is my team too much of a clique?

A reader asks:

I’m writing this question based on feedback received from an exit interview.

A woman in her mid-30’s left my department after a little over a year. When giving her notice, she commented that she was taking a job closer to home (she had an hour commute each way some days) and had wanted to go back to a position closer to her original line of work. We were sad to see her go.

HR sent me the results of her exit interview and wanted to discuss “the cultural problems on my team.” In the exit interview, this employee mentioned that my staff leaves at lunch one day per week to go to a brewery for a beer run (which is true, I allow this) and she was often the only team member in the office. She said her fellow associates were unwilling to assist her and spent time on social media, creating an exclusive environment (she was more quiet, older than the 20somethings in the position, and not as much into social media).

I don’t feel like this is a cultural issue; I think this was her not being a good fit for our team. I do allow my staff to go to breweries as long as they have coverage. I encourage my staff to be friends in and outside of work and I cannot monitor relationships. At no point did the employee bring this to my attention during our informal one-on-ones. She was extremely quiet and kept to herself, and she didn’t mingle with the team because of her commute and commitments she had (she’s married with a kid and had recently bought a house).

Am I in the wrong or is the former employee just out of touch with how a team of professional millennials works?

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

{ 227 comments… read them below }

    1. LDN Layabout*

      It’s been years and this is still one of the letters that gets my anxiety flowing when I read it. Mean girl cliques are terrifying when they only have social power, when they involve your boss, it’s horrifying.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        It’s a helpful check for those who think bullies sit around thinking “How can I crush someone’s dreams today, for sport, and then linger over the memories for yeras?” vs “I’m doing what’s normal, and that person just didn’t fit in.”

        1. LDN Layabout*

          There’s someone at my old job who was popular and had a really abrasive personality (she’s actually the reason I always side eye comments that act like tone is always a sexist issue, male or female this person should have been spoken to) but she was in a relationship with someone close to the management team and if she liked you she’d only be blunt and snide instead of catastrophically mean if she didn’t.

          I’m 100% sure she thinks she’s a wonderful co-worker whereas I would genuinely avoid taking any future jobs if she were involved.

          1. Nelliebelle1197*

            She likely was not as popular as you perceive- she probably had most of your coworkers afraid of retaliation!

        2. Dhaskoi*

          I’m reminded of the other famous AMA letter that touched on bullying where between the letter and the LW’s engagement in the comments three things became apparent:

          1. The LW had genuinely hurt another person quite badly.
          2. The LW was sincerely and blissfully unaware of how they’d hurt the other person and hadn’t given them a moment’s thought until they met again.
          3. The LW had cruised right past several warning signs that they’d hurt this person.

            1. Hlao-roo*

              I think Dhaskoi is referring to “I didn’t get a job because I was a bully in high school” posted on April 25, 2017. The letter writer posted in the comments under “OP”

                1. Hlao-roo*

                  Good catch, I just did a deeper dive on the comments on the original post and she posted a few times as “OP” and many more times as “Kfox (OP)”

              1. LilPinkSock*

                Well. I just read that entire saga, and it’s mind-blowing to me how absolutely oblivious that OP was about the harm she’d done—to the point where she drunkenly harassed someone at a restaurant and *still* blamed that person for her misfortunes.

          1. GammaGirl1908*

            I do want to quibble with point 2 here in both letters. I think in both cases, the LWs were pretty well aware in the moment that their behavior was hurtful (in both cases, that became clear in the follow-ups, not in the neatly whitewashed first telling). Each time, they just thought that A) it wasn’t all THAT bad and the target would quickly get over it, and, more importantly, B) the other person’s low-level hurt feelings were way less important than getting what they wanted. Hurting someone’s feelings was minor collateral damage vs their goals.

            Notably, both LWs also felt that the target kind of deserved it, which was what led them to assume they’d quickly get over it. They both had convinced themselves that the target had started the fight. This LW thought her target was a show-off who was underqualified to surpass her at work (which the target clearly was about to do, in no small part because she was not focused on popularity and beer). The high school bully thought her target was annoying and weird, and they were competing for the same boy and the same friend group.

            1. Jacey*

              I really appreciate this comment! Bullies definitely don’t sit around laughing maniacally like cartoon villains, but they are often aware they’re causing harm. It’s just that they’ve justified their right to do so.

