working with students.

        1. Venus*

          I would be tempted to find someone else to open in the morning, and only schedule her on shifts where her lateness or early departure doesn’t affect other students. And if she happens to not get any shifts…
          I know that this would be the lazy way of dealing with her, and would only work if she isn’t guaranteed a set number of hours per week, but maybe she could be given all the crappy shifts where her impact is less noticeable?

          1. OP Number One*

            Our unit is inside another unit, and based on the nature of our work, we can’t have someone else open. We have to have a full-time staff member that’s working in our unit open – and they are the only one on Saturdays. I can’t find someone else to open on Saturdays – this was the shift they wanted at time of job offer, and I can’t change it.

            And I would let the time issue go and focus on the rest except HR seems to think the lateness is the only problem I’m allowed to focus on – everything else they consider too “nebulous” and too easily made into a “they said/I said” situation.

            1. Massmatt*

              Ugh, your HR is terrible. Does this employee have a relationship with someone there that would explain her protected status, or are they just terrible across the board.

            2. Observer*

              They can’t do that if you put it in writing. EVERYTHING you say to her gets put into writing. Use language that would be clear to a 6th grader.

              Any time she makes a student late, that’s something you can document. Every time she says something that is discriminatory email her, and make sure you also log who else saw it. And when you report to HR / issue a written warning, put it in explicit terms: eg “Refusing to use individual’s preferred names / gender is harassment based on sex. As per SCOTUS ruling in Bostock, this is illegal discrimination.”

              1. Observer*

                Oh, and start cc’ing this up and down the chain – the very top of HR, your manager, their manager, the head of your unit, the head of the unit your unit is in, your contact in Title IX admin, the head of Title IX admin, the Dean of you school, etc.

            3. Lavender Menace*

              Your HR is trying to get out of disciplining this student for some reason. Their reasons are nonsensical and bizarre.

    2. Beth*

      Yeah, I’m not sure why OP is so focused on the timeliness issue when there are so many other glaring fireable offenses! The number one issue should be that it’s possible that this employee is putting the employer at risk for accusations of sex discrimination. Even if OP can’t make a legal case for that for whatever reason, they could certainly argue that her bigotry is causing major issues in the workplace; it’s forcing OP to adjust schedules to minimize her harassment of her coworkers, which sure sounds like a performance issue to me. Constant disrespect and insubordination is also a fireable offense, especially after a clear warning.

      OP, stop nitpicking her time (I agree that it’s annoying, but that avenue clearly won’t work) and get on documenting the rest of this. I’d be shocked if HR refused to fire her at that point.

      1. LGC*

        It doesn’t sound that unusual to me! The lateness is clearly a work issue, in that it directly impacts her performance. (Also, she’s technically being overpaid 70 minutes each week.) Although the bullying behavior and the transphobia are FAR worse, they’re not as easy to document.

        I totally agree that LW1 shouldn’t focus on the lateness anymore, though. Just because it’s not going to get her anywhere.

        1. Myrin*

          Yeah, I’m not surprised by the focus on timeliness at all. It’s a very tangible thing and also happens every day in the same way (like clockwork, one might say) – in a way, it’s the easiest thing to focus on.

        2. Koalafied*

          HR’s response about the lateness reminds me of the questions that we’ve gotten about people working unauthorized overtime, where managers often want to refuse to pay the overtime, and then when they learn the law requires them to pay even if the overtime was explicitly denied, they think they’re out of options and just at the mercy of the employee who continues to accrue overtime the company can’t afford to be paying but has to anyway.

          Having to pay people for all hours (/minutes) worked doesn’t mean having to allow someone to work whatever schedule they want without regard to instruction. If someone won’t work the schedule you’ve asked them to work, it’s true you can’t disincentivize them by refusing to pay for their work, but you have a while range of other management tools available besides docking pay, up to and including firing the insubordinate employee.

        3. EPLawyer*

          The timeliness is the least issue though. Yes, it impacts work because it affects others, but in prioritizing things, this should be the LAST thing mentioned, not the focus.

          Even the in the OP keeps mentioning the lateness, then as an aside ALL the really really really really serious things that affect the job.

          Please OP, stop focusings on the lateness. Just stop. Given literally everything else, the lateness is the smallest problem.

          You need to make HR aware of these very serious other problems that also impact the work. Your list should be:
          1. Transphobia – – front and center.
          2. Insubordination – she does not get to ignore work assignments because she is unhappy.
          3. Other students will not work with her because of 1 & 2 which is affecting the ability of your unit to get work done (and possibly when work gets around affect the quality of students willing to work there)
          4. then and only then as a mere afterthough mentioned the late arrival early leaving.

          1. Chinook*

            Honestly, the best thing to focus on is the insubordination. The other things can be waved away if they are not covered by the law as discrimination. But the repeated insubordination, especially if it makes others late for work or breaks, makes her a problem employee. And, frankly, if she was around here where waiting for someone waiting for a door to be unlocked can cause frostbite or other cold related injuries, she would be considered a safety hazard.

          2. OP Number One*

            HR and our EEOC compliance officer has already been made aware of these issues, as has my boss. The lateness is what HR wants to focus on – not the other issues. They tell me I need to document those issues, but whenever I want to discipline them for these things, it becomes a “they said/I said” situation. My boss fully supports me but we have a very rigorous progressive discipline process.

            They have been warned for all of the things listed but I’ve been told most of these should be addressed in the annual appraisal (due in January) as part of the rankings, and then if the rankings are low enough, THEN I can put them on a PIP – which will be months longer.

            1. Brandi*

              I’m not suggesting this and I’m not NOT suggesting this. This something that was done to me by a former boss and I HATED it, but it might work for your situation.

              My former boss would get upset that I was not clocking in 15 minutes before my shift started – as in: I was scheduled to start at 10 and if I got out to the floor at 10 on the dot she was tapping her foot waiting to go on break or to go gab with her friend who was a manager in another department. The nature of our work left us literally trapped behind a counter, which my boss hated. The second she could break free she did.

              She tried to have me disciplined for “being late”, but I was never actually late (at the most clocking in at like 10:02 if I ran into a weird traffic problem). Her next step was to schedule me when she wanted me to come in – which was at 9:45.

              No one else in our department was scheduled to come in 15 minutes before their actual shift would be started, just me. But I was also the only person who would usually work mid-shift and cross over into her first “break” of the day. I became very unhappy and rebellious (I was in my early twenties and not being as mature as I should have been) and started pushing that envelope, which eventually got me fired.

              So I would say if you are in charge of her schedule and need her to be places at a certain time, adjust her shift accordingly. You need someone to open the doors and you know she’ll clock in 5 to 7 minutes late? Schedule her 15 minutes before you actually need her there. You have a MUCH better reason for doing this than my boss did.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                I actually really like this idea. Not in an attempt to “manage her out,” but to get her there when you need her to be there. I wouldn’t move her schedule by 15 minutes, I’d move it by 30.

        4. Observer*

          It’s not so hard to document most of the stuff she’s doing.

          Yeah, it’s hard to document “attitude” although a log of all of the students who have asked to have their schedules changed, etc. goes a LOOOONG way. But she is also doing some clear and specific things.

          * Refused to do X task
          * Assigned Y to do Task Z, even though the task had been assigned to her, and Y had been assigned other work
          * Refused to use C’s preferred pronouns
          * Told B (a transgender person) that they “don’t exist”

          1. LGC*

            You indirectly proved my point! It’s possible, but a bit more intensive than “Fergusina always clocks in at 9:07 and clocks out at 4:53.”

            Not that it’s not worth doing- she should do this by all means. But I was pointing out to Beth that LW1’s mismanagement isn’t that unusual. (

        5. Beth*

          It’s not surprising to me that OP started there, but it is surprising that OP is continuing to stick with that angle when it’s not working and there’s so much else to try!

          1. LGC*

            I can’t argue with that! To be honest I think both HR and LW1 are stuck in their own mental ruts – HR’s thinking way too strict in legal terms (although she’s following the letter of the law, Fergusina is not following the job policy), and LW1 is focused on this relatively easy issue (because I’ll be honest, the time is also the easiest thing to talk about because it doesn’t involve talking about bigotry or harassment).

            1. Observer*

              HR is actually NOT being “too strict” – they are flat out wrong about the law. And Fergusina is not following the letter of the law, because there is no legal basis for what she is doing.

          2. OP Number One*

            I’m not sticking with that angle – it’s HR that’s forcing me to focus on it because THEY always focus on it and ignore the other issues.

            1. Observer*

              Really?

              You need to document all of this stuff, and do it in writing. Don’t even bring up the 7 minutes. Bring up all of the other stuff – especially the once a week lateness that even they have to agree is actually lateness.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                Yep.

                “Jane did this list of things.”
                “But what about her being late?”
                “I don’t know. I’m not paying attention that. I’m choosing to address this list of really egregious things she’s doing.”

        6. Troutwaxer*

          An important aspect of this is that the OP may have blown her ability to work with HR on this employee if they started with the lateness and didn’t say anything else. It might be useful to encourage students/employees to discuss their own issues with HR.

          1. Troutwaxer*

            Or better yet, have the student employees put their complaints/requests in writing and take those to HR.

      2. Diahann Carroll*

        The number one issue should be that it’s possible that this employee is putting the employer at risk for accusations of sex discrimination.

        I was coming to the comments to say this same thing. This person is a liability and needs to be let go before a lawsuit is filed against the school.

      3. Gray Lady*

        The other issues may be more severe but an employee who consistently refuses to be, and remain, at work when coverage is needed is a serious problem all by itself, and the consistent refusal to cooperate is indeed fireable.

        1. Anonapots*

          Yes, but HR is interpreting FLSA so badly that they won’t let the OP fire this person, so the lateness can’t be what’s front and center.

      4. BadWolf*

        Making students late to class because she’s not there in time is the biggest time issue to me. It’s been awhile since I worked my assorted campus jobs, but professors and staff were generally very respectful of student class time (and finals week).

        1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

          Yeah, at my college there was a clear policy of student workers’ first priority being class time. Because… they work for the school. I don’t know, it just made so much sense to me that I can’t even compose an argument for it.

      5. CatWoman*

        Ugh. If this employee had to apply for her job and was selected as the best candidate, how bad were the rest of the candidates?

        1. Paulina*

          It’s an employee whose position in another unit was eliminated. At my university we have to give preference to applicants in that situation, as long as there’s no detectable-at-hiring reason not to, and this place may have a similar policy. I do wonder whether the unit that eliminated her previous position was very selective in their restructuring, however, especially given both the employee’s many problems and the difficulty dealing with HR.

          1. Rainy*

            I’ve watched this happen at almost every university I’ve studied or been employed at. It’s frustrating as hell for the competent people.

    3. Bagpuss*

      This. I also think that when you speak to HR you need to use very clear terms such as ‘transphobia’ ‘discrimination’ etc. – HR doesn’t seem to be very on the ball so do not understate how serious this is. Be specific about the fact that her open bigotry is causing other employees to ask to be scheduled when she is not present and flag up concerns about ho this will impact students using your services.

      As you work for a large organisation I would expect them to have formal policies around discrimination – check those policies and reference them when you raise it with HR.

      1. Bagpuss*

        Also – does your org,. have internal grievance policies? If you have other direct reports who are affected by her behavior is it worth you suggesting that they raise a formal grievance, next time they approach you about the issue?

        You can (and should) also explicitly call her out in the moment and tell her as a direct instructions that she must use people’s preferred names and pronouns when speaking to or about them. And document that you have given her that instruction. It may be that in practical terms, especially if HR is weak or if they are transphobic, or think they can’t do anything because being trans isn’t (if it isn’t in your area) a protected characteristic and they have to respect her views, then disciplining her for insubordination and disobeying direct instructions may be the way to go.

        And either way it can help others to see that you are explicitly and directly addressing her behavior

        1. Observer*

          It may be that in practical terms, especially if HR is weak or if they are transphobic, or think they can’t do anything because being trans isn’t (if it isn’t in your area) a protected characteristic and they have to respect her views, then disciplining her for insubordination and disobeying direct instructions may be the way to go.

          This is true. But it’s worth pointing out to HR, that legally, the Supreme Court ruled unequivocally that discrimination based on LGBT status is indeed illegal. Also, the law is pretty clear that private employers are not bound by 1st amendment protections. Also, even government can fire someone for speech that directly affects their ability to do their job, the ability of the organization to fulfill it’s mission, that is akin to “shouting fire in a crowded theater” or that presents legal issues. So, they are on COMPLETELY solid grounds for disciplining her over her behavior.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            And that’s how you should address it. “Given that Jane’s behavior is a clear discrimination against our student employees based on their LGBT status, and is definitely a Title IX violation, how should I proceed?” And do it via email, not in person.

        2. lemon*

          Sounds like something students could bring up to the university’s Title IX office. And a university’s HR office should be aware that this is a Title IX issue as well.

        1. Bagpuss*

          I would imagine that depends on the organization’s rules. she may not have authority to fire someone without HR’s approval and even if she does I would expect it to have to go through HR to ensure that any documentation was done correctly.

        2. LQ*

          I’d guess there is a fairly formal procedure considering its academia. I think a lot of times firing someone isn’t as easy as just pointing and shouting. This is likely a case where they have to go through a formal performance management plan of some kind, they would have to have documented it sufficient to HR. There may also be a union involved. We recently had an incident with our HR where they refused to fire someone who had criminally defrauded the organization. Just fire them isn’t always allowed.

        3. Eeyore's Missing Tail*

          Unfortunately, it can be hard to fire someone in academia. OP is going to need to tell HR about this, start documenting everything, then put them on PIP. After OP goes through that, then hopefully he’ll be able to fire her. But, the problem employee will be able to and (and probably will) appeal the termination. It’s a long, long, road, unless the problem employee is still in her probationary period.

          Is it just me, or did anyone else pick up on that she was “laid off” from her other position? I’ve heard of other offices using lay-offs like that to remove problem employees.

          1. Paulina*

            I noticed the layoff too, with the same suspicion. The other unit may have worked around HR to get rid of her. Those circumstances are also a strong suggestion that there’s a union agreement involved that both gave her preferential hiring and requires well-documented cause for firing.

        4. OP Number One*

          Because we have progressive discipline, and ONLY the director of HR actually has the authority to fire anyone.

          1. Rainy*

            I’ve been in your shoes and ultimately we ended up shifting our problem child to another unit with a program we were being ordered to move.

            If we hadn’t done that, we never would have gotten rid of them.

        5. Rainy*

          If the employee is hourly at a university they are probably classed as state employees rather than professional staff, and that means that the state gov’t grievance process is the only way to fire them. It takes literal years, and usually shifting them into another unit or making things so uncomfortable they apply for internal opportunities is the easiest and fastest way to get it done.

    4. Retail Not Retail*

      What others have said about timeliness being provable vs bigotry not, along with the fact that HR may not care or may make excuses based on her age (“she’s not a student so this is all just so new and confusing!!!” “She’s 26!”).

      Also it may be hard to prove she’s shoving work off on other people if it’s not the type of work that’s like signed? Digitally tracked? Idk. A few weeks ago my coworker abandoned me to do something unassigned – boss doesn’t care as long as it’s done.

      1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

        Yeah, a lot of people who write in seem to think they have no recourse to control how people behave “socially,” but they can address things like missing deadlines, arriving late, and dress codes because those are written down somewhere. They don’t realize that an unspoken part of almost every job description is “get along with your coworkers, at least to the degree that our unit functions and doesn’t create the laymen’s defininition of a hostile work environment,” and that many things that they might think are just “offensive” are actually discrimination for which the organization is liable.

    5. SallyB*

      Yeah … I can’t for the life of me understand why this person even WANTS to work in this environment? It doesn’t sound like this job is even for her. Maybe it would help OP to start the conversation with her with kind of wording. Because … focusing on the lateness is burying the lead.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        She doesn’t want to work there, that’s the problem. However, she probably can’t afford to quit or be laid off permanently, so she clings to this position while making everyone miserable in the process.

      2. Threeve*

        She considers the job beneath her…but she is also very much allowed to act as though the job is beneath her without any consequences. It might balance out.

      3. Observer*

        Kind wording? I don’t think so.

        I mean what is the OP supposed to say? “I realize that you were forced to take this job even though it’s really beneath you. That must be so hard. And I realize that dealing with people who don’t fit your notions must really strain your capacity to deal with reality. This must be sooo hard for you. What can I do to help?”

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          I got the sense that SallyB meant that maybe the OP should talk to the employee about not seeming to want to be there and the possibility that she could be transitioned out if that’s the case, not that OP should placate her and excuse her bad behavior.

          1. Observer*

            I realize. But I just don’t see how you get there. How do you “kindly” talk about their not wanting to be there when the all of the evidence for that is absolutely unacceptable behavior?

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              What I’m saying is, I don’t think SallyB was saying to “kindly” talk to the employee – I think the word “of” is missing there to say “kind of wording.” But I could be wrong.

              1. SallyB*

                Nope, you are right. Observer is one of those types that causes people to stop participating in the comment sections. They see what they want to see, and then blame others, double down, and essentially make it all awkward and annoying for everyone else.

                Ahg. I’m out. Life it too short, this pandemic is too long, and the observers of the world aren’t worth whatever benefit comes from participating on a board like this.

