how do we fire a well-liked employee who can’t do the job?

A reader writes:

An employee of our small company of 100 people has been moved around from department to department, manager to manager, and give a chance in various jobs that he wanted to try or that managers thought he might be successful in. Sadly, he has been unsuccessful and at this point there is no manager willing to take him in their department.

This employee is very well liked and considered a really nice person by all the managers and fellow employees. We’ve really tried to find him a spot, but there just isn’t anything. He has acknowledged to management he was failing and just didn’t have what it takes to do his most recent job and did not like that type of work. He wants to do a more creative job, but we just don’t have that sort of position available.

We thought about working with him by being up front and giving him eight weeks to find something else, as well as time off for interviews.

But we care about our employees and want them to know that we will try to work with people who are struggling and not put a target on their backs. We don’t want to tank morale if they perceive the company as heartless. At the same time, this can’t go on forever. What would you suggest?

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

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • My boss has been joking that I don’t work after 5:00
  • Did my employee abuse his access to confidential information?
  • How can I avoid a boorish coworker on my bus route?
  • Our difficult boss wants to sit in on team interviews

{ 169 comments… read them below }

  1. Keymaster of Gozer*

    OP 4: Boy, do I know what you mean. There was a coworker at an office I worked with long ago who got the same bus as me, did his job well but just would not stop criticising something about me, or telling me I was wrong about (insert anything here) on every single bus journey. The term ‘mansplaining’ wasn’t around back then but it was 100% what he was doing.

    I like to read on transport, I tried to just return to my book often but he’d tap his fingers on it and say ‘hey, you listening?’. Had to say in the end ‘Look, Dave, I use the bus journey for a quiet read. I don’t get that chance at home or at work. Can we just agree bus time is quiet time?’

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        It did! He grumbled for a while about how much of a ‘weird geek’ and ‘antisocial’ I was but eventually shut up and never sat by me again.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Oh, hooray! You’re my hero, Keymaster! I wonder if the LW tried this and if it worked. I’d love a follow-up to that one.

          1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

            Another good response would be to say thoughtfully, “Huh. You say that like it’s a bad thing.”

            1. allathian*

              That’s what I do with the boors who won’t leave me alone. When I was younger, I consciously cultivated an RBF, even if the term didn’t exist back then, and got mostly left alone on public transit. If I’m completely honest, I absolutely loved it when I hit 45 and became pretty much invisible to the male half of the population. Random strangers almost never approach me.

          2. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Yup, am antisocial, geeky, well into my reading and that’s me. I’m in my 40s now and sure not gonna change.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      People who interrupt reading because they want to talk drive me crazy! I used to fly pretty regularly, & almost always ended up seated next to older couples who couldn’t self-entertain & would want to chat with me.

      1. Tired of Covid-and People*

        Please don’t with the ageism. I curl up with a book on transportation, and I’m 65. Thank you.

          1. Elenia*

            Right? I also had similar problems: either elderly grannies or MEN and the men thing was an entirely different problem. It’s not ageism to state what truly happened.

      2. Orange You Glad*

        I still can’t figure out one time I was at the LIBRARY reading and was interrupted by no more than 3 men just trying to make conversation. Like, we’re in a library, obviously, I’m here to read/study.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I tried to just return to my book often but he’d tap his fingers on it and say ‘hey, you listening?’

      I am sorry, he did what????????? Is he five? is he a dog? what terrible behavior.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        At least he was tapping the book and not Keymaster’s body.

        Had total stranger purposely sit right across from me about a month ago on the train and keep tapping my knee to get my attention to talk to me. He kept it up even after I told him to stop, fortunately he eventually got to his stop and got off (before I had to get off).

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            It’s times like that I’d be tempted to paint my fingernails on public transit, just to drive him away.

          2. Keymaster of Gozer*

            There’s a reason I keep a packet of sugar free Polo mints in my bag. I can produce the most unholy smells after a few of those.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          I’ve got disability and pain issues, generally anyone who’s known me for longer than an hour knows not to touch me unprompted.

    3. Scarlet2*

      ” I tried to just return to my book often but he’d tap his fingers on it and say ‘hey, you listening?’.”

      God, the nerve of some people??! Glad you stood up for yourself and it worked!

    4. Elenna*

      “he’d tap his fingers on it and say ‘hey, you listening?’.” …um, no, you were very obviously not listening? You were clearly and deliberately not listening. Either he’s completely, hopelessly, 100% incapable of reading any body language whatsoever, or he was ignoring your obvious desires. Something tells me that it was the latter, and that he would have acted completely differently if you were a man, or his boss…

      1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        Hmm, books can be used to smack poking fingers. It’s especially helpful followed by “Oh my, I thought I saw a fly” really deadpan, then immediately resume reading.

      2. TinLizi*

        Ugh. One of the reasons my ex is an ex. He thought it was okay to interrupt women reading in public, because if he were reading it would only be because he has nothing better to do.

    5. Lily*

      Similar scenario, I just explained I was on deadline to finish my book for book club. I am not in a book club.

  2. Threeve*

    Personally, someone being really nice does not necessarily equate to my liking them. Particularly if that niceness has entitled them to special treatment that has made extra work for others. I could think this coworker was an angel, and still really want them gone.

    1. Anne*

      “Nice” is a weird thing too. People really like working for me, and I guess I’m sort of nice, but really what they like is that I’m straightforward in a kind way, flexible, and address issues head on to help them. I feel like “nice” might describe someone who was really friendly but terrible at managing, or just let things slide and did a disservice to people.

      1. LizM*

        I had a coworker who pointed out that there is a difference between “nice” and “kind.”

        “Nice” is superficial, and is often defined by the absence of conflict. A lot of times, niceness actually creates more problems because it sweeps real issues under the rug because dealing with them is uncomfortable. It creates more work for others.

        “Kind” is someone who genuinely cares about the people on their team, including the impact of their actions on the team. A kind person will tackle issues in a compassionate, empathetic way, but they’ll still tackle them, despite the fact that doing so may be uncomfortable.

        Brene Brown has a quote I love: “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.” To me, a nice person is unclear because that’s the path of least resistance, and in those cases, their niceness is actually unkind.

        1. SoloKid*

          I read a quote about a certain geographical population is “nice” in that they’ll say “aw, I’m really sorry to hear your car got a flat! that sucks.” and walk away, vs another that is “kind” that says “you’re a useless dingus, didn’t you see the curb? now pull over so I can help change the tire.”

        2. Alternative Person*

          I love this explanation.

          I wish more people understood it because so much conflict I’ve experienced in the workplace has been centred on people being nice (‘nice’) but not wanting to have the difficult, kind conversation and actually working to resolve an issue.

    2. Tired of Covid-and People*

      Nice…ugh. I associate it with bland, flavorless, and go-along-get-along behavior. People do tend to like “nice” people because it requires no effort. Perceived niceness can indeed give some folks an advantage, especially us women. I’m not saying be a raging a-hole, but there shouldn’t be an expectation of smiling, quietness, and non-confrontation to be considered nice. I’m kind, but I don’t suffer fools gladly. If that makes me not nice, so be it.