      2. On Fire*

        Speaking of, what happened to the worst boss voting? I apparently missed it and can’t find it.

        1. Persephone Mulberry*

          Alison inadvertently included a boss who was a LW, which she historically excludes from consideration, so she pulled the poll for this year.

      3. yala*

        Was the boss part of the clique going to the lunches that the employee was excluded from? Or is it just that she didn’t seem to notice how excluding those lunches were?

        Either way, it never feels great to be the only one in your department who’s not part of A Thing.

    2. HLK_HLK45*

      For me it was the karmic updates that made this so memorable. I wish Alison had hyperlinked to those too.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        yeah there was one where she said she thought Alison would be on her side, like solidarity among managers, that’s why she wrote in here! It was epic!!

        1. Roscoe da Cat*

          OMG! That is what I remember and then she was fired and still wouldn’t back down and then she wrote back years later to say she now understood?

          At least, I seem to remember all of this happening

          1. ecnaseener*

            Not years, just a few months! It was nice, she had done a lot of therapy and soul-searching and decided never to be a manager again.

      2. Person from the Resume*

        I thought that too but then realized the updates link right to the original with her response there and that makes it really easy for people not to click to the website that is paying Alison for her writing.

        1. Anonymous Hippo*

          The updates here were crazy. How a person can at the same time produce sub-par work and also go above and beyond and make everyone look bad is astounding. :eyeroll:

        2. Meep*

          I am almost 27 and consider myself a pushover, but that is a yikes for me! She knew there was a workplace harassment problem and wanted to punish the reporter? Geebus.

        3. Anonnon*

          “ she didn’t have anything beyond a bachelor’s degree (most of us were smart and dedicated enough to get a masters)”

          Oh my god. Obviously literally everything class and privilege and entitlement and more is wrong with this but I mean I was set to attend a masters program and the reason it didn’t work out is extremely traumatic. This is beyond the pale.

          1. BubbleTea*

            I couldn’t work out whether this meant that they GOT a Master’s degree, or just that they COULD have done. I can’t decide which one would be worse, to be honest.

          2. Hippo-nony-potomus*

            I was most appalled by what preceded that: saying that the bullied employee’s years of experience didn’t matter. There are a few times when you just need the degree – usually professions involving a license for which that degree is a prerequisite – however, in most circumstances, an extra ten years of work experience trumps a master’s. Advanced degrees are great! Personal growth, deep-diving a subject, intellectual stimulation. (Can I go back to college?) However, they don’t make you a better employee.

        4. Hlao-roo*

          There was another update on October 12, 2017 (search “update: is the work environment I’ve created on my team too exclusive?”) where the OP went through a lot of personal growth.

        5. Hippo-nony-potomus*

          What? I thought I read something that said that the team bullied the employee; the higher-ups liked the bullied employee’s work; the young manager thought that she could just run her team however she wanted to and didn’t need to listen to her higher-ups or customers. That can’t be right? Did I just land in a comic book?

          1. Hippo-nony-potomus*

            Then there’s this: “I’m not getting the lesson that I should have learned. I should not have been fired because someone didn’t like how she was being managed. She left on her own terms. It’s not like I fired her and if I did, I work in an at will state so I could have gotten rid of her at any time. But I’m not that mean.”

            Pointing out the painfully obvious, if you’re in an at-will state, your managers can fire you for no reason whatsoever, but forcing out a talented employee is certainly more than enough reason to show you the door.

          2. Candi*

            And in the final update, there’s a redemption arc. So yes, very literary in a compelling way.

    3. Important Moi*

      There was an update. I am amused with how innocuous this (the initial letter) was.

      Whether or not it was fact or fiction, the entire saga and the comments were an interesting read.

      1. Heidi*

        I suppose they wanted to make this letter more generalizable than the real letter, but it truly was the tip of a dysfunction iceberg. Remember this gem from the OP?

        “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.”

        On the bright-ish side, the OP eventually recognized that she should not be a manager.

        1. Becky*

          That portion is just so mind-boggling to me. “She’s good at her job and it makes us look bad, so SHE is the problem.”

          1. Heidi*

            As was doing her job, apparently.

            Here’s another amazing one: “I thought if my team and I froze her out, she would leave. I called it un-managing.” OP really saw nothing wrong with that.

