can I ignore a toxic employee who’s leaving, warning candidates about weirdness in our hiring, and more

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

1. Can I ignore a toxic employee during her last few days?

I have managed someone, let’s call her Rachel, for over a year and a half. The majority of the experience has been negative — she’s rude, feeds on drama, and produces low quality work. I’ve had several discussions with her on improving her performance. After a lot of painful experiences, she resigned while I was on vacation. (My supervisor texted me.) She only gave a week’s notice, and since I’m on vacation we will only have two days overlap.

I know as a manager I have the responsibility to be professional and courteous, but I can’t stomach the idea that we even have to interact at all on those two final days. I have even contemplated rescheduling our team meeting to the day after she leaves because I don’t want to hear some passive-aggressive spiel from her about how she’s going to some place that appreciates her and her skill set. And I certainly don’t want to have a fake conversation where we thank each other for our time and work together, because that would be a lie. While previously I’ve tried to be encouraging in difficult conversations, now I feel like I don’t have to put on any pretenses anymore, especially since she resigned in a petty way. Is it okay if I ignore her or have very minimal interaction with her on those final two days? And what are your thoughts more broadly about minimizing interactions with toxic employees that you manage directly or are part of your division?

No, you cannot ignore her during her final two days. That would make you look small and petty to other employees … and rightly so!

You’re the manager, which means you have most of the power in this situation. If this employee is that bad, the time to handle it was much earlier — by giving her clear warnings about what needed to change and then letting her go if you didn’t see those changes. That didn’t happen for whatever reason (and for all I know, maybe you tried to do that and were overruled, in which case I can better understand your frustration). But she’s leaving now! Be glad she’s leaving.

You do need to handle it professionally though; it would make you look truly terrible otherwise. Have the conversation where you wish her well because that’s the professional thing to do, especially as a person with more authority than she has. If you truly think she’ll be disruptive in your team meeting, then sure, go ahead and reschedule it — but not if it’s just to avoid talking to her or because you don’t want to hear her say goodbye. Part of your job is being gracious as a representative of your employer when someone leaves. Don’t give up your moral high ground and compromise your own reputation and credibility just when you’re about to be free of her. (Maybe it’ll help to think of this as what you owe yourself, not her.)

And to that last question about minimizing interactions with toxic employees you manage: Nope, can’t do it, same reasons. You’ve got to manage them; if they’re toxic, warn them and then fire them if it’s warranted. But you cannot ignore or minimize interactions with people you manage. If you want to do that, that’s a flag to look at how effectively you’re really managing; I suspect it’s not actively enough!

2. Fragrance reactions when I don’t work for the same company as the perpetrator

I am allergic to Lysol and a lot of other harsh chemical smells and perfumes. I have had supportive managers and when someone has worn heavy perfume, I was able to speak to management (or directly to the person, depending on our relationship) and the matter was resolved.

I have managed to get through most of Current Times without many incidents. However, I have a new neighbor in my office. The other day she sprayed down her entire office with Lysol and I noticed it immediately. I get a brain-splitting migraine and unless I am away from the smell my medication won’t be able to help. I had to leave for the day.

I told her I was allergic and asked if she would be able to refrain from using it or at least wait until the end of the day. She said she was sorry for triggering my allergy but keeping herself safe from Covid is her top priority. While I don’t disagree (my husband is high-risk and I am cautious myself), I can’t use those kinds of chemicals.

I am not sure how to handle this because we share an office building but do not work for the same company. Half of the building is one company (I think they own it) and the other half is rented out like executive suites. My company leases a few individual offices for me and two other coworkers. My bosses aren’t involved with anything at my location other than paying for the space. From what I gathered, my neighbor is renting the office for herself.

I do have a work-friendly relationship with the office manager. We in the leased offices have access to their copy machine, break room, etc. and if I had an issue with any of those things I would speak to her. I am not sure what authority she would have regarding this issue.

Talk with the office manager. While her company isn’t your employer, they are providing you with workspace and have an obligation to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. They might be willing to tell your neighbor she can’t use scented products in the office, or might be able to move one of you to a better ventilated area (or just a different area), or otherwise find a solution. If they won’t, at that point you’d need to take it to your own company (since it makes no sense for them to pay to put you in a space that you end up needing to flee), but start with the office manager first.

3. Should I warn candidates about weirdness in higher ed hiring?

Currently, I’m leading a search committee for an entry-level professional staff position at a public university. These positions are often the first job people get out of grad school for higher education administration.

Since our positions are government positions, we have a lot of restrictions on what we can ask as a search committee. For example, we have to ask every candidate the same set of questions (or very similar questions). All committee members take detailed notes during interviews. As a result, our interviews are often stilted and have significant pauses after each question as committee members write! This also means that we have to ask all candidates a question we’d normally just want to ask one candidate.

I don’t want to seem condescending, but I feel like explaining the format ahead of time may help candidates perform better. Does this sound unusual enough to warn candidates? I’m used to it, but I’ve been working at the same institution for 10 years.

Many candidates in higher ed are probably used to it, but I’m a big fan of explaining your process anyway — because “many candidates” is not the same as “all candidates,” and by sharing the playbook you help level the playing field for people who might not have the same reference points as other applicants.

It could be as simple as creating a spiel you give at the start of every interview — “We’re required to ask all candidates the same questions, so there may be some questions that don’t apply as much to you. It’s fine to just note when that’s the case. We also take detailed notes, so you’ll likely notice pauses after each question; don’t let that throw you.” Etc. That shouldn’t seem condescending; even people who don’t need it will likely appreciate the attempt at transparency.

You could also potentially email it as a standardized blurb about your process when you’re confirming interviews ahead of time, but I think it works just fine to explain it at the start of the meeting.

4. Asking my old job for their work templates

I just started with a new company doing the same type of work as a previous job. My old job had the most amazing templates for our work, whereas my current department is not as developed in this area. I wish I had these templates, but I can’t remember all the details to recreate them myself. Would it be inappropriate to ask my old department for their templates? My new company is a completely different industry so there are no competition concerns, but the amount of work they did to research best practices makes me pause. I don’t want to insult them by asking for their work.

I would not. That’s their intellectual property. It’s possible they’d forward it on, but there’s a pretty decent chance they won’t and that the request itself will land badly.

But you can use the knowledge you gained from working with those templates to recreate something similar at your new job. You might not remember everything that was included but it sounds like you know, for example, that they were created after lots of research into best practices. So in theory, you could describe why they were so useful and ask if there’s interest in having you or something else put in the time to create your own.

5. Showing growth in responsibilities on a resume

I took on a job as an X Coordinator at a small organization. As I became comfortable in the role my duties expanded a lot and I was asked to lead more projects. I suggested that since I was doing quite a bit of project management that my title be changed to X Manager, and it was. I was then asked to do an Interim Director role for a few months and then will return to my X Manager role.

How do I express all of this on resumes or LinkedIn? I didn’t receive a promotion (nor a raise), just a title change as duties naturally shifted around. So right now I just changed my title on LinkedIn, without showing any “moving up” per se.

I’d really like to show my growth on paper, however. I’m good at my job, took initiative to volunteer, expanded the role, and grew a lot! How do I show that without an actual promotion?

A promotion isn’t only a promotion if it comes with more money. You went from coordinator to manager — that’s a promotion for the purpose of your resume. You could show it like this:

Oatmeal Galleria
X Manager, January 2020 – present
X Coordinator, May 2018 – December 2019
* Created highly-reviewed barley outreach campaign, leading to 20% growth in barley support in one year
* Acted as interim director for four months, overseeing five-person oatmeal production team and spearheading award-winning groats packaging
* accomplishment
* accomplishment

{ 413 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Pennyworth*

    #1 – be the bigger person and mentally prepare some scripts for your interactions with Rachel. Wishing her the best in her new job can be rolled out in response to snide remarks and you could even tell her she will be missed (though probably not in the way she might interpret it).

    Reply
      1. Lady Heather*

        “You fill a much-needed gap in our team.”

        It sounds like a compliment…

        No. Really, OP, you don’t get to ignore problem employees – you’re the manager exactly because you’re supposed to deal with them. And you’ll probably have an easier time dealing with them than the problem employee’s peers, because of the power dynamic!

        Reply
        1. SarahKay*

          “You fill a much-needed gap in our team” is amazing. I had to read it about four times before I saw what it was *really* saying.

          Reply
              1. Lady Heather*

                Think of the gap like a ventilation duct.

                Filling a much-needed gap is bad.
                (Filling a much-needed role is good.)

                Reply
              2. onco fonco*

                The implication is that the gap is much-needed, rather than her – that they’d benefit from her absence. :)

                Reply
        2. Katie*

          “I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.”

          Reply
        1. Joan Rivers*

          Actually, though, she’s been avoiding you the way you’ve avoided her. She didn’t take “pleasure” telling you she’s leaving, she did it while you were gone.

          So I’d assume she might do the same as you and prepare some “lines” to say to get through the last couple days. If she does spout off rudely you can just shrug it off and let the words hang in the air.

          Reply
      1. Dust Bunny*

        I’m reminded of the Great Lie, in which Bette Davis toasts Mary Astor with, “May you always be as happy as you are right now,” knowing Astor’s character is miserable.

        Reply
    1. Castaspella*

      When I left my last job the head of office completely ignored me from the day she knew I’d resigned. I worked a month’s notice, during that time we had an office party and at one point I caught her GLARING at me over her drink. On my last day a week later, as she left for the day she walked right past me without so much as a backward glance. She took every resignation in that office personally, treated anyone leaving with contempt and didn’t even try to hide it, to the point it became something of a running joke. Other directors, a level below her, and people I’d barely worked with, all took the time to wish me well and say it was a shame I was leaving. Pity the poor sods with a three month notice period, though…

      Reply
      1. MK*

        I can only speak 9f my own experience, of course, but this attitude is much rarer in work environments with stronger labor protections, which is where you are likely to find long notice periods.

        Reply
      2. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

        Similar situation, where I resigned and the guy furthest up my chain of command acted like a petty child. Others in his position in parallel chains were extremely polite and cordial at a minimum (most were friendly), though surprised both at my leaving and at his behavior. My reasons for leaving did click pretty quickly for a couple of them though (I disliked working for a petty child.).

        Reply
        1. CupcakeCounter*

          The last two jobs I resigned from my grand-boss, who I normally interacted with on a daily basis, ignored me for extended periods of time immediately after my resignation. In the first guy’s defence, he was literally promoted (rightfully so – he was a good guy and would have made a more-than-decent manager) about a month before my boss announced his retirement and I quit. So he lost 2/3’s of an entire department in one day so I think that was more of a putting out fires ignore situation than a butt-hurt situation. Second guy was just butt-hurt.

          Reply
          1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

            Technically, I reported to two separate grand-bosses in equal standing. One was a petty child. The other has been an absolute gem, both personally and professionally, in the time since. Had the succession plan for the company NOT been petty-child taking over for absolute gem, I’d likely still be there.

            Hopeful that my state gets this Covid thing back in check as I have a raincheck from Absolute Gem for a networking lunch. He still hosts them even though he’s technically retired. It allows the group of us to get together, discuss work and non-work things, sometimes get an outside opinion on something work related that might be grinding. I miss him and I value his input, to this day.

            Reply
      3. Sparkles McFadden*

        Some managers really take a resignation personally, as if no one ever leaves a job for a reason other than “I don’t like my manager.”

        Reply
        1. MissBaudelaire*

          I’m starting to realize. While I did leave my last job because the management was somewhere below pond scum in terms of personality, the job before that I left because I had a better opportunity. It had nothing to do with the boss or the work. No hard feelings!

          I’m legit surprised to hear so many managers getting upset.

          Reply
      4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I had a toxic boss. Once when we disagreed on something (and what I was suggesting was truly for the benefit of the company rather than myself) he told me if I didn’t like it I could leave, after all, he wasn’t going anywhere, he was the boss.
        Then with the 2008 recession, he had to sell the company. The new boss asked me what I liked and what I didn’t about my job, and basically let me only keep the aspects that I liked. He also agreed to pay for me to get a master in my speciality (it would benefit the company not just me, but the previous boss would never have agreed in case I left for a better job afterwards). New boss kept old boss on just for as long as it took to copy the content of his hard drive, then fired him brutally. The last time I saw him, he said good-bye as if he were being strangled, but didn’t say anything at all. The next day was my Friday off, then the next Monday when I came in, everyone else told me that he’d casually announced it was his last day as he walked out on Friday. He was gone!!! whoosh!!! no more toxicity in the office!!! I was so happy I practically floated home that day. Schadenfreude is a wonderful thing sometimes, and I was very happy not to have been obliged to wish him well or anything.

        Reply
    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Treat it like you’re acting a role in a play: there’s lines you should say, tones you should say them in, but at the end of the day you know it’s a mask and not the real you at all.

      I’ve had some people as staff who personally I hated. They were all kinds of drama hounds, or ‘I’m the only important person in the world’ and goddess it was so tempting to just ignore their existence.

      But, I was the manager. That called for the work Keymaster personality and not the out of work social Keymaster personality and they’re very different people. At work I have to be able to interact with everyone, and be the calm, confident boss.

      Reply
        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Also part of the reason I never ever want to work with my husband. I honestly don’t want him seeing the level of sheer barefaced lying the Work Keymaster person can come out with……

          Reply
          1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

            There is a very wide disconnect between me and work-me. Work-me comes out in home improvement type things and dealing with all of that, and work-me whilst dealing with a utility company (when the utility company had done effed up) absolutely terrified and awed my husband. Suffice it to say – heard and understood COMPLETELY!!!!

            Reply
            1. TardyTardis*

              Work-me met Mama Bear in the middle when my daughter told me what was really going on her marriage, and my husband just stood back and handed me the shotgun (metaphorically speaking, I hasten to assure everyone, a real one would have been way too much temptation).

              Reply
        2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Yes – and such an improvement on the boss I had who sent us all a resignation letter stating:
          “I am leaving to take a position more in line with my degrees.”

          Yup – that was the entire thing. Found out later she quit in almost a huff because she didn’t get a promotion she thought was hers due to seniority alone. Yes she was a nightmare of a boss.

          Reply
          1. JJ Bittenbinder*

            Given all that you learned later, it would be tempting to kind of mad lib it up there are try out different words added on to the end of her sentence.

            “I am leaving to take a position more in line with my degrees of ____________.”

            That aside, I was surprised at LW#1. I’m not really sure how one can know of AAM and know enough of Alison’s advice to say “I know as a manager I have the responsibility to be professional and courteous” and still think this is a question. Like, in what universe was Alison Greene, AAM blogger and author of books on workplace norms and professional behavior, going to say, “You know? I think you’re good to ignore her and act childish. You’ve earned the right!” ??

            The one thing I would do is to let Rachel skip the team meeting. In the 2 jobs I had where my quitting was most uncomfortable, I had to sit through team meetings on my last day and it was super uncomfortable and super pointless. I’d already documented everything, gone over the documentation and files with my boss, and wrapped everything up. So now I have to spend 60 to 90 minutes talking about future plans that I (thank goodness) will not be a part of? In the more recent of the 2, it was 100% pettiness by my boss because she was very mad that I was leaving and so she “didn’t have room in her schedule” to do the official signoff on my transition (forms acknowledging that I’d handed over my company credit card and phone, for example) until 4:45 pm. Completely ridiculous and even though I was 100% leaving because of her so already didn’t think highly of her, this made my opinion of her so much worse.

            Reply
    3. Snuck*

      Also… there’s nothing quite so self satisfying than being so darn nice, polite and super duper professional and killing them with sugar.

      If you have this much passion to channel make it properly satisfying and drown her in a few well meant phrases that sound super sweet (there’s some corkers above), and hold your head up all the while internally you can be quietly filled with glee. Feels much better than wrath.

      Reply
      1. Lacey*

        Indeed. I’m reminded of a bit from Jane Austen’s Emma, “she had the comfort of appearing very polite, while feeling very cross”

        Reply
      2. Natalie*

        Personally I’d skip trying to zing her somehow. The entire point of those double entendres is for people to hear both meanings, so you’re still being incredibly petty and unprofessional.

        If you can’t spend a couple of days calmly wrapping things up with an employee and politely wish her well, you probably shouldn’t be managing people.

        Reply
        1. The Other Dawn*

          I agree. I mentioned elsewhere in this post that I had a toxic employee quit without notice, who purposely arranged it so that her resignation email would come after she’d packed up, turned in the equipment and was long gone. But I happened to catch her before leaving because she’d stopped off in another department to talk and didn’t make it out the door in time. Even though what she did was unprofessional and I was completely blind-sided, I was also thrilled it was over. I used that good feeling to wish her well, tell her good luck, and offer for someone to help her out to her car.

          Reply
        2. Willis*

          This!!! I get that commenters are joking around (…or at least I think they are…) but the OP really needs to not interject snide comments or try to get one up on this employee over the next two days. Just wrap things up professionally and generically and move on.

          Reply
          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            I personally favor “wishing you all the best in your next adventure.”

            Polite and short, hard to misconstrue, and honestly I feel better knowing I didn’t sink to snarky.

            Reply
          2. KimberlyR*

            It truly is easy enough to say “I wish you well in your next venture” or something equally polite and banal. The LW doesn’t have to off in raptures about her work, but she can surely keep the snide commentary on the inside of her head for 2 days. If the employee goes off on rants and has snide comments herself, the LW would do best to keep her lip zipped and let the employee look like the jackass.

            Reply
          3. Former Usher*

            Right. On my last day at an old job, my manager said “Former Usher, you’re a smart guy, but you’re not very good at XYZ.” Years later, it still irks me. Couldn’t he have simply wished me well without getting in one last shot?

            Reply
        3. James*

          It all boils down to intent. What are you after here?

          Snarky comments and unprofessional behavior (even if masked by apparently professional behavior) are intending to hurt the other person. This places that other person at the center of your awareness. And they shouldn’t be. They are a problem that needs to be resolved, nothing more–the core of your business is what should properly be at the center of your attention. That means addressing the problem quickly and efficiently, then moving on. The only reason to focus on a problem is to eliminate it, learn from the experience, and move forward.

          If a manager gives in to pettiness and snark they will inevitably lose some respect among the team. There may be a momentary feeling of “Yeah! That’ll show him!” unity, but soon they’ll realize that a manager that’s willing to behave in such a manner to one employee is going to be willing to behave in that same manner to others. And they’re not wrong. Once you start doing that sort of thing it’s easy to do it again. Think of a bad day–once you’ve lost your temper once, smaller and smaller things set you off. Same concept.

          The best option is to use this as an opportunity to practice managerial skills. This IS your circus, these ARE your monkeys. Your job is to direct them, not to join them in flinging their poop.

          Reply
        4. traffic_spiral*

          Yup. Fun to talk about here, but as for your work, put on your Big Kid Pants and deal. Managers get paid more, and part of that money is for being able to control your feelings and act professionally.

          Reply
        5. Sparkles McFadden*

          My personal philosophy is “I don’t wish difficult people harm. I just wish them to be away from me.” I’d have no trouble being happy for the departing employee, because I truly would be happy. It would be great if that troublesome employee truly could be happy elsewhere, so it would be easy to say “Best of luck. I hope you will be happy in your new position.”

          Plus, a large part of being a manager is setting an example. If you have trouble facing the problem employee, think of the remaining employees and focus on making them comfortable with the situation.

          Reply
          1. wendelenn*

            “Rabbi, is there a proper blessing for the Tsar?”
            “A blessing for the Tsar? Of course. May God bless and keep the Tsar. . . Far away from US!”

            –Fiddler on the Roof

            Reply
          2. Red 5*

            Exactly. My mom taught me not to wish bad things on people, but to pay they got something good that also made them go somewhere else. Preferably wishing they’d find a place where they would be happy and behave better, but you would also be able to move on. But if all you can muster is “I hope they get another job so they’re not at this one” that’s okay.

            But don’t wish they get fired or hit by a bus or whatever.

            Honestly it’s hard but my mental health is far better when I make an effort to do it because I’m not dwelling on spite and anger as much.