      1. TiffIf*

        From the wisdom of Into the Woods

        Little Red: Nice is different than good

        The Witch: You’re so nice. You’re not good; you’re not bad; you’re just nice. I’m not good. I’m not nice. I’m just right.

      2. JohannaCabal*

        It was either Odd Girl Out or Queen Bees and wannabes that stated it’s preferable to be kind than nice. I’ve always remembered that.

    3. Delta Delta*

      I had a similar experience. Wakeen was polite, friendly, told good jokes (was the king of the dad-joke genre and could deliver them perfectly), and was all around a nice person. Wakeen was very ill-equipped to do his job. Any time I had to do anything with Wakeen I dreaded it because while I liked him, the job part was terrible. People would bend over backward to say, “but he’s so nice!” and that was true, but working with him was a chore. Finally he got a new job elsewhere, and when I run into him I’m genuinely happy to say hello. But “nice” did not equal “let’s keep him at the job.”

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I’m reminded of the guy who argued that I MUST date him because he was ‘a really nice man’.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            As I recall my response was along the lines of ‘just like having a pulse, that’s a bare minimum!’

            (Seriously creepy dude. He’d go off on one if any women rejected him, claiming he was being discriminated against.)

          2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            or rather, they might want to but they drop the subject after being told no.

      2. TechWorker*

        Urgh I have one of these a bit.. he’s not awful at his job by any means but he has a slightly warped sense of perspective and often goes massively down rabbit holes trying to be helpful and do things that don’t really need doing or cause problems he’s not really thought through. He’s lovely, I’m fine hanging out with him and I would absolutely dread having to manage him.

      3. lailaaaaah*

        Did we work with the same guy? Loveliest person to have in the office- as a mascot, maybe. But when it came to getting any actual work done, you absolutely did *not* want him on your team, because you’d spend your whole time propping him up. He actually got promoted over my head because he looked so good (“so friendly! so nice!”) and I looked terrible because I was stressing out trying to fix all the mistakes he left – and then my bosses had to work with him directly, and suddenly they realised where the problem was. The whole office breathed a sigh of relief when he left.

    4. Mer*

      I’m pretty certain I read this in the AAM comments section (it was definitely the comments section of *something*), but I loved it so much I wrote it down:

      Niceness is a shield bad people use to get away with their poor actions, behaviors, and beliefs.

      As soon as a read that, it was like a lightbulb went off and explained a few people I’ve met and worked with over the years.

      1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        Wow, that’s quite a broad brush to paint people with. I’m sure it applies to some, but I’ve known (and worked with) plenty of nice people who are genuinely good, kind, helpful, and competent.

        1. TheAG*

          Yes, but without the “good”, “kind”, “helpful” and “competent” they are the people that I believe Mer is referring to. And in my experience, there are such people out there. They’re “nice”… friendly on a facile level but what’s behind it is sometimes not good (of course not all “nice” people are like that…reference “bad people” in Mer’s post)

          My former boss (as of Monday. I have PTSD and an ulcer that are going to take quite a while to get through) is one of these people. Friendly on the surface but verbally abusive, manipulative, retaliating, and incompetent. Upper management *loves him*. Because he’s SO nice. But half the department has left…so…

        2. allathian*

          Nice is not the same as kind. I bet you’re good, kind, helpful, and competent. It’s possible to be superficially nice without being any of those things. A superficially nice person is fundamentally conflict averse, but a kind person is willing to do the right thing, rather than the easy thing, even if it means having that dreaded conversation.

    5. Selina Luna*

      I agree, actually. I had, until they moved away, a friend who was nice, who did all kinds of charity work, and who I hated being around. This person would often simply schedule things and send out dictates… and not actually consult any of us about what our schedules were like. Sad to say, I wound up yelling at them frustrated one evening because I had a major event that I had told my whole group of friends about, that all my friends were invited to, and they mentioned some kind of “to-do” on the same day. It was a bit of a last-straw moment for me, and I shouldn’t have yelled, but I was so thoroughly frustrated with the constant telling us what we were going to do rather than offering suggestions.

      1. allathian*

        Doing charity work isn’t the same thing as being either nice or kind… I don’t blame you for shouting at your “friend”.

        1. lailaaaaah*

          I feel bad for the people who were using those charities tbh. Way too many ‘saviour types’ who want to impose their idea of ‘helpful’ on everyone else in nonprofit/volunteer work.

    6. Archaeopteryx*

      Plus, when I hear about someone being given a zillion chances despite failing time after time, I tend to wonder about that person’s demographics. I get a little skeptical that nice but repeatedly incompetent employees would be treated the same regardless of race or gender…

      1. lailaaaaah*

        Yyyyep. At my old job, incompetent middle class white men (and the occasional woman) would somehow always fail upwards to a point where they ended up in a job where they couldn’t get in the way any more- but disabled, POC or working class employees would get three strikes and out.

    7. Quickbeam*

      I worked with a nurse who everyone loved. She baked for everyone’s birthday, knit coworkers sweaters, very sweet. Unfortunately she made a million medication errors and if you worked with her, you knew the technical aspects of the job were going to fall on you. All her IVs would run dry, her meds late, her patients in pain.

      What she really wanted to be was a gift shop lady or candy striper. Those don’t pay an RN salary. It was really hard to convince the management to get rid of her. We had to essentially document her out of a job. And even years later there were bitter feelings about “poor Amanda” getting the boot.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        wth. So they kept her on because she did cakes and sweaters, meanwhile the patients were dropping like flies because of medication errors. No, that’s not what you said but it’s what I am picturing in my head. It does explain how my MIL got that insulin she wasn’t suppose to have.

        It does make ya wonder if she felt she had to make cakes and sweaters to compensate to her cohorts for the lousy job she was doing.

        The manager(s) who kept her in place should have been fired too. What a bunch of lawsuit magnets. I’d be scared crapless to go to work if I had to work with her.

      2. lailaaaaah*

        My mum’s school has a TA who everyone loves for the same reasons – friendly, sweet, funny to all the staff members. But put her alone in a room with kids, and all hell breaks loose, to the extent that one child now will not come into school because he was so badly beaten up while this woman looked on (when the headmistress asked her wtf she was doing during the incident, she asked “well, what do you want me to do?”)

        But y’know. She’s super nice.

      3. Hosta*

        Oh, gosh, I had one of those coworkers! She was so sweet, she was so kind, she’d sing religious songs to her patients and had a truly beautiful voice, and she’d bring in treats –

        – and you knew that if you worked with her that a narc count would be off. Not because she was taking them, but because she’d miscount several times a day, take the medicine and blithely go off to medicate her patient, and then you’d come and the computer would think, ‘I have 48 oxycodones’ because that’s what she’d entered, but actually there would be 12. And you, being a responsible nurse, would go, ‘what the ever loving crap’ and get someone to resolve the count.