            1. Too many hats for this salary*

              Un-managing. Right. Excuse me while I recover my eyes from inside the back of my skull.
              In certain parts of the real world, we call that constructive dismissal.

          1. CoveredinBees*

            I’m a quiet person and had this charge leveled at me. Apparently my quietness meant I thought I was better than everyone else.

            1. allathian*

              Yup, this has happened to me too, and I’m in a culture that’s generally considered more introverted than most. Granted, it’s never happened in my current job, but then, I’m not particularly quiet here (rather the reverse, I have to watch myself to ensure that I don’t run roughshod over the more extreme introverts in our meetings).

            2. MCMonkeyBean*

              I still remember when I was a kid, I met a girl who lived down the street from me because I was babysitting a child who had been playing with her little sister. We hit it off right away and became friends. She told me other girls in the area had told her that I thought I was better than them because I went to a private school, but I was just very shy! :(

        2. Artemesia*

          It was really hard for me to believe that the follow up that included this was real. It reads like what, say a DIL would write in the voice of her MIL — i.e. someone laying out a line of reasoning that they find absurd to get feedback from a column. It is hard to believe anyone even if they secretly believed this would not know that it made them sound incompetent.

    4. EPLawyer*

      Yes it is. And the comments on the original. Then the update where it turns out the employee was assigned to this team for a specific reason by upper management, and rather than give the person that work, the OP gave it to someone else. Then the update to the update where there was some realization this was not all good.

      1. Anhaga*

        Whaaaat?? I need to go back and read that thread now. I didn’t dig into those comments enough, apparently.

    5. Magenta Sky*

      The thing that really stands out to me about this letter is that there’s at least one company out there that doesn’t completely ignore negative comments in exit interviews. Who knew?

      1. Distracted Librarian*

        I came here to say this. It’s so refreshing to see an HR department actually follow up on exit interview comments.

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I feel like the exit interview was kind of the last straw here. If you look at the updates, it becomes pretty clear that other managers at OP’s company were already questioning the way she was managing the employee in question, and having a record of it in the employee’s exit interview just solidified the evidence they needed to take action.

      3. Antilles*

        To be fair, there’s probably a couple things at play that made sure they paid attention to the comments:
        1.) The departing employee was specifically hired to cover a critical role that upper management really wanted covered. So even if they normally ignore negative comments, the grand-boss would probably be interested in what happened.
        2.) The items that the departing employee cited weren’t the normal things that often get brushed off. HR might ignore an exit interview complaining about low pay or long hours or too much bureaucracy, but these are issues that could turn into major legal liabilities for the company if things go wrong – an associate sleeping with someone directly senior to them, alcohol at work, bullying an employee on social media, etc.

    6. Curtis E Interview*

      The original post was what brought me to Ask A Manager in the first place (I think someone I follow on Twitter posted it in horror because they couldn’t believe what they’d just read), this one holds such a special place in my heart.

    7. Marthooh*

      I’d forgotten how mild the original letter was. LW sounds a bit misguided here but entirely reasonable.

  1. Pickaduck*

    Thank you for this response. OP, you really are not making a great name for “Millennials” in your broad generalization. I do hope HR has luck addressing this with you.

    1. HB*

      There was an update to this letter. I’ll post a link in the next comment, but you can google “Update: is the work environment I’ve created on my team too exclusive”

      1. LDN Layabout*

        I think there was a second update as well where the OP…was mildly less terrible and had actually experienced some growth?

        1. Reba*

          Yes, they went to therapy and it sounds like it helped! It’s very difficult to have one’s self-perceptions challenged in a major way like this, so it was great to hear from the OP that they were getting through it and making some positive changes.

        2. Person from the Resume*

          Yes. These were some of the best possible updates.

          Update #1: Company responds by deservedly firing the LW/manager who doubled, tripled, and quadrupled down in comments and the update by elaborating on how much of a terrible of a manager (and employee) she was.

          Update #2: LW reflected, started therapy and realized how wrong she was and will strive to do much better in the future; although, she doesn’t think she’s suited for people management and will avoid it.

          This letter may have been “buried in the archives here from years ago,” but I’ve never forgotten it.

          1. just another bureaucrat*

            I agree. Honestly, this was an OP who really (eventually) took to heart what was being said and learned from it in a way that was powerful. This is a huge thing and a really good thing. It’s hard to make that much change in your life and we are not all perfect to start with so showing growth is great. This is an OP that I’d love to hear from every couple of years.