            2. EventPlannerGal*

              ? She literally did not say “kindly”. She said “kind of wording”, which seems like a REALLY obvious typo of “some kind of”. This seems very bad faith.

              1. EventPlannerGal*

                (Or “X kind of wording” or whatever. It just doesn’t seem like it means ‘kindly’, IMO.)

        2. bluephone*

          Sally wrote “kind OF wording,” not “kind wording.” Either way, you can maybe back off with the attitude a bit.

    6. Quill*

      Yeah, the lateness and earliness buries the lead here a Lot.

      “She’s made her opinions on transgender people clear” then she needs to be AWAY from students immediately, because that phrase is never used to say “she missed the memo about a colleague’s pronouns but apologized and expressed unconditional support” it’s always some bigoted bullshit.

      1. kt*

        And I want to add something here: the LW might think, but it’s not illegal to be transphobic, I need to respect her right to have opinions. It’s important to be clear here, though, that this is not about her opinions and their rightness/wrongness, it’s about treating colleagues in a professional and respectful manner (with a double burden because they are also students at the school, and thus usually-young people in a position of relatively less power, as to use work-study funding for instance their employment options are constrained).

        She can be a devil-worshipping ferret eater in her spare time or have whatever bigoted opinions she wants, but she must treat her coworkers in a respectful and professional manner at work — that’s the bottom line, for *every* employee.

        1. kt*

          (And as an addendum, I’m not making any implications about the dietary habits of Satanists, and also most Satanists, like most people in general, treat their coworkers in a respectful and professional manner at work! Shouldn’t have mentioned religion here as it doesn’t in my experience correlate with professionalism!)

        2. Quill*

          Yeah. She’s creating hostility for students and fellow workers. She can *think* whatever she wants, but saying it is a good reason to get her the heck out of there.

        3. Chinook*

          Exactly. Calling someone by their preferred name vs. their legal name is not a new thing. My mother and mother-in-law both go by their middle names and would not respond if someone called them their legal name because that is not who they are. And if someone tried that intentionally with them, they would just get blank/confused (and then hostile) looks.

          LW needs to remember that actions are what she can report, not attitude. Refusing work or delegating it when it is not her responsibility is insubordination and outside her job description and directly affect the efficiency of the department (i.e. have financial consequences as well as on morale). It is a misuse of school resources. Report her for that.

    7. Momma Bear*

      I agree – it’s not about the time. It’s about everything else, and trying to get this person fired for punctuality when OP has employees asking to trade shifts so as not to work with this person is getting lost in the weeds. OP needs to talk to HR/management about that instead. Even students deserve a harassment-free workplace.

      1. pancakes*

        Yes, agree, but I want to add, LGBT students are legally entitled to a workplace free of harassment under Title IX whether people employed by the school believe they deserve that or not. The personal beliefs of people like the letter writer’s horrid colleague are beside the point. This campus is urgently in need of remedial education on the basic facts of their obligations to their students.

    8. pancakes*

      Yes. This mindset “she doesn’t believe transgender people exist” is appalling, and I’m worried that the letter-writer and their colleagues don’t seem to grasp how appalling it is. How much shared reality are these people willing to cede for the sake of avoiding awkward conversations?

    9. Secret Squirrel*

      Just read this comment before attending a campus-wide meeting. One of the instructors and a dean were joking about how you can’t tell what gender people are nowadays and mentioned the old SNL sketch with an androgynous character. I just can’t believe it.

      1. Massmatt*

        On the one hand I can somewhat understand this feels like an awful lot of change for people, many find it bewildering.

        But really, we’ve been dealing with gender issues for decades. People complained about the Beatles and hippies in the 60’s, “Are you a man or a woman!? I CAN’T TELL!!!” Really? You can’t tell whether Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider is a guy or not? Doesn’t that sound ridiculous? People who are rigid and inflexible about this are going to seem more and more out of touch as time goes on.

    10. LifeBeforeCorona*

      YES, forget about the lateness. Disrespecting the students to the point that they want out of there is the real issue. Contact them and ask if they are willing to file a formal complaint. Passing her work off and being rude is the icing on the cake.

    11. OP Number One*

      OP #1 here.

      It’s already BEEN escalated to HR and to our Title IX officer. The Title IX officer says the coworkers who overheard her make these statements have to file complaints to Title IX, rather than to me, and HR says it’s a Title IX problem. We have such strict progressive discipline requirements that I can’t even fire a student worker who has repeatedly failed to show up to work without going through progressive discipline.

      The Problem CoWorker in the original question has been here 33 years, but primarily worked in a solo situation with limited close contact with students or coworkers during the vast majority of that time. They are now working in a close office environment (against their will, I might add – previous position was eliminated and they don’t agree with its elimination). They’ve been allowed to behave in what by most people’s standards is a rude and dismissive fashion by previoous supervisors who either just didn’t see the behaviors or wrote it off as “that’s just who they are”.

      1. Crivens!*

        Do you have a student newspaper you can leak this to? I am not even kidding. HR and the Title IX offices might be acting toothless but maybe they’ll take action when there are student protests.

        1. bluephone*

          Honestly, yeah, the people that Problem Employee is being a jerk to would be better off putting this whole department on blast with the school newspaper, social media, the local news, their friends, etc. Good grief.

      2. Observer*

        Your Title IX officer is an idiot – it’s not true that they have to complain themselves. If they get sued this will slap them in the face. But, given everything else you’ve said, I’m totally not surprised.

        Please encourage your students to complain directly to the Title IX folks. And to do it EVERY time she is obnoxious. Take away their (illusion) of plausible deniability.

      3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        OP, you have my sympathies for having the spineless folks in HR and Title IX. Please start making complaints – citing the relevant Title IX and Supreme Court case in writing to the relevant offices, and save their brush off responses as well (you may have to print and save at home to keep it safe unfortunately). These people are going to end up getting everyone sued – and at this point you need to start protecting yourself from the fallout. Encourage every person she behaves horribly to to get a complaint filed with HR/Title IX office and make sure it’s in writing (and encourage the kids to save copies and the responses).

        Problem Co-worker has been the squeaky wheel over the years and has been allowed to do whatever she wants because she was too much trouble to deal with. She can be fired – but you and your student workers have to band together as a coordinated team to make it happen.

        (And if it’s at all not obvious – the Title IX office here is begging for themselves and the school to get sued and loose badly.)

    12. Elizabeth West*

      Yeah, I thought “How annoying,” until I got to that bit and then my chin hit the floor. This could get them into big legal trouble.

      You don’t have to be the target of the hostility or harassment to be affected by it (or to file a complaint). Plus, it’s absolutely disgusting; she sucks and should be fired and never rehired there again.

    13. TardyTardis*

      I feel strongly that this person’s job was eliminated just to get rid of them, and that it was the letter writer’s day in the well. If this person is, in fact, disemployed, I suspect the LW will get a golden Order of Merlin and cookies for life.

      I wish LW the best of luck, you’re going to need it.

  3. Observer*

    #1- Why are you hung up on the 7 minute lateness? Not that it’s ok – and as Allison says, your HR is flat out wrong about that. But, it’s just the tip of the iceberg here. It’s not the primary cause of your morale problems, and you have bigger fish to fry.

    Firstly, there is the rest of the lateness. Even according to your (apparently clueless) HR, she needs to be there by 7.5 minutes after start time and she’s missing that once a week. That’s a LOT in a coverage based position.

    Then there are all of the other issues. To be honest if that doesn’t get taken care of, it won’t matter how punctual she is. And, Allison is 100% right that you have an absolute obligation to the rest of your staff to deal with this.

    I’m curious – What do you do when she refuses an assignment, what do you do? This is not “covert” insubordination. It’s about as in your face as you can get without her explicitly saying “You’re not the boss of me.”

    1. LavaLamp*

      The 7 minutes is not the problem here, agreed. Everywhere I’ve worked the computer would round you up/down and if someone was that petty about it, then the rest of their concerns wouldn’t be taken seriously. It wouldn’t even show up in the computer system as ‘late’.

      You need to just get over the 7 minutes thing because you’ve got bigger issues. The transphobia, the insubordination etc. Those are all much bigger problems, that need dealt. You need to document, and take the real issues to HR.

      1. TechWorker*

        So I totally agree the other issues are worse – but it’s a big deal in this job because *every day* someone else has to wait for 5-7 min after their shift is over when they should be getting to class. I would 100% fire her over that. (When I worked a coverage based job I’m not sure I would have lasted a week if I was late every single day).

        1. WS*

          I agree – in a coverage job it *is* a big deal, especially when the other workers are students on a tight schedule with classes.

        2. EventPlannerGal*

          Yep. I know the usual advice is to let lateness go but this is, like, the CLASSIC example of a job where is actually does matter. It’s a coverage-based job, she knows it’s a coverage-based job and she’s actively inconveniencing others by being late. In some jobs you just… need to be on time.

          1. DinoGirl*

            OP 1- had this very issue at my school in the reverse, department didn’t think they do anything. I (HR) advised the employee that grace window was for lines at the time clock and not something that can use routinely.
            If this is a union environment they’ll need to document alllll those issues, from experience, I bet they haven’t and span a long, long time.

          2. WorkingGirl*

            Yeah i had a student job that it was CRUCIAL to be on time because we all had class! I’d have 5 minutes to get from class to work sometimes…

            1. Mookie*

              Yes, I never worked an on-campus job as a student or as a supervisor of student workers where this would be remotely tolerated. Engendering or tolerating ongoing coverage issues that could affect student attendance would result in immediate disciplinary action of all nearest managers.

              Undergrads need a union.

        3. Koalafied*

          Yes, there a big difference between being understanding about the occasional late arrival by a few minutes, even in a coverage based job, and tolerating habitual lateness in a coverage based job. Life happens sometimes, and it’s a kindness not to financially penalize someone for what could just be an unusually long subway delay or unexpected new construction on their commute, even in a coverage based job. But as a general rule, someone in a coverage based position needs to figure out a reliable way to be at work on time most days, and it’s disrespectful to everyone she works with that she has, in effect, unilaterally changed the schedules of each person who works the shift before her and has to stay late every time she’s on after them.

          If she has something going on in her life that makes arriving on time an issue – like maybe the bus only comes once an hour so to avoid being 5 minutes late she’d have to be 55 minutes early – then she needs to discuss that with the manager, not just keep fobbing the time off onto her coworkers.

          The transphobia and generally poor work ethic, are of course the better issues for LW to focus on in this specific instance. And ultimately the chronic late arrivals and the sneaking off early are symptoms of the same root issue that drives her to be a jerk to trans students and fob her signed work off onto others – she has no consideration or respect for others at work.

          1. pleaset cheap rolls*

            “Yes, there a big difference between being understanding about the occasional late arrival by a few minutes, even in a coverage based job, and tolerating habitual lateness in a coverage based job.”

            THIS.

            And also timing it just under the threshold of the round up/down policy suggests it’s even more calculated.

            1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

              Yes, she’s definitely considering it as “I get paid the same, so why bother being on time? My new start time is seven minutes later.” Which is the exact bad apple that bad managers think all their employees will be if they give leeway like this. Not that they should care either way, except in this, a coverage-based job!

        4. Observer*

          I totally agree that it’s a big deal. And fireable on its own. HR sounds incompetent.

          But, the thing is that the other things are so much worse, that it just makes no sense to worry about this. Get the other stuff taken care of and this will pretty much take care of itself. On the other hand, taking care of this is NOT going to solve the bigger issue because people are STILL not going to want to work with her, she’s STILL not going to be getting her work done, she’s STILL going to be a source of negativity and dysfunction that’s going to make this department a byword in the whole organization.

          1. LifeBeforeCorona*

            Yes, get this resolved before your department gets a reputation as being a transphobic, toxic workplace that students will actively avoid because students talk. You will have a bad reputation that will travel and will take years to live down.

      2. Lance*

        It’s not about what the system shows, nor especially about being ‘petty’ (which the OP is not being here); it’s about, as others have repeated, the fact that this job is based on coverage. And, just to add to it, this employee occasionally making everyone late by not physically opening up the place on time (to which, I’m curious why she still has such a duty; surely there are far better candidates). That’s the same issue OP’s HR is making on this matter: focusing on what the clock says, not on the work impact.

        1. Retail Not Retail*

          She may have that as a duty due to not being a student and availability (lol) – ie she’s the only one available the most mornings while the people she’s inconveniencing are there that morning. They also may not let students open up.

          1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

            Yeah, it sounds like she’s the non-student worker on shift. Often university departments that hire students won’t give them specific responsibilities like keyholding, because they are so transient. Their schedule WILL change next semester, many will likely want to go home over breaks, and they could easily get different jobs as they progress through their time at school (offered a tutoring job in their major, qualifying for work-study, becoming an RA, moving to a different dorm or off-campus, or finally getting a parking spot ON campus so they can drive to an off-campus job, haha).

    2. Scarlet2*

      Exactly. I have no idea why LW keeps bringing up the lateness with HR when 1) it’s clear they won’t do anything about it and 2) it’s objectively the least egregious of all the issues with this employee.

    3. Thankful for AAM*

      One reason for the focus on lateness is that often an org, esp a non profit, will focus on this bc it is clear the employee is in the wrong. Deadnaming or insubordination can be open to interpretation in the way a late lunch is not (I’m trying to get the name right, I just made a mistake). So repeat lateness is an easy way to fire someone. I am really surprised the HR is pushing back on this.

      Our non profit has a progressive discipline for lateness that can have me in HR explaining myself if I am 1 minutes late 4 times in one year. The purpose is for a documented way to fire someone.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I agree that this employee will lean heavily on the subjectiveness of her behaviour towards trans* people – she is capable of using correct names and pronouns for those who have submitted paperwork, so she obviously does recognise that transition is an actual thing and that deadnaming and misgendering are Bad. We know that her behaviour is bigoted and hurtful, but she’ll fall back on the letter of the law (which HR are cowardly doing too).

        In fact, it’s all rules-lawyering, isn’t it? In her head, she’s not technically late until eight minutes past, she’s not technically deadnaming unless the paperwork is in, she’s not technically insubordinate if she hasn’t told LW to jump in a lake, etc etc. It’s the same hideous attitude, and I agree with Alison that she needs to be long gone.

        1. WellRed*

          I don’t even get how she’d necessarily know a students dead name? If I tell you my name is Jennifer, how do you know otherwise that I was born Joesph?

          1. 10Isee*

            It sounds like she has some sort of access to student records. All the more reason to take her behavior seriously!

            1. Mookie*

              LW is figuratively guilty of serious malpractice / negligence if she hasn’t already documented and reported all the ways this employee is a toxic, bigoted nuisance exploiting access to sensitive records. The time card situation is a red herring; any one of these abuses meets the threshold for termination. HR is witless or lying.

              1. LifeBeforeCorona*

                Yes, because if a student does file a formal complaint the LW is going to be asked what they did to resolve the situation. As Judge Judy says “Ummm is not an answer.”

              2. OP Number One*

                I have. I’m the one that received the report about the transgender issue among other things that I haven’t listed here. I reported all of the incidents to HR and to our Title IX officer. My bases are covered that way but my hands are tied because I have to document months of misbehavior, and every time we issue a written warning there’s a weeks-long process for grievance during which I can’t issue another warning.
                1. First warning – employee gets 10 days to respond (which this person used entirely)
                2. Response to first warning – I now have 10 work days to respond.
                3. Employee then gets 10 days to appeal to MY boss.
                4. My boss gets 10 days to respond.
                5. Employee gets another 10 days to appeal to the Provost.
                6. Provost gets 10 days to respond.
                7. Employee gets another 10 days to appeal to the President.
                8. The President gets another 10 days to respond.
                9. Employee gets yet another 10 days to respond to the Board of Governors.

                All of the “10 day” periods are WORK days – so:
                1. First warning issued on a Friday.
                2. Response from employee submitted 9 business days later.
                3. Weekends don’t count so I have until the second week of December to respond (since holidays also don’t count).
                4. Assuming I respond at midpoint in this step, the employee gets another 10 work days, whichi could extend all the wayto the end of our semester, at which point we are on break and everything goes on hold until JANUARY.

                It could easily be end of January or even February before we finish the process – possibly March if they go to the BOG, because they aren’t going to call a special session for this. So at that point we are still dealing with a disciplinary warning that was given in NOVEMBER.

                1. Observer*

                  This is bad, but it’s the system you have. And you need to make sure to respond IMMEDIATELY at each step of the way. Sure, it stinks, but that’s the only way you get to move the process along even incrementally faster.

                  Oh, and tell people who complain to you that you are working the system as best you can and encourage them to keep going to HR and the Title IX office – and to do it IN WRITING. No one complaint is going to do the trick, but eventually someone will realize that they have to do something to protect the school.

                  Also, make sure that you really are not allowed to give another disciplinary warning while one process is ongoing. Also, you can still continue to document problems – and make sure that HR and Title IX are informed of these problems, while the process is ongoing even if you can’t issue warnings.