        And her IVs would run dry all day, and you’d find them with the piggybacks hung up wrong, and patients who were supposed to be NPO would mysteriously get ahold of those treats she brought in…

        And years after she was abruptly fired, there were still people who’d express sadness that she wasn’t there anymore because she was such a good nurse.

  3. lost academic*

    LW#3 – I think there’s two pieces that bear mentioning. One is that there are other reasonable ways for the employee to have that salary information, and the simplest explanation is that the other person told him. Unless given another reason, I would not jump to the conclusion that he’s abusing his access even if that’s a potential explanation. Second, if ” he countered with an even higher number, one I can’t agree to.” then you do need to know if there is actually a difference in the work or qualifications this other person does or has. Because if you don’t have a legitimate reason for why he’s paid less, you either need to get one or find out what to do about it. I think it’s bad optics if it comes across like you’re trying to find a reason to pay him less.

    1. TWW*

      Was the employee unauthorized to access that info, or was it something he needed to know as part of his job duties?

      If the former: that’s a serious security breach.

      If the latter: what’s the big deal? Offer him a fair salary commensurate with his performance, and allow him to use whatever knowledge he has to decide whether or not to accept it.

    2. fposte*

      I also think the alternative would mean he pretends that he doesn’t know things about the company to his own detriment. That’s not a reasonable expectation. I can’t see this as abuse of information–he didn’t pass on information in the files to anybody else, or breach confidentiality in any other way. He merely didn’t put that information aside when it came to his own work. Could be I’m biased because I was in a similar situation and used it as the basis for negotiation (albeit much more reasonable negotiation than his), but my company didn’t seem to think I was out of line.

      1. TWW*

        Exactly. In my job as the marketing director for a teapot company, I happen to know that the company owners have started working on a line of coffeepots. This is info only known to a few staff members and we’ve been told to keep it quiet for now.

        I see no reason why I shouldn’t go to my boss and say, “In the secret upcoming product launch, my role will be essential and an expansion of my current duties. How about a raise?” She may say no, but it’s not an abuse of confidential info to ask.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I went an opposite way, I thought that maybe if the company was transparent about what it paid people none of this would be a problem.

        It’s interesting though when the employee questions what is going on, the comeback is “breaching confidentiality” for knowing information that was part of their job. To me this reads like bullying. They are saying this because it’s just one person. If a group of people came in and wanted to ascertain equality in pay, the answer would be very different.

        Maybe this employee could find a place that wasn’t ashamed of what it pays people.

        1. I'm just here for the cats*

          I agree the company should be more open with the salaries. I work for a public university and so.all.emploees salaries are available to see online, from the president to the janitor. Makes things a lot simpler.

          1. allathian*

            Same here. I work for the government and the salary bands are always public info, and it’s also mandatory to post the starting salary on a job ad. This does mean that for anyone except truly top execs, there’s pretty much no room for negotiating your starting salary. The competence class of any position is public information, but the personal bonuses aren’t. Those can be up to 40 percent of the salary as determined by the competence class, but in the vast majority of cases hover around the 20 percent mark.

      3. Nonny-nonny-non*

        Some years ago I was offered an internal promotion with a pay rise that would only have put me on about 75% of what the rest of the people on that level were earning. I was actually very open with my manager-to-be, and said something like “You do realise that my current role means I’m aware of the approximate salary levels for everyone at this branch? And given that, I don’t feel I can take the role with such a disparity in pay.”
        He did not tell me I shouldn’t be using that data; instead he recognised that the company policy for promotion-linked payrises was failing me horribly, and went to bat for me to get a better deal.
        LW3 (and/or their company) may have perfectly acceptable reasons for the pay disparity between the two roles, which is fine, but unless there’s evidance that their employee is sharing pay information elsewhere I don’t think they should blame him for using that knowledge in negotiations.

    3. Sue*

      I have a friend who years ago found out that the guy they were hiring to sell snacks was going to make more than she did. She was in HR with a ton of responsibility, including hiring/firing (sometimes late at night at the end of a shift with volatile personalities). When she saw that they valued the snack bar guy more than her, she didn’t negotiate, she quit.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        I was in a similar position, where I’d been told it was absolutely impossible to pay me more than $X/hour to do full-time administrative work, and I later found out a couple of part-time student workers were paid considerably more than $X/hour to do… well, the kind of job you’d get part-time student workers to do. I didn’t quit over it, but it did make it much easier to give less than 2 weeks notice when I did leave.

  4. Keymaster of Gozer*

    OP1: There’s a point where being helpful crossing over a line in actually being unhelpful. Transferring this guy around departments and jobs to try and find anything he can do well is a kind thing to do, but when it’s obvious that they can’t do any available jobs you’re standing in the way of their progress by NOT letting them go.

    Counterintuitive I know! But there’s a whole world of careers and jobs out there that your company doesn’t do and that he might be a genuine star at. By trying to keep him on, despite him failing, it actually holds back development.

    Nobody likes to think of letting a staff member go (unless they’re a total git). Having them be a nice friendly person makes it harder. But sadly, ‘nice attitude’ doesn’t cut it when the harder skills are missing – just like ‘genius but total bellend’ doesn’t cut it either. Never had to do this myself so lots of support and sympathy for you – this isn’t going to be easy.

    1. RabbitRabbit*

      Plus there’s not even any guarantee that he’s better at “creative” work, it appears that’s just the kind of work that he expresses interest in. He may need a new start and a little bit of a shock to have a better chance at getting a good job that he’s suited to and where the employer is actually getting decent work out of him.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        There was a great moment in my life where I realised I was a far far better techie than I ever was a virologist. I wasn’t fired from my job in the lab, I left with the full intention of restarting in IT, but oh my that ‘hey, I LOVE this work AND I rock at it!’ feeling is amazing. The only time I’ve ever regretted leaving virology was…well..2020 onward.

      2. cabbagepants*

        The bit about creative work gave me two chuckles:

        1) In my industry, low-level jobs are execution-focused and you only get more creative liberty as you get more experienced. Moving this guy to a creative job would be a promotion, failing upward.

        2) Arguing that you can’t do well at a lower-level job because it’s not challenging enough or whatever is hella cliche and a joke at this point.

        1. allathian*

          I agree on 1, but on 2 I’m willing to give some people the benefit of the doubt. It is possible to be bored out of your skull doing a job and failing for that reason. But if that’s the case, the first step should be to check if you can make the job more interesting somehow.

      3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        If he’s creative he should be creating stuff to sell. There are very few truly creative jobs where you get paid to be creative. And when a company is prepared to pay you for your creative flair, you can bet you’d earn more than your salary setting up your own business.

        (I do work that can be classified as creative and, up until the pandemic, was earning far more as a freelancer than when I was salaried, while having the distinct feeling that I was working much less)

    2. Sherm*

      Yes. Sooner or later, the guy will likely be looking for a new job (as most people do), and when he describes his experience, what will we have to show for it? What references will he have?