          2. Nea*

            “We all thought employee was a snobby showoff for being good and efficient” is indelible. As is “employee might be amazing at her job but she’s totally a loser for not having a higher degree like me.”

            1. LC*

              Right. If degrees were all that counts they would assign work based on level of education and call it a day. Instead, they actually want proof that a person is capable of making practical application of the things learned at school, or, by way of on the job experience.

              I’ll tell you one thing, if they did the former she would have been exposed far sooner!

          3. Observer*

            although, she doesn’t think she’s suited for people management and will avoid it.

            I actually found that to be a good outcome. And it made me think that she’s likely to do well. Because recognizing an area that you are simply not going to be any good at, and avoiding it, is a good way to avoid many types of mistakes.

        3. Persephone Mongoose*

          Yes, it was a great update and I really wish Alison would’ve linked it here. Ideally, I’d like all the revisited letters to have update links going forward, but especially in cases like these where the LW has a great turnaround that’s not represented here.

        4. Akcipitrokulo*

          Yes. First update was… not great. Second showed growth but sorry it was a hard lesson for them.

      2. MusicWithRocksIn*

        Oh man. The update took it form ‘misguided manager doesn’t understand culture fit, it’s ok we can fix this’ to ‘dumpster fire, no fix here’. I forgot how dramatically that escalated.

    2. Glad to be Gen X!*

      The funny thing is that Millennials are generally defined as being born from 1981 to 1996 so some millennials are already 40. I think millennial is overused to mean someone young without realizing they can be in their 30s or even 40, so in this letter they’re all millennials.

      1. Justme, The OG*

        Yup, came here to say that. I’m a 40 year-old Millennial, so unless this letter was originally written a long time ago then they’re all Millennials.

        1. Littorally*

          It was from 2017…. so, yeah. I’m an elder Millennial but not *that* elder, and I was in my 30s by then.

          1. Becky*

            In 2017, Millennials were between the ages of 21 and 36. OP describes employee as mid-30s, so presumably between 35 and 37. So, yeah, employee is likely a Millennial herself. And even if she wasn’t…those two or three years into Gen X don’t really make that much of difference! There CAN be a gap in life experiences and behaviors within these arbitrary generations –many older Millennials have more life experiences in common with younger GenXers than with younger Millennials–but some of those gaps are just differences in age and maturity that will happen when you lump all people across a 15 year time period into one group.

      2. Rachel*

        I remember back in 2020 at the very beginning of the pandemic and people were complaining about “millenials” still going on spring break and partying during COVID lockdowns. Even two years ago, I doubt there were many millenials in that group. I’m an old millenial turning 40 this year; I spent “spring break” of 2020 scanning my kids’ homework assignments and emailing them to their teachers. Wild times!!

        1. TootsNYC*

          so many people use “millennial” to simply mean “kids these days.”

          It’s sort of an odd label anyway, because the socio-economic classes will have very different experiences.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            People seem to use it to mean “people born around the millennium” which would make sense if we hadn’t already used the word to mean something else.

      3. Lauren Havelka*

        Another Millenial in her 30s, and was when this was first posted. The media needs to stop making it a catch all term for anyone young. Many people called Millennials now are actually Gen Z, not Millennial.

        1. ArtsyGirl*

          Yep same here. I am in my mid-30s and was grading college papers rather than running wild on spring break.

      1. Hosta*

        Even when I was a young millennial, I would have hated this. The jobs I liked best as a 20 something had well defined roles, managers that would kindly but firmly tell me if I messed something up, attainable standards, and never poured work on me because sunshine else wanted to go have fun.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Yeah, it very much sounded like “we are the cool workplace!” As someone who’s worked in tech, and had friends, family members, and countless colleagues all working in tech through the late 90s-2000 dotcom boom and all the subsequent “booms”, the very idea of a cool workplace gives me the creeps. In my mind, it translates to a mix of “blatant workplace violations, harassment etc going unpunished” and “here’s a foosball table, a bar, and a cot, now you have no reason to go home ever, so you shouldn’t.”

      2. Boof*

        Clearly someone hated it – in the updates it came out that someone reported bullying snapchats, and it wasn’t the employee who left

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          And that made me wonder if they were as a team really such good friends, or if there were other people who wanted to be more like the quiet employee who was forced out (and considered themselves somewhat hostage to the “party atmosphere” the team culture had descended into).