            Reply
        6. NotAnotherManager!*

          Our employment counsel once told us that, in the context of her work, “A double entendre only has one meaning.” (And it’s the one that paints the person who said it in the most negative light.)

          Reply
        7. Observer*

          Personally I’d skip trying to zing her somehow. The entire point of those double entendres is for people to hear both meanings, so you’re still being incredibly petty and unprofessional.

          Yes. Those zingers are fun to think about. But do NOT deploy them.

          ,i>If you can’t spend a couple of days calmly wrapping things up with an employee and politely wish her well, you probably shouldn’t be managing people.

          Yup.

          Reply
        8. Keymaster of Gozer*

          My advice would be use the exact same tone and behaviour and wording that you’d use for a member of staff you’re kind of neutral about.

          Reply
        9. boop the first*

          Thanks for this… Just seems mean to insult and make feel worthless somebody who just clearly isn’t coping well with personal problems nobody knows anything about.

          Reply
          1. JJ Bittenbinder*

            Exactly. One of my previous bosses seemed quite unfeeling and unempathetic (Example—like most places, lockdown where I am started mid-March 2020, with immediate work from home, kids home, trying to do remote school when there were no processes set up for that. So, no zoom classes or anything, just “here are your lessons and some videos of the teacher talking. Assignments are due on xx/yy/2020. Set up a zoom chat with the teacher if you need to.” One of my kids is on the autism spectrum and my boss knew that. I know from reading AAM that a lot of bosses were having conversations with employees to see how they were coping, what was going on at home, what their ability to manage work was. My boss first asked me those questions in October 2020. After we’d been home for 7 months. )

            Anyhow, I was let go in December, under what felt like pretty crappy circumstances. I’d actually been applying to jobs for a while, but it was AWFUL to be let go. I was angry and sad and so, so embarrassed.

            And in our last meeting, after a few days of wrapping things up and documenting where I was and how to continue my work, we were calm with each other, polite and professional. We each said some things about what went well and what could have been different, wished each other well, and parted ways.

            I am really, really proud of how that last conversation went and how I wrapped up and handed off my work. And I highly recommend acting in ways you can be proud of.

            Reply
        10. TardyTardis*

          Well, true, You can hold the cocktail party with a few well-chosen friends away from work after this person has left…

          Reply
      3. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Snuck, my sweet little old Southern grandmother had a similar way to deal with jerks, she said she would ‘polite them to death.’ She made all the right comments in the right tone of voice. She was solicitous and kind. She smiled and nodded at the right moments.

        It drove the jerks nuts because they couldn’t continue to be jerks in public when Maw-Maw was being so kind. Funny how I mostly saw her do this at church, but that’s another topic.

        Reply
        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          I worked with someone who had grown up traveling with a parent who was a diplomat. This person had the best manners of anyone I’ve ever met in my life and never appeared agitated or impatient, even when I knew them well enough to know how they felt on the inside. It was hilarious to watch some people who were notoriously grumpy, terse, and demanding all of a sudden revert to please/thank you and their best manners because of how unfailingly polite my coworker was. I think it’s tougher to be a jerk when someone’s being incredibly nice to you. (Another coworker: “I didn’t even know Bob knew the word ‘please’!”)

          Reply
      4. TheAG*

        So much this. I once had a coworker who was such a debbie downer that every “Good morning” would be met by a growl and a “this company has been screwing me for 35 years” (or some such nonsense. it wasn’t). I made it my mission in life to greet her in a more and more bubbly manner every morning. I never thought anyone else noticed until years later another coworker mentioned that he noticed it and had gotten a kick out of it every day.

        Reply
    4. Eletha*

      I’d have coffee and snacks for the start of the meeting as it’s employee’s last one and give her a generic best wishes for the future message.

      Reply
    5. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, it’s only two days and then she’s gone. It will cost you nothing to be an adult about this.

      Reply
      1. Sylvan*

        Yeah. It won’t be fun, because being around her at all apparently isn’t fun, but you can totally do this. It’s two days and then you’re getting exactly what you want — she’s leaving!

        Reply
    6. Momma Bear*

      Agreed. There was no love lost between me and a previous boss. They didn’t attend my farewell, which was fine, but they also made it such a point not to interact with me once I gave notice that it was weird for the rest of the team. Maybe look at it that way – what do you need to show your team? Err on the side of professionalism.

      Reply
    7. Joielle*

      Plus, if you act petty, you may give her the impression that you’re really upset she’s leaving. I imagine you don’t want her to leave thinking she’s a great employee that you’re sad to lose. Just act like you’re happy, because you are! Wish her well with a smile and have yourself a dance party after her last day (at home, not at work).

      Reply
    8. A Simple Narwhal*

      100% be the bigger person. It might feel hard in the moment, but think of it as not giving her any fuel in the future to complain about her last job/boss. It might help to think about what scenario works out better for her – getting to use how her last boss was petty and refused to even acknowledge her after she put in her notice as an example of how awful her last job was, or not having anything to say about her “bad” boss at her last “awful” job because they were gracious and wished her well at the end?

      Being petty feels soooo good in the moment but bad in the long term.

      Reply
    9. Anya Last Nerve*

      I have empathy for OP 1. I have worked for very large organizations where a manager’s ability to deal with bad behavior is extremely limited. I have had horrible direct reports but unless they did something completely egregious or a massive policy violation, there was 0% chance they would be fired and very little chance they would be put on a PIP. I had one person who was interviewing internally and telling anyone who would listen that I was a horrible manager and a terrible person – then wondering why she wasn’t getting new job offers. When she finally did get a new job internally, I wished her well when she told me, but I didn’t do anything else send her off. Sometimes if people want to burn bridges, I’m not going to hand them a fire extinguisher. (A few years later she had the audacity to email me and ask for me to support her application to work for a colleague of mine internally. People like this seem to have to clue.)

      Reply
      1. Le Sigh*

        I can have empathy for the frustration, but OP1 is taking it way too far and doesn’t seem to realize it. You didn’t go out of your way for the departing employee, but you didn’t ignore them and you wished them well — there’s a gulf between outright ignoring/dodging someone and your approach — and OP may not like it, but that’s part of being a manager. The rest of the staff will absolutely remember that pettiness.

        I mean, there’s a reason the silent treatment is considered manipulative and/or abusive in personal relationships and if I were OP’s boss and saw them take that into a professional setting, I’d be concerned about their judgment.

        Reply
    10. MissDisplaced*

      Yes, don’t ignore. It’s not like you have to interact all that much, but you shouldn’t ignore.
      Be the professional here. I’d cut short any passive-aggressive spiels with a calm something like “I’m sorry you felt that way Rachel. I really hope you found something you feel is a better fit for you.”

      And you know, maybe they were toxic and immature and didn’t handle themselves well, but maybe they also had some valid points about your company?

      Reply
    11. calonkat*

      I think you can be genuinely happy she’s leaving! When I’ve had toxic co-workers (I’ve never been a manager), I’ve always wanted them to find a job where they could be happy, because they clearly weren’t happy here. I’m not bothered if they get a “better” job because I know that any place that hires them is NOT where I want to be!

      Reply
  2. Ines*

    #1 gives me awful flashbacks to when I resigned from a job and my supervisor, the executive director (I was a programming director) proceeded to ignore me for the next three weeks. It was so awkward. Our last staff meeting four days before my last day there was NO mention of it being my last week, and she never looked at me directly. The whole staff just sat there waiting for some sort of acknowledgement about me but she ended the meeting and left quickly. On my last day she worked from home and sent me an email briefly saying have a good last day. It was horrible and I cried in my office at least once from the sheer loneliness and embarrassment.
    Everyone else in the office was pretty flabbergasted at her behavior. Toxic employees come and go, but loyal employees will remember how you treat the “good ones”.

    Reply
    1. Self Employed*

      Yes, this.

      OP#1, you actually are in the position where you can “take the high road” unlike when someone who is being bullied is advised to just let it slide. Even if you don’t care how this “toxic employee” feels, or you think it would be the logical consequence of her performance to end her stay at your company feeling lonely and embarrassed, you need to demonstrate to the rest of your staff that you are professional, gracious, and won’t treat them badly if they choose to move on.

      Reply
      1. EPLawyer*

        The rest of your staff will see how you behave. Someday, someone you LIKE is going to resign. They will be afraid to tell you because they will be afraid you will freeze them out.

        This isn’t about you. This is about morale in your office and creating a non-toxic workplace. Getting rid of the toxic employee is only one piece of it. How you the manager handle the toxic employee resigning is another.

        Be professional throughout. Then PRIVATELY heave a sigh of relief when the door closes behind her for the last time.

        Reply
        1. StressedButOkay*

          This isn’t about you.

          Yes, this exactly! You don’t get to pick who you manage and who you don’t – you get the good and the bad, it’s part of being a manager. Even if everyone else in the office is glad to be rid of this person, you have to be professional to everyone. Your behavior is watched by those you manage and the last thing you want is someone worried that if they resign, you’ll ignore them, too.

          Or, since you’re doing it, means it’s okay, and ignores someone they think is toxic. You lead by example.

          Reply
        2. Artemesia*

          And since you are HAPPY she is leaving let that ‘happy’ bleed into being pleasant and charming about wishing her well. The whole world is watching. You are teaching all your good employees who you are and how they will be treated. Be happy she is leaving and do the right thing.

          Reply
          1. serenity*

            Exactly this. Seeing a toxic employee leave is a net positive for you and your team. There’s no reason – or reward – for spoiling this or damaging your reputation by being petty (especially as OP1 is in a leadership role).

            Reply
      2. Ama*

        I have a working theory as I have moved into management myself that the difference between a bad manager and a good manager is often that a bad manager can’t or won’t stop themselves from reacting to situations from their personal emotions — i.e., they didn’t like an employee (or are mad/stressed/panicked that they are resigning), they’re going to take it out on or avoid the employee. It’s not that a good manager necessarily *doesn’t* feel that way, they just manage to pull their personal emotions out of the situation and handle it professionally.

        You’re allowed to feel however you personally feel about Rachel, but to be a good manager, you need to handle it as professionally as you can, and as others have mentioned here it’s a great model for your other employees.

        Reply
        1. Sleepytime Tea*

          This. I honestly don’t have a great impression of OP as a manager based on this post. This INTENSE dislike for an employee strikes me as strange. If the employee is a poor performer or has issues with professional behavior in the workplace, why on earth has OP not *managed* her and addressed any of those issues like, you know, a manager should. Even the thought of ignoring problem employees as a way to deal with them is frankly ridiculous.

          Reply
          1. PT*

            I’m not going to excuse this manager per se, but it could be that there’s obstacles coming down from their manager that prevents them from managing correctly.

            I worked somewhere where our Grandboss was a chronic obstacle in managing staff. Verbal warnings and writeups and PIPs and terminations were MEAN and a sign we “weren’t getting along” with the employees and were bad managers. So every time we needed to provide a correction to a staff person, we had to bite our tongues. If they were massively late in a way that impacted the rest of the team negatively…we said nothing. If they went missing and left us scrambling…we said nothing. If they were barely doing their jobs and created a ton of work for the rest of us picking up the slack…we said nothing. It got to the point where about half our staff were getting paid to not show up or do any work, and we couldn’t say anything without it reflecting poorly on our managerial skills. It was bonkers.

            Reply
      3. Troutwaxer*

        The payoff here is when Other_Employee says “Kate was such a jerk about her resignation, but OP1 was so classy about the whole thing you’d never have known it!”

        Reply
    2. Anon for this*

      Yes, our department head refused to let us arrange a leaving do for someone she didn’t like, and it’s really made me think less of her. Especially since we’d had one for some of our temps, even, and this person had been with us for several years. It just seemed super petty.

      Reply
    3. Baker's dozen*

      When I resigned from my first job after university, my manager was do petty I’ve never forgotten it, even more than a decade later. I had given notice when they refused a leave request, despite there being plenty of warning, and enough coverage.

      At the end of my last day, my manager appeared next to me, but didn’t speak or acknowledge my presence. He escorted/followed me to the exit. Once I’d scanned through the barrier, he put his hand out for my ID badge, then silently turned and walked back inside.

      Reply
      1. Ama*

        For the reverse of this, I had a manager once who really, really wanted me to see her as a life mentor not just a professional mentor and tried all kinds of boundary pushing while we were working together. I was really nervous when I resigned from that job, but she couldn’t have been more professional — she made sure that I knew it was okay to prioritize organizing my handoff instructions over new work, and ran interference for me with some coworkers who wanted to make me do a bunch of my regular work for them early so they wouldn’t have to figure out coverage after I left. Honestly her professionalism at the end really made me feel much better about our working relationship on the whole

        Reply
    4. Elle by the sea*

      Yeah, that’s so awkward. Something similar happened to me, too. I thought I was doing very well in my job, I was consistently given good or constructive critical feedback. But when it came to the extension of my contract, they declined it and told me that I was not a good fit for the team and the company. I was devastated and challenged the decision, but they didn’t change their mind. One of the managers didn’t say goodbye and didn’t come to my farewell party. It hurt me because I always had a good relationship with her and she was not the one who made that decision. The manager who made the decision tried to have small talk with me even after making this decision. I told her clearly that I didn’t want to chit chat with her and wanted to restrict our conversations to work only. On my last day, she sat down with me for a long chat and it felt so fake! I wish she had just ignored me!

      To OP1: if I were the toxic employee, I would prefer to be ignored, but others have already pointed out, you as a manager come across as unprofessional if you do that. But there is a high chance that the employee will refuse to have a final conversation with you – I have seen many resigning/fired employees do that. If that’s the case, be relieved and leave it at that. You don’t need to sit down and have a chat with her, but you should briefly say goodbye and wish her all the best. You shouldn’t say things you don’t mean though, e.g. “you will be missed” or “it was a pleasure to work with you”.

      My first thought about this situation was that I didn’t understand how an underperforming and toxic (whether she is objectively toxic or just a bad fit and unhappy as a result) employee can stay in their job for more than a year. For more than half a year, actually. But then I realised that it isn’t necessarily up to the manager. But, in any case, OP1, if you were able to tolerate this employee for one and a half year, you can surely take two more days, can’t you?

      Reply
      1. Momma Bear*

        The last conversation can be as simple and making sure all their equipment, access card, and/or badge are turned in. It doesn’t need to be long.

        Reply
      2. Observer*

        if I were the toxic employee, I would prefer to be ignored,

        To be honest, I think you may be a bit of an outlier. And you also contradict yourself a bit, and say that you are hurt that your manager didn’t come to your goodbye party and didn’t sat goodbye.

        But also, and more importantly “The manager who made the decision tried to have small talk with me even after making this decision. I told her clearly that I didn’t want to chit chat with her and wanted to restrict our conversations to work only. On my last day, she sat down with me for a long chat and it felt so fake!” is very different from what the OP is being advised.

        I agree that trying to suddenly best buddies with the leaving employee is a bad idea. No one is going to be taken in by that. But there is a difference between not having long social chats and actually ignoring someone, which is rude.

        And by the way, I’d be willing to bet that if you came across as brusque as it sounds like here when you told the manager that you don’t want to talk to her, it confirmed to her that she’d been right about you not meshing well with the company. I understand why you didn’t want chit chat with her. But “go away I don’t want to talk to you unless I HAVE to” is rude. I do get that it may not have sounded the way it does here in writing, so if I’m misreading, I apologize.

        Reply
        1. Elle by the sea*

          If she had been the one who made the decision and given me that sort of last minute feedback, I would have preferred her not to come to that farewell event or say goodbye. I didn’t want that farewell event in the first place. I prefer to be ignored than having to interact with people who I don’t want to have anything to do with anymore. If this person was a toxic employee and had constant trouble with the management, I wonder if it was more comfortable for her to be ignored. But at the same time, most “toxic” employees like drama and don’t want to be ignored. I do prefer being ignored on my last few days than being put on the spot and having to have conversations with the management other than submitting my badge and laptop (and of course, handing over my work to colleagues).

          But as a manager, you can’t ignore any employees because most employees don’t want to be ignored even in such situations, apparently. It looks unprofessional if you do so. However, you don’t have to have a conversation – just the basics. Handover of both physical and intellectual property and goodbye.

          Reply
        2. Elle by the sea*

          You are right, I was brusque to my manager and I don’t regret it. But as a manager, I wouldn’t do that to some who is lower in the power hierarchy than me. But I would do it to people who have more power than me in certain situations. It was a situation when brusqueness felt right to me and I didn’t care whether it confirmed to her that she made the right decision. She was extremely unprofessional and I still conducted myself more professionally than her. I prefer brusqueness over dishonesty any time. I was as cordial with her one my last day (I actually regret relaxing my attitude), but since then I have disconnected her on all platforms. I don’t want to have people in my network who lie and cheat their way to get to the top.

          Reply
    5. Tek5508*

      This happened to me, as an IT contractor at a local government site. after almost eight years at that site, I had given notice, with my last full day supposed to be on a Wednesday. That Tuesday afternoon, I had my exit interview at corporate, which did not go well. Wednesday morning I came into the office, to find my boss waiting for me. He told me Corporate had instructed him to take my equipment and have me leave immediately.
      The joke was on them – there had been an exit party planned for Wednesday afternoon, with all our County IT people, and they were VERY curious when they found out that the party was cancelled, and I was gone before they got into the office

      Reply
      1. disconnect*

        Can you tell us more about your exit interview? Why did it go poorly? What would you do differently in a future exit interview?

        Reply
      2. Elle by the sea*

        I never understand these short notice dismissals, especially when you are escorted out of the building. I have heard of it but have never seen it. 2 months (1-2 weeks on probation period) is the standard notice period in my industry. I was given 2 months of notice in that job but they started excluding me from my own projects and sent my colleagues on business trips to present my work as theirs. Absolutely preposterous. And at the end, my manager wanted to have multiple conversations about my future, helping me find a job by editing my CV and lot of fakery. I just wanted to be left alone. I would have appreciated honest feedback while I was there, not after the decided I should leave.

        Reply
    6. AndersonDarling*

      It happened to me over 20 years ago and I still am pissed when I think about how my manager ghosted me after I turned in my resignation. She managed some maddening mazework to be in other places for two weeks, and then she took vacation on my final day so she didn’t even need to say good-bye.
      Here’s the thing, our paths could cross again, and the top memory I will have is how my manager couldn’t be professional enough to mutter a convincing “good luck!” to wrap up my employment. OP, do you want that to be the lasting impression? The employee may be toxic, but they may get their stuffing together in a few years and be on a hiring committee looking at your resume. Put on a mask (physical or psychological) and make goofy small talk for an hour and at least leave a neutral impression.

      Reply
      1. Artemesia*

        It doesn’t even require much small talk, just minimal pleasantness. If parties are usually thrown then at least bring cupcakes or donuts to the last meeting the employee will attend and give a little speech about her having a great new opportunity and how you wish her well in her exciting new adventure. And when she is leaving shake her hand, and say that you hope the new job is everything she is hoping for. Costs only a dozen donuts and self discipline.

        Reply
    7. Emilia Bedelia*

      One of the things that impresses me about my former boss is the fact that I didn’t know what she really thought of people until after they left the company (and even then, not too much). There were many times where someone on another team would leave and she would say something after that made me realize she didn’t like them very much, and I was always surprised because she treated everyone the same. Even when working with truly obnoxious people in other departments, she would never be openly mean or critical, she’d just say something like “Well, he can be tough to work with, but just remember to do these specific things and let me know if you have any trouble”. She always encouraged me to focus on actual issues that were impeding my work and figure out how to resolve them through established work channels, not just complain about how someone was annoying. However, if someone was being truly egregious (eg, yelling at people or lying), she’d stand up for the team and call out the unacceptable behavior.

      This was a very good example for me as a new person. I don’t report to her any more but those lessons in keeping your feelings to yourself, being professional, and focusing on what I needed to get my job done were really helpful in learning how to navigate the office. Keep in mind that as a manager, you’re an example to the rest of your team – how would you want everyone else to act?