      I was fired from a job where I wasn’t doing so hot, and in my next job (which didn’t take long to get), I thrived. In my case, my boss was not a kind person, and he played a role in my floundering, but still, painful as it was, I’m now GLAD I got fired, and maybe it would have been good if I got fired earlier.

      1. JohannaCabal*

        Same situation for me. I was fired from one job and excelled at the next, even getting promoted.

        It would be a kindness for LW’s employee to be let go. The company is also planning to give him eight weeks notice and time off to interview. Wish I would have gotten that.

    3. Smithy*

      In terms of being unhelpful – in addition to the impact on the struggling person, it can also have a negative impact on their coworkers. When there’s a lot of effort spent on someone struggling, that’s time not necessarily being spent on the career development of others. And when that’s highly visible, it can send a message that the only way for your career development to get attention is through attention – be that good or bad attention.

      I wouldn’t say that it incentivizes other employees to struggle, but rather to adopt less professional/more personal ways to get attention. Basically, to adopt a tactic of “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.”

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Bingo. I wonder how many people left because of having to clean up this guy’s bad work.
        It’s nice to care about people. But is the company willing to put the SAME level of care and concern into ALL its employees? If the answer is no, then it’s time to rethink what is going on with this one employee.

        OP, what if every employee there had to be moved from department to department until they found work they could do? What would that look like, how would it benefit the company?

        Getting along with other people is expected along the same lines as showing up for work is expected. Going the opposite way, you don’t show up, you lose the job. If you are nasty to people likewise you can lose your job. There’s more to doing a job than just being nice.

        I have worked for companies who have hand-held certain people while the rest of us worked like we were three people each, cleaning up the messes the hand-held person left behind. People left because of weak management, not because after years of this they finally fired the person.

        As for those who think management is a Big Meanie, they can simply be told, “*Anyone* who tries x number of jobs and fails at all attempts probably cannot be employed here. “

        1. Smithy*

          Absolutely with all of this.

          Also, whenever I hear about someone who’s really well liked but struggling….it’s hard for me to not think that part of being that well liked is that they’re more likely to be friends with their coworkers. And while certainly all types of people can become friends at work, it’s more likely to happen along affinity lines. That could be a group of people all belonging to a similar place of worship or social club, or just be a case of connecting to a group where lots of staff are single/childless/new parents/etc.

          All of this is to say that there are ways to kindly let someone move on, and also the fact that they’re really well liked may not necessarily be so much of an achievement worth seeking to hold onto at a workplace.

          1. cabbagepants*


            You only get this kind of treatment if someone is prejudiced in your favor. They choose to believe that you “have potential” or whatever rather than looking at your actual job performance. It has privilege written all over it, in crimson letters.

            OP, would a young man with dark skin and a non-English name get this kind of VIP treatment if he were bad at his job, or would you just fire him? Think on this.

  5. Bookworm*

    Please do fire this person. And consider about giving him time off and flexibility for interviews: I could imagine someone else might want the same thing down the road. Maybe as much lead time as possible? Create a temporary position where he can be more creative to ease him out?

    I’ve worked with a few too many of these types who seem well-liked and can’t do the job or use that excuse to not do the job they should be doing. It’s not fair to anyone to keep him hanging around.

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      Agree. This is a situation that is tailor-made for a mutual departure, where the employee and the manager sit down and discuss that it’s not working out and needs to come to an end, and agree on a last day, what the reference will say, last projects to wrap up, that the company won’t contest unemployment, and so forth. They can give the employee several weeks’ lead time and time off for interviews. Everybody wins, or at least everybody loses less.

    2. PollyQ*

      If he’s being fired, he should be asked to leave immediately. First because expecting someone to stay working after they’ve been fired seems cruel, and also because it opens the possibility of sabotage of some sort. Pay a severance if you like, but let the person move to the next stage of their life cleanly.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Severance is a good idea. I would have to assume the employees are burned out on cleaning up after this guy and just get him to a spot where he cannot hurt anything any more.

  6. H*

    UMMM looking forward to this one- My boss has been joking that I don’t work after 5:00 I left a job in the last year where a manager in my dept who wasn’t my manager was often looking for that in his reports… why IDK? TERRIBLE!

    1. Lives in a Shoe*

      Yes, and I’d not ask if the boss has problems “with my hours,” but “with my _work_.”

      Put the emphasis on what matters – and make it up to the boss to say that they want you to work extra hours, presumably without compensation.

      1. Nanani*

        This. Don’t open yourself up to “you should butt-in-seat” arguments. Keep the focus on your work and what you’re actually being paid to do.

    2. HS Teacher*

      I had a boss who used to make snide comments about everyone leaving at 5:30 pm. However, he rarely showed up to work until after 10 am, by which time most of us had already been at work for a couple of hours. Unfortunately, he was the CEO, so my only recourse was to go work for someone who wasn’t an a-hole.

      1. lailaaaaah*

        Urgh yeah, one of my coworkers gets in at 10-11ish and makes snide comments about me leaving at 4-5 – except that I get in at 7. So glad my manager shut that one down.

        1. Chas*

          When I did my PhD I used to come into the Uni at 9:30 and leave at 4:30 (to avoid rush hour traffic, and having okayed it with my supervisor), whereas other PhD students would often stay until 6, which they occasionally commented on. But then one of them got caught by one of the supervisors playing Plants versus Zombies on his work computer, so after that I got to point out that it didn’t matter how long you sat at the computer if you weren’t actually spending the time *working*.

    3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Yeah. I was hired at a place where my colleagues were all youngsters fresh out of uni, whereas I had two kids. I was out of the door at 4pm sharp to race over to the school to pick them up, and my colleagues would stay late happily, wanting to prove that they had talent. The boss loved them and hated me. Even when he got round to doing stats and realised that working part-time, I still managed to be more productive in all three aspects of my job than my colleagues staying late. I will never forgive him for that.

  7. Anne*

    OP 1: Ugh, this made me cringe. I appreciate how willing you seem to want to find something for this person, but its really REALLY unfair to other employees to not deal with someone who can’t do their work. (And not fair to the employee). You seem to be doing it because he is nice and well liked. Well, you can’t just keep someone on because they are nice. And, if someone was perfectly reasonable but didn’t have as attractive of a personality, would you willing to let them go?
    I think I would feel very demoralized if I were another employee at your company and knew this was going on. It’s also a huge waste of resources, and it seems like this employee wants the company to make something fit him.
    Anyone who is reasonable will know you did the right thing here.

    I had a nice employee who just….could not do the work and made very odd decisions. He wasn’t a fit at all and his response was “but Im trying hard!” I could try and try with all my might to work at NASA being an aerospace engineer, but I will never be good at it. I should not be employed at NASA! I always thought that was how to frame it in my head.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      It’s a good point that keeping him is probably annoying other staff. Think we’ve had many many letters here from people frustrated that their coworker cannot do the work but the company keeps them anyway.