                2. Yes, I did fire her and it took two years*

                  Ah reading all the comments now.
                  I applaud your willingness to deal with this horrible situation.
                  Yes- I have been in this EXACT situation, including multiple grievances.
                  Check with HR- You cannot write up for the current infraction- lateness BUT you can for other issues like incomplete or inaccurate deliverables and missing deadlines, being late to relieve a student.
                  The good news is you are actually ahead,
                  It was the documentable lateness issue that tipped the scales in my case.

          2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            Perhaps the official class list has the name as registered, and staff learn and use the names students prefer (including Mike for Michael and TJ for Taylor). I suspect she’s the type to stick rigidly to the official list when it suits her – rules lawyering again.

          3. Uranus Wars*

            If their dead name hasn’t been legally changed in the system it will show up everywhere on rosters, in Financial Aid systems, on Student ID, etc.

            My (adopted) sister started using her new first name before the adoption was final (she was living with us and going to the local middle school). Her old name was in the school system for one year and she had a teacher who refused to use her new/preferred name because it wasn’t on her roster. When it legally changed (first and last) they magically started calling her the preferred name.

            1. Paulina*

              The name of record will show up in official records. But it’s not remotely clear why working with someone — even someone who is a student — requires looking at their official records. They’re her coworkers, not her students or her employees. Unless everyone has to wear their official ID badge, which I expect would have been described by the OP, finding out names of record would be deliberate and invasive.

          4. Idril Celebrindal*

            If she’s working in a place like the front desk of a university library, the student library accounts would pull straight from the official database, which would tell her that information. My library dealt with a related situation in that we had a lot of international students from Asia who chose an English name to use in the States, but their student records listed their legal name, which caused a lot of confusion when we tried to look up their account by name. (Not saying it’s related in severity at all, just that it stemmed from employees having access to name information that was different from how the student introduced themselves.)

          5. That Girl from Quinn's House*

            In some state university systems, the student must be registered under their legal name. So until they do a legal name change their deadname is in the system.

            1. pancakes*

              Sure, but why would anyone in that scenario pretend “the system” determines how they speak to one another in person? Or about one another? These are human beings, not outdated software.

              1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

                Why? Because they’re transphobic and a huge jerk. That seems pretty clear to me from the info in the original letter.

                1. pancakes*

                  My question wasn’t “why is the letter writer’s colleague deadnaming people”; my question was, what is the relevance of the school’s records to her doing so. I see now that I read the threading wrong, & the person I was replying to was answering someone else above asking how this person would have access to their old name in the first place. Sorry!

        2. Observer*

          There is nothing subjective here. It doesn’t matter what is in her head, it matters what she is doing and saying.

          And, aside from FLSA, the law is definitely on the side of making this stop, even if it means firing her.

      2. Observer*

        Well, HR is apparently incompetent.

        But the reality is that there is plenty of other stuff that the OP can document, and all of it is worse that the daily lateness. That’s saying a lot, but it’s true.

        It’s also why I commented on the weekly “extra” lateness. That’s an easy one to document, and even idiot HR can’t claim that the FLSA requires that they allow her to keep this up. Considering that she’s doing this ONCE A WEEK, that egregious all on its own.

        Also, it’s not all THAT hard to document the problems with the rest of her behavior. Things like “She was rude” are not going to fly. But specific things she says and does – refused an assignment, assigned work that she was given to others, saying specific rude or harassing things are all straightforward to document. Wen you also get multiple people asking to have their schedules changed, that’s just icing on the cake.

        The bottom line here is that the OP has major problems that go way beyond the 7 minute daily lateness. HR is refusing to deal with that, so they need to move on at take care of the other issues. Also, they need to focus on the other issues, because dealing with that will probably take care of the daily lateness – but getting rid of the daily lateness is not going to help any other issues, and the OP NEEDS to do that.

      3. pancakes*

        Harassment of LGBT students isn’t quite that open to interpretation, no. The problem here isn’t that the letter writer’s colleague is making good-faith mistakes; it’s that leadership is apparently ignorant of and/or craven about meeting its Title IX obligations.

    4. MissDisplaced*

      Get this worker on a formal PiP, document everything, and if they continue to be late/leave earlt, fire them.

    5. hamburke*

      I think the lateness aspect is being focused on bc it’s very objective. It’s clearly an issue for coverage based jobs where schedules are tight so it should be addressed. Addressing the other issues OP brought up are more subjective (not the pronouns issue – although it can possibly be passed off as an interpersonal issue by this ridiculous HR, but the actual work issues, which would need to be directly addressed, retraining provided and reassessed).

      1. Observer*

        Well, if what the OP need is “objective”, the fact that this person is coming in MORE than 7 minutes late once a week is as “objective” as you get.

        Refusing to do assignments is also “objective”. So is all of the rest of the insubordination, and most of the nasty behavior.

    6. lazy intellectual*

      Timeliness impacts the employer, while bigotry impacts the wellbeing of employees. Employers are more likely to care about the former.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        True, unless and until every affected employee starts filing harrassment claims and Title IX violations. It wasn’t clear if LW was allowed to fire this horrible employee or if HR was preventing any kind of action, but it’s a no-brainer to get rid of that employee for all the conpletely valid reasons specified, but certainly before it starts costing the university big-time.

      2. Observer*

        Except that what the employee is doing to other employees actually DOES affect the employer. Firstly, in that she is opening them to enormous liability. And second in that she is destroying the effectiveness of the department – and their ability to staff it with student workers.

    7. Abogado Avocado*

      #1: It sounds like you work for a college or university. Thus, may I suggest that you ask HR for a referral to General Counsel’s office. And if there is no internal lawyer at your institution, ask to be referred to outside counsel who deals with employment issues for the institution (I promise you that there is someone). If HR asks why, tell them you need legal advice as a supervisor for the institution about a discrimination issue in the office. Once you have the referral, lay out the transgender discrimination situation for the attorneys. I have a feeling counsel will be very concerned about this. As for HR, they may not be lawyers and may also feel reluctant to assist you because the employee is in a protected class (she’s female) and may be in more (if she’s over the age of 40 or also a racial or ethnic minority) and they fear litigation.

      1. LavaLamp*

        I’d like to bring another point to the lateness discussion; it’s possible this 5-7 minutes thing is actually a policy. Yes, coverage and all that, but if it’s policy I don’t see HR caring much. That’s why it’s important to bring up the really bad problems and not just this one thing.

    8. OP Number One*

      It is a problem, because it’s multiple (not just once) a week, and it prevents other people from leaving on time. I am focusing on it because HR has said all of the other issues I’m having with this person are “less of a problem” than the lateness. Personally, I think the other issues are bigger, but that’s not what HR says.

      HR wants me to document all the 5 – 7 minute late/early incidents, but I’m not allowed to use them in disciplinary action. I’m also supposed to document the at least once a week they are later than that.

      We have to adhere to a progressive discipline process – I’ve already issued them verbal warnings and an official “first written warning” – which they have grieved. I’m now on the step of responding to their grievance, and they can pursue this all the way to the University President if they so choose.

      They don’t outright refuse assignments – it’s covert in that they either just don’t do them until someone else does (because it has to be done) or they delegate (without permission) to someone they consider “lower” than them. I typically don’t find out about it until AFTER it’s happened (because I’m not present when these things happen). There’s also the power differential in that they will delegate or otherwise pass off a job to a student worker, who doesn’t know they weren’t supposed to do that – and assumes this older person who has been working in our cost center (but not our unit) for over 30 years has authority over them, even when I’ve said they don’t.

      1. Yes, I did fire her and it took two years*

        They don’t outright refuse assignments – it’s covert in that they either just don’t do them until someone else does (because it has to be done) or they delegate (without permission) to someone they consider “lower” than them. I typically don’t find out about it until AFTER it’s happened (because I’m not present when these things happen).

        If I didn’t know better I would think you got my horrible employee.
        Passing off work- document previous events.
        I forgot to say below- email the horrible employee with each documentable event.
        Today I directed you to not assign any of your work to other staff.
        I observed Vanessa filing the time sheets- Vanessa stated you asked her to file them.
        Meet individually with all staff members- They are not to do ANYTHING asked of them by Horrible Employee.
        (that brought on the grievance that “my supervisor won’t let me talk to my colleagues or students.

      2. Observer*

        Keep documenting – don’t give HR any excuses. It’s not fair to you, of course, but it’s really the only choice you have.

        Please make sure to tell each student worker verbally and in writing that they are NOT to take these assignments from her. And that if she tries to do this, or if she manages to convince them that THIS time is “different”, they are to check back with you. This way you can deal with it up front, and you have better documentation of the issue.

        You know, the job of HR is supposed to be to protect the employer. But, they are in fact doing harm. Because they are creating HUGE liability *AND* they are creating an issue where time and resources are wasted on protecting a bad employee rather than dealing with real issues.

      3. LizM*

        I used to have a coworker who was a master at getting people to agree to do his work without realizing we were doing it. We’d all be sitting in a staff meeting, he’d have work assigned to him, and by the end of the meeting, junior employees would have somehow agreed to do it for him. Luckily, our manager realized it was happening, and it got to the point that when he assigned work to this coworker, he’d explicitly say, “Fergus, this is something I need you to do yourself. If you need help, you need to come tell me and I’ll assign someone to help you.” Given the situation you’re in, I’d follow that statement up with an email so that there is no ability for her to deny that you told her not to delegate it.

  4. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Let’s put all the gift suggestions as replies to this thread. (I’m gathering up all the ones that have already been posted and leaving them here too.)

    1. ShanShan*

      When I was broke enough to be on that kind of gift budget, I always did homemade food gifts, like cookies or fancy hot chocolate mix. Not sure if that would be weird in your office, though.

      1. Juniper*

        Under normal circumstances, I think that would be a lovely idea, but I think people are a bit touchy about gifts originating in the home these days.

        1. Colette*

          And a lot of that stuff (as great as it can be) is difficult or expensive to ship. I’ve done soup in a jar before, which was very popular, but it would cost more than $7 to ship it (at least in Canada.)

        2. Diahann Carroll*

          Yeah, I don’t eat or use anything that anyone makes in their home in the best of times – it definitely wouldn’t happen now, and I don’t think I’m alone in that.

    2. Thankful for AAM*

      Or #5, I’m getting fancy, handmade bars of soap for coworkers. It feels like such a 2020 gift. Bit I think a note from the boss is probably better.

      1. Linda*

        Fancy soaps are always so pretty! But as someone who is very sensitive to fragrances I don’t actually want to receive them. When I do, I get it out of my house as soon as possible. But since you have worked with these people in person, you might know if you have anyone who avoids strong fragrances or if everyone is fine with them.

        Maybe along the same lines, I wonder about a keychain hand sanitizer or those OLIKA spray ones that look sort of like little birds. It would certainly be useful and very on theme, but not as luxurious as the fancy chocolate or coffee shop gift card, which seem cozier. Anyway, I think it’s nice that you’re putting thought into what you pick.

        1. ThePear8*

          Oh hand sanitizer is a great suggestion – especially in COVID when it can be hard to get! I really appreciated the cute little bottle I got from my employer

        2. Bagpuss*

          Yes – I have sensitivities to strong scents and also have contact allergies which are triggered by a lot of products (including some liquid soaps and, now, hand sanitsers produces in bulk and provided in public places)

          A good quality key-chain hand sanitiser would be better than scented soaps – less likely that any of the recipients will have an adverse reaction and as a sealed thing there’s less of an issue with strong scents causing problems before it can be disposed of!

          Another option might be to look as good quality chocolates – if you do an individual note than even a little box with one or two chocolates in it is a little touch of luxury and could probably be done in your budget, and if you pick ones which are nut free, alcohol free and vegan or vegetarian then they should be suitable for most.

          I think whatever you give, you should do a short handwritten note to each person, thanking them for their work and if at all possible mentioning something specific that you have noticed them doing particularly well, or where they have have made significant improvements or advancements.

        3. 10Isee*

          I’m a small-batch soaper and I’ve gotten in the habit of making one or two batches a month that are decorative and sudsy but completely free of any fragrance oils or essential oils. I’ve been surprised at how popular those can be!

        4. Llama Wrangler*

          Just to add — I’m someone who is very sensitive to fragrances (I’m not fragrance free, but I would say 80% of naturally and artificially scented things irritate me) and I highly doubt anyone I work with would know that about me. So OP, I wouldn’t assume that you would know if any of your team had fragrance sensitivities.

    3. SoCal Kate*

      OP 5: For $7 / person I’d do gift cards to Starbucks or a local coffee shop. That would be about enough to get a drink and scone.

      Fancy chocolate could also be nice. Or hot cocoa mix with a mug.

      1. CatCat*

        Yeah, this makes the most sense to me. You can buy eGift versions to send to their email so no worries about postage costs.

      2. Dan*

        Last week on AAM, I learned that gift cards given from a manager’s personal funds need to be considered reportable income and taxed accordingly :(

        1. Koalafied*

          The letter last week did mention that gifts have to taxed – it doesn’t matter to the IRS whether they come from the manager or the company’s funds, because it’s still a form of compensation for a job. I think the manager in the letter was just feeling hesitant to expend precious personal funds on gift cards knowing that it would end up reducing the employee’s next paycheck to cover the taxes, so only part of the money she expends really feels like it went to the employee – and especially if a non-cash ends up being something the employee doesn’t like, they effectively took a small pay cut on the next pay period for the privilege of being something they didn’t want. Which is especially tough when people are financially strapped.

          However, the latest IRS guidance says non-cash gifts under $75 at one time, up to $1600/year cumulatively, are not taxable. A $5 gift card isn’t going to be a tax issue.

          1. Natalie*

            Unfortunately gift cards are a “cash equivalent”, so they’re subject to the same rules as cash. (In practice, lots of organizations ignore this, of course.)

        2. Rayray*

          Does that apply to organizations this small? I’d get it if they were doing it for 100 people but with 14 people, I’m pretty sure you could let it slide and be just fine. I worked at two different small offices where they gave us our Christmas bonus in cash or gift cards so that it wouldn’t be taxed.

          1. Natalie*

            Payroll tax laws apply to all organizations with payroll, and even some household employees. However, it’s extremely common for smaller or less bureaucratic organizations to be out of compliance, either out of ignorance or indifference.

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              I worked for an insurance company where managers gave out gift cards for the holiday and/or birthdays and didn’t report them for tax purposes, lol. That’s a highly regulated, bureaucratic industry if there ever was one – I just think the individual managers didn’t realize that was A Thing. And since it wasn’t addressed in our company policy (policy only said gifts over $25 had to be declared), I think many of them just opted out of doing the legwork to find out whether or not their gift was taxable.

              1. Rayray*

                I got cash bonus from a law firm and gift card bonus from a family business that was tied to a respected investment firm haha. I think they just fly under the radar with that. I always appreciated the non taxed bonus. It wasn’t ignorance, they knew exactly what they were doing . :)

      3. Beth*

        Coffee shop gift card was also my first thought. Most people can find something they’ll enjoy (I’m not much of a coffee drinker, but most coffee shops will offer tea or whatever as well, and worst case scenario, I can relive childhood and get a hot chocolate with whipped cream). For a big chain like Starbucks at least, I’m pretty sure you can do this virtually these days, so no need for money to go towards postage. Not to mention, in many areas Starbucks has drive-through options, so it’s relatively pandemic friendly. If you feel like you really need to do something, it seems like the way to go to me. (I agree with Alison that a thoughtful card might be more appreciated on the whole, though, and you might be overthinking this.)

        1. Koalafied*

          Agree completely. A $5 sbux card is almost as close as you can get to cash without being cash. In my line of work I get a lot of them a conferences or as thank-yous for volunteering for optional work and so on, and I can’t express how much I valued them even though I’m not a regular Starbucks patron, because I *do* (or did, pre-pandemic) travel frequently, and there are Starbucks everywhere. It was so nice to always have a stack of $5 gift cards in my wallet so that when I was on the road even if I was totally broke I could still find a Starbucks and get a coffee, a fancy Fiji water, a bagel, whatever, without needing to spend any of my own money.

      4. Sciencer*

        Great suggestion, and I’ll add that a local coffee shop would be especially appropriate in a year when many of us are trying to support small/local businesses however we can.

      5. M2*

        This! Are you all in the same area? Get everyone a $5 local coffee shop gift card. Try and buy local not Starbucks. Some ice cream shops also offer $5 gift cards. That way they can each get a fancy drink or treat. I love me a good Mocha but don’t want to always spend $5 on one!

        Also many of these places will now due to Covid let you email or text gift cards. Will take time to do that for 14 people but easier than shipping. We had a package that was two day and it came 5 days late! USPS is on overload I think!

      6. Some Lady*

        Agree – the $5 card to Starbucks or similar with a note along the lines of, “Have a cup of coffee on me” is easy and nice, and they can use it on whatever and whenever they want, or pass it on to someone who would want it more. I’ve definitely sent these through email.

      7. JJ*

        I’m with all the “here’s a coffee on me” folks. Personally I’m not a fan of trinket-y gifts (I always think of Mitch Hedberg’s “here, you throw this away” pamphleteer joke) so something consumable with a nice “I appreciate you” note seems like the biggest bang for your buck, plus a little nicer environmentally. :)

        1. Mushroom*

          I haven’t heard that joke before – so accurate though! That’s exactly what gifting of trinkets is about 95% of the time:)

      8. JXB*

        I was going to suggest same. An e-giftcard to Starbucks with a friendly note. Could be sent via email. Unless you find something cute on Amazon where prime would cover shipping, mailing would kill most items. And does everyone want you to have their home address?