      Reply
    8. NoGoodbye*

      I’ve had that experience too after a rocky few months before resigning and moving to a new job, my supervisor basically ignored I was leaving and didn’t tell the rest of the staff outside our team. I feel like I didn’t really get any send-off that wasn’t arranged by my other team-mates.

      That said, I have managed a toxic person and you cannot just ignore it- that’s why you are the manager. If you think management is not for you because of this, you may need to reconsider your role. I have discovered that managing is not my favorite. I like to mentor and support, but not manage.

      Reply
    9. MsClaw*

      My husband has left a few jobs where his boss didn’t take his resignation well. He said they treated him like he was breaking up with them for a better-looking guy, and I pointed out that leaving for a better job *is* a bit like that.

      In this case, it’s like you’re so glad to have an excuse to be rid of this person but you cannot react like ‘no, *I* am breaking up with YOU’ because it’s neither professional nor mature. Grit your teeth, smile, enjoy the knowledge that as awful as she may be you are going to behave impeccably.

      Also, think of the long term and remember the world can be small. Is Rachel likely to stay in the same industry and/or area as you? Is it possible you might cross paths professionally in the future? When someone on the hiring committee says ‘Rachel, didn’t you work with Monica back in the early 20s?’ you don’t want her response to be ‘yes, she was a terrible manager and acted like a complete ass when I left to come here.’

      Reply
  3. ProducerNYC*

    On my last day in my first job in TV news (I was leaving after four years for a 50% pay increase in another state), my News Director refused to leave her office and kept the door closed all day. She sent me an apology note weeks later, but I’ve never forgotten it, and somewhere I still have the note. That was over 20 years ago. I was an exemplary employee, but she took it personally that I decided to leave to make more money.

    Reply
    1. allathian*

      Yeah, but I assume you weren’t a toxic employee, though…

      There’s been quite a lot of letters and posts about managers behaving weirdly when the LW’s leaving. I can understand why a manager might want to hide from a horrible employee, but that’s unprofessional behavior. I like Alison’s answer.

      Reply
      1. ProducerNYC*

        No, I was a great employee. I was just saying that that sort of behavior from a manager sticks with you for some time. Now I no longer feel the emotions I used to back then, but it was a great example of how NOT to handle an employee’s departure. Allison is so right- professionalism always is the better choice.

        Reply
    2. Seal*

      I had a manager who did the same thing to me, but never apologized later. I too was an exemplary employee, had been going to grad school while working full time for a few years, and had always been clear that I planned to leave once I got my degree. My manager had been very supportive all along, but I graduated and started job hunting he turned on me. When I finally gave notice, he shut down completely and didn’t even bother to say goodbye to me on my last day. Fifteen years after the fact I’m still mad about that.

      Reply
      1. allathian*

        I hope you can let go of your wrath. He doesn’t deserve to occupy so much of your headspace, especially not 15 years after the fact.

        Reply
        1. Seal*

          Frankly, the whole experience became a motivating factor in my career. During my job search, I was getting interviews but not landing the job. After this happened a few times, my boss started telling me that I would never get a job in that particular niche of our profession, that my previous experience “didn’t count”, and that I should lower my expectations and apply for jobs I had no interest in doing. Since I had regularly been a finalist for a number of jobs in a very competitive field, I ignored him and kept applying. I eventually wound up landing the very type of job he insisted I would never get and was told that one of the deciding factors was the previous experience I had that he insisted “didn’t count”. I still think his behavior was reprehensible, but ultimately the joke was on him.

          Reply
          1. ProducerNYC*

            I get where you’re coming from! I still remember this vividly even thought it was literally 20 (!) years ago, but I came to see it as how NOT to manage well. I can chuckle about it now, but back then I was greatly disappointed and confused. Kudos to you for letting your ex-boss’s negativity fuel you!!

            Reply
    3. starsaphire*

      Wait, in broadcast news?! Four years at the same station is forever, iirc, or at least it was way back when.

      I mean, I could be misremembering, but I always thought that broadcast journalism was super job-hoppy and people were forever moving around trying to angle into bigger-market stations.

      Sorry your old ND couldn’t be happy for your good career move, though. That really sucks.

      Reply
      1. ProducerNYC*

        Yes! Since then I’ve had a manager or two take business moves ‘personally,’ and it’s always so fascinating. I remind myself that they would cut me in a SECOND if budgets or other things required it. Thanks to this site, I have a better understanding of the ‘forced family’ feeling and why it’s such a red flag.

        Reply
    4. Ally McBeal*

      I once quit a job where we’d had a lot of restructuring, so although all my previous managers had loved me, the manager I reported to when I left had had no say in my hiring and was the one person on the team with whom I’d never really connected. I assume they were relieved when I quit, as they basically just acknowledged that they’d received my email and didn’t react at all otherwise. They didn’t say a word to me on my last day, including at the staff meeting that doubled as my farewell “party,” didn’t say a word to me that entire day (they were working remotely, so it’s not as if it was noticeable to others that they were ignoring me, but still). It was so strange and unnecessary.

      Reply
    5. TheAG*

      My grand boss at my last job was acting very coldly to me after I put in my notice. I asked my boss “what’s up w him” and my boss told me don’t worry he just takes it very personally when people leave. He acted like that right up to my last day (and I gave one month notice) and on the last day he said a very emotional goodbye and gave me a big hug (not in a creepy way lol) and told me I always had a place there if I wanted to come back. 16 years later I remember that (and every time there are RIFs or rumors of RIF’s in my current company, he’ll ping me and ask if I’m ready to come back lol).

      Reply
  4. Scarlet2*

    LW1, are you sure you want to be a manager? I understand where you’re coming from, because I tend to be much more conflict-avoidant at work than I am in my personal life, but managing people comes with the territory. That means you’ll need to have difficult conversations from time to time.

    You also need to realize that if, as a manager who holds the authority in the situation, you try to “minimize interactions” with a problem employee, you’re de facto making it every other employee’s problem. Toxic people don’t disappear because you ignore them, you’re just letting them free to inflict themselves on others who don’t have your power.

    Reply
    1. Roci*

      Yes. Even if you feel nothing for Rachel anymore, this is the time to put on a display for everyone else on your team. Your bosses will see how you handle a toxic employee and that will affect your personal career. Your other employees will see how you handle workers leaving and that can affect their “loyalty” to the company and how/when they decided to leave. Your peers and other people in the org may not be aware of how toxic Rachel was and only see you freezing someone out on their last day.

      You only have two days left of this problem. You’ve put it off and put it off, surely you can take two days more.

      Reply
    2. Heffalump*

      Yep. I’ve been frustrated a number of times by management’s failure to put toxic coworkers in their place.

      Reply
    3. Niii-i*

      This is a very valid question…

      LW, to me, it sounds like you’re asking if freezing someone out is proper management, and no, its not. It’s terrible management and one way to create a toxic workplace, even with decent employers.

      I would suggest you seek guidance or mentor for your own work. That way you will bemore prepared when the next Rachel, or whatever problem you face, comes up. Good luck and keep learning. :)

      Reply
      1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        Freezing out an employee you consider toxic isn’t just terrible management: it’s NON management. Being a manager means that you are responsible for managing not just the easy, pleasant stuff, but ALL the stuff, including difficult people and difficult issues. I’ve worked for so-called “managers” who took the approach that “we’re all adults here” and thought that meant leaving everyone to fend for themselves and not getting involved with nitty-gritty, day to day stuff like the toxic behavior of certain employees was the way to go. Being left to fend for yourself by a manager like that can feel a lot like being left twisting in the wind.

        Personally, I hate dealing with all the stuff managers have to deal with, which is why I realized a long time ago that I wasn’t cut out for that kind of role. I don’t know if you are or not, but I agree with Scarlet2 that this is a question you might want to be asking yourself. Not all of us are meant to be managers, not all of us should be, and there is absolutely no shame in recognizing that, IF it is indeed the case.

        Whatever you may decide, I wish you the best in all your future (managerial or non-managerial) undertakings!

        Reply
        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          There was a letter a while back by someone who froze out a member of staff, called it ‘un-managing’ and lost their own job due to their actions.

          Reply
            1. disconnect*

              OH MY GOD I loved that one! Especially the first update, where it’s like “ok it can’t get any more bonkers” and then LW goes LEEEEEROYYYYYY JENNNNKINNNNNSSSSS, and then the second update where LW actually learns something and grows a bit.

              Reply
            2. Dust Bunny*

              This series of posts was . . . unreal.

              I still don’t know how else to describe them. This person was so far out of the realm of acceptable that I just cannot picture what they were thinking and how they could justify any of this.

              Reply
          1. Lady Heather*

            Oh wow, that one is a minefield.
            From “update: is the work environment I’ve created on my team too exclusive?”, august 2017:

            “Most of us were smart and dedicated enough to get a Master.”
            “I had also downgraded her end-of-year evaluation. I don’t think she deserved the praise she received from the sales staff, my directorand client executives. Her work just wasn’t that good to me. I thought if my team and I froze her out, she would leave. I called it un-managing.

            My team found her quietness and her ability to develop sales presentations and connect with each client was very show-off-like. When she asked for help, we didn’t take it seriously because we thought she acted like she knew everything and she was making us look bad by always going above and beyond for no reason.”
            “If her role had panned out, she would have been higher up than me after two years when I had been there for five.”
            “HR and my regional vice president stated she had been hired to fill a role for a growing segment of our business and should have functioned as a team consultant. I used her as an associate so it didn’t make waves with the rest of the team. By losing her, we lost clients and leverage in the marketplace.”

            Jealous much?

            Reply
          2. Niii-i*

            YES! That was a mess. And to me it seems like LW1 is considering the same route. (Her last sentence)

            Reply
        2. StressedButOkay*

          Non-management is perfect. Especially the last part of their letter, where they ask what they can do to avoid toxic employees that they manage. You can’t because you manage them. If they’re toxic, you need to take action to either make them less toxic so they can work well within your team or take action to eventually remove them from your team.

          You don’t just get to manage the good ones.

          Reply
          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            >>You don’t just get to manage the good ones.<<

            Forever thankful for the actual management training I got at one firm that stated right at the start that you had to be a manager for EVERYONE on your staff; not just the people you liked. And you had to make sure you held them all to the same exact standards.
            We had a whole week long module about dealing with 'difficult' situations. I really found dealing with a technophobic/I find computers scary person (the course used actors) immensely challenging while not getting frustrated.

            Reply
      2. Fleapot*

        I’d wonder if part of seeking guidance for OP1 might involve an exit interview with the departing employee. (I’m not suggesting that OP1 should be the person to conduct the interview!)

        My thinking is:
        1) If OP1 has been constrained in terms of issuing warnings, setting up PIPs, etc., responses from the outgoing employee might help to clarify why/how those steps would have been useful and thus to modify the company’s approach going forward.

        2) As Allison suggested, it does sound like there might have been more active steps you could have taken earlier on to address these issues. I think that having some more detailed information about the employee’s perspective on the experience might be a valuable starting point.

        It might as simple as identifying some misunderstanding on the employee’s part about standards or goals for particular project/assignment, and then thinking about ways in which you could have been clearer. (I don’t know that you could have done anything better! But it’s at least possible that you’ll be able to strategize better for the future if you have more information about what went awry here.)

        And finally, 3) I’m really wondering about the resignation coming in while you were on vacation, and about the intensity of your feeling here. It sounds like there is animosity on both sides—which is obviously miserable for you, and a bad dynamic all around. But I think that managers sometimes underestimate the power imbalance between themselves and their reports. Bearing that in mind, an examination of comments from an exit interview might help you to get a clearer picture of the reasons for this mutually miserable dynamic.

        Reply
    4. llamaswithouthats*

      Yep. LW 1 is probably complicit in creating a toxic atmosphere by 1) not dealing with toxic employee in the first place (and therefore other employees having to deal with her) and 2) Normalizing dysfunctional behavior (ie silent treatments) in response to conflict

      Reply
    5. Detective Amy Santiago*

      This is absolutely a question that LW1 needs to seriously consider.

      Honestly, if I was on their team and saw them treating Rachel this way, even if I was well aware of how toxic Rachel was, it would make me question a lot of things. And, as they say, people don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad managers.

      Reply
      1. Smithy*

        100%

        I worked at a place where there was a peer colleague on a different team who I had some generic office difficulties with (as it so happens around strong scents and headaches and all that). We were never going to be friends, she could certainly BEC me, but on the rare occasion when we did work together it wasn’t the end of the world.

        However, for all my inclination to not particularly like her – when I saw our management treating her awfully, I entirely believed her. As it happened, our management was wildly toxic, and it brought me no joy to a see a person I didn’t care for also treated poorly. It also made me wonder how much of our own friction was more a result of being in a workplace that bred distrust and toxicity, as opposed to her being specifically one way or the other.

        After we both left, we met up for a drink – and again, it just confirmed everything about our management. It’s not like we’ve stayed in touch or become buddies, but my lasting impression was that because we didn’t work in a professional environment, we were not given the best opportunity to become professional colleagues.

        Reply
    6. CRM*

      I completely agree. I was really taken aback by the last line in OP’s letter: “And what are your thoughts more broadly about minimizing interactions with toxic employees that you manage directly or are part of your division?” Minimizing interactions is the exact opposite of what you should do with toxic employees that you manage!

      OP1: As their manager, you are the person who has the most power to change this, so the next time this happens you need to step in and manage the situation. Even if you aren’t able to fire them because of bureaucratic reasons, you can still try to reduce the toxic behavior, or at the very least you can lessen the impact that their toxic behavior has on the rest of the team. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s actually your job! I know it’s tough, but that’s why they pay you the big bucks.

      Reply
    7. Dust Bunny*

      THIS.

      This is literally not the point of a manager. Ignoring a problem employee is *not doing your job*.

      Reply
    8. Carol*

      Glad to see this here. LW, as a manager, it’s your job to keep toxic behavior in line, to the extent it’s possible, and to apply consequences when it’s not. You may not ever be able to change “Rachel,” but you have far more power here than you seem to think, and a lot more responsibility, too.

      I’ve worked in too many places where people are not given clear boundaries and consequences for toxic behavior. It ends up polluting the entire workplace and it’s a huge drain on productivity and morale. It drives good workers away. Toxic people don’t usually change much but they can be given a set of rules and behaviors to adhere to, or they can be let go. If you sidestep this, you are unfortunately failing at a key management task, and a lot of other people in your organization will suffer for it.

      Reply
  5. Vichyssuave*

    #1 – How long ago did you hear the news she was resigning? I get the feeling this is a knee-jerk reaction to the news and the fact that you’re out of the office right now gives you time to sit there and catastrophize and imagine all these awkward and drama-filled scenarios that are probably never going to actually play out. I am someone who gets in my own head the same way. Once you get back to work (or maybe even simply after a good night’s sleep), I imagine you’ll just feel relief knowing she’s almost no longer your problem, and it won’t be hard to be able wish her well in her new role.

    Reply
    1. BethDH*

      I’ve gotten news on vacation before that I was going to have to have a difficult conversation when I got back and I definitely had an immediate response of just wanting to ignore it.
      It’s not bad to have that reaction, especially when you’re on vacation and you’re in the mindset of just getting away from it all.
      What matters is recognizing it as the same type of fantasy as “I wish I could be on vacation forever” and then going back and doing the right thing.

      Reply
    2. Heidi*

      I’ve also spent a lot of time imagining a very dramatic and awkward situation that didn’t end up being nearly as bad as I’d thought it would be. I think the thing to remember about the whole Rachel thing is that there is going to be an end to it very soon. Maybe don’t focus so much on the last 2 days but look forward to how things will be better after she’s gone. Spend the time figuring out who’s going to take over her responsibilities and how to handle this kind of employee in the future.

      Reply
    3. MCMonkeybean*

      I fully agree with this. Because assuming that OP has not been freezing Rachel out before this, these should be the *easiest* two days of interaction with her. The end is in sight and you now know that in two more days you won’t have to deal with her anymore. Let that put a smile on your face, and then use that smile to fake it through your few remaining interactions! You don’t need to go out of your way for extreme socialization or anything but greet her politely, acknowledge her when you cross paths, ask if there is anything she needs from you to wrap up whatever is on her plate and finish any transfer of responsibilities if that is a thing that needs to happen, and then tell her goodbye and wish her well. Rescheduling the meeting doesn’t sound like a bad idea, as long as it wouldn’t be extremely unusual to do and therefore pretty obvious why.

      Reply
      1. Cat Tree*

        Exactly. The end is in sight! These two days will be a breeze. And Rachel will probably be a lot less toxic anyway since she knows she’s getting out. I’ve never been the toxic one, but I’ve worked at toxic places. Sometimes I would fantasize about all the harsh truth bombs I could drop on my way out. But every single time, as soon as I gave notice I had no desire to ever say or do anything mean. There’s just no point to it anymore. I bet Rachel feels the same way.

        Also, I noticed that OP accused Rachel of resigning in a petty way, but I Dighton see any evidence of that in the letter. Does she think it’s inherently petty to resign while the boss is on vacation? Since she most likely resigned to go to a different job, she probably had little control over the timing. I doubt it was intentional.

        Reply
  6. oooo*

    #4 Oof, it’ll also put your new company on an awkward light (companies don’t want other companies to know how bad they’re doing generally). And yes, those templates did cost your old company money and someone on their payroll or contract did that for them.

    Reply
    1. Can Can Cannot*

      If the OP is really interested in using the templates, maybe the former employer will license or sell them?

      Reply
  7. lyonite*

    LOL at Oatmeal Galleria. Just wanted to say I appreciate the creativity that goes into all these imaginary jobs.

    Reply
    1. EPLawyer*

      I love that barley support has now been added to Llama grooming, rice sculpting and chocolate teapot manufacturing. We got a whole economy going here.

      Reply
    2. Sparkles McFadden*

      I am embarrassed to admit that I had to look up what groats were…but I am a city person, who came from a family of city people.

      Reply
  8. Becky*

    pssst life lesson #4 this is why (unless it’s an intellectual property situation) it’s always a good idea to save samples, work, etc. from previous jobs. No need to reinvent the wheel.

    Reply
    1. Unfettered scientist*

      How would you know which situation was which? I’m thinking about this a lot now and I’m unsure what templates I generated that I can take vs. those I should not reuse elsewhere. I’m also in academia so maybe that makes things more complicated as ostensibly the tools and templates I generate as part of a grant funded PhD are probably supposed to benefit the broader scientific community if possible. Does that mean I get to use them later too?

      Reply
      1. AcademiaNut*

        In my academic field, I’d need to be careful about patents, proprietary data, NDAs with tech vendors, anything related to military security, and public outreach materials. However, I’d be able to take my own work with me, including teaching material and code, and I’d retain control over my published work. And there are increasing requirements to release not only data, but the analysis code as part of publishing, for reproducibility purposes.

        Reply
      2. Birch*

        Yeah it’s sticky in academia. Couple of guiding principles: whose grant are you working under? If it’s yours, the IP you generate is yours (until it’s published…keep reading). Always credit co-authors and ask permission to use shared work in new situations. If someone else’s grant, they technically own the work that is used for that grant, but you can always ask for permission to re-use it elsewhere (and good PIs will encourage you to use your own IP). Possible exception–I wrote a proposal for a project that my PI ended up rejecting, so when I left, we agreed that that writing was my IP and I would be taking it with me. Published articles are the shared IP of all the authors, but they are also technically owned by the publisher, so you often have to ask permission to re-use your own work, e.g. reproducing a figure from a published paper in another article. Published stuff can generally be used for teaching without specific permission, but should always be properly referenced, and unpublished IP of other people should be only used for teaching with permission. Code is really complicated and difficult to track… I have re-used parts of code I wrote without permission of co-authors, but there’s often so many versions that it’s hard to track what the original IP was. I think it’s a bit different if it’s a package vs. “here’s a chunk of three functions that work well together” on StackExchange. I will not use or change someone else’s package without their permission. Also–it’s very field dependent but sometimes you can just ask people to share work (with credit), especially if they’re people you want to form a collaboration with at some point. If your uni offers a research data management service, I highly recommend taking a course or having a conversation with them, and if you haven’t already, look up how to make a detailed data management plan. A lot of these issues as well as open data, data privacy and security issues are explained well in the context of data management.