      1. Tired of Covid-and People*

        If only these companies would do better at hiring in the first place. I bet the perceived niceness of the employee in question contributed more than it should have to them getting the job in the first place.

        OP, tread lightly here. There really needs to be a standard policy for handling non-performance. It’s too easy to bend over backwards for the nice person, who may also be of the dominant culture. Would a minority or member of other marginalized groups be treated the same? Would a not-nice person be given the same opportunity to fit in somewhere? They need a job too. Just something to think about.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          I don’t believe situations like this are the fault of the hiring people. There does, though, need to be clear processes as to when you can fire someone for not performing well enough, like:

          Person has great rapport with coworkers and managers but can’t work a computer and wants to work in IT.

          Person is great at IT but insults customers, harasses coworkers and ignores their managers.

          Make those across the board and formal and let staff know that they are written in stone.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Love this. Yes, it goes both ways. We have to approachable and we have to be competent… AT THE SAME TIME. But they give us money for this, so there’s that.

            My uncle ran a department that did fleet maintenance. The company paid okay but other companies paid better. So how to compete with other employers? Treat the employees decently. Show them how they can move on if they choose. My uncle said the next thing that happened was they stayed. It took them a quite a while to pick another employer. This is because they had to think about it carefully. Where they were, they were treated decently, they had the training they needed and their cohorts were also kind and competent workers. You don’t just walk away from all this without careful consideration.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer*

              I’ve never had to get rid of an employee for being nice but bad at their job.

              Had to get rid of several who were exceptionally gifted at IT but absolute nightmares to work with.

  8. Agnes*

    #2 I worked part-time for an organization around 20 hours per week. My boss liked to repeat all the time how he works 24/7 and he would also randomly call me and other employees during our time off. When we had a staff meeting on Monday morning one time, he became frustrated because I haven’t replied yet to a bunch of emails he sent me on Sunday. He started talking about his 24/7 work again and I finally responded to him that I don’t work on weekends and have a second job (he was aware of that). He looked stunned becasue other employees never said anything and just talked behind his back.

    1. HS Teacher*

      I had a horrible boss like that once. He seemed to think because I was single with no children I had nothing else to do on the weekends and should be answering him. My life is incredibly busy and, even if it weren’t, you get my until 5:30 pm Friday, and then I’m on ME time.

    2. Artemesia*

      When my youngest child was a toddler, I cut back to three quarters time, taking a 25% pay cut to do it — it basically involved moving off of a grand funded project that was paying 25% of my salary. My bus made a snide remark about ‘looking for me at 4, but he guessed I must be Christmas shopping.’ I stopped him right there and said ‘I took a 25% pay cut to cut back to 75% time and am still spending more hours than that most weeks and I don’t want to hear anymore about that.’ He was stunned — he had no idea somehow that my dropping the funded project meant I also was taking a pay cut. He was a GREAT boss and this was an uncharacteristic lapse.

      You are working part time and so kudos for pushing back and telling him that you don’t work 24/7 — it is a part time job with part time pay.

      1. Chas*

        My boss often tries to extend our contracts by suggesting we take a cut to our hours (E.G. I get paid 90% and get a half day off each week, and a woman who went to a 60% contract when she came back from maternity is still doing 60% several years later). But one thing he doesn’t seem to understand about that is that when people are paid 100% they’ll probably be willing to do 110% of their hours if the job needs it. But the minute he says he’s only paying for 90%, then they’re going to damn well make sure they’re not doing more than that.

  9. Renee Remains the Same*

    My very first job out of school was working for a successful communications director who was notoriously well-known for being a micromanager and rather arrogant (perhaps justified, but still). I was 22 years old and getting paid the low-end of entry-level salaries of the time. I worked in an industry that is very popular, so they could get away with low-balling their staff. I also had a 1 hour commute, so I would leave work around 5:10 to catch my 5:30 train home.

    One day, my boss told me I “could work past 5 PM, if I wanted to,” by which she meant, I SHOULD work past 5. This was the first in a sign of problems that my boss cared more about appearances than about work. By the time I left the company 3 years later, I had an extremely warped idea about what the professional world should be and it took at least 10 years to overcome the anxiety I had if I had to leave before 5:45 or — GASP — take a vacation.

    Looking back, I don’t know if any 20-something really has the ability to challenge that superiority or change that dynamic. The only thing I think I might have been capable of doing (if I had the hindsight) would be to politely and professionally stick to my own sense of integrity… to be a speed bump, rather than a doormat when someone was intent to steamroll over me.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, she knew you wouldn’t have a comeback ready for that one. I bet she didn’t try that so willingly with older people. Older me is stunned by how differently I am treated from when I was younger.

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

    #5 I wonder if the boss is sitting in on these team interviews specifically because he is suspicious that the team is warning away candidates. I get the impulse to warn strangers of “danger” ahead, if there really is something particularly toxic or dangerous about the job, but maybe these employees are contributing to the bad environment right from the interview. No need to poison the well, especially if they’re still drinking from it. If the place is so bad, the OP and her coworker should put their efforts into leaving, not sabotaging the interview process for someone else.

    1. irene adler*

      At one company, we took our breaks outside- and watched the job candidates walk right past us. We would joke about warning them about how bad the job was they were all excited to interview for (this was way before Glassdoor and the like.).
      Never followed through on this.

    2. ProdMgr*

      There’s definitely dysfunction going on here. If the boss doesn’t trust his team to interview a candidate without him present, something is wrong. If the team thinks the boss is so bad that they need to warn new hires about him, something is also wrong.

      Warning new hires about the boss is not the winning strategy. I had an interview like that once. They liked me and wanted me to come back for another round. After listening to 4 or 5 people tell me how badly the CEO treated everyone (including one guy who assured me that it was only verbal abuse, “never physical”) I declined to do additional interviews.

      The bigger issue is that if the boss can’t hire and retain people, something needs to change.

      1. chilipepper*

        Warning new hires about the boss is not the winning strategy.
        Alison does say, though, to “warn” potential hires about the conditions and it sounds like the OP and their team worked out some neutral ways to do that. It allows people who don’t deal with the kind of stress the boss creates to self select out. One could argue that it worked as intended for you, you self selected out of the process after listening to 4 or 5 people tell you how badly the CEO treated everyone.

      2. vlookup*

        I think it’s better to warn new hires about the boss than to not warn them and have them find out the boss is a nightmare after they’ve taken the job.

        I’ve never explicitly done so, but when I worked for a dysfunctional company I tried to (diplomatically and carefully) share enough that candidates could read between the lines and decide for themselves whether the job was worth it. There’s also a difference between an out and out toxic environment, and a merely dysfunctional one where some people might thrive and others might want to self-select out.

    3. Sarah*

      This is a very cynical way of looking at it! It could very well be that the employees who are there *are* looking for other jobs internally or externally, are well-suited to work for this personality but also recognize many people are not, or have just learned to cope and don’t want to leave. OP mentions a pattern of people being hired and leaving after short periods of time due to difficult manager, so they’re actually trying to improve the hiring process and root out a candidate who is willing to take on that challenge. I would guess they’ll ask behavioral questions relating to working with certain behaviors or expectations, not air dirty laundry about their boss.