    4. NYWeasel*

      OP 5: our manager got our team notebooks from Amazon with funny sayings on them, like “Things I want to say at work but can’t”, that run $6.99 each and are available through Prime. They were generally well received and she got a variety of sayings so people enjoyed seeing what everyone else got.

      Another option is to think of doing something fun like virtual bingo, and then either make fewer prizes that are a little more, or make the prizes something like a $5 Starbucks card, that you can email. Then the actual presents become less important than the fun activity. There’s some great sites online that let you do free bingo for a small group.

      1. AtlantaTJ*

        Look at the Cheryl’s cookie boxes. I think they are 5 a piece including shipping. Granted it is one cookie in a box, but still a fun treat.

        1. Blisskrieg*

          Yes! Cheryl’s cookie cards are great, and the cost includes the purchase. I send them to employees for their birthdays. I haven’ t seen their Christmas selection yet. One caveat: They take a long time to ship (I believe they go through regular post), so I purchase two weeks in advance.

          1. Anon for this*

            I triple the Cheryl’s cookie idea! Cookie boxes as low as $5. I think you can get free shipping for a year if you pay $19.99, so that should fit within the budget and allow you to ship to each person’s house. And you can add a little gift note telling them how much you appreciated their work this year.

        2. pancakes*

          I’d never heard of these. They look very hard and very sweet to me, sorry! Like the sort of cookies that start appearing in chain stores in November and can sit out on display until January without changing texture or appearance. I’d rather have a $5 coffee shop card.

          1. mlk*

            They’re not hard at all. I grew up in their hometown. The cookies will be soft. They can be very sweet though. I love these cookies. And OMG, their brownies!!

      2. Effie*

        Based on a quick Google search, there are also lots of 2021 calendars within the $7 budget, both wall and desk calendars.

        1. Double A*

          We didn’t get a desk calendar this year because our big in person meeting was cancelled, and I dearly miss it! It’s just not something I think to get myself. I think a calendar is a great suggestion.

    5. Caramel & Cheddar*

      #5 – I’d skip the gifts because the shipping is going to eat your entire budget, probably, but now I’m also curious about what the $7 gifts were when you were able to give them in person.

      (If you simply must give a gift this year, is there some type of e-gift card available, i.e. one where they get an email notification with a redemption code rather than a physical card in the mail.)

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Right. I’m struggling to think of anything I would consider a gift under $7. Maybe a nice card with a candy cane attached can be sent to the direct reports.

      2. Nursecrys*

        OP here, last year I got personalized pens and the year before it was a small bag. Lots easier when I can walk around to desks or hand them out!

        1. GirlfromIpanema*

          Lots of suggestions above for the $5 coffee shop gift card (local if that’s possible!) which I can wholeheartedly get behind! Offers the flexibility for people to get just what they like, and it’s not a trinket that ends up in a drawer then the garbage can. For $7, if you have home addresses, you could even mail it along with a nice card with a heartfelt note about appreciating how hard they’ve worked in such a tumultuous year. The postage should be around 65 cents (for the extra weight of the gift card) and there you go! I know something like that would be so, so appreciated by myself and the folks on my team- the note and mailing really shows you put thought into it.

      3. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

        I’m trying to think of digital gifts that are set up to actually be gifts, but aren’t just gift cards. For instance, I gifted my friend a video game yesterday through the Xbox store as an early Christmas present. I know at least in some Korean convenience store chains, you can buy a specific item and text it to the person–they essentially get a coupon for the item, and it just needs to be scanned. Can you pay for one month of Hulu or Disney+ for someone else as a gift? Or Audible?

        Subscription meal kits often give you free weeks to pass on to others after you’ve used them once, but then the person getting the free week has to remember to cancel. Are there any other small, cheap subscription services, like maybe a wine or coffee one, that can be set up to be gifted?

        Maybe see if you can set up with a local business for people to pick up a gift, like a pound of coffee in the drive through of a local coffee shop? Or a coupon for one entree at a local restaurant? I specify local, because chains and even bigger local places are likely to just divert you to gift cards, while a local business might already have various vouchers that they run and be willing to work with you. Although I’m not sure if vouchers or coupons are considered to be different from gift cards. And if you live in a moderate or high COL area it might be hard to get anything substantial under $7.

        You could also just donate in everyone’s names. Maybe sponsor a kid in poverty and share around the info card they give, or buy a few things off a giving tree and share the letter of thanks if you get one.

        I’m just spitballing here, I don’t know if any of this is viable, or if it’s a faux pas to ask people to pick up their gift. This might just be a “fancy e-card” kind of year, and save the money for a double gift next year. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but we all get to postpone our birthdays and have double birthdays next year, so why not double holiday?

        1. sb51*

          Or if it’s something like a personalized pen that won’t go bad, buy them, show them off on video, and let people choose between picking it up and getting it when they get back to the office.

          1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

            Or, can you hand deliver them? Is that weird? If it’s not too many over to large an area, is it creepy to hang bags on people’s doorknobs or drop them at their mail rooms if you tell them you’re doing that? Obviously that’s work, but just an idea.

            1. Epsilon Delta*

              Or, is it an option to set up the gifts at the office for employees to retrieve (socially distanced, masked, and without lingering)? Our department head was able to set up a table in the lobby of our building to distribute his normal holiday gifts without requiring people to get special authorization to enter the office, for example.

      1. nnn*

        I like this! With scratch tickets, somehow it doesn’t “feel” as cheap as a $7 gift card.

        Where I live, we have xmas scratch and win packs that contain multiple tickets, and every pack wins something. (Usually just a dollar or two.) Maybe they’d have something similar where OP lives?

      2. GammaGirl1908*

        Coming to say this. I’d do lottery tickets! Scratch-offs or maybe everybody gets a quick-pick Powerball / Mega Millions ticket. A nice note wishing them luck with the ticket and in the new year, envelope and a stamp, done.

      3. Emma2*

        While I think this could be fun, I might be careful depending on how well you know your staff. I have known a number of people with religious reasons for not gambling (some treated lotteries as an exception, some did not). The people I have known were Christian, Jewish and Muslim – it is not a terribly uncommon view.
        I expect people who struggle with gambling addiction may avoid lottery tickets as well.

        1. Bagpuss*

          Yes, I wondered about this. I think it’s quite common, enough that I’d only be comfortable gifting scratch cards to someone who I knew for sure played the lottery themselves.

        2. Justme, the OG*

          I know someone who wouldn’t even play low-stakes BINGO at a church get together because they don’t gamble. So, it’s more common than you think.

        3. no gambling, please*

          I need to avoid all gambling, and I am deeply uncomfortable when someone gives me scratch-offs as a gift. I end up letting them sit there unused and giving me anxiety for months/years until they expire, I notice that, and can throw them away. It sucks.

          I didn’t even open the holiday card from the usually-ticket-gifting co-worker last year because I didn’t even want to know if she gave me lottery tickets again.

          This isn’t something I talk about at work, so I doubt my co-workers have noticed that I don’t gamble, ever, but it’s definitely a thing.

          1. bluephone*

            Can you just forward the tickets onto someone else? Then they’d be out of your house but if they’re winners, someone can make use of the windfall. Or ask your coworker to leave you off their gift list?

          2. pancakes*

            Why not leave them someplace where they can be taken by someone who will want them? Or put them directly in the trash if you’re very opposed? I suppose it’s more difficult to get rid of unwanted items in suburban areas where there’s little foot traffic, but surely there are spots like park benches or ATM vestibules where people get out of their cars.

            1. Becca*

              if someone needs to avoid gambling at all costs, it may not be as simple for them as throwing the tickets away or regifting. I’m not saying No Gambling, Please is in this situation at all, but I have a loved one who is addicted to alcohol and when gifted an innocent bottle of wine can’t just regift or pour it down the sink without significant mental health support. I think if it were that easy, they would have found that solution already.

      4. CupcakeCounter*

        I adore scratch offs – especially the ones that take a bit of time like the bingo or crossword ones.

      5. BetsyTacy*

        Yep. With a budget of $7 (including shipping), I would do a ‘Happy New Year’ card with a handful of scratch off tickets.

        Although I’m sensitive to the fact that some people may avoid these, the same can be said for Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts.

        Last year I gave my staff travel mugs (got a really good deal on decent contigo ones) with scratch off tickets inside. This year, everyone is getting a $10-15 gift card to Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts. emailed.

      6. moql*

        I think this may be cultural? I would find this deeply weird. I’m in the US, and not at all religious, but I’ve lived in 4 different states and in all of those places this would raise an eyebrow coming from a family member, let alone a boss. My husband is from Nevada and sees that as a normal thing. Very much know your audience.

        1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

          I think it’s more of a family thing than a regional cultural thing. My mom’s family does this, because they’re a family in which scratch off tickets are a thing and considered fun. They’re a big family, and the thought is tickets only cost a little and might return more (whereas the $5 you’d be able to give your adult sibling is essentially nothing to them), and it’s like a little game in itself to scratch them. So, better than just a card.

          I’ve never seen anyone in my other families touch a scratch ticket, and my friends, who live in the same city and come from similar backgrounds, think it’s weird, and might not know where to buy scratch off tickets.

    6. Anxious Cat Servant*

      OP 5: if you want to make a note the main gift but also want it to feel like more, LovePop has notecards 4 for $20 that have pop-up trees and beautiful snowflake cards and stickers (they’re much nicer than I’m making them sound!) within your price range. Since most could be mailed at standard letter rate, you won’t spend all your $$ on shipping.

      1. Nicole*

        I would steer clear of LovePop—I used to be a dedicated customer but I ordered a card from them back in April and it was never delivered, and they gave me the total run-around. I ended up having to escalate to my bank to get a refund and LovePop didn’t follow up with me about it until almost July.

        Etsy has a fantastic variety of pop-up cards, however!

        1. TechWorker*

          I love this idea and think I’ll steal it! I wouldn’t normally do Christmas presents of any sort but if we were in the office I certainly would have taken my team out for a drink so this feels like a nice pandemic option that’s not really a ‘gift’ but might be special to receive.

    7. misspiggy*

      Seconding the fancy chocolate for #5. Here in the UK you can get lots of nice boxes of chocolates from online retailers for £3-4. With a personal gift message, that would say, “I value you enough to get you a nice treat” even if the recipient wasn’t hugely into chocolate.

      If the LW knows certain people don’t eat sugar, there are plenty of similar options on the savoury side, nicely packaged seeds and nuts and the like.

    8. Greyscale*

      $7 is exactly enough for a sandwich at my favorite sandwich shop. If my manager Venmo’d (is that a word?) me $7 with a note that said, “Merry Christmas, have a sandwich on me!” I’d be thrilled.

      But I think e-gift cards are the way to go. Either to a coffee shop or someplace that you know your employees shop at often (Target, a particular grocery store chain, etc).

      1. AcademiaNut*

        Somehow, I wouldn’t blink at a $7 gift card to Starbucks (basically, it’s the boss buying me coffee and a cookie), but a $7 gift card to Target or Amazon would seem very, very odd.

        I’d go for the Starbucks card, and sign it as “here’s coffee on me”. It’s enough for a beverage and a snack, or a fancy beverage, but it’s a small enough amount that I wouldn’t feel bad about not using it, if it wasn’t convenient or useful for me.

        1. Tuckerman*

          The nice thing about even small amounts for Target/Amazon is that sometimes people get multiple gift cards over the course of the season. But even if not, I’d be pretty happy to get a $5 Target gift card as it gives me flexibility to put it towards something I already need (groceries) or something fun.

          1. madge*

            Yep, we used to get $5-10 cards to a local grocery store and I love them because I put them toward the “don’t need it but love it” fancy cheese or takeout. It’s a fun little splurge.

        2. BusyBee*

          I think framing it as “have a coffee on me” is actually kind of cute, and would not strike me as odd at all if it was given to me. I’d be pretty excited, actually! Plus, no additional shipping cost. Win-win.

          1. blueberry*

            Yeah this is tbh a small amount of money for a gift, and while the calendars or notebooks mentioned do sound good, it doesn’t seem like an end-of-year gift. Coffee in the manager would be nicer than “wow my company is so broke I got a tiny gift”

    9. Four lights*

      #5 You could do a trial of Amazon Prime. Target has free shipping for cardholders. Someone else had the idea of gift cards, which can be electronic. On Wish you can find really cheap things, it’s very hot or miss though, but might work for a gag gift (like a toothpick crossbow).

    10. Observer*

      #5 – The nice thing with most gift cards is that you can send them electronically. Even sending a physical card is not too bad either.

    11. Aphrodite*

      How about a keychain flashlight? They work for everyone. I see that on Amazon there are quite a few choices under $7.

    12. pcake*

      Number 5, have you considered card games? There are a bunch on Amazon for under $7, and some are quite fun. There are also travel games – small versions of games, dice games and so on. Or how about getting a multipack of travel mugs and breaking up the set? Like these https://www.amazon.com/MEWAY-Tumbler-Stainless-Travel-Insulated/dp/B081DR68NN/

      Maybe small paint sets or sets of acrylic paint markers -the ZEYAR Acrylic Paint pen, Water Based, Extra Fine Point, Set of 7 comes in at your budget https://www.amazon.com/ZEYAR-Acrylic-Painting-Ceramic-surfaces/dp/B07VZBY87W/. Or how about a paint set – I found a couple within budget on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Watercolour-Portable-Watercolor-Supplies-Students/dp/B08F32G1Z7/
      https://www.amazon.com/Colors-Watercolor-Paint-Palette-Set/dp/B08H5VN7X1/

      1. Annony*

        There are also some inexpensive computer games. Among Us is popular right now and costs $5. It can also double as a fun remote activity if your team is into that.

    13. pcake*

      How about card games or travel games? My son’s GF was pretty broke last year, and bought everyone a game for around $7 each on Amazon. Some were quite fun.

      There’s a 7-pack of acrylic paint pens on Amazon for under $7, and there are a couple watercolor paint sets with brush and looking decent, rated 4 stars or higher for your budget, as well. Or you could buy a 4 pack of travel mugs and break up the set. I found a four pack rated 4 stars for $28.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        I’ve done the travel games thing at a former company’s White Elephant exchange, and they kept getting stolen (so were a hit). The person who ended up stealing them for the last time was going on a 16 hour trip a few weeks later and said she’d need something to do on the plane.

    14. nnn*

      I don’t have a specific gift idea, but in addition to thinking “items that cost under $7 each”, you could also think about whether there’s anything you can buy bulk/wholesale for $98 and then divide up. (Candy? Interesting desk stuff?) The economics may or may not work out when you take into account individual shipping, but sometimes that’s a way to get into “things people wouldn’t or couldn’t by for themselves” territory, which can make gifts more special.

    15. Dennis Feinstein*

      OP5 If you think your staff would like it, maybe give $100 to a charity in their names? (Not the human fund, obviously!)

      1. JJ*

        I like this a lot, and it sounds like she may be in the medical field, so LOTS of options to donate to this year (unfortunately). You could choose a few and have the staff vote?

    16. allathian*

      This one’s tough! I’d probably go with an electronic gift card of some kind, because these can be sent via work email.

    17. Beatrice*

      I’m doing an assortment of small gifts this year – a fancy handmade soap, a package of their individual favorite candy (my dept put together a survey earlier this year that included a couple of questions about snack/candy preferences, so I have that), and a small gift card. If I had to keep it to $7, I’d just do one of those things.

    18. Mimi*

      I’ve done goody bags before, where I buy packages of many things that can be divided up. So for instance, maybe everybody gets a bag with bookmarks, a pen, a stylus, random candy, hand sanitizer, a microwave popcorn bag, a hot chocolate mix, some holiday tea, an ornament, etc. If at $7 a person, you think this way, you can give quite a lot and probably have people like or use most things in their bag.

        1. TechServLib*

          I had a boss once who actually gave out Christmas stockings to each of us in the department! She hung them below our cubicle name plates, which I thought was the coziest thing ever. I estimate each stocking + contents cost about $10, so it would be easy to cut it down to meet OP’s budget. She did a full size stocking (likely from Wal-Mart or Dollar Store for $2-3) with a mug (probably $1-2 from same place), some hot chocolate packets (split up packages so each had a variety of flavors), candy canes (festive and cheap!), tea bags (same idea with flavor variety- make sure to get individually packaged ones), colorful pens and highlighters, a cute notepad, some assorted other candy (I seem to remember Lindor balls and Ghiradelli squares, but those are obviously more expensive choices), and a handwritten card. If you did a smaller stocking with some of the ideas here and from @Mimi (leave out the heavier items, like the mug) I bet you could stuff each stocking for $5 and mail it in a padded envelope for $2.

          1. SunnySideUp*

            A padded envelope has to ship at package rate and costs about $3 for 3-4 ounces, so maybe… maybe not

    19. Kisses*

      #5, I think the personal letter is a great idea, and you could always throw in a $5 gift card maybe for a local coffee shop nearby.
      That would be something I would appreciate greatly, since I wouldn’t always be able to get myself a cup.