        Reply
        1. pleaset cheap rolls*

          I strongly believe that in academia/research if the government if funding work, all that work should be available for everyone else to use (with credit to the creators). That’s literally the point – improving human knowledge by people building upon other’s work.

          If the public paid, it should be public that “owns” it – not the creator (though they deserve credit) and certainly not the publisher. Some big private donors (Gates Foundation and others) are headed in this direction too.

          Reply
          1. Black Horse Dancing*

            Not in the USA. Pharma companies make huge money exploiting tax payer funded research then gouging the same public for drug costs.

            Reply
          2. Unfettered scientist*

            Yes, I totally agree. In my case, I’m funded by my own grant from the government. Most of what I’d want to take is code and I think I could probably do this. I should try talking to research and data management, but I think they are likely to say everything belongs to uni just to be safe even if that isn’t true…(eg i would think published code available on GitHub as part of an openly licensed publication is ok)

            Reply
          3. Kimmy Schmidt*

            That maybe *should* be the way it works, but is often not the reality, and ignoring that reality can have legal and financial consequences for creators.

            Reply
          4. Gumby*

            I strongly believe that in academia/research if the government if funding work, all that work should be available for everyone else to use (with credit to the creators). That’s literally the point – improving human knowledge by people building upon other’s work.

            Much government-funded research *cannot* be shared because it falls under ITAR/EAR or is classified. Granted, those will not be in the academic arena because universities absolutely will not agree to publishing restrictions. But the government funds a lot of research through national labs or private companies that is not disseminated to the general public. Would you want the research done at, say, USAMRIID just out there? That way lies many a movie plot but for real life it would be dangerous.

            Reply
    2. Disagreeable*

      Every job I’ve had includes a clause in my employment agreement that all work performed is the company’s intellectual property – and all copies are to be destroyed upon termination of employment. Do not, do not, do not assume that you can determine what is and is not their IP.

      I work in regulated industries in which disseminating saved decks or models not issued in the public domain would quickly gift me an expensive lawsuit. Do you want to be known for stealing from your prior employer if you get caught? Not recommended.

      Reply
      1. Becky*

        No way to know but ask! I’ve never worked in fields like that and I’m 40+ and have done this no problem for every career transition but I’ve had, but I’m sure there’s lots of fields it wouldn’t work in.

        Reply
      2. Becky*

        And every job I’ve ever had doesn’t. I don’t even know what a saved deck is. My prior employer would have no way of ever knowing and also wouldn’t have cared for every job transition I’ve ever had. Writing a sponsorship package for a Llama Grooming non-profit in South Carolina and then using same sponsorship package as a starting point for sponsorship package for Apple Tree Inc. in Minnesota I guarantee you no one cares. In fact, I’d probably go to my sponsorship package listserv and ask everyone for examples and get 20.

        Reply
        1. Disagreeable*

          My understanding is aligned with Alison that templates created/designed at work on work time are the property of the company – full stop – unless you have explicit permission or a carve out to take them. IANAL so others that know case law please chime in; I would love to understand what circumstances this statement is not true.

          Since you’re in your 40’s I can use the Napster analogy – just because you can download music without paying for it, should you? Just because you haven’t been caught (or you don’t particularly care that you are using their IP because others share as well) does not mean it’s ok or ethical to do so. The OP’s question was whether this behavior is appropriate, and I will vote no.

          I’d love to hear someone game through the benefit of asking permission … I’m still not following why OP should, per Alison’s response. Personally, I would not have the same opinion of you if I discovered you did not have the judgment that knowledge work is my IP. I can’t hire or work with an employee if I can’t trust they will treat my IP with care, and it would be a big red flag if you think unethical behavior is trivial.

          (Not intending to be combative or minimize your experiences, Becky – just trying to emphasize my aversion to OP’s suggestions).

          Reply
          1. correct me if im wrong*

            Yep, and I think the matter should also cover if the employee made the template themselves, or if it was already there when employee started, or made by another coworker. From the letter it seems like OP did not even make the templates or he was part of it but not the main contributor which makes it a different thing altogther.

            Reply
            1. Colette*

              I don’t think it matters, legally. If you create it as part of a job, it will most often belong to the employer, not you. If someone else created it, it still belongs to the employer.

              Reply
        2. Sparkles McFadden*

          Wow, no. Yes, people do care. The work you produce at work is the intellectual property of that company. Taking work OTHER PEOPLE have produced in the company is even worse.

          Lots of people install company software on their home computers, thinking “Everybody does it. It’s no big deal. ” It’s still software piracy no matter how many people convince themselves it isn’t.

          Reply
          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            One of the least favourite conversations I have to have is with a person who has installed company software on their own PCs. I maintain the license library: I can SEE that stuff.

            Reply
        3. Smithy*

          In my line of nonprofit work, this is pretty common. Templates are not wildly proprietary, folks take them from job to job, and this is certainly not helped by the number of nonprofits that ask people to work off of their personal computers. (I still happen to have the entirety of contents of one job on an old personal laptop, which was a move I did at the request of the organization)

          All of which to say, this is where networking and knowing your sector matters. I’ve had coworkers share materials with me from their old jobs that I can’t imagine folks would be thrilled to hear were shared, but also wouldn’t spend 30 seconds of their time being upset or reactionary. However, while the templates don’t particularly matter – most nonprofits are deeply mindful of private donor information (i.e. payment information). So if there’s a template you like that has a lot of private donor data on it, being mindful it’s completely free of that does matter.

          Again, learn the industry, learn the norms, etc. Because while this kinda holding onto templates you like is really normal, asking an old coworker to share a template wouldn’t be great.

          Reply
        4. NotAnotherManager!*

          Definitely a know-your-industry sort of thing. I work with IP attorneys who sue people over taking documents and information from prior employers, and that often includes imaging their personal computers and searching for company documents on them. Things like customer lists are obviously a hotter ticket item than templates, but if a former employee reached out to me to ask for our internal work product, I’d question their judgment.

          Since we also have proprietary and sensitive information related to both our organization and our clients, we also have network monitoring software so if someone downloads a substantial number of documents (not sure of the threshold) or starts forwarding emails off network, it triggers an internal investigation and sometimes immediate locking of their account. We occasionally have to make document backups to a secured hard drive for work offsite where there is no internet access, and I always have to call IT before hand to say that Bob is going to be bulk downloading Client X documents for Legitimate Business Purpose so it doesn’t trigger alarms.

          Reply
    3. Shira*

      I was going to ask this follow-up question – what if the employee happened to have a copy of the templates? Would they still be legally/ethically in the clear to use them? I guess based on the comments here it depends on the contract and the norms for the industry, but I’d be interested to hear if Alison has a general response.

      Reply
      1. misspiggy*

        My thinking would be that I can’t recognisably use the templates as a basis for new ones at a different company. But I can use my own knowledge, gained at that company, of what a good template should contain. My knowledge is partly what I’ve been recruited for.

        So in practice, if I did have copies, I might refresh my memory of them – but I wouldn’t disclose that. I’d then make new templates (which would be significantly different from those of the previous company).

        If I wanted to be strictly ethical and legal, I wouldn’t look at the old templates at all after having left that job. But I do have a partly photographic memory, so it would easier for me to recall the main content and layout of the old templates to feed into making new ones.

        Reply
      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I can only answer based on my perspective as IT manager for a UK firm but we have VERY clear clauses in our IT Acceptable Use Policy that mean if you make copies of company-created templates, layouts, data etc. and use them for any other use that isn’t our company then you are in the cack up to your eyeballs.

        (And yeah, I have to enforce this)

        Reply
      3. NoviceManagerGuy*

        The templates are absolutely the previous employer’s property. Experience with those templates is what you take with you.

        Reply
      4. Mockingjay*

        I work in government contracting. Templates I develop become government property. Some templates can be shared within the same government agency, so if I change companies, as long as New Company supports the same agency, I can request access to the templates (not always granted). All templates must be scrubbed – completely free of data.

        What is easier and safer to do, and what I absolutely recommend for OP 4, is to create new templates based on industry and project standards. OP4 already knows the basic information required and roughly how it should be organized. Draft a template, get feedback from the team or org, and standardize it. I’ve asked for examples of good reports and used those to extrapolate a template. I also find that starting fresh makes me delve into and learn the nuances of New Project so I capture all requirements. I might miss things if I am using a old template to plug in info, because Old Project didn’t cover certain areas.

        Reply
        1. Talia*

          There has been a recent case in the U.K. – one law firm sued another because the second firm had used the first firm’s templates (from what I remember, they had access as they had represented the other side in a case and various documents had been served). They won even though the first firm had handed the filled out templates to the second. If the second firm had acquired them without the knowledge of the first, I can only assume things would have gone even worse for them.

          Reply
      5. fleapot*

        A similar question: what about my style sheet (i.e. for copyediting)? I’ve produced it on company time, though less as a resource for others than as a tool for efficiency/effectiveness in my own work. I’m the only one who uses it,* and the material that would be useful in future roles/projects is all based on resources that effectively anyone could access.

        FWIW, I’m also the person who makes templates for my (small) employer, and they seem like a totally different matter. Developing a template takes more time than most people would expect, and is therefore a substantial investment of company resources. In future roles, I’ll absolutely use skills I’ve refined in developing these templates, but I certainly don’t expect to take them with me. (And honestly? For a new role, I’d want to start fresh with formatting, etc.)

        *The only other person in the company who’s in a role where they probably *should* use it took one look at the style sheet and said, “oh, so complicated!”. I wouldn’t delete the document on the shared server, but I don’t imagine that anyone would ever open it again…

        Reply
    4. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I’d have to disagree.

      Every time I’ve switched jobs as an adult, the first things I miss are software libraries I have written for previous employers. While I spend a few days regenerating them, I’ve always been able to, and the result is that I (and my new employer) are free and clear of any IP infringement.

      Reply
    5. Unpopular Opinion*

      I agree. Yes technically the templates belong to the company. Yes every person I’ve worked with saves these and brings them to their next jobs. No I’ve never heard of anyone getting in trouble for this. Can someone somehow find out you used the templates, brought them to your new job and come after you? Sure. The likelihood of that happening and being worth a lawyer’s time to deal with this. Minimal

      Reply
      1. be not*

        And chances are I can grab that candy bar in the store and get away with it too – its just a candy bar. Love it when people use this kind of logic to talk them selves into stealing.

        Reply
    6. Econobiker*

      Yes, this.
      I worked as an engineering contractor for BIG GIANT Car Company. BGCC often shared industrial engineering excel templates with Official BGCC vendor companies in order for those small businesses to be more efficient as suppliers to BGCC. I went to permanent job work at one of those vendor companies. I contacted a colleague at another vendor business to ask if he had a copy of a “real cool” BGCC excel template that I had forgotten to back up as a contractor. He emailed me the template. Nothing unethical or copyright or intellectual properties because the “real cool” template was being used towards my new vendor company to be a more efficient supplier to BGCC.

      Then in my next industrial engineering job, with parts unrelated to BGCC or its competition, I (RE)created an excel template very similar to the “real cool” one but without any references to BGCC nor automobile parts. For my new “super sweet” excel template I just made sure that all comments and file attributes (created by, organization, date created, etc) reflected my new company and industry.

      Reply
  9. Vichyssuave*

    #4 – Are you certain your old company created these templates? If it’s possible they purchased them from an outside source, potentially you could figure that out and pass that information along to your new employer, should they be interested.

    As for just straight up asking for them, this seems similar to an ex-employer reaching out to an employee who has moved on asking for free work/help from them. There really is no benefit at all to your ex-employer in the scenario you’ve described and I feel like the request would not just come off badly, but might in fact create enough of a bad impression that it could affect how they view you when it comes to things like recommendations down the line.

    Reply
    1. introverted af*

      I can see how you wouldn’t want to just ask for the templates, but couldn’t it be a good opportunity for networking with your old coworkers and asking for their advice on developing your process at your new company? Idk if this is something that’s highly standardized no matter where you work, or if it’s the same industry but not exactly the same methods. If there’s more variation from company to company, I can see how they might say something like, “oh remember how we always did XYZ? well that was because (of a reason specific to us), so that may be something that will be different for you now.”

      Reply
      1. OP4*

        This was my original thinking, I know I’d be happy to help any of my former coworkers develop their new departments and I’d be proud that our work would help start better standards elsewhere. But I get what everyone is saying about it being their property, and I’m glad I asked. I’m definitely not asking, and I’m going to try to recreate them myself.

        Reply
        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          I develop a lot of templates for my job and honestly, this will be so much more beneficial to you than trying to get a copy of the previous one. When I have to build something from scratch, it is much easier to make it BETTER than the previous one as opposed to just a copy with a few things changed.

          Reply
  10. Amaranth*

    LW1, act professionally, box up your dislike for Rachel and remember you are representing the company. And its only two more days! It just means a quick conversation to ask if she has passed on all her work, wish her good luck and maybe you can let her leave early her last day. If you give Rachel the cold shoulder or just duck around corners for two days, you’ll be building a reputation for allowing personal feelings to influence how you treat employees.

    Reply
    1. Allonge*

      And its only two more days!

      This, exactly. LW1, you will have a lifetime to ignore her. Pull yourself together for a little bit more – for the rest of your employees’ sake, if not for your own.

      Reply
  11. Seal*

    #1 – As a manager, you need to take the high road on this regardless of how you feel about your employee. You probably need to wrap things up with her like you would with any employee that resigns anyway, like getting keys turned in or getting passwords on accounts changed or whatever. If you don’t want to thank her for her work, you can certainly wish her luck with her future endeavors. Also keep in mind that your other staff members will see and remember how you treated this employee on her way out and will definitely remember if you treated her badly.

    Reply
    1. SomebodyElse*

      Yup, this is what needs to happen. I so get the want to just shut the door on challenging employees but that’s just really not right to do.

      OP #1: At the absolute minimum you need to interact as normal (assuming you weren’t ignoring her to begin with) and wrap up her time with professionalism. You probably should move your team meeting and can use the context of ‘post transition discussions’ for doing it.

      But (!) if she becomes over the top negative and disruptive I’d just let her leave and pay for the remaining time. (Honestly, I’d just plan on her being there long enough to say goodbye and to go through your company’s term process on that last day anyway) The way to do this is “Well Rachel, I think we’ve wrapped everything up here. I’m sure you wouldn’t mind a few days/a day/a couple of hours for yourself before starting your new job. We can go ahead and go through the exit checklist now and don’t worry we’ll consider these last days/hours as time worked for your last paycheck”

      You really are in the home stretch with this one… don’t blow it now.

      Reply
      1. Aggretsuko*

        Yeah, just have the bare minimum of interaction with her that you have to have, wish her a cool but polite goodbye, cancel that meeting since she doesn’t need to be there anyway, and leave it at that.

        Somehow this reminds me of one of my bosses leaving. He was a nice enough dude, but not particularly chatty/warm/what have you and literally the only reason I got to say goodbye to him was I briefly ran into him as he was walking out. He didn’t bother to say goodbye to anyone. Whatever, dude.

        Reply
    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      I totally agree with this. I had two horribly toxic employees quit within about six months of one another, and I sincerely congratulate them on their new position, thanked them for their efforts with us, and provided some basic information about what the offboarding process looked like – same as a would have done for my favorite employee. (It doesn’t matter if that sincerity comes from the internal, “Oh, thank GOD you’re not working here much longer.” feeling or from a genuine, “Good for you!” place as long as it comes out the same.) I also made a point to reach out on their last days to wish them well. (We don’t typically do goodbye parties, though some groups arrange informal happy hours/dinners out after work.)

      This, by the way, REALLY irked the ringleader of the Mean Girls group when she quit. I found out after the fact that she expected me to panic, beg her to stay, and offer her a promotion she’d recently been refused (because she was horrible to people she didn’t like on her team and shouldn’t have been in a leadership role). She spent her last few weeks trying to drum up support internally and offering to stay longer and was dismayed when people told her that they wouldn’t want to cut short her time off or the amazing vacation she had planned between positions.

      Reply
  12. tra la la*

    #3: I work in higher ed, and I’ve had first-round interviews over the phone or Zoom where the search chair begins with a quick description of what’s going to happen. Have also been on search committees where we’ve done the same thing. “We’ve got a set list of questions that we’ll be taking turns asking, we’ll be taking notes, and then there’ll be time for you to ask questions” is pretty standard.

    I definitely wouldn’t refer to any of this as weird or strange, though — this is so common in academia that it’s more like you’re giving them a heads up as to how higher ed interviews work.

    Reply
    1. Certaintroublemaker*

      “We’ve got a set list of questions that we’ll be taking turns asking, we’ll be taking notes, and then there’ll be time for you to ask questions”

      I’ve used this exact script, and even included (especially for student worker interviews), “There are X number of questions and Y time frame, so you’ll want to average Z minutes per answer. You’re welcome to go longer on some questions as needed, but they don’t all have to be long essays.”

      Reply
      1. Forrest*

        I’ve also had, “After each question, I’ll be writing up my notes, so there will be a silence. Sometimes people think that silence means you haven’t answered the question and we’re waiting for you to say more, so I just want to give you a heads-up that it’s not that, we’re just writing notes!

        Reply
    2. Everdene*

      Not in academia but my organisation (and all others I’ve worked with) asks all candidates for a role the same set of questions. I find it helpful to say in addition to the above ‘we’ll be taking plenty of notes so we have a good record of what you said’ and maybe after an early answer something reassuring like ‘that’s great, I’ll just be a moment as I can’t write as fast as you can speak!’

      It’s never been a problem and while yes, it can feel a little stilted on both sides of the desk it gives you a good record and makes it easier to compare candidates after a day or two of interviews.

      Reply
    3. Amey*

      Yes, exactly this! I’m in higher ed too (in the UK but we have the same interview rules) and this is exactly what we say. For Zoom interviews, we add that the panel will keep themselves on mute while the candidate is talking, so there will be a slight pause when they finish their answer while we unmute, they don’t need to fill it. And that we each have two screens and will sometimes take notes/read our questions on these other screens – we promise we’re listening!

      Reply
    4. Digital Dragon*

      Hiring in my place works exactly like this (NHS in the UK) and we do exactly what Alison recommended with a little explanation at the start that all questions are pre-set, we take turns to ask questions (we interviews in pairs usually, sometimes trios), and we write notes so don’t worry if there’s pauses, opportunities for questions at the end. It works just fine, and the candidates know what to expect.

      Reply
    5. Peter*

      I work in business in the UK, but we’ve got similar processes and I normally insert the obligatory awkward joke about my inability to multi-task.
      We also interview in pairs so there’s an explanation that we’ll be alternating who asks the questions. I also try and explain what’s needed under our rubric for the competency based questions – so factual examples not hypotheticals and that we will be drilling into them.

      Reply
    6. londonedit*

      I work in book publishing in the UK, and every time I’ve had an interview, the email confirming the time and place will invariably have some info along the lines of ‘You will be meeting with Tabitha Marmalade, Head of Publishing, and Wakeen Warbleworth, Senior Editor. The interview will take the form of a discussion of your skills and experience (around 60 minutes) followed by a short editorial test (30 minutes). Please feel free to bring with you any examples of work that will help to showcase your achievements’. Or whatever the particular format of the interview may be. It’s helpful because you know how much time to allow, you’ve got the names you need to ask for when you arrive, and you’re not going to be blindsided by a test or by someone suddenly asking if you’ve brought any books you’ve worked on.

      Reply
      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        That’s pretty much the format I use and have encountered here in the UK too. I just replace the editorial test with a ‘short test of your SQL knowledge’ so people know what to prep for.

        Reply
    7. Guacamole Bob*

      +1

      I’m in government, not higher ed, so we get more candidates who don’t know what to expect, but we do a similar intro to the structure of the interview at the beginning and it seems to work well.

      I think we sometimes acknowledge it as “awkward”, “structured”, or “formal” rather than “weird” or “strange”. Because it is.