    3. Katie Porter's Whiteboard*

      I couldn’t agree more. The idea of brewery runs or being tight friends with my coworkers isn’t my idea of a good time.

    4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Yeah, that was an odd choice of words considering that Older Coworker was also a millennial.

      OP has shown a lot of personal growth and development in the updates, though! Hope she’s in a better place in life now. I was very impressed.

    5. Nanani*

      Especially since the woman who left would have been a millenial also? Maybe Xenially depending on your definition. Millenials: We haven’t been the new kids for a while now

    6. MustardPillow*

      Millenials are entering their 40s soon. Can we collectively agree to start harping in gen z already? Except, not really.

    1. TrackingCookieMonster*

      Oh, *that’s* where “I thought that as Ask a Manager you would side with a manager” came from?

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          I’d forgotten about that, thank you for posting it. I’m glad the OP got some help and is in a better frame of mind. It takes courage to do what she did.

    2. bunniferous*

      Thanks for the link-I thought I remembered there was more to this one. Reader, there WAS.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Honestly in the first update all I could hear was rage-anger. They were so close to the situation they couldn’t see how what they were doing would impact people around them. It sounded like the managers wanted to change directions and grow the department and the employee that got run out was part of the new direction process.

        By the second update it sounded like the anger faded and they had recognized their part of the problem and were committed to making better choices going forward. It’s the sort of update that we hope to get here – things ultimately changed for the better.

    3. agnes*

      I really appreciate sharing a bit of the dialogue. Alison does a great job modeling good management practices in this exchange. I find that many managers do not know how to give feedback on the what they perceive to be “personality” issues or what they consider to be “subjective” issues related to the interpersonal or cultural aspects of an employee’s behavior. This exchange–and all the previous posts around this letter—could be an excellent role play training exercise!

  2. urguncle*

    To be clear, your 30-something employee was a millennial. Millennials were born starting in the mid-80s. We are approaching 40 in some cases. I wish people, in many cases employers, would remember that the passage of time leads to aging and that “millennial” is not shorthand for “young person.”

    1. Glad to be Gen X!*

      Agree, I just posted something similar! People have taken to using millennial to mean young and “boomer” to mean old without actually paying attention to what years those terms actually refer to.

        1. Glad to be Gen X!*

          Yes, I was just thinking of this the other day. Latch-key kids even in adulthood. ha ha

      1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        Some definitions:

        Millennial – someone younger than me (who I disapprove of)
        Boomer – someone older than me (who I disapprove of)

        -Signed, another Gen X

    2. not a doctor*

      I think when this was written, we Millennials weren’t quite there yet. Or maybe just the oldest of us.

      1. Littorally*

        Nah, the letter was from 2017. The first 7 years’ worth of Millennials would have hit the big 3-0 by then.

      2. Victoria*

        Pretty sure this one is only about 5 years old, so the 30-something “older” person on the team was a millennial too.

      3. Orange You Glad*

        I was thinking the same thing but then found the original letter. It’s from 2017. That mid-30s woman is a millennial, she was then and still is now.

        1. HB*

          Brookings institution puts the cut off for Gen X/Millennials at 1981/1982. So someone who is 35 in July of 2017 might be a Millennial (born in the first half of 1982) or might be Gen X (born in the second half of 1981).

          (I use the Brookings Institution definition because it was the first one I encountered, and as someone born in 1981 I identify more with Gen X than Millennials in terms of my references / experiences which is probably common for people born at the edges of generation cutoffs.)

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            I have recently started hearing the term “Xinneal” (sp?) used for the people born from second half of 1980 to the first half of 1983. It seems to be a combination of the Generation X and Millenials, and it’s a good reference I think because for some of us, we sort of belong to both groups, depending on what reference we hear.

            (Yes, I group myself with these folks.)

            1. MustardPillow*

              Basically, did you spend your childhood dying of dystentary on the Oregon trail? If yes, you’re a xennial.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      It’s hilarious because even if you were born at the millennium, you’d be legal drinking age now!

      But “millennial” was intended to mean “those coming of age” or graduating around the millennium, not being born.

  3. viscouscycle*

    It’s peripheral to the main point and Alison’s advice/take is (as usual) spot in, but for what it’s worth a person in their mid-30s IS actually a millennial.