    20. Not Australian*

      What about individually-chosen tree ornaments or decorations? It’s a know-your-workplace kind of thing, obviously, but since you specifically mention Christmas and Secret Santa it may be appropriate.

      1. doreen*

        There are also credit card shaped or keychain multitools, which can be mailed for the same postage as a card.

    21. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Y’all, keep in mind that she’s got to pay shipping too on anything that’s not an electronic gift card, and that’s going to eat up most of the budget per person.

      1. Mushroom*

        I’d echo the personalized card idea, possibly a donation.
        The need to ship stuff this year highlights how culturally we are wired to think that a small gift (typically cheaply made) that only a portion of the group will truly enjoy (can’t please everyone) is a necessity. Pandemic, as tough as it is, provides an interesting backdrop to re-evaluate our values on a whole bunch of things, including creating unnecessary waste. Gifting a cheap gadget from amazon or a dollar store may feel good in the moment but doesn’t last long. Kind words and appreciation are much more long lasting gifts and come with a much kinder environmental footprint too:)

        1. Observer*

          Don’t do a donation. It’s not a gift, and rarely makes the “recipient” feel good, unless they have actually ASKED FOR IT. And, in many cases, it not only doesn’t make people feel good, it actually makes them feel worse.

    22. Megan S.*

      With that many gifts to but, I’d consider getting Amazon Prime for yourself, so you just pay one fee and then you can keep using the Prime shipping and videos for yourself since the regular shipping would likely exceed the cost of that for so many people. Then look at gift ideas with a price limit on Amazon and see if any suggestions catch your eye. Other option would be to order each person a mug with candy in it or something that catches your eye from Dollar Tree. They have lots of nice stuff there that looks nicer than $1 worth and then likely wouldn’t exceed $7/person total to ship the stuff. Or could do $5 gift cards to local coffee shop like Starbucks and mail to each worker which would likely only be standard mail cost.

    23. Jemima Bond*

      Dependent on circs in your area, how about the dollar store? If I wanted small token gifts for less than a fiver including P&P I’d be straight down the pound shop (open here usually despite lockdown as they sell some basic food items). I assume dollar stores sell the same sort of things; cute stationery, Christmas ornaments and christmassy chocolate/other treats spring to mind but if you know people personally you could be quite tailored in your choices and useful things like mini hand gels or novelty tissues or hair elastics can be welcome if you are thoughtful about who gets what.

    24. Kate, short for Bob*

      Haven’t read all the responses but one idea would be to find a local sewist and commission soft cotton facemasks – you should be able to get them as a job lot for that and leave a little for posting – which will fit into a standard office envelope.

      1. Colette*

        I like that. Another option would be face mask brackets, which can be cheap. (They fit under your mask to give you a bit more breathing room.)

      2. Nancy*

        I recommend skipping masks and anything covid related in their gifts to people, unless specifically asked.

        My vote is for some kind of gift card.

      3. Klida*

        Also vote for no masks. It took me some time to modify the sewing pattern I got ( after careful consideration) into one that’s comfortable and save for me use.
        The masks my employer sent me are for emergencies when I ran out of my masks, because not only are they not comfortable to wear, they also fog up my glasses like crazy even in summer and I personally prefer seeing were I walk.

    25. dogmom*

      How about gift cards that just go to email? Just a $5 gift card to Amazon or Starbucks (or even a Visa gift card). That would save on shipping!

    26. Starling*

      I pitch out or regift dollar store type stuff pretty quickly. I’m very grateful for the sentiment, but I don’t like clutter. But! I always keep handwritten notes from bosses and colleagues. Those I treasure. Someone else mentioned LovePop and those are very high quality cards that feel extra special.

    27. mreasy*

      I would absolutely go for nice individually chosen cards. That could easily cost $7 with postage and a handwritten card would mean more than a little trinket.

    28. Policy Wonk*

      Hand sanitizer or face masks. If you buy 14 at a time you can probably get them at your price point. Would be appropriate for 2020, and is useful!

    29. Cordoba*

      $5-6 will get a nice dial-type tire pressure gauge.

      If you live in an area where most people drive cars or ride bikes, this is a genuinely handy thing that many people could use but don’t have. They’re much easier to read than the pen-style gauges.

      It’s also an easy re-gift if somebody doesn’t have an application for it.

    30. The Other Dawn*

      I agree with Alison to skip the gifts this year, not only because everyone is now remote and you’ll have to pay shipping, but also because you have 14 people on your team. That’s a lot of people to spend money on. If you have the money to spend that’s fine, but 7.00 isn’t going to get you all that much that team members will like, other than maybe coffee gift cards others have mentioned. If I were on your team, I’d much rather get a card or note that speaks to me personally about the work I’ve put in over the year, how much you appreciate it, etc.

      My team is about 10 people now and we’re now fully remote, so I’ve opted to throw them a full day of free PTO to use between now and the end of the year. When Christmas comes around I’ll write a personal note to each of them.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        I love the PTO idea and suggested something similar on another letter here a week or so ago.

    31. Amethystmoon*

      There are places who will let you customize gift card amounts. If nothing else, I would just do a gift card.

    32. Quinalla*

      Agree on personalized notes, I just got one from my boss this weekend in the mail, just 2 sentences, but some specific praise on something we’ve been working hard on together and it was the best. And notes like that I keep forever!

      I do like the idea of hand sanitizer in this time, but even if you get a really small bottle, you might be over the $7 to ship to each person. A small gift card to Starbucks or whatever the local grocery store is in your area with a “treat yourself on me!” note, would work, but either way I’d do a personalized note to each employee.

    33. WellRed*

      I’m unclear if the $7 needs to include shipping. In which case, you’ll have to do gift cards. Or just a card.

    34. Week old sourdough*

      The best conference swag I ever received was a ceramic box cutter device. It’s so handy and I’m sure it was less than $2-3 a piece. It makes for an excellent stocking stuffer!

    35. Violet Fox*

      For the amount of money, I honestly think a personalised note will feel a lot more meaningful than any sort of small, inexpensive knickknack could. It’s at lest what I would prefer.

    36. Malika*

      It might sound overly wholesome, but could you have as option that the $7 be donated to a good cause of their choice? If I can choose between a shower gel or a donation to Unicef, I know what to go for.

      1. Crop Tiger*

        Am I the only one who hates the idea of donations? It’s not a gift, and quite frankly I’d find the idea that someone donated seven dollars in my name insulting. I’m personally involved with my favorite charity, and I don’t want my name attached to some token donation.

        1. Safely Retired*

          I wouldn’t phrase it as $7 for each person. “Since our group will not be together this year, rather than give each of you a small gift I am donating $100 to [local food charity] in the name of the [Company] Llama Logistics Team.”

        2. Diahann Carroll*

          The suggestion was that OP could donate the money to a charity of the employee’s choice. Meaning, not a random charity they may or may not support.

      2. tiny cactus*

        One donation idea that might go over well with a group is to donate to an animal rescue that has a live cam. Many of those will include some acknowledgment that your group has symbolically “adopted” the animal, and it’s nice to take a break to look at a cute animal whose care your office has helped support.

    37. Nep*

      Cheryl’s Cookies have a card with a single cookie that’s $5.00. They ship basically anywhere. I don’t remember how shipping works with them, and I have no idea if that’d be an acceptable gift based on your previous years’ standards, but I’ve sent them to friends before as a pick-me-up.

    38. Oh No She Di'int*

      If you know your team well–and can push the amount just slightly–$98 is very close to $100. That would make a nice group donation to a local charity or cause. That plus an email that says, “This year I made a group donation in our name to Noncontroversial Charity of America” might give everyone a warm, fuzzy feeling and be easy for everyone involved.

      1. Simonthegreywarden*

        The issue is that every time someone names a “noncontroversial” organization for donation, seven people pop up and explain why they would not agree, do not like this charity, what is problematic about it, and a host of other things.

    39. kalli*

      I’d be looking at something that fits in an envelope – some keychains will, even with protective wrapping. Phone danglers, ornaments (especially neutral ones like snowflakes), fridge magnets. They can slide in with a nice or even handmade or printed/personalised card and pop in the post, so long as they don’t have to go too far or overseas, that should be fine.

    40. Janon*

      A electronic gift card for coffee or something would help save on shipping and is something that will be useful to everyone.

    41. Rayray*

      I like the coffee shop gift card idea but another is that You could always do a treat and fleece throw blanket. I know I like having a fleece throw at my desk in the cold winter months.

    42. BJTW*

      My direct supervisor did something I always thought was kind of clever. She wrote a nice card and included a lottery scratch off inside. It was fun! This would also eliminate shipping costs. All you need is a stamp for the card.

    43. Ana Gram*

      I give $5 Starbucks gift cards (there are 3 stores within 15 minutes of the office so everyone has access) and a personal note. It’s easy enough to find something there even if you don’t drink coffee or just regift it.

    44. Sparkles McFadden*

      USB drives. I know I can always use another one. You can buy them in bulk and mail them pretty easily.

      I would opt for lottery scratcher off over a gift card. I’m not a big lottery person. It’s kind of a frivolous thing to do, and so it’s perfect for something to enclose in a nice think you note. I always appreciated a genuine note of appreciation from a manager.

    45. Old Woman in Purple*

      #5: Gift Card!!!!! Postage would be a single first-class stamp (well under $1); less if email delivery is an option.

      Many folks here are suggesting Coffee-Shop cards (Starbucks, et al), but [NEWS FLASH] not everyone drinks coffee. I would go with a card for [local grocery store], as everyone eats food. If money is tight for the recipient, even $5-7 would be helpful; if not, they can use it towards something indulgent (including fancy coffee, at a better price than Starbucks).

      My second choice would be Amazon.com. As another poster mentioned, receiving multiple of these isn’t unusual in some social circles, and they combine easily.

      Tax won’t be an issue for such a small amount. The IRS, with all its overbearing reputation, isn’t gonna string up a dozen+ people over tax on $[single-digit] amounts!

    46. HR Recruiter*

      I cashed in my credit card rewards points got gift cards. Amazon had a candy sale. 18 full size candy bars for $8 and 12 pack of Mike and Ike’s for less then $1 total! So I have essentially spent $9 and have gifts done for my employees, kids teachers, and bus drivers. Everyone will get gc, candy, and a nice note. You could do $5 gift card and pair with a nice note or treat. In past years instead of a gift I’ve bought lunch for everyone. If you did pizza or Chipolte it would work out to your $7/pp.

    47. 1234*

      I didn’t see this in the response and I skimmed it. The website brandless.com has a kitchen essentials section, if your employees like to cook.

      There’s free shipping over $50, if you need anything for yourself or are also buying gifts for others in yourv life, not just coworkers.

    48. Pauli*

      When I was a student worker, our boss got us each a gift card for one video rental at our local place, and a bag of microwave popcorn, with a nice note thanking us for all our hard work. That was like 20 years ago obviously, but maybe there’s a digital equivalent to something like that?

      1. The Happy Graduate*

        I actually really love that idea, it doesn’t even have to include a movie, but just a small package of movie-night snacks (one popcorn box and some brand-name candy from the dollarstore) and that’s sweet and thoughtful!

    49. Lisa Babs*

      If you still want to do a gift this year, I would focus on something that can be mailed in a card. Where you write a personalized message to the and then slip in a small gift.

      Maybe something like a bookmark. I gave them to my coworkers last year but personalized them to each one’s personality. (ie – One was from drag race (reading is fundamental) and another had the employee’s favorite flower (lilac) on it). So each one was unique to them. They seemed to really love it. Etsy has anything you can think up.

      There are also those Water Proof Credit Card Sized Flashlight that comes in various designs that also should fit in a card.

      Or if you want the same gift for everyone a $5 scratch ticket.

    50. bluephone*

      Your heart is in the right place, Gift OP, but given the $7 limit and shipping logistics (plus all the other brouhaha of a pandemic), I would definitely skip trying to give everyone an actual gift and just send a nice note/card? Otherwise, I think gift cards along the lines of Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Target, etc, would work. I just don’t think you should drive yourself crazy trying to find a crack-ton of $7-or-less (with shipping) tchotckes. Speaking for myself, I do *not* want any more tchotkes (including mugs, pencils, notebooks, keychains, travel sized toiletries–yes, even travel-sized Purell–Christmas candles, knockoff Precious Moments figurines, etc etc etc) in my house. Even before Ye Olde Pandemic Tyme I was clearing out as much stuff from my house as possible, thanks to several elderly relatives dying in one year and their literal hoards being distributed among surviving family members…for us to then churn into the trash because they weren’t even thrift-shop worthy :-(
      Get some nice stationery, pen a nice note, don’t over-think it, I’m glad your reports have someone who wants to do something nice for them, especially this year!

    51. Former Retail Manager*

      Apologies if this is a repeat suggestion, but every once in a while, Amazon has fun, useful or quirky gifts for around $5 to $6 each and you can filter gifts by price. Maybe you will come across something that they’d enjoy, be it the same gift for everyone or half & half, or whatnot. If you can’t make the price point happen, then I agree that a heartfelt, genuine note of appreciation would be the next best thing. Ideally, they’d be tailored to each employee’s contributions and not a generic “thanks for your hard work.”

    52. PeanutButter*

      Tbh, thoughtful hand-written notes in holiday cards are way more meaningful to me than <$7 knick-nacks. I keep really great personal cards I've received in years past and re-reading them as I put them out for display makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

    53. MEH*

      As I’ve mentioned in a few replies, I’m allergic to almost everything, scent-wise and food-wise. Especially in this year, I would most appreciate a thoughtful note rather than anything tangible that I would have to throw out, anyway. Barring that, I do like the gift card to a local coffee shop with a note that says ‘coffee/tea is on me’.

    54. TootsNYC*

      I bought flat cards / correspondence cards and matching envelopes; I could get them in larger packs. I broke them into sets of 5, and printed everyone’s name on the top of the card in a font and color I thought reflected them.

      I don’t know what it came out to, but these guys are 22¢ per card and 18¢ per envelope
      https://www.envelopes.com/notecards/a7-flat-card-100lb-bright-white
      https://www.envelopes.com/invitation/square-flap/a7-invitation-envelopes-24lb-bright-white

      They’d be relatively inexpensive to mail as well.
      People seemed really touched, even the one guy who doesn’t really like much of anything.

    55. Gumby*

      In the vein of supporting locally-owned businesses – one thing a former employee had as a perk was monthly car wash at a local hand wash place. They had a deal where the employee would hand over a business card when getting their car washed and at the end of the month, or week, or whatever, the business took the cards to the company and was reimbursed. Knowing the company, it might also have been prepaid. But setting up a small service like that might be an option. (However, that place was right at the $7 mark for normal-sized cars and SUVs were extra. But there may be similar services/items that you can work with a small business to set up.)

    56. The Happy Graduate*

      If you have employees address’ on file, you could email them ahead of time and ask if they would be open to a “hand delivery” of something from a local store, such as vegan baked goods (safest diet option nowadays), fragrance-free soaps, or even reusable straws! In this time, the more support for small local businesses the better. You could leave a little gift bag on their door if they agree to that option, or if you’re comfortable with it send them your address instead and they can let you know when they’re stopping by and you can leave it outside for them right before they get there. If that’s not a thought you like, depending on your area with covid, you could suggest a park that’s reasonable distance to everyone (or from your old workplace) and people can meet you and safely pick up their gift at a distance and you can all chat a bit too.

    57. Nursecrys*

      Thank you to everyone for all the amazing ideas! There are several that did not occur to me at all that will be greatly enjoyed by my team!
      Nursecrys (aka OP #5)

    58. Galahad*

      Gifts for under $7 — you need to get something that is small and light and ships as regular letter mail.

      -A packet of seeds inside a nice note card?
      – window holiday decal or papercut decoration
      -hankerchiefs with each person’s initials
      – electronic –> buy a steam game for everyone that has the option for online group play that you know is fun.
      – something for their desk, that is flat.
      – One of those 7 in one tools that is the size of a credit card that fits into a wallet.

    59. Alice's Rabbit*

      Cute or geeky thumb drives? I mean, you’re IT, so anything technology related is good. And I know Amazon has some fun ones for cheap, and their shipping isn’t too bad. If you have Prime, you can even ship for free. And yes, you can have them shipped to different addresses. I do that all the time for gifts.

    60. ButteredToast*

      I suggest $7 digital gift cards to something like Google Play so they can rent/buy a movie to watch. No shipping cost, everyone can select something that matches their tastes, and a lot of options cost $6.99, so your gift would cover anything except new releases.

  5. Lady Heather*

    OP2, do you want a socially-distant virtual hug?

    You sound absolutely exhausted. I wonder if this is the last thing in a string of small and big annoyances or hindrances, and/or whether you’re frustrated “sources of consternation” are now being asked for when they haven’t been picked up on/listened to when you offered them of your own accord.

    1. Batgirl*

      I think the OP was quite demoralised when their last suggestion was turned down; especially since it turned out to be a water tight idea. Now, I think they expect all problems to be handwaved away, hence the incredulity at the special effort going into airing such problems. However, it could be the opposite. They could be trying to find ways to act on suggestions.

      1. Allonge*

        That’s an interesting point, and I can absolutely see for this to be the case. I would really advise OP2 though that having resilience around these setbacks is part of a good employee’s toolbox. It sucks to be turned down and then proven right, but unless this happens in toxic ways, it’s just part of working in a large institution. All good employees I know found ways to recover.