      Reply
    8. The Dude Abides*

      I work in government, and we call it the Rutan interview. It’s made clear from the jump and during the interview process.

      Reply
    9. Elenna*

      Yes – I got a spiel similar to that the couple times I interviewed for government jobs, and it definitely was helpful for understanding what was going on. Especially for phone interviews, when you can’t tell that the interviewer is writing stuff down. If the interviewer hadn’t warned me at the start I would have assumed the silence meant “still waiting on you to say something else” and I would have continued awkwardly babbling.

      Reply
    10. Reba*

      I think it’s well worth giving a quick heads-up like this to the candidates in the interview planning stage. It’s not only a kindness to the interviewees, it would probably mean that you get better quality interviews since the candidates are better prepared and not worrying if they are doing it right during the session!

      My partner has been in higher ed interview processes where the set questions were generally tailored to people who had been working in higher ed. Nevertheless they really wanted to get someone with industry experience, hence why Partner was asked to interview. Partner was unprepared for this interview style and found it really hard to talk about their industry experience because the questions — possibly not even designed for this particular position, idk — didn’t really open to that! Some preparation would have been really beneficial.

      Reply
    11. Sara without an H*

      I, too, work in higher ed, with a similar system for interviewing candidates, although as a private institution, we have a bit more flexibility. But I think it’s always courteous to make sure the candidate understands our process.

      Reply
    12. Sparrow*

      It’s SO common I doubt they’d be surprised by it, but I do typically say something about it before we start. When people (especially early career folks) are nervous, I think they sometimes forget that pauses are normal/forget how awkward it can feel and are compelled to keep talking to fill the silence, so I like reminding them right beforehand so that thought’s fresh on their minds. I use language similar to the script Alison suggested.

      Reply
    13. Mike S.*

      While the organization I work for is technically both higher education and government, what we mostly do is health care. (We do have some students, and some of our professors teach at an affiliated University, but it’s not the focus.) We’ve never had that restriction. All of the interviews that I’ve done allowed us to tailor them to the individual. Even when we did meet ‘n greets with Director candidates (NOT interviews, although our office manager sat in on them, and reported what she saw to the hiring committee), we didn’t have that restriction, and one of the IT guys even altered his behavior in one interview to see how the candidate would react.
      I’d appreciate a heads up, because I wouldn’t be expecting that format at all.

      Reply
  13. Unfettered scientist*

    LW2, this is tricky. Are there even products that disinfect that don’t have a fragrance to them? Even if they do exist, I’m not sure you can tell this person they need to buy x if they want to disinfect their office. I’m not sure the office manager could either assuming she’s paying for space like anyone else. Any chance you could look at improving ventilation/being moved to a new location instead? At my work we have really strict disinfecting procedures that use a lot of chemicals so I can sympathize but right now I’m not sure you can tell someone to stop disinfecting.

    Reply
    1. Certaintroublemaker*

      My first thought for LW2, also, was what can you recommend as an alternative? It makes perfect sense that she wants to disinfect and perfect sense that you don’t want to get a migraine. Since you know better what impacts your health, what can you suggest?

      Reply
      1. PNW Planner*

        She asked if she could at least refrain until the end of the day and the person refused. That seems like an easy accommodation. And there are non-spray cleaners and non-scented cleaners out there.

        Reply
        1. Vichyssuave*

          Waiting until the end of the day to disinfect your office seems to kind of miss the point. Ostensibly she wants to work in a disinfected environment.

          What I’m kind of curious about is if this was part of the other person’s daily routine, or just her initial move-in scrub down. OP mentioned it was a new office-mate, so possibly she was just being extra diligent and the problem becomes moot after her first day.

          Reply
          1. Allonge*

            The daily routine question is a good one, let’s hope that is the case but if not – if neighbour is the only user of the office, why the need to disinfect every day? Open the window when you come in if the office was cleaned overnight and that’s it, otherwise it’s their own crud from the day before.

            Reply
          2. Llama Llama*

            I wondered this too – if that person is renting an office space for themselves only…why would they have to continually disinfect it?

            Reply
      2. Daisy*

        I agree this seems like the best option. It would be frustrating to be asked not to disinfect your office these days, but if the LW suggested an available product that was equally effective as a disinfectant but didn’t cause them migraines I’d be very happy to use that instead.

        Reply
      3. SnapCrackleStop*

        Not OP, but asthmatic, allergic to some cleaners and I have a husband who gets headaches from bleach and other common cleaning products.

        At home, we use Isopropyl alcohol for a lot of things. Specifically for cleaning a desk and relevant electronics, like keyboards it is great.

        Reply
        1. Sparkles McFadden*

          I have always wiped everything down (pre-covid) with alcohol wipes. Never had complaints from the office neighbors or office mates.

          Reply
          1. MissDisplaced*

            I cannot stand Lysol and it makes me wheeze.
            My go-to’s are alcohol or peroxide based alternatives. Bleach is also ok, but not for an office.
            There are also UV sanitation devices.

            Reply
            1. Keymaster of Gozer*

              Friendly usual advice that UV sterilisation stuff available commercially is not as effective against some viruses as others. Ones with heavy lipid shields need a more powerful output to scramble their genetic material (the ones we used in the lab would give you burns) – commonly we used quick heat/freeze cycles to kill viruses instead :)

              (Although for things that you can’t use liquids on, like electronic kit, it was preferable. Our head of safety would have loved us to autoclave the computers however :p )

              Reply
        2. Ari*

          Yes! That’s one chemical cleaner that doesn’t trigger an asthma attack for me. Also, for natural cleaners, lemons/citrus fruits, baking soda, table salt, and white vinegar have always worked best for me. I’m sure an alcohol wipe after cleaning with natural cleaners will work fine to disinfect.

          Reply
    2. Self Employed*

      The CDC recently issued new guidance that disinfectants are not needed to eliminate traces of COVID from ordinary home/office settings. Soap/detergent products are good enough for non-medical settings. This is pretty much what I expected because coronaviruses have an outer lipid capsule (greasy coating) that is disrupted by soap and detergents.

      https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/disinfecting-your-home.html and if you scroll way down the page, it even says that people with asthma need to be careful with disinfectants.

      This is a description of how Lysol can be a workplace hazard: https://careertrend.com/info-8083155-hazards-spraying-lysol-work-environment.html

      The employee doesn’t need to spray Lysol all over to disinfect surfaces, and it won’t eliminate airborne COVID. Disinfecting surfaces is being recognized as sanitation theatre rather than an effective way to reduce transmission. https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/coronavirus-is-in-the-air-heres-how-to-get-it-out/ar-BB189hdA

      (which is why I’m so annoyed at citizen groups lobbying the local transit authority to change bus/train schedules to allow cleaning crews to disinfect the entire vehicle at the end of each run so people will feel safe riding transit again)

      Reply
      1. pleaset cheap rolls*

        “will feel safe riding transit again”

        But disinfecting works! To make people *feel* safer.

        Reply
        1. allathian*

          Perhaps, but it shouldn’t be done at the office, when it means that the LW can’t use the space they’ve been assigned.

          Reply
          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            And if mask mandates were enforced. I’m not actually as fussed about surface sanitation – viruses are obligate intracellular parasites so can’t grow outside a host cell. Not to say that washing isn’t important: it definitely is.

            Reply
        2. Natalie*

          Sure, but we don’t live in a land of infinite time and resources. There is a real cost to disinfecting every train or bus every day, that could be better spent elsewhere.

          Reply
          1. Greg*

            Or even worse, the schools that close for entire days for “deep cleaning”.

            I get that some people still have safety concerns about in-person schooling. But whatever your opinion, we should all be able to unite around the idea that increasing the amount of time students are learning remotely *soley* for the purpose of hygiene theater is a dumb idea. I also would love to know what would happen if the money going towards that cleaning was instead redirected to things that actually have an impact, like upgrading the HVAC systems and improving overall ventilation throughout the building.

            Reply
      2. Tired of Covid-and People*

        Covid aside, bedbugs have been found on public transportation in the big city near me, so I would be all for an enhanced cleaning regimen if I used that system.

        Office mate should get an air cleaning machine for their office and talk to building management about air handling protocols. Or open their window if they have one that is operable. Any office building that is occupied should have changed the vent system to include more outside air. Masks, distancing, and airflow management are the most effective methods of reducing Covid transmission risk.

        That said, I worked with some very nasty people and I wanted to spray their cubicles with Lysol!

        It must suck to have severe allergies and then be in an environment you can’t totally control. OP may want to consider using a respirator or getting an air cleaner herself. Good Luck!

        Reply
      3. Llama Llama*

        yeah I thought we had known for awhile now that disinfecting surfaces was…not particularly important against covid. We’ve known the spread is almost entirely airborn for like 8 months at this point. I know some people just feel safer – it’s the placebo effect of being able to do *something* even if that action doesn’t really provide you any additional protection. It really isn’t necessary though.

        Reply
      4. JSPA*

        Yes. Granted, surface-based transmission may be as vanishingly rare in practice as it is, in part BECAUSE people are taking precautions; but even taking that into account, surface based transmission is rare–and we’re disproportionately guarding against it.

        If the other person has a need to wipe things down to feel safe, they can still do so. OP could focus on suggesting / promoting the use of effective cleaners that do not bother her. (Hydrogen peroxide solution, at drugstore strength, comes to mind. It fizzes enough for the wiper to feel that it’s working, and its breakdown products are oxygen and water, and–because it reacts with so many molecules–it’s normal form is, “unscented.”)

        As for transit, eh…transit could often use some extra surface cleaning.

        And in both offices and transit, there are risks besides covid that are surface-transmitted–plus in stressful situations, having a ritual that provides a sense of “having done all one can” is psychologically useful. IMO, nobody should have to apologize for wiping down, per se, so long as they do it in ways that don’t crud up the environment for others.

        Reply
      5. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Yes, right from the start, we were told to wash our hands with soap. Initially I read that vinegar would work for disinfecting the house, then I found out that no it didn’t eliminate covid. So I started using some cheap soap I no longer want to use on my hands (20 seconds of cheap soap and my hands are like sandpaper later in the day). If soap works on hands, no reason why it shouldn’t work elsewhere, right?

        Reply
    3. Malarkey01*

      I think OP is going to be pretty disappointed in what can be done. The other person rents space as well and is a tenant. Lysol is a pretty mainstream and acceptable product (unlike if they were using something outside the norm for cleaning). Unless the lease was really specific, everyone’s hands are going to be pretty tied on this one. Suggesting a safer alternative is going to be the best route.

      And for what it’s worth even though Lysol isn’t necessary for CoVid cleaning, a lot of us have been way less sick this year than normal and I suspect a lot of that is masks, better hand washing, and increased cleaning. So some of those habits are going to stay around and I’d guess disinfecting public places will be one of them.

      Reply
      1. Unfettered scientist*

        Yeah I agree an alternative is best. Maybe instead of heavy duty Lysol spray, some chlorox wipes might work the same but not smell as strong. Or general purpose surface cleaning liquid might also do the job without smelling as bad.

        As far as why you’d want to clean in the morning: maybe the office mate is worried about disinfecting after the cleaning staff come at night. I’d see if she can open her window (if possible) and use a more standard cleaning spray (like a spray bottle)

        Reply
      2. EPLawyer*

        Just because its mainstream doesn’t mean its the only product that can be used. OP gets sick, the officemate has alternatives to use for cleaning — or even do it at the end of the day like OP suggested. So its not a matter of well — it’s Lysol of nothing so OP needs to suck it up and be sick. The officemate can adjust a little to AVOID MAKING ANOTHER HUMAN BEING SICK.

        Reply
        1. Natalie*

          Yes, I imagine that’s why they said “Suggesting a safer alternative is going to be the best route.”

          Reply
      3. sasha*

        At my small high school there was a student with similar allergies, and we had to use all natural cleaning products (I think they were Seventh Generation) and not wear scented lotions or perfumes.

        Reply
      4. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        OP could ask that the building manager provide an approved disinfectant to all tenants on the floor. I would look for something that’s used in hospitals since they would already take health impact into account — and I’ve never seen any hospital use a spray disinfectant. I realize that wipes have a scent too but a spray is going to travel further so maybe they could use wipes instead, and the OP can be provided with an air filter/fan.

        Reply
      5. OyHiOh*

        Same, Malarkey, soo much less sick this year! The last rhinovirus cold I got was thirteen months ago and counting. Even my allergies are down because wearing a mask cuts down the amount of pollen breathed in. I don’t do a daily wipe down of my desk (private office, I’m literally the only person who touches anything – cleaning crew empties garbage and vacuums, that’s it), but wash hands, use sanitizer, wear a mask, and clean my desk Mondays to start the week fresh.

        To the OP, I’ve seen unscented all purpose/disinfecting cleaners at Target and similar places. There are products that will do the job well, without causing migraines but unfortunately, Lysol has brand name recognition and trust built in.

        Reply
      6. JSPA*

        whether something is “mainstream” is immaterial. Peanut butter is mainstream too. That doesn’t mean someone with a peanut allergy can’t be accommodated. Flickering fluorescent lights are incredibly common, but if someone in your workspace gets epileptic seizures as a result, you change bulbs on an expedited schedule, or go to an alternate lighting system.

        Drop in any diagnosed allergen or diagnosed trigger for a medical condition, and the answer is the same. “I without fail have a major medical event when you do normal thing X, which is a thing that can be avoided in our workplace” is square within the definition of an achievable accommodation (and thus, required by law).

        Accommodating a belief that only Lysol kills Covid (!) is a much bigger ask under the ADA than, “use a non-triggering product shown to be similarly effective.”

        Reply
      1. JustaTech*

        It depends on what you mean by “better”. Bleach can be really hard on plastics, but you are right that it doesn’t smell as much, nor is it usually available as a spray product.

        In several labs I’ve worked in, for medium-deep cleans we use the BLA approach: bleach, Lysol, alcohol. Bleach and Lysol have different mechanisms of action, so they kill different things in different ways. Alcohol kills stuff too, but not as well. The alcohol was usually to clean up the bleach and lysol, because if you leave them on surfaces they can damage your stuff.

        (Those are the “friendly” cleaners. The really heavy-duty stuff is straight-up hazardous and you have to be really careful with.)

        Reply
    4. Momma Bear*

      This sounds like a small business incubator, where multiple companies share the same space. I would bring it up to the office manager in a “hey, can you help me here?” kind of way. Maybe they can offer an air filter or talk to them about other products. The neighbor may also take it better/differently from the office manager.

      Reply
    5. fleapot*

      There are definitely sanitizers that don’t have perfumey scents, or that have much milder scents than Lysol. They have a chemical smell, but that may not be as much of an issue.

      I’m sensitive to fragrances too, but am able to use some commercial- or hospital-grade sanitizing products without trouble. I can’t speak to everyone’s experience, of course, but I’m pretty sure that I react less to the active ingredients in Lysol (etc.) than to the fragrance. I won’t get a headache/burning sinuses after cleaning with a quat sanitizer or Oxivir or Dettol. I’m pretty sure that the first two of those, at least, are more powerful than Lysol.

      Reply
  14. staceyizme*

    Wow, LW#1! You can ignore her, certainly. But you shouldn’t! You might be the type who avoids conflict or confrontation to an excessive degree. Don’t you wonder to yourself if the outcome could have been less negative if you’d stepped in sooner? Unpleasant and unproductive people make others want to avoid them. As a manger, though, you can’t afford to do so. If you give in to the temptation to avoid people who are problematic, they don’t go away quietly. They just become someone else’s problem to deal with. Clients, peers and others suffer if you skip the harder parts of managing people like her.

    Reply
  15. The Prettiest Curse*

    LW#1 – unfortunately, managers have to treat their worst employees decently so as not to demoralise their good employees. It’s unlikely that everyone at your company actively dislikes the departing employee. Toxic people are often very good at making fake friends (or gaslighting people into liking them), so if you treat Rachel coldly you risk alienating anyone who doesn’t feel the same way that you do. Be polite and professional to her for the sake of your remaining employees, who may not all be aware of the extent of the drama and toxicity that this person caused.

    Reply
    1. UKDancer*

      Definitely. You as the manager need to be polite and professional even if you’re celebrating her departure. I’ve had difficult employees and people I’ve not clicked with but it’s 2 days you have to do it for. Many years ago I had a truly bad employee leave to work elsewhere and I made a leaving presentation for them, praised them for what they had done and said I wished them success in their new job. It wasn’t the deepest most heartfelt sendoff ever but it ticked all the necessary boxes for doing my duty. You don’t want other team members wondering if you’re chilly / unpleasant with everyone who is leaving.

      Then when she’s gone and you don’t have to see her again, reward yourself with something you like and feel that sense of relief. Go for a nice walk, buy a treat for yourself or do something you particularly enjoy.

      Reply
    2. IANTA*

      I overwhelmingly agree with the general principle. I have had one experience that soured me, however—a previous toxic coworker that one manager was visibly chummy with. Not a mystery that this manager is still the one most difficult to deal with.

      Reply
      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Yup, been there, except in my case the toxic friend was the manager’s best friend outside of work. (The friendship existed prior to the manager’s hiring and the friend recommended her for the job, which was a difficult job to fill.)
        Unfortunately, there are really no good options when you’re caught between a toxic person and their best friend, who is enabling the toxicity.

        Reply
    3. The Other Dawn*

      “Toxic people are often very good at making fake friends (or gaslighting people into liking them)”

      Yes, this is a very good point. I once inherited a very toxic employee and she was great at this. People she felt were her friends regularly got her very embellished, exaggerated side of the story whenever something happened. She was always the victim and everyone else was out to get her or jealous of her. One day she quit without notice. She came in, packed up all her stuff without a word (I didn’t even realize that’s what she was doing since her office wasn’t near mine), and arranged to resign by email at a specific time–exactly after she turned in her equipment and was on her way out of the building. Those who has worked directly with her were thrilled to no longer have to deal with her after years of her toxic behavior. But those she was friendly with went on about how she was treated so badly “after all she did for the company.” I was very careful–while she was there and after she was gone–to never treat her any differently that others on the team or talk about her in a disparaging manner (other than to my own boss, who helped me manage through all this and had seen various things unfold over the years with the employee). Although I knew a few people she was friends or friendly with, I had no way of knowing who others might be.

      Reply
      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        I try to remember that if someone is running around badmouthing you, the company or other employees for no reason months or years after leaving, that’s a reflection on THEM and not you. Similarly, if a departing employee keeps going on about how they’re leaving for somewhere that appreciates their talents, I would just think “wow, what an unprofessional thing to say.” (Even if it’s 100% true, it’s not the sort of thing you should say out loud in a work context, because it’ll leave people with a bad impression of you.)

        Reply
      2. NotSoAnon*

        The other dawn, This is almost my exact experience when I became a manager! I inherited a totally toxic person who attempted to undermine me at every turn. There was so much she did that I could write a book about that experience! The day she was supposed to come back from leave, she just didn’t show up in office, and did one last petty thing by emailing her resignation to my boss instead of me.

        I can’t tell you what a relief it was to have her gone. But I would never disparage her or talk badly about her to the remaining team members or other departments. Those who knew, knew and others thought highly of her. You just really never know if you’re going to cross paths again down the road (especially in hiring scenarios) and I wanted my team to see that even in the face of a super toxic employee I would remain neutral.

        Reply
    4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      100% in agreement and have a personal anecdote to back me up. Years ago at an OldJob, there was an employee in another department that I could not stand. Unfortunately the two of us shared the same native language and country of birth, which made her think that she could come over to chat every day and be her uninhibited, racist, anti-Semitic self in front of me. I was younger and less assertive and never told her to cut it out or to stop coming over, and dropping hints (which I did a lot of with her) did not help. One day she came to my desk with the news that her manager had told her that her position was being eliminated, but that he’d give her the time to look for work, and be her reference. A few months later, she found another job and left. The manager had been very supportive of her job search the whole time. A few more months later, I ran into him at a happy hour and mentioned the departed employee and he was like “oh my god, she was horrible” (apparently, while she wasn’t as open about her gross views with him as she was with me, she was also a really low performer), but he never let her know that he thought that while she still worked for him. She left not knowing that he could barely stand working with her. I thought it was really professional; to the point where today, 10+ years later, I’ll be happy to be his reference, recommend him for a job, put his resume in at my workplace etc, anytime if he asks. I was really impressed by how he handled the whole thing.