    4. LadyByTheLake*

      I disagree with this comment –it’s important for job applicants to understand if there are difficulties about a job. I have been warned about bosses with difficult personalities in the interview process and always appreciated it. In one instance, it is a kind of personality that I can deal with, so I took that job and it was fine. Other times, I self-selected out because I knew I would be miserable. More times than that, I wish I had been warned ahead of time — I might have still taken the job, but I would have known what I was getting into and might have asked for some different working arrangements — work remotely, different reporting structure etc.

      1. Filosofickle*

        Yes. I was warned once in a peer interview and was grateful for the heads up so I could make an informed decision. I took it anyway because the pay was amazing (double!) and it was trading one temp / contract role for another so there was no loss or risk. It was also the kind of bad I could handle — chaotic, inefficient, and slow but not abusive or long hours. With the heads up, I knew to negotiate for even more money and shift my schedule as compensation. I made bank for 9 months, saved tons, and skated out of there.

      2. Chas*

        I agree, we’re currently training the second person to work on an important project: The first woman had been an internal hire who had only heard about our boss from a friend of hers who doesn’t interact with him much. She was very frustrated to find out what he was like to deal with on a regular basis, which was something I and another coworker could probably have warned her about if she’d ever talked to us about it, which might have either convinced her not to take the position (allowing us to avoid the disruption to the project) or have allowed her to prepare better and maybe not have felt the need to leave mid-project.

    5. LKW*

      It’s more work to have to go through the interview, hire and train cycle, so I’d want to make sure that whomever was coming in could handle a difficult boss. And the OP sounds thoughtful enough that they don’t want to set someone up for failure or misery but also realistic enough to understand some people will be able to manage just fine.

      Toxic people would likely be glad to get fresh meat to torture.

    6. Malarkey01*

      I think the team need to think this through a little too. If they warn candidates off and candidates withdrawal there’s a good chance the boss will ask them why (I often ask if someone pulls out of the process because I like to know if we’re not properly advertising and describing the position or if there’s something that we don’t think is a big deal but is to candidates, or if the pay/benefits aren’t at market).
      There’s a good chance candidate repeats your warning. Be honest, but never say anything in an interview you wouldn’t be comfortable with your boss, HR, CEO hearing.

  11. TWW*

    #4 Might need bigger headphones.

    I love my Sony WH-1000XM4. I can set them to amplify ambient sound, so I can hear traffic and such, but anyone looking at me would assume I’m deaf to the world

    1. KittenLittle*

      Do you worry about your hearing when you wear headphones constantly? I keep my volume as low as possible, but I know I can’t hear as well as I used to. Thank you!

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        I can’t hear as well as I once could either, and I attribute that to age and noise exposure. We all get exposed to loud noises, especially in urban areas. Attending loud events (sports, music) can cause problems. I really don’t think that earbuds or headphones are causing problems, if they never make your ears ring.

      2. TWW*

        If anything, I feel like wearing over-the-ear headphones protects my hearing.

        On my Sony headphones, you can control how much ambient sound comes through, and it’s a button-push to turn off ambient sound and switch to noise-canceling if you find yourself in a loud environment.

        1. Julia*

          This. My phone also tells me when I use dangerous noise levels on my earphone, but since they shut out quite a lot of noise by being tight-fitting (I prefer in-ear buds to headphones), I am always at a healthy level. If you’re worried, check whether your device has a similar monitoring system.

  12. Dreep*

    I like that the company gave the guy chances and seem to be on a really nice path for letting him go. This is almost a best case scenario if you’re getting fired, they obviously care about softening the blow, and all that lead time is a really nice bonus. I hope he responds well to this, and takes them up on their generous offer. I wasn’t go at a company several years ago when I was battling a lot in my life and suffering from depression, being given chances and gently let go is a really compassionate way to help the worker transition.

  13. not that kind of Doctor*

    We went through this with a coworker of mine. Everyone liked him and he had a lot of personal friends on staff. (Me included!) Many people were very upset at his firing – the HR manager, his boss, actually cried (later, in private) as she had never had to fire someone she liked before. It took a long time for emotions to settle.

    Now, years later, we are still dealing with fallout from errors he made while he was here. He was a lovely person but terrible at his job. He’s much happier now too, in a completely different industry & position.

  14. Oh No She Di'int*

    #1 In addition to Alison’s advice, I would strongly recommend being very up-front and as transparent as possible in your messaging to the rest of the staff.

    I keyed in on the fact that you described him as “well liked” and if I understand you right, I really get where you’re coming from. I was in a very similar situation.

    In my case, “Fergus” had been at the company for a decade or more and was very likely a functional alcoholic. But he was extremely well liked. I mean, people just LOVED this guy. I was not aware that anyone felt any sort of resentment over his constant failures. Every time he screwed up, it was just: “Oh, that’s just lovable little Fergus! Hahaha!” His manager would have been well within his rights to fire him on performance grounds, but there would have been an outcry. Much of the staff would have seen it not as firing an incompetent employee (which everyone knew) but as firing almost a member of the family that a lot of people truly adored.

    I think your job is not to manage anyone’s social life, so firing him sounds like the right move from a business standpoint. But I’d be cognizant of the possibility that some people will see it as “my friend got fired” and would be ready for a few of those reactions.

    1. JohannaCabal*

      I’ve also seen situations where the employee in question was bad at their job but essentially had their own personality cult within the office due to their charisma. This made management hesitant to fire them because about the person’s supporters making the office environment miserable or even taking their followers with them (I argue that it would not be an issue if the person’s supporters left either).

      1. allathian*

        Indeed. That said, it seems to me that in this case, people like the employee well enough but don’t necessarily want to work with him.

  15. 3DogNight*

    LW #1 I can see a future side effect of the transferring and trying to find this guy work that he can actually do. Your teams are going to be less likely to go for this going forward, so you’ve set a precedent that may not be able to be followed, therefore making things harder for the next time you have to do this.

  16. TimeTravlR*

    At one place I worked it was typical for people to stay well past their usual hours because the boss was there. He wanted us to stay “in case he needed something.” In the meanwhile we are making busy work (at times) while he was in his office studying for his master’s program classes. *sigh*
    We got a new boss, though, and one of the first things i told him was that I believed that if we were always have to stay late to get work done, we weren’t doing it right (emergencies excepted). He wholeheartedly agreed and we rarely worked over after that!

  17. fivepuppiesilove*

    I used to work for a toxic company where the clock out time was 4:45 pm. I was an hourly employee and overtime wasn’t allowed. So everyday I would clock out at 4:45 pm and mostly everyone gave me a hard time that I would leave right at the end of the shift. It was super annoying and come to find out that mostly everyone was a salaried employee and they thought I was too. Especially because the girl in my role before me was salaried. I specifically negotiated to be hourly and I also always finished my work well within my day. It was just super annoying.