        The other thing is, look, you can have a weekly meeting that is actually about problem-solving (how on earth will anyone know?) or you can have a five-minute consternation coffee with everyone saying I have no consternations this weeek, but can you call me about project Banana? Having a weekly meeting is not necessarily a terrible idea.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I think a ‘source for consternation ‘ for me would be seeing how well the Excel spreadsheet is working, and anticipating that it is going to go back to the slower, bulkier unsearchable paper format.

      1. Quinalla*

        Agreed, I kept expecting this connection to be made in the letter and had to read it twice to make sure I didn’t miss it.

        I do understand disappointment when you feel you weren’t listened to on feedback and then asked for more feedback. However, they did listen, they just didn’t agree and that is going to happen a lot in the work world. You have to try and not get too attached to that sort of thing, it isn’t personal. Trust me, I know as I get overly attached to things at work sometimes :)

    3. TCO*

      Agreed that OP2 sounds pretty miserable, and it might be worth thinking about why. Maybe it’s just because 2020 has been tough for many people, or maybe it’s that this job has big problems beyond this one meeting practice.

  6. Harvey JobGetter*

    Re OP3: if none of the reasonable suggestions work, everybody should get their own speaker and play music simultaneously so he can’t listen to his. It would be torture for everyone, but it would probably work.

    1. Lumio*

      Unfortunately there are people who think it’s perfectly normal that nine other people also have their music on speaker and won’t hear an issue at all.

      1. ellex42*

        I worked in that office. Pop music in one ear, country/western in the other, and 50’s oldies behind me. I would have worn earplugs to block it all out (this was a bit before noise-eliminating earphones showed up), but I was the one answering the office phone.

    2. MK*

      Actually I personally would be much less bothered by a cacophony of noises around me than one person playing music, I can block it out.

      1. Tired of Covid-and People*

        This would drive me insane. I need silence to work. Score another one for working from home and not having to adapt to the habits of others, especially if you live alone like I do. In any case, listening to anything on speakers should be prohibited in a common workspace, full stop.

        1. hamburke*

          I don’t need silence but there are many noises (including some music or talk shows) that I find distracting, especially before I get in the groove or while I’ve come out of the groove to think thru an issue. Working from home, my kids figured out pretty quick that they can’t watch specific tv shows (the TV is on the other side of the wall – there’s a door and it’s muffled but still distracting) or play certain playlists during working hours

      2. Elenna*

        Yeah, same, at that point it would just turn into white noise which seems easier to block out, for me, than a coherent song.
        But also the guy could just… use headphones… like a sane adult who understands how to be polite to others…

        1. LunaLena*

          It frankly shocks me how many “adults” don’t know to use headphones in public. I encounter them a lot while hiking or even walking around my neighborhood – people who just blast their music on an external speaker for everyone to hear. I can’t fathom it myself, but I suspect they just don’t care.

    3. lilsheba*

      So glad I can work from home and play whatever I want from my beautiful bluetooth speaker. I do my work calls on that speaker too, and I only pause music when I’m on a call. I can’t work with silence, but I don’t like people being loud around me either. Music helps me focus. And I spent the last 5 years with a headset on my head for 10 solid hours a day, no thanks…I’ll use my speaker. Working from home has been such a game changer!

  7. Bluesboy*

    #4: I understand where you are coming from, and I applaud your commitment. But I suggest that you take the time to get your CV done, even if it means struggling to hit deadline just for once, unless that would jeopardise your employment. You are more important than your job, and it sounds like you need to make a change.

    In general, I suggest updating your CV once a year or so, whether you need it or not – you never know when you might need it, or when a golden opportunity might come up at short notice.

    One suggestion – the thing that really takes up time in writing a CV is the thinking more than the writing. If you have anything that describes your role, and the successes in it – job description, performance reviews etc – track it down and start from that.

    1. WFH with Cat*

      +1

      I will add something that Alison points out in her how to get hired book: Don’t spend so much time trying to polish a resume/cover letter that you fail to apply in time to be considered for the job. Get your resume done and submitted, even if it’s not perfect.

      Best of luck to you!

  8. nonethefewer*

    I’m interested in the focus in LW1’s letter on this 5-7 minutes deal, given the firmly buried lede of “also deadnaming folk” and “straight-up not doing work she doesn’t want to do”. Either of those would be a punishable or fireable offense. Both of them together makes this employee a lightly steaming Arizona dumpster in the summer. So what’s with the “~15 minutes a day!” focus?

    1. Myrin*

      I said this above but I think it actually fits better here:

      I can only guess, of course, but I’d think it’s because the time someone arrives/leaves is a very tangible thing. It seems to be happening basically every day – and once a week she’s even “truly” late, later than the allowed 7 minutes – and affects those around her in a very concrete way.

      The other problems affect those around her too, of course, and I’d say in a more profund way even than the lateness, but it’s probably spread out across the day and also sometimes might be in the realm of “is this really unreasonable or am I just pissed off because it’s Jerk who did this thing” or her entire presence is just so filled with “literally everything she does is horrible” that it’s hard to keep track or even really take in all of it.

      Or maybe HR has already shown that they don’t care about any of these issues so OP is trying to get them via the time issues, if nothing else. (I think OP would’ve mentioned it if that was the case but who knows.)

      1. LQ*

        Agreed. If you have an HR who doesn’t care about something easily documentable, you’re likely to assume they aren’t going to care about something that someone can brush off with “oops”. If you have to make a clear case to HR then you are going to start with the most easily documentable, most difficult to refute claim. I’m guessing OP is incredibly frustrated about this, and is clearly frustrated about the other things in the list. But they (wisely so) started with the one thing that they could pull from time cards, show a real impact on students, and have a clear improvement plan for that the person would fail.

        The deadnaming and transphobia could go on for months with HR coming back over and over saying “they just made a mistake you have to give them another chance” or worse, the person in question claims it is their religious belief to be a bigot and HR refuses to touch it.

    2. Boof*

      I’m not sure it’s helpful to criticize lw1 for naming all the terrible things, but not stressing them the “right” way (i put right in quotes because lw1 may have been told previously interpersonal stuff is “drama” and “not work related” before, given past aam letters on passive orgs). Can we just emphasize that those are worth going to hr about too, and may even be more of a liability than the predictable lateness?

      1. Mookie*

        I suppose it’s because the deadnaming itself is wildly disqualifying, but the LW didn’t share HR’s reaction to it. We learned HR is misguided about issues of timeliness and shift work. Which has led the commentariat to wonder whether the deadnaming has, in fact, been reported. If it hasn’t, the LW has, sadly, failed her employees who are victims of it.

        As for the “right” way, I think we should be careful not to behave as though the LW is a victim of this employee and that anyone here who critiques her choices are “blaming” or “shaming” her unfairly. She is, in fact, the one with the power here. It IS indubitably her responsibility to protect her employees from coworkers like this. There ARE, in fact, right and wrong ways to handle this abuse and harassment. I understand that HR is failing everybody here, but this has reached the point where it needs to either be escalated or more thoroughly reported. With power comes responsibility and the obligation to continue to make trouble when you see the morale of your staff plummeting because they are working with a lazy asshole.

        1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          You’re assuming the boss has power to do anything about it.

          I’ve worked places where the boss was able to give a verbal warning on their own. Written warnings, PIPs, and terminations had to go through your boss and HR for approval, first. So if Fergus is deadnaming and misgendering people and I think Fergus should be fired for harassment, but my boss thinks it’s “just a mistake” and HR thinks it’s “interpersonal drama that my department needs to manage on its own,” then all Fergus is going to get is a series of verbal warnings and there’s jack all I can do about it.

          In some cases, I’ve been in places where that turned on the boss, “Why can’t you get along with people? Why are you always having interpersonal drama with your employees?” when the supervisor appealed to their boss or HR to get the situation fixed.

      2. pancakes*

        They may have been told any number of inanities, but the letter writer and their coworkers nonetheless have legal and ethical obligations with regard to not harassing students. As adults in a workplace it’s incumbent on them to understand and meet those obligations even if focusing on easier, smaller, other conflicts seems easier. “This seems too fuzzy for me so I’ll just focus on the clock” isn’t good enough.

    3. EventPlannerGal*

      In an hourly coverage-based role, it may just be that this is the most tangible and easily proved/documented issue. From everything I’ve read it can be distressingly difficult to get employers to take transphobic acts like deadnaming as seriously as they (morally and legally) should. And insubordination can be quite difficult to document as it may come down to things like tone and timing that, while obvious in the moment, might be difficult to prove after the fact or dismissed as interpersonal issues or something. But wrt the lateness, well, it’s a coverage role where she is clearly expected to arrive on time and is causing immediate problems when she doesn’t, they obviously have some kind of clock-in/out system that’s recording when she arrives, and if you can print out a big list of all the times she’s been late then that should be hard to argue with. So I can see why OP is focusing on trying to get HR to take that part seriously, just because it’s likely the most immediately tangible/simplest problem.

      (I also suspect that if this is an HR team that misinterprets the law and reasonable policy on something as simple as lateness, OP may be hesitant to bring more complex issues to them…)

      1. miss chevious*

        Yeah, as someone who once supervised an employee with a significant problem with insubordination and a strong ability to argue back and cow HR into silence, sometimes the technical violations are the easiest to proceed on because they are objective and not subject to argument. I agree that the timeliness is the tip of the iceberg in terms of seriousness, but OP may have thought she had an ironclad case there in the face of weak HR support, unlike the other issues.

      2. Littorally*

        Right.

        And as well, I think the fact that this is impacting student workers makes the lateness a much bigger issue than the commentariat is giving the LW credit for. A lot of us on here are either salaried or generally in roles where coverage isn’t so big of a deal, so we’re inclined to take lateness lightly — but for student workers, classes have to be priority over jobs, and working at the university, that should generally be recognized. Forcing students to either leave work with no staffing or be routinely late to their classes is a pretty damn big deal, and one that the university needs to acknowledge.

      3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        This was my thought (though phrased way better) as well – when HR can act this odd about the on-time stuff, well -how in the world do you document the stuff that she can say “oops, I’ll work on that it was a mistake” about.
        It could also be that she is trying to keep the students out of “miserable” line of fire, so is using something that is very easily documented. Unfortunately, it’s not working so now it’s time to move on the the truly reprehensible stuff that she’s doing that will be harder to document – but OP, you’re going to have to do it.

    4. virago*

      Deadnaming trans people and outright blowing off unwanted tasks are both heinous, I agree.

      But I affirm Myrin’s take on it — that the tardiness is *tangible.*

      Also, it sounds as though it’s a coverage-based job. A butt has to be in a seat. And if a student is waiting for this Arizona dumpster to get to work before the student worker can leave, that means that the student worker can’t depart and get to class on time.

      The tardy slacker transphobe is essentially saying, “My time is more important than yours.” It’s just so disrespectful.

      1. Observer*

        Except that she’s also being late by HR standards once a week! If your HR really, really won’t deal with clearly documented cases of harassment and insubordination, why not at least deal with the lateness that HR actually acknowledges?!

        And, to be honest, it doesn’t sound like the OP has even brought the other stuff to HR.

    5. bluephone*

      I’m reading the letter again because it sounds like OP didn’t ever raise the transphobia (or even the insubordination?) to HR?? Because if they did and HR blew them off…hoo boy. That’s a “time to call the local news” situation right there, while polishing up your own resume.
      OP 1, who honestly cares about the 5-7 minute stuff when you’ve got a ticking time bomb of an employee who is actively making your other reports’ lives hell. This is going to ping the Buzzfeed Investigation signal like crazy.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        From the comments, OP did raise the discrimination issues to HR, and they blew her off just like they did with the lateness complaint.

      2. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        Sadly, depending on where they’re located I very much doubt the news or much of the local population would care about transphobia or deadnaming. There are many parts of the world, particularly within the US, where trans rights aren’t only ignored but downright impeded.

      1. TooTiredToThink*

        A $5 Starbucks card gets a free drink with change left over, so I imagine $7 would get 2 drinks. Its not much, no, but if I knew it came from my boss’ personal funds, I’d still be appreciative.

    1. madge*

      This, and some Chambers of Commerce have gift cards that can be used at any Chamber-member business. I’d appreciate a $7 card like this because I’d use it for curbside from somewhere that my family doesn’t like, and therefore we don’t usually visit.

      1. Retired worker bee*

        But the gift card wouldn’t be for $7, because the $7 has to include the cost of shipping.

        1. madge*

          If it’s a physical card, it’s the cost of a stamp but even if the card is $5, so? If I know it’s from my manager’s personal funds, I would appreciate it regardless of the amount.

          The Chamber cards I’m aware of in my little corner of the world are e-cards. That includes a town with a population of 4,000 people and an absolutely awful, outdated website.

    1. Tired of Covid-and People*

      Does everybody here work for Starbucks? DD is a thing and am I the only one who doesn’t care for SB? Or is it the snob factor? I don’t know, but folks need to stop acting like SB is the only coffee shop around.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Nah, I think it’s just because Starbucks is just so ubiquitous that it became the go-to coffee shop – there’s literally four within walking distance of my apartment, which is seriously overkill, and only two Dunkin’s, one of which has weird hours. I’d personally go with the DD gift card if I had 14 people to buy for and limited funds because their coffees and specialty drinks are much cheaper than Starbucks (which means more bang for the buck), but I can see why others are going with the latter if there just aren’t many DD’s around them.

        1. LQ*

          I think Starbucks is short hand for “coffee chain of local convenience” like Kleneex. Around here no one would get a Starbucks card because there aren’t any that are open in the walkable area, but you might still suggest it as a card for coffee and everyone would know that you’d get it from the other places.

      2. Guacamole Bob*

        I was confused when I moved to a new city a few years ago and there were no Dunkin Donuts. I thought from the “America Runs On Dunkin” slogan that they were as ubiquitous as Starbucks everywhere, but they’re really not.

        If OP is in, say, Boston, then yes, DD all the way.

      3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        DD is a thing and am I the only one who doesn’t care for SB?

        I don’t care for Starbucks, either. Every time I have their coffee, it’s tasted burnt. My in-laws gently rib me that I like my milk with a splash of coffee, but at Starbucks that’s more true than not. IMWO, the only virtues of Starbucks–other than their virtue signaling–is that they’re as common as McDonalds in the States and their coffee starts slightly cooler.

        If Dunkin Donuts aren’t plentiful in your area, I’d suggest Panera as an alternative.

          1. Natalie*

            I can’t remember if it was Consumerist or Gawker, but some blog named their tag for Starbucks stories “tastes burnt”.

        1. lazy intellectual*

          YEP. Starbucks coffee always tastes burnt. The only thing I like about it is the fact that it’s suuuper caffeinated.

          DD sucks too though. Fortunately, I’m spoiled for choice in my area when it comes to local shops and chains.

      4. MCMonkeyBean*

        It’s not the only coffee shop around, but I think at least in the US it is the one that you can most easily assume all of your employees are likely to have one nearby.

        One other thing I haven’t seen mentioned and I don’t know for sure if it’s still true, but a while ago they let you combine gift cards online which I think is a handy feature if you plan on gifting a small card like $5. I don’t drink coffee at all but have occasionally used a SB gift card for other things, but more frequently they sit in my wallet unused. But one time I had a handful of small cards that I had accumulated and was able to move all the balances on to one gift card, and then was able to give a now like $20 or $25 gift card to someone who actually drinks coffee. That was nice to be able to do that.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          One other thing I haven’t seen mentioned and I don’t know for sure if it’s still true, but a while ago they let you combine gift cards online which I think is a handy feature if you plan on gifting a small card like $5.

          The last time I checked (last May), they still did this, which was great. My coworkers got me a $20 gift card for my birthday and I was able to combine the card in the app with the gold card I already had. It was a nice boost to my balance.

        2. Chinook*

          I was so happy when Tim Hortons went online with their cards and let you do the same thing. It was annoying to have 3 cards in your wallet and never sure how much was left on each. Being able to combine them is a true selling point for some cards over others.

      5. Daisy-dog*

        My local DD is slooooooow and provides subpar service on top of that. My local SB is crazy fast. In fact most SBs that I have been to are pretty fast with good service. I make my own coffee and only get it out when I have something free/a gift card.

        I do like supporting local business too, but I live in a large metropolitan area and am actually 30 miles away from my office (and am currently remote through January at minimum).

        Just my thoughts. A SB gift card would be more appreciated if coffee shop card is the gift of choice.

      6. Ana Gram*

        I think it’s because Starbucks also has a huge variety of readymade food and snacks as well as mugs, tumblers, etc. In my town, there are also 3 Starbucks to 1 DD. I don’t drink coffee or caffeine and I like the herbal teas and frozen drinks at Starbucks. Just more options there, in my opinion.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          YES! People who don’t like coffee have a variety of really good teas to choose from and hot cocoa.

      7. Natalie*

        Surely the idea that Starbucks is ubiquitous nationwide is not news to you? They were making jokes about it on The Simpsons *20 years ago*.