      Reply
      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Probably important to ask that I mentioned the departed employee in the sense of “man, it was such a relief when she left, she was making my life hell”.

        Reply
      2. The Prettiest Curse*

        That manager did exactly the right thing. I have worked with awful, toxic people that I intensely disliked, but I always tried to make sure that they didn’t KNOW that I couldn’t stand them, just because anything else is not professional. And because, who knows, they could be less awful in another context and you might run into them again some day.

        Reply
  16. T*

    LW #2 I have a reaction to Lysol as well but don’t have any issue with the Clorox sprays. Is there an alternative you don’t react to that you can suggest your new neighbor use?

    Reply
    1. V$*

      I would think that if there is an alternative that LW2 uses and has no reaction to, a lovely gesture would be to buy an extra bottle and leave it on the offenders desk with a note saying something like “If you don’t mind swapping your Lysol for this, I’d appreciate it!” maybe with a candy bar or some other type of bribe also. Honestly, the only way to get someone to change in this situation is to make it easier than doing what they used to. The offender is not going to go buy some new product on her own!

      Reply
      1. Unfettered scientist*

        Yeah this is the challenging thing. You can’t really make someone buy something specific. So definitely easiest is to buy it for them (though I agree it isn’t fair to OP). Maybe OP can have their employer buy some for cleaning OP’s office and give a bottle to officemate?

        Reply
    2. NayaMcD*

      I’ve done some research and it seems that the germ killing chemical in most products is either rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. I have a hydrogen peroxide spray bottle that I use, or add rubbing alcohol to a spray bottle and use that to spray down items. Please research for yourself and comfort levels!

      Reply
  17. rudster*

    FWIW, the CDC has recently stated that the constant use of Lysol and wiping down of surfaces is basically “hygiene theater”, in that might make us feel better by “doing something” but, compared to masks and distancing measures, is of negligible benefit in reducing transmission, because the chances of COVID transmissions via surfaces – compared to airborne transmission – are very, very low. An exception, in which disinfecting measures could be useful, would be if a person KNOWN to have COVID has been in the area recently.

    Reply
    1. Chocolate carrot*

      Devil’s advocate here – but if cleaning/disinfecting an area is useful if a person known to have Covid has been there – isn’t it every bit as useful if a person with Covid has been there even if you don’t know they have Covid? So therefore of benefit just in case? (Although maybe not the best use of resources in terms of a public health response, but if this case there is no competing resources issue)

      I mean that’s the rationale behind all our Covid measures. We isolate anyone with Covid where I live (the numbers are small enough that they can be government managed), so all the general distancing, masks, cleaning etc are for when there’s a case they DON’T know about. I mean, it is true of all public health responses everywhere. Masks achieve nothing if nobody in the vicinity is sick, but because people can be sick without everyone knowing we wear masks just in case someone is contagious, as that reduces the chances of a successful transmission.

      Reply
  18. Caroline Bowman*

    Re OP 3, the note-taking that’s causing pauses… I have nothing to do with higher ed but have encountered such a situation many times when hiring for graduate trainee schemes. The solution is to have a designated note taker, someone who does not speak, but merely takes notes. An alternative is to (with permission of course), record the interview for later transcription. We occasionally did this, always offered to send a copy to the candidates in those cases, but when it was high volume, it actually saved a lot of time and interviews just ran normally, with no stilted pauses.

    Reply
    1. RecoveringSWO*

      That may work in some cases, but if it’s similar to government hiring, each interviewer will need to score the interviewee based on specific criteria which is filled into a matrix that can be released upon request in certain situations. Having notes from every interviewer helps provide proof of that score and hiring decision if it’s challenged legally.

      Reply
      1. Government lackey*

        Just echoing these comments – and from experience, we often go over our individual notes when we rate the applicant’s interview – there’s always something that one of us caught when the other two didn’t. I realize that recording might address that, but it’s a lot more time consuming to listen to an interview a second time than to pause after each question. I also think that people tend to act a bit differently when they are being recorded so I’d avoid that if possible.

        Reply
    2. IEanon*

      Notes from interviewers for higher ed positions have to come from the individual on their own form, to be turned in with scores to HR or the hiring committee. It’s not necessarily about recording the candidate’s responses, but about the interviewers’ opinions or assessments of those responses.

      There’s usually some scribbling in between answers, but my experience has been fairly smooth in all of my interviews, without noticeably awkward pauses.

      Reply
  19. Grace*

    #2: Vivid flashbacks to my coworker’s anaphylaxis being triggered by someone microwaving prawns in the communal kitchen (the first time she’d ever had a reaction to her allergen being airborne rather than in food, and she was still waiting to see an allergist so didn’t have epipens). I had to call an ambulance. It was all rather dramatic.

    The building management’s response was to send an email saying, and I quote, “if you could bare this in mind when bringing shellfish into the office, and possibly consider cooking it on another floor it would be greatly appreciated”.

    It was only a couple of weeks before lockdown, but that response was definitely enough for the big bosses not in our small satellite office to start ramping up the new building search. We should be in a new place before summer, fingers crossed.

    OP, if your officemate doesn’t stop, is that something that your bosses would take into account when deciding whether to continue their lease?

    Reply
  20. singlemaltgirl*

    lw1 – i get it. someone who you’ve had to spend hours and mental energy trying to manage, knowing the toxicity was never going to end and just being relieved when they resign? i understand. the thing is, you’re on the home stretch. and you just need to gather yourself up and be professional. no need to be insincere – you can wish them well without talking about how they’ll be ‘missed’ when they won’t be. think of this as her seeing your management as helping her make a decision to leave – that to me is management and from what i’ve read, i think you were actively managing her. don’t stop now after you’ve put in all that hard work.

    i’ve fired people and i’ve had people resign. i always always always feel better when they resign rather than having to fire – even if that’s the direction we were heading. it’s great when someone realizes they are not a fit or is helped to realize they are not a fit and makes that decision on their own.

    i’d re-schedule the team meeting if you know what she’ll pull. but keep the mgmt hat on and stay professional. don’t stoop to her level. you’ve got this!

    Reply
  21. Birch*

    #3 OMG YES WARN PEOPLE. I realize recruiting for staff positions is probably more structured than research positions, but universities as a rule are Not Good at disseminating information. I’ve been to a similar formal, stilted interview (which was weird for a variety of reasons… very little info, asked to appear in person in a different country with no acknowledgment that that was a weird request and it ended up around half an hour with no chance to meet anyone else or see the lab. I got the job but it was a disaster) and it was terrible not to know it was going to be like that beforehand, when every other interview I went to was totally different. Especially since this is an entry level position, it’s just a good idea to give more info. Letting people know about the structure indicates generally good communication and self awareness, which would make me more likely to want to work with you.

    I also think this would be a good habit for other fields, too. IMO hiring managers vastly overestimate how “standard” their interview practices are, and the contrast between that and the uncertainty/anxiety/expectations of candidates causes needless awkwardness and stress for everyone involved. If it’s going to be a really formal process, tell people. If it’s more chill, tell people. Don’t make candidates guess or play mind games.

    Reply
    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      I completely agree with this, particularly not assuming your process is known or standard. I work with a lot of new grads so we are accustomed to spelling out how our hiring process will go so that they know what to expect and our anticipated timing – over time, HR adopted this process for all hiring, which has been great. By the time a candidate gets to me, I am rarely explaining the next steps anymore (always offer, but am usually told that, no, the HR rep already walked them through that).

      I’ve never interviewed for a government or academic position and would be very thrown off by the panel scribing my answers or being asked set questions rather than going with the course of the conversation. A primer on how someone’s interview process works would be so helpful for all candidates. I’d probably like to practice with someone doing a question/list scribed interview to figure out what to do in the pauses and not come across as terribly awkward.

      Reply
  22. LifeBeforeCorona*

    “Goodbye and good luck, Rachel. We’ll remember your impact on our team for a long time!”

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

      lol, “We will never have another Llama Groomer quite like you.” “Our department will be quiet and subdued without you.” “You were a rare employee.”

      Reply
  23. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    #4 – it is frustrating when you leave a job with good resources and they aren’t available at your new job. But they belong to your old employer just like the super convenient shelving unit and the good coffee machine.

    If you know how they built the shelves, or where they got the coffee machine from, you can seek to replicate it in your new workplace. But you can’t ask to take it with you!

    Maybe you remember that there was a reference to the availability of fine-ground oatmeal in spring in your previous December invoice cover, which encouraged customers to place their orders early. Perhaps there was a standard paragraph to explain the difference between whole wheat and whole grain. If you don’t want to reinvent the wheel every time, save the text the first time you do it in the new job (maybe a document called “standard wording”) and crib from it the second time. Gradually you’ll refine it until it’s the best way you can phrase it.

    Alternatively, can you use resources that already exist at the new employer that aren’t explicitly labelled as stock letters? Can you access last year’s May orders to see exactly what your predecessor wrote to the corn flake manufacturer?

    I’ve twice been the person who created the letters bank (both “what to do when this letter comes in”, and “what to say in this outgoing letter”) and it’s a huge job, even just curating it from existing material. I recommend being a bit proactive now to save yourself time in future, and fostering good relationships with current colleagues from whom you might be able to borrow or with whom you can begin to share phrasing or whole letters.

    Reply
    1. pleaset cheap rolls*

      “If you know how they built the shelves, or where they got the coffee machine from, you can seek to replicate it in your new workplace. But you can’t ask to take it with you!”

      There is a difference between physical and intellectual property – taking IP typically is copying and in a non-competitive environment typically does not deprive the other party of the use/benefits of it. Taking real property does deprive the other party. BIG difference.

      The reasons the OP should not take the templates are legal, ethical (the other part did work/pay for them), and/or reputational.

      Reply
          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Ahh true, reading comprehension sucks today. Still, not a good idea to take company property even if it is just an excel template or what have you.

            (I really, really miss some of the coding I did on a fantastically complex internal app at my last firm but…it’s their property not mine)

            Reply
  24. Bob*

    LW2: Would it work if she switched to something like 70% alcohol spray with no fragrance?
    If so (or there is another chemical that will work) thats another option, ask her to switch to something just as effective but that won’t cause you problems.

    Reply
  25. onco fonco*

    LW1 – it’s just two days! Two more days until this person will never be your problem again. But your other employees will see how you act over the course of those two days, and they’ll remember it. Be professional. This employee sounds terrible, but blanking her out of spite looks pretty terrible too.

    Reply
  26. onco fonco*

    LW2 – would it be better if she used wipes rather than a spray, leaving less product suspended in the air? (I’m not generally a fan of disposable wipes for environmental reasons but this sounds like a situation where they might be justified!)

    Plain old detergent is effective against coronavirus too, of course.

    Reply
    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Have used a LOT of wiping and scrubbing stuff during this (also have migraines triggered by just about most sprayable stuff). Far less likely to trigger me and the act of actually scrubbing surfaces down with detergent rather than just spraying and wiping something feels more ‘safe’.

      Reply
      1. Cj*

        Fellow migraine sufferer. I’ve also been using disposable wipes. They are way less triggering for me too. My office neighbor occasionally sprays Lysol and I need to shut my door immediately

        Reply
        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          We don’t have Lysol in the UK but I’m assuming it’s like Dettol and yeah, my husband brought that spray home last year and I nearly beaned him with my favourite teddy bear.

          Reply
      2. Homophone Hattie*

        Same here. I am sensitive to smells and some perfumes and cleaning products give me migraines too and I’ve never had a problem with any of the various brands of wipes I’ve used since last March. Though of course everyone is different.

        Reply
    2. MissDisplaced*

      Terribly allergic to Lysol here and while I don’t use the wipes myself, I do not get the same reaction to the wipes because the chemical doesn’t spread via the air I guess.

      So if the person is dedicated to Lysol brand in particular, the wipes might be the best solution to get them to stop the spraying.

      Reply
  27. DiscoCat*

    #1 having a manager that doesn’t manage bad/ toxic employees can make them even more putrid, this problem is on OP as much as the employee. If I were a bad employee I’d want to know, I’d want to be given the grace and courtesy of grown-up feedback, given the credit that I can take this feedback and change my behaviour; if I fail then my employer and manager have a right to terminate me. But just leave people to stew in their own shittyness is cowardly and unkind.

    #5 Just out of interest: in my line of work coordinator is a higher title than manager. I know it depends a lot on context, tasks, industry and employer, but I thought that generally there was more responsibility and authority attached to a coordinator’s position.

    Reply
    1. pleaset cheap rolls*

      OP#1 wrote “I’ve had several discussions with her on improving her performance. “

      Reply
        1. The Other Dawn*

          Agreed, but sometimes one’s hands are tied. I once inherited a very toxic employee who shouldn’t have been there as long as she was (she was there for many years). I had to do every possible thing I could come up with before my management would even consider letting me terminate her. If I’d had my way 100%, she’d have been gone after about three months of me taking over. But instead she was there for almost a year because my management didn’t know the extent of how bad she was previously so I had to go through a lot of conversations and give her a lot of chances I normally wouldn’t. The last manager didn’t share very much with my manager about this person, so he didn’t know the employee was this bad even though everyone else on the team and other nearby teams did.

          Reply
    2. JelloStapler*

      I have been in that situation too, where no one would step up and call a colleague out on their obvious (but not always prove-able) shenanigans and so it DRAGGED OUT for years. It was very hard on the rest of us.

      Reply
  28. Juniper*

    You said everything I was going to, so I’m not even going to bother with a new thread. Thanks for all the useful info. Nature had a great article about why scientists are now backpedaling the disinfectant advice: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-00251-4

    Sanitation theater is also a great way to describe it: I have a friend who left all her groceries outside for 3 days before bringing them into her house. At some point, these behaviors provides more of a psychological rather than physical security. Usually I just leave it alone — after all, we all have our coping mechanisms. But as soon as it starts affecting other people, like this LW, it’s time to start listening to science.

    Reply
  29. JaneLoe*

    LW#2: are there any products that work for you and do the same thing as Lysol in terms of disinfecting? My advice would be to go buy 2 of whatever you can tolerate and bring them as a gift, alongside one more plea explaining the severity. (You could even leave them with a note). Good luck!

    Reply
  30. K*

    #1 – Yeah, some people just aren’t cut out to be a manager, and a “promotion” to a managerial position shouldn’t be inevitable just because you’re a skilled individual contributor. I thought I knew this, but after being at a workplace for 5 years where the most knowledgeable (and well connected) person keeps being turned into a supervisor, then a manager, then a director, I was beginning to forget why we shouldn’t do this.

    #5 – What if you don’t even get a title change? What if you started doing things just to help move things along and get things done, and over time people assume all these little things *are* part of your job and sometimes even get mad when you try to delegate or just point them in the right direction instead of doing everything yourself? And sure they can’t stop calling you when you’re out for the day because you’re the only one who remembers all the tedious steps, but somehow they don’t think you’re smart enough to handle the more interesting aspects of a project.

    Reply
    1. LadyByTheLake*

      For more work without a title change: “Took on/was given additional responsibilities for xyz, which resulted in project completion on time and within budget.”

      Reply
    2. The Original K.*

      I wish more places understood that being skilled at managing people and being skilled at whatever the functions of the work are are different. Just because you’re great at making widgets doesn’t mean you can manage people who make widgets.

      Reply
      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        This is so true. I have someone who’s a great widget maker that was very upset to be turned down for a management promotion a few years ago. I asked a number of scenario-based questions about how they would deal with performance problems with their staff during the interview, and they basically said they would send all of those to me and express a dislike for having to deliver bad news or provide feedback to people. Well, that’s not management, that’s expert-level widget-making. It doesn’t matter how perfect your widgets are or how long you’ve been making them – that’s not core requirements of a management job. You have to get other people to make great widgets that meet business needs on price and on schedule, and you only do that by providing feedback to your team as well as suppliers, customers, etc.

        Reply
    3. Peep*

      Same re: #5… I worry about making that chunk of my resume too long or wordy. Currently my job description has one bullet point related to my job (“manage llama documentation”) plus the generic “other duties as assigned, everyone must work the annual fundraiser, etc”. Of course I end up just doing 1/3 of my department’s work and very little actual time on llama documentation. Is there a nice way of saying “look at all this stuff I do that isn’t technically part of my job description but still needs to get done”? Right now I’m swapping llama artifacts in our llama exhibit, and someone handed me a paint roller in between tasks. *eyeroll*

      Reply
  31. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #2

    It’s only two days. Let the sheer joy of knowing you won’t have to deal with her anymore carry you through until she’s gone. I could understand it being really tough if it was maybe several weeks or a month, But two days is nothing. Just be professional, wish her well whether you mean it or not, and go about your business. As for the team meeting, I could see this both ways. You could let it go on at the usual time and just let her be herself–if she’s that toxic I’m sure others will see through anything she has to say anyway. Or you could just reschedule and use that meeting as a way to regroup and reset expectations with the team now that she’s gone and there will be a gap in coverage.

    Reply
  32. agnes*

    LW #1 one of the best pieces of advice I ever got was that my feelings and my behavior are two different things. I do not have to act the way I am feeling. We don’t choose our feelings, but we do choose our behavior. Best wishes to you. I’ve had to manage that type of employee too. It was incredibly difficult, but I learned a lot.

    Reply
    1. Mental Lentil*

      100% this.

      This also came in handy when I was teaching, because most young people don’t understand this. They are constantly conditioned that they have to like everything about school, and it’s wrong. You don’t have to like school, you don’t have to like my class, you don’t have to like the textbook, and you don’t have to like me. But you do have to be respectful. It’s that simple.

      Reply
  33. Skippy*

    LW1: Please be a better person than my last boss, who laid me off and then literally ran to his car and took off for a long weekend in Maine.

    Reply
    1. Barking Mad in the US*

      I had a boss that gave me no warning whatsoever (his demands were outrageous and I worked my butt off). He drug me into HR, they handed me the letter that said I was being “fired” HR said any questions, and I said no. He took off and that was that. HR just sat there and didn’t do anything except apologize. They knew it was wrong. He didn’t give me any performance reviews. He didn’t tell me specifically what I was doing wrong (I turned a university department around and made it user-friendly and had goodwill throughout campus). I think he either wanted to get me off the payroll (budget) or he just didn’t understand my job and felt there was somebody else in the department that could do a better job (mysogeny perhaps??) To this day, I can go onto the campus and people will talk to me and tell me they miss me. They have told my husband, who still works on campus, that I was mistreated badly.

      Reply
  34. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    #3 – I like the email idea. You already have to give them extra information about logistics since it’s a university campus – what gate to check in at, where to park, what building to go to, etc. Adding a section of “what to expect during the interview” is a natural.

    Reply
  35. Batgirl*

    OP1, it might help if you consider an unintentional side effect of being short with her: she might decide you’re upset she’s leaving.
    There you are, thinking you’ve avoided fake exchanges and her passive aggressive nonsense and she’s thinking: “Wow, she is really regretting not appreciating me sooner!”
    Your best play is standard practice. Find satisfaction in the routine of it all. It’s just another day, another employee moving on. The people who are still there are more important so show them your best side and what they can expect from a typical last day, while thinking happy thoughts about the near future.

    Reply
  36. AndersonDarling*

    #4 I reached out to a past colleague to ask for a template, but in that case, it was something they personally developed and was not part of any kind of company intellectual property. The individual was so thrilled that I recognized their contributions that they were happy to send me a copy.
    Also, I asked to use it as a framework to build a similar system at my company, not to use it as-is.

    Reply
    1. OP4*

      I thought about doing this because my former boss was actually the one who did most of the work on the template. But I didn’t ask him because I figured the anything anyone makes for work is still work’s property. That’s why I was thinking to ask the department head instead, but glad I trusted my gut and held off until I got an answer here.