    1. turquoisecow*

      I worked at a place where hours were 8:30-4:45. A couple of VPs would walk around at 8:20 and 5:00 and wonder why no one was there. Because the row of cubicles you walked down is full of hourly folks?

      Also some of them negotiated hours where they came in early and left early, so they’d do 8:00-4:15 or something like that and then the VP would say “how come I never see (person) after 4:00?” Because she’s hourly and comes in at 8:00. But they assumed since they were salaried, everyone else was, and went with the “stay late/come in early to show how dedicated to the job you are” mentality. Which is illegal.

      1. H*

        UGH this is why I can’t with most workplaces. I even psychologically started doing weird things like this in past jobs to appear busy and useful and it was all FAKE! I have lived walking distance to my workplace for years and would go to the gym early and get there at 7:45 or 8A to be the first person there so no one could say anything when I was the first person to leave because they said things about other people. Never again. This is one of the benefits of remote work. But then I have worked some places where people take advantage and habitually disappear for 2 hours in the middle of the day or always come in at 10 and leave at 4 when they are salaried. It just seems some people can get away with it while others are scrutinized.

    2. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      How did you negotiate to be hourly? I thought exempt/non-exempt categories were defined by the government, not employers? But then I’ve always found the delineation confusing. When it went into effect, it created a bit of a them vs. us situation where I worked, that previously had not existed.

      1. PollyQ*

        “Exempt” has certain requirements (a combo of job duties + pay), but any employee can be treated as non-exempt.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        Hourly/salary and exempt/non-exempt are separate. You can be exempt and also be hourly.

    3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Yeah. For a while I worked Mon-Thur and had a long weekend. I’d wish everyone a good weekend as I headed out on Thursday and there was always someone who’d say “wish I could take the day off tomorrow”. To which I’d just say, “negotiate that with the boss, he’d be delighted if you got all your work done in four days so he no longer had to pay you for the fifth”.

  18. une autre Cassandra*

    I was a well-liked employee who was inexplicably terrible at the job!
    Despite trying my hardest for a whole year I simply couldn’t master it. (Very demoralizing, and my lifelong anxiety got way worse on the job.) I don’t know how much more it would have taken to get me fired, because I proactively approached my very kind and understanding boss, who had already done so much to try to get me up to speed, and proposed that I transition out. The process took a few months and enabled my employer to replace me in a more reasonable timeframe and gave me ample time to figure out next steps—and save face. I think giving this guy ~8 weeks or whatever makes sense for the business to work on transitioning out of the role is by far the kindest thing you can do to someone who just isn’t hacking it.

    FWIW I found a job I’m much better suited for and I’ve now been here almost three years and it’s great, so there was definitely a happy ending for what was at the time a deeply stressful situation. Even though I remember “trying to do the work” with a knot of misery in my stomach, I actually continue to think very very highly of the employer.

    1. allathian*

      Sounds wonderful! You were also a proactive employee, which perhaps helped things along. You realized you weren’t a good fit for the job before your manager and coworkers got completely fed up with you. Many people who are failing in their jobs just put their heads in the sand and try and make the best of it for as long as possible, until they get fired or some other external factor forces a change.

  19. turquoisecow*

    Letting a mediocre or terrible employee stay on is detrimental to your business in so many ways. Having a terrible person in a role means that someone else needs to cover that role for them in order for the job to get done (or at least do a good portion of the job for them). Now you’re at risk of the *good* employee burning out and leaving. Regardless of how nice the terrible employee is, there’s going to be some resentment on the good employee’s part. And you can’t have someone else help out because then you’re increasing your payroll by paying *another* person to do the job that the terrible employee should be doing.

    That’s bad enough in one department but when you move the employee around the entire company, you’re systematically tanking the productivity of multiple departments. He doesn’t work out in spout production, so you move him to lids. Spouts can now hire a better employee, but meanwhile the lid department is tanking. So then you move him to painting: lids improves but painting is downhill. And in each department you have other employees struggling to attempt to train him and not getting their own work done as effectively, or covering for him so that their own work suffers.

    I’d be very surprised if there weren’t people in the company who resent having to do this person’s work, regardless of how nice he is. Letting him go means you can hire someone competent to do the job and improve things for your employees as well as the company finances.

    And, as others have pointed out, it’s good for the bad employee that he go find a job he is good at – somewhere else.

    1. Jaydee*

      It’s also bad for the employee. They probably *know* they aren’t good at the job. The are probably living in a perpetual state of terror that the other shoe is going to drop and they’re going to be called in on a Friday afternoon and told to pack their things and best of luck.

      Giving them a generous amount of time to transition out (8 weeks is great), flexibility to interview, a neutral-to-positive reference, severance pay or at least not contesting their unemployment claim if they have to make one, etc. can be a shock at first but then a huge weight off their back once they find a job that is a better fit.

      And it can allow both employer and employee to save face on the way out. You didn’t fire “Beloved-but-Inept Bob,” he is just leaving to take a different job or go back to school just like anyone else does. He doesn’t have the shame of being marched out on Friday afternoon with a copier box full of his personal belongings. And you don’t have other employees whispering about “how could the company do that to Bob of all people!”

    2. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

      When you have a culture that values “niceness” to the point that a poor performer is spared because of how “nice” they are, there’s a good chance that no one dares to express that they resent having to do this person’s work. I mean, a “nice” person couldn’t possibly have an issue with helping out their “nice” colleague who’s struggling! The culture likely makes it impossible to really figure out how damaging this person is to team morale.

  20. Lobsterp0t*

    Honestly, while I haven’t been the guy in letter 1 (moved around a lot to avoid firing), I have nearly been fired for not having a core skill set, and it would’ve been totally fair enough once it was really clear that despite everything I shouldn’t stay, even though I got on really well with my team.

    Thankfully I was able to change roles into something I’m very good at.

  21. lyonite*

    OP 5: Following up on Allison’s comment about interviewees being on their best behavior for the boss–this is true and another good reason not to have managers in every interview, even if they (the managers) are great. One time at my old job we had a candidate come through who all the managers loved–he was sweet as cream to them–but when it came to talking to the people he would be his peers he was rude, arrogant, and frankly bigoted. They were all set to move forward with him until they heard our feedback. (He was not hired.)

  22. MistOrMister*

    Re OP2, I was once passed over for a promotion (I was much more qualified than the guy they actually gave it to) and was told the reason why was that I never worked overtime. Never mind that 1) I always got all my work done in my set hours 2) I consistently did more work than everyone else even just working my 7.5 hours and 3) my boss never once asked me to work overtime or indicated that it was needed to help the department!! I am still annoyed with her for that. I was doing more work in my normal day than this guy was doing with OT, but he was considered more of a team player because he put in extra hours. Then they put him as my team lead and told me to teach him the job and help him do it because he wasn’t qualified. Just…excuse me while my head explodes! I should have left at that point. But alas. I stayed until we had a new boss and she passed me over for the next team lead position that opened up (after assuring me I would get it as I was acting as team lead but couldn’t be formally promoted until they had the position officially created or opened or whatever) by hiring someone she had worked with at her last place. I still remember the shock on her face when I resigned shortly thereafter and she said, if this about the team lead thing, because you were getting the next opening. Then the woman she had hired left not long after me and I won’t say I didn’t chuckle over that.