      8. Front Desk*

        In our small town, the closest Dunkin Donuts is a 4 hour drive away. There are currently 9,394 DD’s in the US, and 14,711 Starbucks locations. It’s usually just easier to do Starbucks. If there are Dunkin locations where LW5’s employees live, then sure, they can do Dunkin Donuts.

      9. LilyP*

        DD is actually pretty thin in the ground on the west coast so that might not work for everyone. Sbux is universal.

        Someone else pointed out above that a $5 coffee card feels like a special treat whereas a $5 grocery/amazon/visa card feels a little cheap.

      10. Chinook*

        I think it is how ubiquitous it is. In Canada, the equivalent is “get a Tim Horton’s card.” They are as common as Starbucks in general and often are in places Starbucks isn’t. But, colloquially, it is like saying “buy them a coffee card that they can use in more than one location.”

  9. agnes*

    LW #1 I”m always shaking my head at an employee who has such a chip on their shoulder that they intentionally spend time figuring out how to use the pinhole in a policy–like the round-up/round-down payroll issue–to “send” a message to someone. I mean, you have to watch the clock to be sure you time your entrance and exit to that level of precision. And yes, you can address the tardiness/leaving early issue. I think sometimes managers try to use this kind of issue to address someone’s performance because they feel uncomfortable talking about somebody’s “attitude.” Well, refusing to call someone by their preferred name or gender pronoun is not just “attitude” it is an unacceptable BEHAVIOR, as is refusing work that your supervisor assigns.

    Please deal with this issue as soon as possible. This kind of behavior can destroy a team. If your HR people won’t help you (and what is that about? These HR people sound like they don’t know their jobs), then go to one of your executives for help.

  10. chellieroo*

    #2. Sounds like someone has been to some type of terrible training. I have worked for and indirectly with government for over a decade and it is my observation that No. One. Ever. at that type of mid level management position has ever had any meaningful interest in hearing any constructive feedback, although the slippery ones like to talk about transparency and quality improvement. Gvt agencies tend to be the worst echo chambers, ever, and experts in deflecting and blaming, which might not be surprising for a lot of reasons, but I would guess that there’s about a 75% chance that someone wants to look good, 1% that they want it to get better and the remaining 24% that they are just mindlessly repeating something.
    #4. The notes are a good idea, and if you go to your local holiday artisan shop (the ones here are doing an amazing job with the pandemic, i.e. you can make an appointment!) you may find items that are creative, handmade, and at a very low price point. We have done a gift exchange at my 4 person office where the rules are bring in 3 of the same gift that’s up to $5 and handmade (but not necessarily by you) and it’s been easy and fun…things like soup mix, lip balm, soap, jam, etc, with a side of supporting a local small business.

  11. Quiet Please!*

    I wish I had a colleague that only listened to music without headphones. I share an office with one person and they listen to music on headphones, but then sing out loud to the music in their ears. I’ve repeatedly asked them not to and mentioned it to my boss, but it seems like an unconscious tic and they forget they’re doing it. And I have to practically shout to ask them not to sing because they’ve got earphones in. At this point, I’ve just invested in good noise canceling earphones and only say something when I’m on a deadline and really do need quiet to focus.

    1. A Teacher*

      Bet they’d be able to stop themselves from doing it if they had a good reason, like they knew it really bothered a big boss. They just don’t care enough to stop doing it.

      And my sympathies, that sounds infuriating.

      1. Quiet Please!*

        This definitely isn’t the only thing they’ve done to demonstrate their complete lack of regard for me as a colleague and office mate, but it is for sure the most annoying. Infuriating is absolutely the truth.

      1. Black Horse*

        LOL I was going to suggest a nerf gun. It works for my cat…
        And no, of course I don’t actually tag tag her with it, but having a nerf dart fly past distracts her from whatever shenanigans she’s about to get up to.

  12. LCH*

    As for the lateness being an issue with coverage, maybe you just don’t have coverage sometimes? If anyone complains, tell them HR said it was fine ;-)

    But seriously, you have so many other issues with this employee that are actually unacceptable and actionable.

    1. I'm just here for the cats*

      I thought of this too. Unless it’s something sensitive, like you can’t leave a till unattended, what would it matter if the student worker left and the employee came a few minutes later. If a call doesn’t get answered right away they can leave a message and someone will call right back.

      1. doreen*

        Sometimes it’s a matter of the next worker getting into the office. Many years ago , I worked at a private trade school in the financial aid office. Not everyone had the keys to open the office door – so if there was a gap between when the student worker left and when the employee arrived ( or vice-versa) , the door would have to be locked ( which didn’t require a key) when the office was being left empty and the person arriving would have to track down someone with a key.

    2. Elenna*

      Hmmm I wonder what HR would do if LW said “ok, I can’t fire her for the 5-7 minutes, but I also can’t keep forcing student workers to be late for class*, so I guess we’ll just have 5-7 minutes of no coverage at the start and end of her shifts.”
      But really LW should do her best to fire this employee for all the other terrible stuff. Even if HR is full of transphobic bigots who don’t see the issue with the deadnaming, someone pointed out above that the employee being more than 5-7 minutes late once a week is still way too often to be “actually” late in a coverage-based job. Not to mention the insubordination!

      *Back when I was a student, I would have been outraged if someone made me routinely 5+ minutes late for class. And then even more angry when I realized that the person in question was a transphobic asshole on top of being a regular asshole.

  13. FashionablyEvil*

    #2–It sounds like this feels like it will be the latest in a series of events where you raise a concern and it gets blown off. That sucks—we all want to feel heard!

    That said, I would think of this more as a way to bring up risks associated with projects. We use different language at my organization when having these types of discussions (“what keeps you up at night about this?” or “What risks are you tracking to over the next few weeks?”) and we don’t do them all the time, but they are very helpful for identifying the places where someone has an inkling that something could go off the rails. Maybe you could help move the discussion towards project risks and if there’s nothing that’s of concern to you, say something like, “All looking good from my side of the house this week.”

    Good luck!

  14. EnfysNest*

    #1 – If the lateness was the only issue and none of the other problems existed, I would say you need to adjust her shift forward 15-30 minutes so that there is overlap with the people she needs to relieve. I would probably still recommend that for whoever is in the position in the future, since coverage is actually important for this position and it’s fairly inevitable that the second shift person will occasionally be late (though it shouldn’t be nearly as common as it is currently). Or at least assign a swing person from another position to be the official stand-in if there are any gaps between the two shifts. The first shift should not be held hostage or made to feel any guilt or responsibility over whether to leave at the end of their scheduled time just because someone else hasn’t shown up yet.

    1. OkapiFeels*

      I was going to chime in with this–it would probably relieve a lot of tension if shifts overlapped. And, in the extreme case that OP truly can’t get rid of the problem employee, or if a similar employee comes along in the future, then the problem person wouldn’t be able to exploit this “round down” rule to inconvenience other people.

  15. Tired of Covid-and People*

    Why does it always have to be Starbucks? I much prefer Dunkin, and they do gift cards also.

    1. a clockwork lemon*

      Because Starbucks, unlike Dunkin, is both ubiquitous and generally has a reputation for accommodating a number of dietary restrictions and preferences in their drinks and food and because Starbucks is ubiquitous in a way that Dunkin is not.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Oh, good point about the dietary restrictions as well. I have celiac disease and can usually find something to snack on at Starbucks to go along with my drink – not so at Dunkin.

      2. pleaset cheap rolls*

        Ubiquitous is a strong word. But yes, there are more Starbucks – in the US about 40% more.

      3. doreen*

        I can understand using Starbucks as the example- but as far as ubiquitous goes, that really depends on the area. I live and work in NYC (but not Manhattan) and pass at least 5 DD on my 20 minute commute but not a single Starbucks.

      4. JKP*

        Depends on where you live. Where I live now, DD is on every corner. I pass 5 on the <10 min drive to work. There is only one Starbucks in a 30 mile radius.

        Where I lived 5 years ago, it was Tim Hortons on every corner, a few DD here and there, and Starbucks only at the local mall.

        But I do think that conversationally Starbucks has become like Kleenex, Starbucks=local coffee chain.

        1. LilyP*

          Where I live there are 0 dunkins. I think there are fewer areas of the country where there are 0 starbucks.

    2. I'm just here for the cats*

      Or a locally owned coffee shop. There’s a few in my city that are still open for take out and have gift cards

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        They likely have better coffee, too. That is one way for a local shop to compete. Fortunately, it isn’t all that hard to achieve.

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      They’re everywhere. My county just got its first and only Dunkin about eight months ago, but you can’t go three blocks without hitting a Starbucks.

    4. Uranus Wars*

      I see Starbucks as pretty much a catch all for “coffee shop”. No one store is going to be close to everyone. Where I live now, the closest Dunkin to me is 3 hours away. Where I used to live, the closest Starbucks was an hour and a half.

    5. Jasmine*

      I think people are using Starbucks as the generic shorthand for “food and beverage outlet with plenty of branches in most urbanised areas around the world”. That’s how I take it anyway- as in: get people a voucher that can be used wherever they live, not just at this one location. Nobody’s trying to set a rule that we must all drink bad coffee… I hope! ;-)

      1. Tired of Covid-and People*

        Unlike Kleenex and Xerox, Starbucks has not yet risen to the level of descriptive for all coffee shops, and I refuse to participate in Starbucks world domination, LOL. I’m in a metro urban area, and DD is as prolific as SB. When I receive SB gift cards, I re-gift them.

        My favorite token gift was a five dollar gas card. I don’t get all this agony over token gifting, why not make a charitable donation, aggregating all these little amounts, that would really make a difference? However I’m a holiday curmudgeon who resents all this fake and forced corporate giving. Much ado about nothing.

        1. ...*

          It sounds like you wouldn’t really be happy with anything and you don’t like the holiday in general. There’s some people who do appreciate these tokens and derive joy from the holidays. If I’m gifting I’m going to gift for the majority group who will be thankful not the person who I already know is going to hate on every little thing.

          1. Willis*

            This. Honestly some of the replies about holiday gifts over the past few weeks are just exhausting, especially in reply to managers spending out of their own pockets and/or with small budgets per person.

        2. JB (not in Houston)*

          Yes but in many parts of the country, there are *not* any DD, or not enough that a gift card from there would be convenient. In my metro area, I’ve seen exactly 1, and it’s not in a place that would be convenient for most of my coworkers. SB on the other hand, seems to be everywhere.

          1. PhysicsTeacher*

            The nearest Starbucks is 2 miles from me. The nearest Dunkin’ is over 200 miles away (and past the security in an airport).

        3. Roci*

          You’d give a gas card in a metro urban area? I don’t know anyone in my urban area who drives. Not everyone can have sandwiches!

          You point out the beauty of a Starbucks card: you can regift them, and that person will use it. Substitute for Dunkin or local coffee shop as you like. And if you don’t really care for these things either way then sit back and let people who do care chime in.

      1. Tired of Covid-and People*

        Of course, to each their own, but that’s my point, kind of. There are people who have no use for coffee shop gift card of any type. I do think defaulting to SB is not useful. Any gift of anything will be useless to someone. Unless it is money or time off, someone will have an issue with it. I loathe SB by the way. I also loathe cilantro.

    6. ...*

      It can be one or the other, Starbucks is more common across the country than dunkin is, which is why its highly suggested as we dont know where OP lives. There’s no dunkin in the south or west or more of the midwest. Starbucks is everywhere. The manager could perhaps say “Im doing coffee gift cards for Christmas- let me know your fave coffee place that does e-gift cards and your gift will be on the way!” That way everyone gets what they like and its still super easy.

  16. Essess*

    OP#1 – I read the letter, and the very first thing I thought of was “well, adjust her schedule earlier by 15 minutes and later by 15 minutes to make sure she’s there in time for your other students to be able to leave. There should normally be an overlap anyway so they can hand off work or let the next shift know if there were any issues on the previous shift.

    1. Thankful for AAM*

      I work in a place that needs coverage in the same way, we don’t have the staffing to overlap. Its a govt job and that’s just the way it is. If you start at 1pm, you are likely on the desk at 1pm and you can punch in 7 minutes before 1pm and are paid from 1pm. If you punch earlier, you get paid from 12:45 pm and that will mean overtime, which is not allowed.

  17. a nony mouse*

    What I do every year is buy a couple dozen flip top bottles and fill them with high quality olive oil and add a sprig of fresh rosemary, some garlic, and depending on the person, a chili pepper. Tie off with a bow – and there ya go, personalized nice gift for around $6 each.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      I like this idea a lot as well. Tape the lid nice and tight so there are no spills, and that could work.

    2. Keladry of Midelan*

      Careful with that gift – garlic (and probably other things) left in olive oil can grow botulism under some conditions.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Yeah, that would be highly unpleasant. Straight olive oil with a cute ribbon tied around the bottle or a fancy, homemade label would be enough.

      2. pancakes*

        Yes! I learned this in media law class, in connection with a magazine publisher that was held liable for the resulting botulism. DIY flavored oils can be prepared safely but must be done with care. I’ll link to a how-to in a separate reply.

      3. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

        Yep.

        Flavored vinegars are much safer – the acidity prevents anaerobic bacteria from growing.

    3. Call Me Dr. Dork*

      There’s a risk of botulism if you keep garlic in olive oil at room temperature. You may want to google this.

  18. Vermont Green*

    I suggest avoiding gifts from companies that underpay and mistreat their workers. Go for local and/or handcrafted if you can. It’s surprising what you can find that is easy to mail tucked into a card. Here in Vermont I can find packets of maple sugar, and also packets of dip mix. I can find tiny candy-canes of hand-blown glass. Local artists sell fridge magnets and post-its. For those who have a Christmas tree, you can give ornaments that are flat. Bandanas are fun and useful, and so are little crocheted mats. If you find the right item for each person, it will make you as happy as it does the recipient.

    1. Mimi Me*

      Ooooh, I second the dip mixes! There’s an old General Store near me here in Massachusetts and they sell those locally made dip mixes / meat rubs. They’re fairly inexpensive and so yummy!

  19. daytripper75*

    Gift under $7 would be hand sanitizer from Bath and Body Works that smells good. Everyone needs it these days and it’s hard to find nicely scented versions right now.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      I like this idea! Though, I would confirm with each employee that they don’t have any aversions to scents (if they do you can get them an unscented one or something else of equal value).

      1. pleaset cheap rolls*

        I just want to say, it’s a $7 gift. If the employee doesn’t like it, they can re-gift it. Now if we know the employee doesn’t like scents, sure respect that. But otherwise, everyone should just roll with.

        I don’t drink alcohol but wine is a common gift. So I pass it on. It’s no big deal.

        “Just make sure it is 70% alcohol or whatever they are recommending now. Often the scented ones are less than the recommended percent.”

        Yeah.

        1. MEH*

          It’s not just a question of regifting or not liking, though. I am allergic to many scents to the point where they can trigger migraines or make it hard to breathe. That’s just from smelling them for a minute or so, so it’s not even a case of just throw them out. I might be in the not everyone can eat sandwiches territory, but I really would prefer nothing to anything scented.

    2. Thankful for AAM*

      Just make sure it is 70% alcohol or whatever they are recommending now. Often the scented ones are less than the recommended percent.

      1. miss chevious*

        The BBB ones are all 68% (source — the squillion mini sanitizers I bought from them since March :) ). The CDC recommends at least 60%, so they meet the minimum.

    3. Hillary*

      Please nothing scented. If I’m lucky they just smell way too strong, if I’m unlucky they give me a terrible headache and a sneezing fit.

  20. Caroline*

    For #5, I recently ordered something from Staples that was free shipping and arrived in under 24 hours. Maybe some fancy pens or notebooks would work for your people? Or, hey, get them that coffee creamer!

    1. Helen J*

      I love gifts of office supplies and a box of “nicer” pens would be appreciated for someone like me, especially since you are WFH.

  21. I'm just here for the cats*

    LW#1 If you feel that HR is blowing you off, have you tried going to a higher person in HR? I work in a university too and I’ve been told X. But when my boss went to the director of HR it turned into Y. So maybe talk with your boss and try to get in touch with the head of HR.
    And bring up the issue with the transgendered students. That is not OK!

  22. Mimi Me*

    #5 – I’m not sure what kind of gift you’re looking for, but my husband bought something really nice for his coworkers at HomeGoods this weekend. It was a box of 12 little gift boxes of chocolates – with 4 chocolates per box. The little boxes are meant to be given individually (they all are printed with their own nutrition facts) and are wrapped beautifully. My husband’s company was bought by another last year and a lot of the little perks like bonuses, parties, and joy have been removed by the new owners. My husband thought it would be nice to give everyone a little something as a thank you. The box was $12.99 so each box works out to just over $1 a piece.

    1. blink14*

      Love this! My manager normally gifts homemade cookies and chocolates, and it’s nice to have a small treat to snack on during the day. It conveys a positive message without costing a lot of money.

      I don’t do gifts to colleagues, but in regular times will bring in homemade cookies that I only do at Christmas. They are a big hit and can be shared with multiple people. They are also a lot of work and reflect that visually, so my effort comes across, but I don’t actually spend a lot of money, but put in several hours of my time.

  23. Ms Chanadalar Bong*

    OP #1 should consider reaching out to their institution’s equity office (assuming there is one – most higher ed institutions in my area do) and/or presenting that resource to the impacted transgender students.
    HR might not have any interest in doing anything, but this kind of behaviour (in addition to being super gross) is an institutional risk. An equity office could help make some noise.