      Reply
  37. Boof*

    LW1 – please continue to treat your employee with professional courtesy.
    Allison, I am curious, if the employee was very toxic, is there any value to addressing that with the team, if it was the sort of thing that might have been placing a burden on them? It may be a little late now for this case given it was going on a long time, and the move was perhaps only partly related to the LW (not exactly fired but it sounds like LW did repeatedly discuss the problems and that may have motivated the employee to leave) but I’m curious where professional courtesy ends and reassuring the team that you had addressed an obvious problem begins.

    Reply
  38. Barking Mad in the US*

    LW #2. Lysol is not the only thing that is effective with COVID. I generally can handle any scents/smells (heck, I clean with bleach at home-safely, of course), but I had a reaction to whatever they use to fog our offices at night. I put a sign on my door not to do anything to my office. The guy who sprays our office for pests saw the sign and we chatted for a second about the products used to clean/fog offices. He told me about this product called Vital Oxide. It has no scent, is used in food areas (it’s safe), and kills the COVID virus and a bunch of other horrible things. It’s available on Amazon and no, I don’t get any money from promoting it but because it’s scent-free and effective, you might try suggesting it to her. Now, if she pushes back and says Lysol is the only thing that works, I’d be escalating it to a manager/hr. I’ve worked with people who have told me they are sensitive to scents and I’m super careful about that. It comes down to respecting your fellow workers.

    Reply
  39. Data Analyst*

    Lw1 – you say the employee is rude and feeds on drama…but here you are considering freezing her out because you’ve feel she quit in a “petty” way. But getting an offer and needing to resign when your manager is out happens all the time (there are plenty of Qs on this site about it). The one week notice is not great, admittedly, but in any case, what you are considering doing is rude and dramatic, for anyone, but especially a manager! Even if she’s dramatic, you don’t fight drama with drama. I would take a look at that inclination in yourself, because it’s not healthy or mature.

    Reply
    1. traffic_spiral*

      Yes, it does have a bit of the “Everything they do is so dramatic and flamboyant, it just makes me want to set myself on fire,” vibe.

      Reply
    2. RagingADHD*

      Yes, if the employee feeds on drama, then pointedly giving her the silent treatment is going to stoke the drama even more. The undramatic response is to just be calm, professional, and polite.

      Reply
    3. Cat Tree*

      Yeah, I didn’t see anything in the letter about the resignation being petty. I’m glad someone pointed this out.

      Reply
  40. Bookworm*

    LW1: No advice from me, unfortunately, just sending you sympathy. I haven’t been quite in that position (not a manager or in that type of position) but have been that co-worker who had to watch similar situations and/or continue to deal with Toxic Co-Worker.

    Wishing you the best of luck in the final days.

    Reply
  41. Governmint Condition*

    For #3, bureaucracy being what it is, it’s OK to explain the process, but any warning or explanation that you give must be the same that you give to all candidates.

    Reply
  42. JelloStapler*

    In our interviews (higher ed), we explain what to expect (“we will go around the table and ask our questions and will be taking notes”) and never have had someone look weirded out- even if they are not from a higher ed background.

    Reply
    1. Allonge*

      I used to work at a place like that (not higher ed but similarly rigid) and have the same experience: nobody ever was weirded out. If anyone ever decided based on this that we are a bit too rigid for them, more prower to them I suppose – we indeed were really rigid, not everyone can take it.

      We did have a part of the spiel saying that we have only X minutes for the interview, so we might interrupt them if their answers are getting too long and not to take this as a bad sign or a sign that we are rude, but we really did have to manage time.

      Last but not least it was a good way to give interviewees an extra moment to breathe between introductions and the starting ‘tell us about yourself’ question.

      Reply
  43. Annika Hansen*

    LW4: I think an exception to Alison’s advice is if you work for a university. At my university, we share our things like that (as long as there are no license issues) with other colleagues at universities all the time. We even have regular meetings with other universities for knowledge sharing.

    Reply
    1. The Other Dawn*

      I work in banking (small community banks) and this is really common. We’re always asking and sharing things we create (not vendor-created, purchased documents). Things are always changing in terms or risk management in my subject area and we’re always seeing something new, so we crowdsource these things pretty often.

      Reply
    2. MeTwoToo*

      When I worked in social services for a non-profit this was very common. Various agencies would network and a call or email seeking tools for specific tasks was very expected and welcomed.

      Reply
  44. Roseclef*

    Writer 3, if you can, DEFINITELY explain your process. When I was interviewing for my first government job, I had no idea how different the interview would be from any previous one, and when it was over I thought I had totally bombed it (imagine – a phone interview, I accidentally interrupted the start of an earlier applicant’s interview because I forgot they were in a different timezone, one person on the hiring committee had a thick accent, and then there were these long pauses after each question and no follow-up questions! Frankly I was shitting myself, I not only really wanted but really needed the job). All that stress, and my dad spent 30 years in a job where he did hiring for the government! It just didn’t occur to him anymore that most people’s only experience was with a totally different style of interview.

    I DID wind up getting that job, and within my first month, another woman hired after me told me she thought SHE’D bombed her interview, too, and actually drove home in tears because of it! It would be really, really kind of you to try to ensure none of your applicants are in that position, especially your highest-performing ones!

    Reply
  45. Khatul Madame*

    LW2, can your work be done from home? Seeing as the office neighbor is attached to the “sanitation theater” (love the phrase!), I don’t think she’ll be receptive to any alternative suggestions from the LW.
    Yes, LW’s employer will end up paying $$$$ for the unused office space, but they will at least get the LW’s work output.

    Reply
  46. notacompetition*

    I left a job seven years ago where I was forced to share a goodbye party with another employee who was leaving around the same time. Our department director waxed on and on about this person and her good work and exemplary professionalism and when it came to me, decided to talk about how my next job would be a better fit. The other employee was someone who constantly missed deadlines, passed on work to other colleagues, and abruptly missed work and work meetings all the time. My direct supervisor, when asked if she wanted to say anything to bid me farewell, looked at her shoes and wordlessly, rapidly shook her head. I worked really hard at this job and was well-liked by the staff and my departmental colleagues. I will never forget how much that stung. It was my first office job and I definitely didn’t vibe with the politics there but I worked hard, responded well to feedback, and was dedicated and committed.

    LW1, just…please be decent to this person, who is a human being that you manage. If you don’t, she will remember for a long, long time.

    Reply
  47. Observer*

    #1 –
    And what are your thoughts more broadly about minimizing interactions with toxic employees that you manage directly or are part of your division?

    The first part of that sentence is direct contradiction to the second part. By definition, management is engagement.

    Reply
  48. AmosBurton*

    Regarding #1, I disagree with Allison. I don’t think you will look bad at all to your remaining staff if you let your inner snark come out here, and publicly smack her around a bit on her last two days (assuming she does something to deserve it). Employees know who the bad apple is, and there is nothing wrong with demonstrating the consequences of her actions.

    I don’t think you will look unprofessional if you immediately shut her down with “Jennifer, we’re not talking about that today.” If you don’t want to see her at meetings, simply decide to talk about something “sensitive” at the meeting and uninvite her saying “this is something we don’t want to be sharing with non-employees”.

    Nothing wrong with an exasperate rolling of the eyes (again, when she does something to deserve it). She’s gone in two days, and this is an implicit way of showing your remaining employees that you get how bad she’s been, and that while you value *them* (because you don’t treat them this way) that you don’t value *her* and her antics.

    Reply
    1. Colette*

      Wow. No. You really can’t do that as a manager, or as a decent person. As a manager, it is your job to manage her behaviour, not just roll your eyes (which is incredibly disrespectful).

      Reply
      1. AmosBurton*

        The *point* is to be disrespectful. The former employee *deserves* disrespect. I think that sometimes here we overidealize a “manager”, and to think that somehow a manager can’t act outside the standard norms for dealing with “good” employees. There are some employees who are so bad, the best thing the manager can do is to drive them out, whether by firing or other means if necessary. I’ve had bosses do similar things before to bad employees (who deserve it), and nobody lost respect for them. Nothing wrong with treating people who contribute well, and treating those who consciously act badly badly.

        The employee will be gone in 2 days. Nothing the manager can do will improve the employee’s behaviour, since it hasn’t in the previous x years. So why pretend this employee is deserving of respect when she has done nothing to deserve it? She’s rude (presumably to other employees), produced bad work (making other people work harder) and a drama queen making the workplace a worse place for everyone else.

        Nothing at all wrong in showing the employee that everyone is glad she’s leaving. Actions have consequences. *Her* actions have consequences. She deserves to see the natural consequences of her actions.

        Reply
        1. Colette*

          No, no, no.

          First of all, no one should ever intentionally be disrespectful to someone else at work.

          A manager has the authority to provide feedback, put people on PIPs, and fire them. A manager who doesn’t do any of that and instead acts like a spoiled child by rolling their eyes and “publicly smacking” their employees around is demonstrating that they are completely incompetent, and shouldn’t be in a position of power over anyone.

          Reply
        2. EventPlannerGal*

          I really, really disagree. I don’t think it’s “overidealising” to just expect baseline decent behaviour from a manager – the OP doesn’t have to treat her like the employee of the year, she just needs to be polite and normal for two days. This type of “she deserves it” stuff is really childish and is making a business interaction weirdly personal. This isn’t Mean Girls, it’s business.

          Reply
        3. Asenath*

          Being disrespectful backfires. You should always be respectful to other human beings because you are a decent person, not because they deserve respect. Your other employees are going to look at your behaviour, and think “How rude and nasty! Boss couldn’t even dredge up enough professionalism to treat Employee like a human being for two days! Boss will probably do the same or worse to me if Boss is in a bad mood sometime, or I make a mistake. I can’t trust Boss at all.” . And you’re assuming everyone else is glad Employee is leaving. Sometimes the worst employee has some good employees who are loyal friends and will react even more worse. Sometimes the enemies of the worst employee are decent enough people that they don’t kick others when they’re down, and don’t respect others, even bosses, who do that. So you actually could lose the respect of the employees you value and want to keep.

          Reply
        4. Scarlet2*

          “I’ve had bosses do similar things before to bad employees (who deserve it), and nobody lost respect for them.”

          Then you worked in some spectacularly toxic places.

          Reply
    2. Hiring Manager*

      Oh, God no. I would have zero respect for a manager that did this – it would make me wonder if they will let all the things they silently thought about me loose if I ever leave (and wonder if they think things that I don’t realize!)

      I’d have so much more respect for someone that tolerates them but is assertive in their final days. The “we’re not talking about that today” would be fine, but eye rolling and passive-aggressive comments about “non-employees” to an employee that’s still on payroll would not be acceptable at all.

      I’d actually question their management skills at that point – the time to manage them was when they were still reporting to you, and the time to roll your eyes about someone that reports to you is never.

      Reply
    3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I’ll join the nope express. If this advice sounds like a good idea, do everyone a favor and gift the toxic employee her last few days as PTO.

      Reply
    4. notacompetition*

      Wow, no, that’s awful. What that does is send a message to the other employees that you’re willing to publicly embarrass and degrade someone if they get on your nerves, instead of manage them.

      Reply
    5. Fashionable Pumpkin*

      My goodness, if I were a remaining employee I would think my manager was finally showing her own true colors, and that it was not a pretty sight. I would be supremely uncomfortable, and think that perhaps the reason the departing employee was leaving was because she had been suffering this kind of abuse in private interactions with the manager, and that this contributed to her perceived “toxic” behavior as well as her departure.

      I’d also think the departing employee was right not to give more notice, because who wants to be snarked at and verbally smacked around for 2 weeks?

      I hope these suggestions were made in sarcasm.

      Reply
      1. Gilmore67*

        Yeah… Agree. I would have some serious doubts about any manager like OP#1 if they did this to an outgoing bad employee. And like above poster would then have questions on how the soon to be ex-employee was treated by manager. Even if the ex-employee was a bad one, it does not allow the manager to treat them poorly.

        Don’t let them get away with things, don’t coddle them and so forth but managers need to be professional and mature in their day to day interactions with employees. Write them up, whatever.

        Privately say hoorah that employee is gone, turn cartwheels in excitement. But outwardly be professional.

        If I as the other employees saw my manager ignoring another one, doing the things stated, I would wonder who was really the problem here.

        Reply
        1. Colette*

          Yes, very true. If a manager acted like that, I would assume that they were the problem, not the departing employee.

          Reply
    6. Keymaster of Gozer*

      >> publicly smack her around a bit on her last two days <<

      The fact that you think that's even an acceptable line to say says you need to read a lot more of this site. That's pretty much a DO NOT DO for a manager: verbally OR physically.

      Reply
      1. The one who wears too much black*

        +1

        The language “smack her around a bit” caught me off guard in a way that I almost find hard to put into words. The only thing I can think to say to such language is that it’s never okay to suggest violence – hyperbolic or serious, verbal or physical.

        Reply
        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Definitely triggered off a part of my memories that I’d much rather never saw the light of day again.

          Reply
    7. D3*

      No, this is a good way to show your employees how unprofessional and petty you are. It’s a good way to show how poorly you treat people you don’t like. It’s a good way to act like an immature middle schooler.
      If that’s your goal, you’ll succeed at looking like an immature middle schooler.

      Reply
    8. Mental Lentil*

      Please don’t become a manager. And if you are one, don’t manage like this. It’s petty and immature.

      this is an implicit way of showing your remaining employees that you get how bad she’s been, and that while you value *them* (because you don’t treat them this way) that you don’t value *her* and her antics.

      Your team probably already knows she’s not a good employee. You probably do need to have a debriefing session with your team if she’s left a mess behind and you need people to clean it up, but that comes after she’s gone.

      Being a manager does not give you the right to treat people poorly.

      Reply
    9. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Ha, no. If I saw a manager I managed doing that, we would be having a very serious conversation about whether they were suited for the job, and I’d be leaning toward no.

      Reply
      1. AmosBurton*

        I understand your perspective, and those of the others who have disagreed, but one of the best quotes about what management is is from Peter Drucker:

        “Management is about human beings. Its task is to make people capable of joint performance, to make their strengths effective and their weaknesses irrelevant.”

        If one cannot make their weaknesses irrelevant, and their weaknesses outweigh what they contribute, then the job of the manager is to make them *gone*. Especially when they *choose* to be a detriment to the team (as in this case). Been a manager for decades, seen managers for decades, including some very good ones who did precisely as I suggested. One should not act badly and expect to be treated well for it; it isn’t the manager’s job to do this. I genuinely believe one can be a fine, fine manager and (at times) intentionally treat an employee poorly, when they deserve to be treated poorly because of their choice of actions, as in here. Different strokes for different folks :)

        Reply
        1. Reba*

          Ok, but the person *is* getting gone. There is no benefit to being an ass to them on top of firing this person! There’s only a downside, which is that your employees will all see you being an ass. The firing is the management; “hitting back” or being abusive is not a valid management technique and the message it will send to remaining employees is not the rosy one you seem to think it is.

          Reply
        2. The one who wears too much black*

          I’m having a hard time understanding how treating an employee poorly supports the business activities at all. I believe no one is entitled to treat people poorly, and I believe treating people poorly on purpose and being a good manager are mutually exclusive.

          These comments have me concerned.

          Reply
        3. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes, the job of the manager is indeed to get rid of them in that case, as I pointed out in my response. But you do that kindly and while respecting the person’s dignity, because no one good will want to work for you otherwise.

          What you’re arguing for — intentional cruelty from someone in a position of power — is truly despicable. Stomach-turning, really. Leave it here, please.

          Reply
            1. Keymaster of Gozer*

              >> Would you say I was being “cruel” for intentionally making somebody feel bad for being a racist or a sexist at work?<<

              There’s a vast difference between saying something like ‘that kind of behaviour/talk isn’t acceptable here. Can you cease doing it or do we need to look into disciplinary proceedings?’ and ‘you’re such a horrible, disgusting person for saying that and we’re all going to be so happy when you leave, the sooner the better’.

              Basically once you step into personal insults you’re no longer operating as a manager. You reprimand the behavior, not the person – and if somebody is already leaving you do neither (unless they directly ask you for feedback).

              Reply
            2. Des*

              In her response, Alison is actually demonstrating by example how to politely manage people who are offensive.

              Your choice of nickname of a character from the Expanse who lacks a moral compass and cannot relate to other human beings is no doubt intentionally telling.

              Reply
        4. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          The problem with this mindset is that you’re chasing her through the mud. She’ll be gone and you’ll still be muddy.

          Reply
        5. Observer*

          but one of the best quotes about what management is is from Peter Drucker:

          “Management is about human beings. Its task is to make people capable of joint performance, to make their strengths effective and their weaknesses irrelevant.”

          True.

          And you do NOT accomplish that by acting like a petty toddler.

          I feel bad for anyone who has to work with you. It’s ok to manage out or fire an employee who can’t behave. It is NOT fine to snark at people, make up excuses to freeze them out or any of the other tricks you recommend.

          Reply
        6. Broadway Duchess*

          “Driving someone away” or treating someone poorly isn’t managing, though. If someone isn’t performing, the task is to find out why and direct the employee on how to fix it. If the employee can’t or won’t, then the fix might be separating them from the job, but at no point does this require a manager to be a jerk. I think your interpretation of the Peter Drucker quote is woefully off and would encourage you to rethink it.

          Reply
    10. Des*

      If I was one of the remaining employees, I would lose respect for a manager who did that to someone who’s leaving because it would show they are a malicious person and I would never want to associate with or work with someone like that. It would make me reconsider everything I know about my manager as a person.

      Truly bad advice.

      Reply
    11. NotAnotherManager!*

      I can tell you from personal experience that this is not the case. I have a manager who has had an uphill battle with professionalism. They are very good at the getting-the-work-done and process improvement parts of their job, but they do sigh, eyeroll, and make snarky comments and, even when directed at the most unproductive, difficult people who are eventually coached out, it makes an impact on the staff and not in a good way. (To their credit, they have acknowledged the issue, taken coaching well, and have been on a major upswing since the issue has been identified – but we also relieved them of some staffing/supervisory responsibilities because of it.)

      First, it’s a signal to the rest of the team that they can behave that way towards people that they don’t care for because, hey, that’s the example that their manager is setting for them. Second, the idea that everyone on the team shares the manager’s opinion of a problem employee is laughable. Toxic team members can poison the well around them, and, especially because they typically do not have all the background information, the other members of the team can easily perceive that the toxic employee is being treated unfairly or picked on. People are not a monolith with a single perception of the situation, and something that is eyeroll-worthy to one person is going to be a good question to someone else (who is going to see that exasperation and feel that they cannot ask similar questions).

      Finally, no one “deserves” disrespect. If you can’t be respectful to your employees, even the worst of them, you have no business being a manager and are a liability to your organization. If the employee ever sues, every eyeroll, sigh, and snarky comment is going to reflect very poorly on the manager and the company in a deposition.

      Or, as my grandma used to say, don’t roll in the mud with the pigs – you get dirty and the pig likes it.

      Reply
    12. Cat Tree*

      Wow. I sure hope that you don’t currently manage anyone and never have the chance to. Honestly, I still feel bad for anyone who has the misfortune to work with you, even if you aren’t their manager.

      Reply
  49. Hirer*

    LW 2: I just want to say I completely agree with AAM’s response on this one. Our interviews are very similar to yours and we have a spiel we do at the beginning of every interview to more or less set expectations – we’ll also usually explain that they will have the opportunity to ask questions once the formal interview are complete, any time limits (we usually cap interviews at an hour, although we can easily get through the questions in 40 minutes, we occasionally get someone who just wants to talk endlessly). I’ve just come to expect similar spiels when I interview internally – it’s still useful because it gives you a sense of the hiring manager’s style and sometimes there are minor differences, especially if something has been introduced as a best practice but isn’t formally required.

    Reply
  50. several snakes*

    #2 – I work in the federal public service (not in the US) and we have a very formalized interview structure which includes that kind of explanation at the beginning, telling candidates how the interview will be run – the interviewers alternating questions, that there will be pauses for writing, etc. When I was interviewing, I really appreciated that transparency. It made it easier just to focus on my answers (we also got questions 24 hours ahead and were allowed to bring notes!).