  23. Staja*

    At my current position, I was “warned”, that there had been some turnover on the team and my manager can be tough to work with.

    Nearly 3 years later, I have a great relationship with my manager and am the most tenured person on my team. My manager can be tough and she expects a lot from us…she also doesn’t communicate well over email/chat, so it’s a challenge for people. When we hired new teammates at the beginning of WFH last year, I definitely made sure to give my own vaguely worded warning, in hopes that our new hires knew what they were getting into.

    1. lailaaaaah*

      Exactly this. Some people can handle difficult personalities really well, and even thrive in those environments- others don’t, and it’s a good idea to let people figure out early on what they’re getting into.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      My sister was warned on a recent job interview (for financial director) that part of the job would involve ‘babysitting’ the CEO as he was really difficult to get on with and would throw tantrums.

      She took the job. For reference my sister has the ability to be even scarier than me (I’m only 6’ to her 6’2”, she has gone through divorce and single parenthood, she’s younger than me and has none of my physical or mental problems…basically she won’t take crud)

  24. MarkP*

    Whenever I think someone I work with is terrible at their job I always just say “They’re a VERY nice person.” It’s my own little “bless your heart.”

  25. Jennifer*

    #1 I wonder if everyone that has struggled at the company is giving the same number of chances? I think it’s good to handle letting people go fairly – but this is a bit over the top. Would a more introverted, less charming but equally nice person have gotten this many chances? Now if any person is fired without being moved a bajillion different jobs and departments it’s going to come across as bias. And sorry to say, if this guy is a white man, it’s going to REALLY look bad.

  26. rubble*

    Alison, I’m getting a weird 404 page not found error when trying to access this one – it starts to load okay, I can see the article title for example, and then that vanishes and it replaced with the error message. are they geolocking their stuff now, by any chance?

  27. MissBaudelaire*

    I cannot stand when people pester me on the bus. I rely on public transit and usually have headphones and a book. There is nothing about my demeanor that says I want to have a friendly chat. I will be poked and prodded by someone asking when the bus is coming, and I’m happy to let them know, even though the schedule is usually posted on the bus shelter. But when the bus isn’t there the very moment I estimated, I will have people waving their arms at me, jumping up and down to get my attention, and then they go “The bus isn’t here yet!” Well, what do you want me to do? I’m not driving it.

    I had a coworker who would come up to me, poke me as I was reading my book during lunch and spend the whole half hour talking. Non. Stop. Did not even let me get a word in. I started leaving for lunch early and hiding so I could read and eat in peace.

    1. Lobsterp0t*

      Oh the poking. Or the tapping on the shoulder.

      I share your lack of enthusiasm for these people’s behaviour.

      I do not miss this pre pandemic feature of human society at all.

  28. Glitterati*

    #3 I have a similar Staley except I was the HR assistant employee asking for the raise. I found out that I earned $25,000 less than my predecessor but I had more responsibilities. They were an extrovert beloved by the CEO and me a quiet achiever who actually kept the company running (smallish place) but our jobs were identical except I also did ohs, facilities and a lot of other extras. I researched and found I was massively underpaid anyway so asked for an extra $13,000 listing all my achievements including huge cost savings that more than covered my raise. They didn’t even take the time to acknowledgeP my request, so I left. My point is that it really, really stings when you see your ‘value’ next to that of another colleague at the same level. I would urge you to see what the market rate is for your employee’s role. If you aren’t paying market rate and you value this person please consider bringing them in line (and if they’re good then above) because this is not a problem that will resolve on its own. If you can’t you need to sit down and talk it all over. I was honestly heartbroken about the difference (it’s taken years and I still haven’t caught up financially) and the lack of acknowledgement and my self esteem tanked.

    1. Glitterati*

      Sorry, also your q was about abuse of position. There’s a level of expectation that an hr assistant will see salaries and so it’s a risk you take I think, especially if you know they aren’t being paid as much as someone else. If they’d seen that they were paid the same then it’s a non issue. But what is seen cannot be unseen and it’s better they raised it than just left. Also I guess they could’ve found this out through other means, lunchroom chats etc.

  29. Raida*

    #1 in regards to a poor employee that people like:
    It is not the business’s responsibility to *give* nice people jobs. It is not the manager’s responsibility to ensure that the person “who’s getting marries soon!” keeps a higher-paying role they filled-in for six months. It is not a team-mates’ responsibility to do the heavy lifting because their co-worker is, frankly, incompetent. It is the managers’ job to make sure the right people are in the right roles, including getting rid of people who… have no actual role?!?!

    It is the managers and boss’ responsibility to spend the business’ money wisely, support their staff, and be clear.

    If someone fails, you find out what they are interested in, and tell them that is not available at this business. You can offer to pay for some recruitment training to help them find a new job. But you give them a clear deadline when the business stops giving them money *for being so gosh darned nice*.
    If it matters to the business to give away tens of thousands of dollars a year, they should donate the bloody salary that’s just floating around to pay NicePerson, and make a better, tax-deductable, impact on multiple lives.

  30. L6orac6*

    #1 Everyone is and has been picking up the slack for your employee, please look after your other employees, who are able to do the work and in a timely fashion. It doesn’t matter how nice he is, it will never ever make up for the work that he’s unable to do.

  31. Workfromhome*

    #1 I don’t think being nice or being obnoxious should even factor into things. Companies really need to get a backbone and just (professionally) let people go who have proven over time they cant do the job. I’m not saying fire someone after a month and not give them any support or training. But if they are legit not able to do the job after reasonable attempts let them go. Get someone into the role that can do the job. Few things are more demoralizing than working extra to pick up the sack for someone who clearly cant do the job. After all if you get paid the same why should you do their work just to keep things running.
    Far too often (nice or obnoxious) these folks get passed from manager to manager because the company is afraid of firing them for whatever reason. They would rather all the other employees be unhappy from dealing with a non productive employee than to feel uncomfortable firing them.

    1. Jennifer*

      I get your point, but slightly disagree. Keeping someone who is obnoxious but good at their job is as bad as keeping someone who is nice but terrible at their job. An obnoxious person that is rude to their coworkers, or maybe even to clients, is going to cause you to lose good people and lower morale.

  32. Them Boots*

    OP#4: Honestly I’m a little creeped on your behalf the he keeps CHANGING HIS SCHEDULE TO MATCH YOURS. WTF?!?!! Especially when you *significantly* changed your schedule and he shows up again after a few days? Really really odd. I’d follow Alison’s advice and expect him to make it uncomfortable for you for a week, including the wonderful ‘extinction burst’ of behavior before he goes off in a huff. Try to channel Keymaster of Gozer if you can!

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