    1. Uranus Wars*

      Nothing to add but this is FANTASTIC advice. If HR won’t list to you, they will get pressure to get their shit together if anyone at a higher level gets a whiff of this behavior. The equity office is a fantastic avenue to help make this happen and can be your way to a VP, Chancellor, Dean of Students who can really make so me noise and make sure this is dealt with.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Or maybe Student Affairs/Title IX Office for alternate names. Even if they can’t help you pressure HR about making students late for class, maybe they can give you suggestions on how to document the harassment/discrimination issues.

    3. blink14*

      Or, potentially the Ombuds Office or some equivalent! They can be incredibly helpful as a way to vent frustration about a situation without retaliation, but can also provide guidance on the best way to proceed with situations that require action.

  24. Emi*

    You can get a cute coffee mug for $5 at Target, or if you have the time (and covid risk budget) go to TJMaxx/Marshall’s/etc and you can probably get fancy candies for under $7.

  25. Atlantian*

    LW1 – I work in a coverage based office, that is on a government contract to boot, and while we have a similar policy when it comes to recording time, you only get paid for the actual minutes you work. At the end of the shift, the number of minutes you worked are added up and you put that amount of time on your timesheet. So, even though you can technically miss 6 minutes and still get paid for the full hour, you can’t miss 6 minutes every time there is an opportunity. So, in your case, if she is 7 minutes late and leaves 7 minutes early, she has missed 14 minutes and would be paid accordingly. Also, would then be able to be written up accordingly, since working less than a full shift without approval is cause for disciplinary action. We also count minutes you are late from your scheduled breaks and lunches in there also (this is easier for us than most workplaces, because there is an automated system that tracks when you are logged in and working)

    We used to do it the way your school does, and it lead to these exact types of issues, so they changed the policy. It’s more work for supervisors/managers who have to verify timesheets at the end of the week, but it’s harder to abuse the system.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      The amount of people who “abuse the system” are outweighed by the amount of people who start 7 minutes early and stay another 7 minutes late, adding 14 minutes of time they aren’t paid for because of the rounding rules.

      It’s standard practice in many locations and rarely do they actually change it, unless they update their time keeping system. Usually it’s done when it’s manual time keeping so there’s less administrative work. But if you have automated time keeping systems, it’s easier to pay to the minute.

  26. Melody Pond*

    I feel like depending on the University leading with the deadnaming with HR will work better. Yes, there are some conservative universities but by and large this will be seen as a large problem. I would also start documenting everytime she refuses to to do work or reassigns it and take that to HR weekly(my company’s policy was 7 days max per write up) . I would also do this for every time she is 8 minutes late. I hate the idea of pointedly trying to get someone fired but to me this person is doing that to themselves and the maanger is just documenting it.

  27. Quill*

    $7 per person including shipping?

    The things that come first to mind are my mom’s old boss’s dollar store gifts, which included such hits as “desk zen gardens” (sand optional… or leaking) and “Christmas candles, except she bought one non denominational winter holiday candle with snowmen because one member of the team was jewish and then couldn’t be bothered to make sure that candle went to the right person.”

    Don’t be my mom’s boss. You’re probably better off handwriting some thank-you cards.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      Yeah, there isn’t much of anything you can buy at that price range even before “plus shipping.” And the Dollar Store website makes you buy a lot of stuff in bulk. Don’t bother spending any money on this if the range is that low.

  28. Ray Gillette*

    LW1, does your HR understand the term “hostile work environment” (they should, but given that they’re operating under the impression that FLSA means you can’t fire someone in a coverage-based position for being chronically late, I’m not optimistic)? Two employees have transferred to get away from Ms. Problem’s specific targeted harassment.

  29. Anonymouse*

    OP 1- I have to wonder if this person’s position wasn’t eliminated partially because their previous department had similar issues and didn’t want to jump through the hoops to fire them.

    I work at a university and my department was notorious for not firing ANYONE- including the woman who played Christian music on speakers in front of our Jewish boss’s office all day (and no, she wasn’t amazing at her job.) They just never fired anyone. Until, they did.

    I don’t know what changed in my department’s higher ups. (And it still isn’t a common occurrence. It’s happened maybe 3 times in the 7 years I’ve been there.) But it does make a difference.

    I would agree that chances are firing them in the answer. And that you need to not focus on time- like you are in the letter but in all the other stuff.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      OP 1- I have to wonder if this person’s position wasn’t eliminated partially because their previous department had similar issues and didn’t want to jump through the hoops to fire them.

      Bingo.

  30. Helen J*

    I’m surprised that HR says you can’t do anything. Chronic lateness is bad enough, but all the other stuff she is doing?? Have you told HR about that? If worked there and she was deadnaming me, being rude and assigning her work to me as well as being late and possibly making me late for class, I’d request a transfer, too.

    I don’t understand some HR departments. They would rather let 1 person who talks the loudest just run all over other employees. This is the kind of thing that drives decent, hardworking, on-time employees away.

  31. rambler*

    LW 1: If you’re in the US, your employee’s insistence on misgendering students is probably a Title IX violation. You can make the report on behalf of your students. I’m not clear which policies have been rolled back by our current administration (scowl), but if she’s found to be violating Title IX rights, your university is legally obligated to enforce consequences.

    Please advocate for your students. It’s appalling that they have had to deal with this.

    1. Observer*

      It doesn’t matter what policies were rolled back. This is not a matter of school or education policy, but a matter of gender discrimination, which is illegal regardless of any administration’s policies. And the Supreme Court ruled unequivocally that harassment base on LGBT falls under the legal definition of sex based harassment.

      1. rambler*

        Good to know! At my school/employer, we’ve decided to keep our pre-trump policies and procedures regardless of rollbacks…so I’m not up-to-date on what the actual changes are. I do know that not all schools have gone the route we have, which is disheartening.

    2. Princess Flying Hedgehog*

      Yes! Report to the Title IX office and/or Student Code of Conduct office! At my university, I am MANDATED to report these incidents, and it is up to Title IX office and Student Code of Conduct to investigate and determine if there is a case.

      1. rambler*

        Good call. I forgot the part about all employees being mandated reporters. LW 1, odds are you are a mandated reporter as well.

  32. CDel*

    LW #5, if you’d really like to get a gift you could get everyone a starbucks card. They allow for e-delivery so you can send them through email, and $7 would cover at least one drink.

  33. EnfysNest*

    LW2 – My knee-jerk reaction was that it sounded like you’re conflating two different issues. Your first paragraph is all about your frustration from being ignored during the spreadsheet debacle (which sounds legitimately frustrating) and then your other two paragraphs are about this upcoming meeting, which you’re predicting to be unpleasant. On the surface, the two issues are separate from each other and your frustration with one doesn’t doom the other to failure.

    But the more I think about it, I think I can at least guess why those two seemingly different elements are linked together in your mind, and it’s a bigger picture idea of not being listened to in general. You tried to “air your grievances” with the spreadsheet issue, and your concerns were dismissed and you didn’t get any solution, so it makes sense that you’re expecting this new meeting to end with concerns being dismissed and not getting solved. I wonder if there are more examples at your work where you feel like you aren’t being listened to when you raise legitimate concerns. Because from the outside it does sound like you’re making the meeting out to be more than it should be, but I’d guess there’s really a bigger picture at play and this meeting feels like smoke and mirrors since you have this previous evidence that raising concerns doesn’t lead to real change at your work.

    So I think what you really need to look at isn’t just this one new meeting, but how extensive that practice of ignoring legitimate concerns might be at your work. Is this just one or two things where people were in a rush and decided to go with the simplest option (the status quo), or are you facing a more constant stubbornness where you feel like important improvements are never allowed to happen and where you and others at your level are regularly ignored when you give input?

  34. DataQueen*

    The kindle version of Alison’s book is only $5.99! And anyone can download the kindle app to their phone.
    Last year I gave my whole team hard copies and they loved it.

  35. Nic the Trans Librarian*

    A quick note about language re OP1’s letter (I see it has been fixed within the body of the letter itself, but hopefully this reminder will help everyone): ‘Transgender’ is the adjective you want. A person can be transgender; they cannot be ‘transgendered’. The difference is subtle but meaningful.

    As someone who is trans myself, I’ll add that this terminology has been around long enough that someone using ‘transgendered’ automatically makes me cautious about how I approach them. OP, your employees may be experiencing more harassment than you’ve witnessed or been told about, especially if you’ve given them any sign (most likely an unintentional sign) that you aren’t particularly concerned with their genders being respected.

    1. SunnySideUp*

      It would seem to me that if I were transgender and my manager did NOT speak up when I was being deadnamed or abused, then my manager could be seen as complicit…? At the least, uncaring and part of the problem.

  36. Donkey Hotey*

    OP3, I most definitely empathize. I work in the engineering department of a manufacturing firm. The door from my office opens onto the assembly floor. BC (before covid), the door would be closed. Now, for the sake of touch reduction and air flow, the door is propped open. Which is fine until the one audiophile in the office wheels his mobile sound system cum tool cart near the door. I never realized how often the local classic rock station will play Queen, Guns N Roses, and Pink Floyd in a day! (Current record is three plays of “Another Brick in the Wall” in two days.) Add this to the normal cacophony of an industrial shop floor…. On Friday last week, I had to wear ear plugs AND noise cancelling headphones to keep myself from going completely insane.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I never realized how often the local classic rock station will play Queen, Guns N Roses, and Pink Floyd in a day! (Current record is three plays of “Another Brick in the Wall” in two days.)

      I feel like most radio stations are like this. You’re just picking your bucket of repetition.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Yikes! I mean, I love Pink Floyd (have a large tattoo of one of their album covers…no not Dark Side) but I have my limits and the same song played over and over would make me grind my teeth hard enough to be mistaken for an industrial macerator.

  37. Avel*

    #5 – $1 Lottery Tickets and a card! Fun, not too expensive and won’t make anyone feel like they need to reciprocate. Plus – chance to win more $$$$!

  38. Carolyn*

    To OP #1 – if you’re at a public university you’re required as a mandatory reporter to report any gender harassment (including trans related harassment) to your Title IX office. Your student workers are also required to do so and as their supervisor you should certainly encourage them. Regardless of any changes made with the most recent administration your Title IX office is legally required to investigate and while it may be slow it can also then inform HR decisions. In my experience more complaints is always better. Likewise if you’re reporting stuff to HR they are required to report it to Title IX too.

  39. Paulina*

    OP2, if these team meetings are being run by your team lead (who otherwise runs short to-the-point meetings), then I suggest you discuss your concerns with your lead briefly and otherwise wait to see what develops. Your lead likely doesn’t want to have your meetings devolve into a flood of unaddressable complaints either, and will hopefully channel the directive into something less destructive. You can encourage and support these efforts.

  40. Yes, I did fire her and it took two years*

    OP Number One,
    There are a few questions to ask yourself:
    1. Do you like your job?
    2. Are you staying in your position?
    3. Are you this person’s manager
    If the answers to these questions are yes, do these things.
    1. A commitment to document all infractions, late arrivals, insubordination, not completing work on time, not completing work as assigned, behavior towards students, refusing assignments, etc. keep a notebook. Not who, what, where, time AND what you said or did to bring it to bad employees attention. Use Alison language- I need/ expect you to respect all employees using their preferred pronouns and names. I will documenting failure to do so.

    2. a clear job description of all tasks and job duties assigned to bad employee, including time of arrival, responsibilities etc.
    3. A meeting with your supervisor going over the checklist of job duties and expectations. Making sure the deadlines etc are reasonable- My supervisor actually recommended a tedious project assignment (statistical inventory) that she obviously thought was beneath her.
    4.Work with HR. so that this IS NOT a she said, he said situation. Have witnesses to behavior- document the students. Ask for examples of employees of that level who HAVE been fired. This person came from another dept. can you speak to their previous supervisor?
    5. Do NOT relieve her of her responsibilities unless it impacts other peoples work- Students locked out of unit on Sat. Date. If you cannot be there have another person of your peer level do so.
    6.Have a one-on-one twice a week- on Monday – job duties, expectations, due dates.
    7. Spend the week documenting- Friday. have an end- of -day meeting- go over everything that you documented.
    8. Write up the performance review- go over it with your supervisor, go over it with HR. Be direct and to the point on the Performance Review. Unsatisfactory.

    Yes- this IS a part time job. From my experience it was a misery. BUT
    I had two years of misery ( the 7 months documenting, the annual review then a year and half PIP) and the last 6 have been great. I have been promoted twice.

  41. cheeky*

    I’d definitely rather get a thoughtful note from my boss than a $5 gift card or scratcher. That amount says, intentionally or not, “I’ve decided your value for this year is worth $5.”

  42. Elizabeth West*

    Or you might apply and not be competitive with my current top candidates. (Which, statistically speaking, is the case for most candidates.)

    Welp. *burns resume*

    OP #4, I’d just try to carve out a little time to put together your resume and cover letter and send it. They can’t make a decision to interview you without that information anyway, and people are busy. There’s no need for an extra step.

  43. SAHM that misses the workforce*

    LW #1
    The lateness thing is easily resolved… Schedule her 10 minutes early to start, and 10 minutes late to leave. That will ensure she’s on time to relieve others. 7:50 am instead of 8 am, 4:40 to leave instead of 4:30. If she’s got the 7 min rule in effect, the OT should be minimal, give her a 40 min lunch if you’re worried about it, she can’t take off or leave early without penalty, and when she continues to be off on time, you have leeway to fire her. Sounds like she sucks anyway, so get rid of her if you can, but if HR’s being stupid, this should work her out the door. I’ve had many hourly managers successfully kick people out the door using this method. That’s assuming you can’t just document and fire her for being a bad employee on the other items you listed. I’ve seen workplaces that won’t fire people for the items you’ve listed and attendance was the only thing they could legitimately use to clear out the shitheads. I would document everything in addition to the lateness thing, then when you can legit fire her for that and you show HR the list of crap she’s done PLUS the lateness, she’s out, and likely blacklisted.

  44. Former Employee*

    Perhaps the students as a group could come up with a solution that doesn’t involve HR.

    This person sounds like a bully. Bullies are good at situations where they are dealing with an individual, but often fold when a group confronts them about their behavior.

  45. Incessant Owlbears*

    For the gift ideas, you might consider buying a set of cool magnets and splitting them up one per person. There are a ton of magnet sets. I found some really fun ones that are made out of bottlecaps. $16 for 6, which is $2.66 each. Order 2 sets and shipping is free, so you’d just have to split them up and remail to your staff. I find I’m using a lot more magnets during COVID quarantine, to keep all my notes and schedules sorted.

  46. Not That Kind of Lawyer*

    #5 consider Mainstays Basic Memory Foam Bath Mat. They are under $7, do not take up much space, and come in different colors. You can get them at Wal-Mart. A co-worker got one from me and I used it in my kitchen. I promise I have not known such a difference standing on a memory foam mat while cooking can make.

  47. TeapotNinja*

    LW3, if nothing else works, there are more of you. I guarantee if every one of you will also start playing music over speakers, the behavior will stop in a few days.

    Maybe coordinate a playlist with your coworkers. Polka, Norweigian black metal, yodling, dubstep…so many great musical genres to choose from.

  48. Keymaster of Gozer*

    LW1: I’d be extremely concerned based on the lack of response from HR that they are at best passively encouraging your employee or at worst actively supporting them.

    It was another manager in our case who was making exceptionally gross opinions of his regarding a transgender woman using the women’s bogs very vocal. The rest of us tried the ‘that’s effing revolting mate, don’t do that’ (different words but same attitude) but got increasingly hostile behaviour from him levelled at us. We were wrong, misguided, trying to impinge on his freedom of speech (we’re in the UK) etc.

    He also pretty much showed up when he wanted, refused to do anything he didn’t want to but the HR department said almost exactly what yours did: “it’s a he/she said situation”. (I had the misfortune to find out that’s what they said about sexual harassment situations too.)

    So…we avoided HR. We went to Internal Communications and asked for the company’s official rules regarding misgendering/being a total git to others to be a featured article on the front page of the intranet, a reminder sent out, links to equality training etc.. you know the stuff. They were VERY nice and helpful (we definitely processed their software tickets a bit faster after!) AND offered to back us up in any discussion with HR. Very useful, Internal Comms and External Comms had lawyers on staff.

    And yes, we got HR to finally discipline the guy.

    TL:DR version: if HR are useless, sometimes you can think outside the box a bit and gain support from elsewhere. The HR exec probably needed new trousers after the combined wrath of IT senior management, Internal Comms AND one of their legal team showed up.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      …I did not intend to ramble so much! Apologies all!

      (Am off work due to major arthritis issues and even the cat is glaring at me now)

  49. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

    LW 5, could you just email each of them a $7.00 amazon gift card? Or $5.00? I know it doesn’t seem as nice, but there is no delivery cost and each person can just choose what he or she or they wants.

  50. Lucifer McFluffypants*

    LW2 – This just means your company celebrates Festivus! Don’t you recognize this as the annual “Airing of Grievances”? I just hope there’s no bare shirted wrestling…

Comments are closed.