    Reply
  51. MissDisplaced*

    #2 It’s weird, but I also have a terrible reaction to Lysol for some reason, but not to other cleaning products. I’m not sure what is in Lysol in particular that does it, but it definitely gives me asthma like symptoms such as wheezing, and I get to where I cannot catch my breath–almost anaphylaxis. I found all of this out when I was 12 years old and used to clean motel rooms.

    You should definitely say something if you’re allergic to Lysol. There are many other products that can be used instead for disinfection.

    Reply
  52. Ravenahra*

    LW 2 I also get migraines from certain strong smells but, I use Vick’s vapor rub to block it. It won’t work if you’re allergic to menthol, of course, but otherwise it does help. Putting some under your nose will block other smells. I first heard about it reading something about doctors and nurses who keep camphor and vapor rub around to use specifically when dealing with a medical issue that has strong stench such as a highly infected wound. I got some and my desk neighbor and I regularly used it pre-pandemic because we’re both allergic to certain smells and some of th other coworkers on our floor would use them.

    Reply
    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Oh man, memories of working in the labs and trying to find something to block out the smell of formaldehyde…

      (Menthol, mint etc. gives me migraines. In the end I used disluted neroli oil – it’s kinda like oranges but not as sharp)

      Reply
    2. D3*

      It might block your PERCEPTION of other smells by overpowering them, but it most definitely doesn’t block those smells – and the molecules she’s reacting to – from entering the body. And because it opens up nasal passages and increases air flow, it might actually make her more likely to have a reaction to the particles in the air.
      Bad advice.

      Reply
      1. Ari*

        Yeah, your upper and lower airways are still gonna react to foreign particles and react, even if you trick yourself into only smelling the Vicks. Also, if you have scent sensitivities or allergies in general, Vicks is most likely going to make it worse.

        Reply
  53. IEanon*

    It honestly never occurred to me that the “ask the same questions, pause for note-taking” model of interviewing in higher ed was off-putting or strange. I’ve really only interviewed for higher ed/federal gov positions, and my interviews have been the same format for both types of jobs!

    I really like that I know all applicants are being asked the same questions overall, with smaller digressions or personal questions to dig into the candidates’ individual responses. It feels very equitable, and also helps me to prepare, since you know the gist of what will be asked after you’ve done a few.

    My interviewers have always thrown in a comment at the start like the one OP3 is considering.

    Reply
    1. tra la la*

      Yes, this is where I fall, too. None of this has ever seemed weird or strange to me because it’s just what the field does. The spiel is helpful even to an experienced interviewee. But if someone on a search committee described the process to me as “weird” or “strange,” when it’s really just a normal interview, I think I’d feel patronized — this is the norm for the field. (“Our interviewing process is a little weird” would have me braced for “if you were an animal that was given a Myers-Briggs test, what would you be??” and not just normal “we’ll be taking notes so there may be a pause”).

      Reply
    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      I’m on the flip-side of this – I’ve only interviewed in private industry and being read a set of questions and having someone write down what I say would be a huge change (and very awkward) for me. I prefer having a conversation with someone – for one thing, it helps people relax a little and feels less like an oral exam or like some less-than-ideal answer they’re going to kick themselves for later is preserved for posterity. My questions for candidates are generally the same, but sometimes they answer a later question as part of a response for another, and I’d feel silly repeating it later or asking someone a question based on a deeper dive into another candidate’s resume. I also interview a lot of new graduates, and they are almost always so nervous that I spend a few questions just getting them to settle down and feel more comfortable. I would not want to write down the icebreakers and their responses.

      It’s entirely personal preference, but I’d definitely need to practice for a higher-ed/government interview since it’s entirely foreign to me. My spouse has done both and found his government interview to be stilted and a little weird compared to his private sectors, but he got the job so it must have gone okay.

      Reply
  54. Arctic*

    I was once in a meeting held the day before a co-worker’s departure. So it was her last meeting with the group. And she said goodbye and how nice it was working with everyone. And the department head said nothing. Not one thing. Not even “bye.”

    It was so awkward. I liked both the head and the departing co-worker but I acknowledge there were issues with the co-worker and really divergent views on what her role should be. But the refusal to just acknowledge her was so out of bounds and made everyone else in the room so uncomfortable. It made me respect the department head a lot less. Saying “best of luck” isn’t phony.

    Reply
    1. Virginia Plain*

      Yup, “best of luck” or “wishing you every success in your new job” are my go-to phrases in a leaving card for someone I don’t like. And it’s most sincere – I wish them luck in their new role, so that they do well and enjoy it there and don’t come back! And also because I mostly don’t wish people ill even if I don’t like them, as them having success elsewhere doesn’t affect me any more.

      Reply
    2. Observer*

      Saying “best of luck” isn’t phony.

      True. Also, it doesn’t matter if it is. Honesty and integrity are HUGELY important. But petty cruelty that serves no purpose is an equally big deal, while being POLITE in a way that does no one harm in NOT a big deal.

      The kind of “honesty” that the OP is claiming is not honesty, but excuse making.

      Reply
      1. Allonge*

        Exactly. Some people seem to think that honesty has to mean that every word they say is 100% deeply felt, otherwise it’s phony or whatever.

        There is a reason that societies developed polite formulas. Nobody has a problem saying thank you and good luck when an excellent person is leaving, but that minimum is owed to everyone – that is why there is a formula for it, a template if you will. Fake!honesty is not more important than having reliably civilised relations in a workplace.

        Reply
  55. WantonSeedStitch*

    OP #3: I am in a similar situation. Most of the questions that we ask could apply to anyone, but they do come across as rather stilted because we tend to use the “suggested language” for the questions that HR provides. We usually explain this up front in interviews by saying, “Some of these questions may sound a little weirdly formal, because we’re using a set script to make sure we treat each candidate equally.” And I talk about my note-taking up front too: “don’t mind my scribbling, I just want to make sure I don’t forget what you say when you’re putting so much thought into your answers!”

    Reply
  56. Rayray*

    I’ve been given the silent treatment during my notice period by a petty boss. It wasn’t anything that made me cry myself to sleep but it definitely only affirmed all the bad things I thought about them, ie- they are petty, childish, lack people skills, horrible to work for etc.

    Reply
  57. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk-ox*

    #1 reminds me of when I gave my notice at a retail job, where I was instructed to submit a letter of resignation to the GM rather than to my manager, and my manager didn’t acknowledge that I was leaving for my entire 2-week notice period. We worked different shifts most of the time, but she seriously never said a thing about training anyone, said goodbye…nothing. I probably should have told her that I was resigning before giving the GM my letter, but my manager honestly was the reason I was leaving…so I didn’t question what I was told because I really didn’t want to discuss resigning with her. (I was also fairly young and this was my first job as an adult.)

    That being said, even though she was terrible and I preferred working shifts where we didn’t see each other, it was still really weird to not have my leaving acknowledged even in passing. I was a good employee and routinely got good reviews (even from her), I was nearly universally liked…it was SO WEIRD and made me feel like there must’ve been some underlying bitterness about SOMETHING I’d done.

    Anyway, if you’re a manager, you need to be the bigger person. Also, maybe I missed something, but how was the way Rachel resigned petty? Just because she didn’t contact you on vacation? Maybe she didn’t know what to do in that regard? Or maybe it’s the week’s notice, but…sometimes that’s necessary? I don’t know; it kind of seems like your overall attitude about Rachel is unfairly influencing how she resigned. But I’ve never managed anyone, so maybe I’m out of the loop on something here.

    Reply
  58. jack*

    I just had an awful toxic coworker named Rachel quit and really thought this was about her, but the details don’t match up thankfully. I did end up pretty much ignoring her the last week, though we were peers and she didn’t report to me. She actively sabotaged me on her second to last day, so I can’t say I feel bad about that to be honest.

    Reply
  59. HarryV*

    Just love AAM’s response on #1 and what brings me back to reading this blog before it went viral. It is such as realistic scenario that most if not all managers have encountered and excellent advice from AAM.

    Reply
  60. Virginia Plain*

    OP#3 – it is absolutely ok to explain the format of your interview procedure. I work in UK govt where we use a competency based system, same questions for all candidates, and I have sat on and chaired interview panels. The booklet in which we make notes of answers has, in the chair copy, a list of bullet points which we MUST read (or paraphrase, as long as it’s clear) to every candidate at the start of the interview, which explains how it all goes. So how many questions, how much time we have, the fact that we make a lot of notes so apologies if we have to ask you to pause while we finish writing and for seeing the tops of our heads a lot, that we want to hear “I not we”. It’s so that the process is transparent and fair to everyone whether or not they’ve ever had this type of interview before. And new candidates into entry level posts seem to get the hang of it just as easily as people who have already done twenty years in the civil service. They will be told in advance what the competencies will be, and because we aren’t trying to catch people out, we say what the competency is we are looking to evidence, as well as the specific question. So perhaps, “OK our first question is, can you tell us about a time when you’ve used brushes to ward off a serious infestation in an otter; and with this question I’m looking for evidence of your knowledge of otter grooming equipment”. I don’t think you need to worry about it being condescending. Nobody wants to finish an interview realising they totally got hold of the wrong end of the stick throughout.

    Reply
  61. Exhausted Trope*

    LP4, a similar thing happened to me in oldjob many years ago. I had created a development template for project management. Colleagues in the department asked to use it so of course I sent them copies.
    I was laid off without warning one morning and sadly wasn’t able to take a copy of my template.
    I found another job in the field and really needed it so I asked a friend who was still with the company to forward me a copy. She did and no one the wiser.
    Bad optics? Maybe. But at that point, I didn’t give a f___. Still don’t. And no, nobody at oldjob made a peep.

    Reply
  62. Des*

    “what are your thoughts more broadly about minimizing interactions with toxic employees that you manage directly or are part of your division”

    If you’re not managing them who is? You have a responsibility to your other employees to manage your toxic employees. It’s your job.

    Reply
  63. Girasol*

    #1 Isn’t it a common practice to usher out a disgruntled employee who is leaving the company, and restrict them from the premises before they complete their final days, while continuing to pay them for the entire period? If this employee is causing more harm than good, couldn’t that principle be applied here?

    Reply
    1. Broadway Duchess*

      I’ve never known this to be common for someone who is resigning. I’ve only seen the escorting thing done upon a termination. YMMV, though.

      Reply
    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      It often gets applied to high-performing employees that everyone loves. It’s especially apropos for the malcontents!

      Reply
    3. Observer*

      This is not common practice at all. In any case, if the company decided to do that, that’s their choice. But that’s not happening, so the OP needs to deal with this like an adult.

      Reply
  64. Vanny Hall*

    On Question #4 about sharing work templates: I assume the question, and its answer, pertain to for-profit companies. This is so different for nonprofits. In the nonprofit world, it’s very common to share these kinds of materials. I’ve both asked for and provided them in many contexts. My own professional organization has a “bank” of policy documents, templates, rubrics, etc. that organizations contribute so others can copy or emulate them.

    In fact, I just got off an hour-long conversation with my counterpart at another organization in which I was asking for her advice and details about how she organized and carried out a two-year project, because we want to do something similar. It was generous of her to give me so much time, but not unusual. Some of us also serve on board committees of peer organizations too, as another way to “spread the wealth” of our own organizations’ hard-won experience and processes.

    Does the concept of “intellectual property” apply to nonprofits? Maybe it can’t, since nonprofits are all supposed to be in the public good. We still have products that generate income, but the notion of not sharing the tools that make us successful, or of preventing competition, is really anathema to what we’re about.

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Legally, yes, nonprofits definitely have intellectual property and can enforce it if they choose to! What can be different is the culture of sharing you describe (sometimes but not always, and even then there can be exceptions).

      Reply
    2. Colette*

      Keep in mind that any organization can choose to share their intellectual property. Sometimes it makes sense, when there is a common interest. For example, how to make the COVID vaccines is intellectual property; however, the owners can choose to make that property available to other companies if they wish (either via an explicit agreement or through making it publicly available).

      But it still wouldn’t be a good idea for a low-level employee to release it on the internet or send it to an external friend.

      Reply
  65. Carbovore*

    #3 – I agree with Alison’s points. I work in higher ed and conduct searches, interviews, hiring, etc. I employ both tactics of explaining in email to the candidate ahead of time what to expect as well at the top of the call/interview how the process is going to go. Part of my interview wrap-up (along with asking what questions they have for me or the committee) is telling them next steps. A lot of folks are so grateful for the interview to be over that they can often forget to ask, “So, what’s next?” or they might feel it’s presumptuous to ask (it’s totally not). So, I like to take the time to say, “Well, just so you know, we’re spending this week conducting a few more interviews, we’ll spend next week evaluating and making some decisions and you should hopefully hear from us by the end of next week.” This gives them some peace of mind about the process instead of staring at their phone and email and worrying over it.

    I also always tend to tell people that higher ed searches can be bureaucratic and lengthy so they shouldn’t take it personally if they aren’t getting immediate responses.

    Reply
  66. GovAnon*

    LW3 – This is the same at the government agency I work for. We start all our interviews with “To keep interviews fair we have a standard set of questions. We ask everyone these questions, and we are not allowed to ask others. We are also not allowed to ask follow up questions or clarification so please be thorough. We take notes on everything you say, so please don’t worry if there are long pauses.” and recently, with the transition to phone interviews “Please let us know when you’re done answering the questions.” We do this for everyone, even internally (I’ve given this intro and had it said to me on more than one occasion). I do find it very helpful, it tends to put people more at ease.

    Reply
  67. Atlantic Beach Pie*

    I managed a toxic employee who got away with all sorts of bullshit because he had a “special relationship” with my boss. When he gave notice it was one of the happiest days of my professional career. He spent his month-long notice period doubling down on rudeness, insubordination, and refusal to do even the bare minimum, to the point where even his special boss friend said that if he hadn’t quit, he would have been fired. On his last day, I organized a farewell celebration, ordered all of his favorite foods, and talked excitedly about how he would be missed, and how much fun he was going to have in his new job. Which he ended up being fired from 6 months later–ahh, Schadenfreude!

    Reply
  68. Toxic Avenger*

    OP 1, you seem like you’ve gotten lessons from my previous manager.

    At ExJob, after I had been there for about 2 years, we got an HR. Now, my manager was notoriously hostile (throw in any “ist” and she sure was it!), and had a list of stories and complaints from previous and current employees. Also, the Big Boss was recently ousted during the Me Too movement.

    Well, HR gets in and is relentless at trying to do a great job, and is meeting one-on-one with everyone in the organization (around 200 employees.) I try to focus on the Me Too stuff in our conversations, but she is trying to get me to say some things about my manager, who I have to work with. Well, she called me in for several meetings, so I finally start telling HR about some grievances. All of the sudden, my manager stops talking to me. She doesn’t speak to me when she comes in, she starts rescheduling and cancelling our check ins, and she eventually “changed my job description” so that I would now report to someone else, which was basically a demotion. Clearly, HR had talked to my manager about what I had said, and she responded in the most petty, Petty White, Petty LaBelle, and also career derailing way.

    I went to HR and I told them I felt like this was retaliation, and HR said it wasn’t.

    My ExJob was trash, though.

    Reply
  69. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

    LW1 – if the employee is so bad, just let her go and pay her in lieu of her notice for those days. You’re not going to get anything particularly useful from her during her notice period anyway. The time to deal with the problem was ages ago as AAM said; might as well sever ties.

    Reply
    1. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

      To clarify: I don’t mean “You can’t quit; you’re fired!” when I say let her go. I just mean accept the resignation and offer to pay her the one week in lieu of notice. It’s not uncommon (though it might not be the norm in LW1’s company). It’s very common where I work and it’s not meant as an insult.

      Reply
    2. Mental Lentil*

      Yep, I have used this before. It’s especially helpful if you think they’re going to salt the earth on the way out.

      A couple of them actually saw it as a nice parting gift. It was, it’s just that we were all the recipients of that gift. If they’re not contributing anything positive, this approach makes sense.

      Reply
  70. Anonymouse*

    I guess it’s because the person in Situation #1 is a manager and there is a power differential. Kind of like being the older sibling. ‘Cept you don’t get a choice in that one. You do choose to manage people so being the bigger person comes with that.

    I’ve never been a toxic employee, but as I transition out of my role soon I kinda wish people would ignore me and just let me go quietly. Not be disrespectful to me, just not do or say anything other than what’s necessary. It’s all so . . . fake politeness. When the situation was anything but polite. The fake politeness is more bruising honestly. The last two days of eighteen months could be the straw for some people.

    So I feel the manager on this one. I wouldn’t do it myself, but I understand wanting to. And I wouldn’t feel bad if my manager did ignore a toxic person, though I’ve never had one who would. Sometimes one is fed up with the politeness. A toxic person is that way to the whole team, not just the manager. Fortunately, I guess, I’ve witnessed fewer toxic people and more toxic situations.

    I do the polite thing because it’s in my moral code, though I’m not at all at peace with this moral code. But that’s how I’m wired so I inwardly cheer for folks whose code differs and they can be real.

    Reply
  71. Ben Marcus Consulting*

    LW2: I would suggest the use of UV-C lamps for disinfecting her office. UC Berkley has shown that just 30 seconds to disinfect surfaces and air when exposed to UV-C light. I’m not sure I can post here, but the study is a good read and explains how to determine what type of bulb to purchase to cover a specified space.

    I’ve outfitted my partner practices with them at a cost of ~$50 per exam lane. Each one is on a smart plug with a 60 second auto-off timer. After every patient, the technician will vacate the room and turn on the lamp. 60 seconds later the space is disinfected and ready for the next person. She could have smart switch by her door that lets her trigger the lamp anytime she needs to go use the copier, restroom, or otherwise leaves her office.

    It’s a solution that’s effective, eliminates your risk of an allergic reaction, and reduces dependence on chemicals.

    The last one is especially important as it’s an issue for everyone, not just those with allergies. Products like lysol are developed with a specific use-case in mind, their safety data is developed with that use case. When you excessively clean an area, you’re using more than intended and that could have consequences ranging from skin irritation to trouble breathing. When constant sanitation is needed, you need to use engineered for that specific use-case.

    For our exam lanes, we could use diluted bleach, but this would cause skin irritation after 2-3 patients. Instead, we use products like caviwipes. Build-up isn’t so much an issue and it’s meant to be used repeatedly on surfaces that people touch.

    A side benefit, UV-C light is great for controlling mold. If you have a damp closet or bathroom that you’re constantly battling mold, you could run one of these lamps a few times per week to keep it in check.

    Reply
  72. Ben Marcus Consulting*

    LW4: Do you have consortiums available to you? It’s super common for materials like this to be based off of one-size-fits-all templates available from groups meant to help your industry as a whole grow. You avoid recreating the wheel and you increase the chances that there are other methods that could be more favorable for your new team.

    Reply
  73. LL*

    LW 2 – can you be around the smell of rubbing alcohol? Perhaps you could suggest to your supply order-er that they purchase alcohol wipes for disinfectant purposes instead of lysol/scented products.

    Reply
  74. Chocolate carrot*

    LW2 you can ask for an accommodation but other tenants aren’t allowed to clean their offices is unlikely to be one that will be accepted. It’s more likely to be – your employer needs to permit you to work from home.

    As others have said you need to have an alternative cleaning product you can request the other tenants use – not request they don’t clean their office. Requesting that she clean in the evenings is useless if she wants her office clean for when she is going to work there.

    I highly recommend you don’t describe Office cleaning as “sanitation theatre”. Yes advice has changed as knowledge of Covid and Covid transmission has improved. But we also have a lot of knowledge about how people learn – and we know suddenly changing the narrative isn’t effective (look how the switch from masks have no benefit or increase your risk of contracting Covid to everyone should all wear masks went). Cleaning surfaces doesn’t increase the risk of Covid. Cleaning surfaces does have other benefits. People were taught that cleaning surfaces was important for public health and safety. You won’t be able to just suddenly turn that narrative off with the new knowledge that transmission via surfaces isn’t an important pathway (remember when airborne wasn’t?).

    Reply

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