  4. Prefer my pets*

    Oh man, this one was banacrackers. For anyone who missed the original, the OP added info in the comments that really showed how egregious the situation she created was & then there was an update where her company took as aggressive of action as you’d hope. Definitely worth going back to the originals on!

    1. Bernice Clifton*

      Yes, and it also became clear that 1) the brewery runs were the least of management & HR’s concerns about the LW’s management, and 2) the LW did not foster a safe environment for the employee to bring this up in 1:1s.

    2. Chauncy Gardener*

      Oh my goodness. Bananacrackers is kind. I really, really hope the OP has learned from this. All I got from the updates were that she had dug in her heels and went full defense mode. Holy cow!

  5. AppleStan*

    Remember this letter is revisited. There were updates to this (if I remember correctly, there were two???) and they were…intense. I believe HB above is going to post links to them.

  6. PJH*

    Am I in the wrong or is the former employee just out of touch with how a team of professional millennials works?

    As pointed out elsethread, the former employee was also a millennial.

    And, arguably, she was more professional than the members of that team.

    1. Meep*

      I am a tail-end millennial (26 – younger than OP at 28 at the time) and even I think this is bananas and in no way professional. I am trying to figure out how she even got the job. The only light I can see is someone had a concussion at the time.

  7. Justme, The OG*

    I just read the original letter, and the comments, and the first update. YIKES. But the second update was very good. I hope they’re doing well now.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I remember a number of commenters suggesting that OP’s tack was going to get her in trouble with the higher ups. Before that came out.

  8. Just my 4 cents*

    WOW…toxic manger who deserved to get terminated! From the update, “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. … I also thought that her years of experience were irrelevant; she didn’t have anything beyond a bachelor’s degree (most of us were smart and dedicated enough to get a masters) and her experience was in a different subset of insurance.”

  9. LizM*

    “I do allow my staff to go to breweries as long as they have coverage.”

    But if the “coverage” is the same person every time, that’s a problem.

    1. MusicWithRocksIn*

      Plus, it didn’t feel like the ‘coverage’ was volunteered at all. If ‘coverage’ is I, your boss is telling you to watch the office for an hour while the rest of us go out and party, then that is heaps of unfair, and something no sane person could push back on with the same boss.

      1. LizM*

        I just read the comments on the original letter. It sounds like coverage was “Hey, all of us talked and planned a trip to the bar. You need to stay here so we have coverage.”

    2. LizM*

      Oof, I just read the update. Letter Writer knew exactly what she was doing. I hope she eventually learned from this experience.

    3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Yup – when it’s always the same person holding down the fort what you have isn’t a team, but a clique with their sacrificial victim already chosen.

    4. anon e mouse*

      Also, having worked at a place where boozy Friday lunches were tolerated, it will create cliques eventually given a sufficiently large team, pretty much no matter what. Some people don’t drink. Some don’t like day drinking. Some don’t like doing things that are “wink wink nudge nudge”-okay but not explicitly encouraged. It’s just a bad idea.

  10. Warlord*

    I just looked up the update to this, and wow is it insane. The original letter is quite tame in comparison.

    OP, bless your little heart.

  11. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

    When I started reading this, I thought “Oh dear God there can’t be another one” – I’m very relieved it’s a repost!!

  12. Sabine the Very Mean*

    Alison, I didn’t specifically request it but did you reach out for an additional update this year or last? I would love to know if she’s still growing and reflecting.

  13. pcake*

    So every week everyone goes for a beer run, leaving the only non-drinker stuck in the office covering everyone.

    That sucks. To make it fair and even, a different employee should be left in the office each week, and the woman who didn’t want to go on the beer run should be offered the opportunity to make her own coffee run or other break. Leaving her the only person always filling in while everyone else goes and has fun? Perhaps once a month everyone should have gone for a coffee run or cake run, something even non-drinkers could do, but the way this was done was very exclusionary. No wonder she quit.

    Btw, there are younger people who aren’t into social media, and I know several 70 year olds who can’t get enough of FB and twitter. Perhaps if being into social media is a job requirement, that should be mentioned in the ad or at least in the interview.

    As far as everyone on a team being friends inside and outside of work except for one person? That also sucks. What if the replacement needs a second job or takes care of a relative with a health problem, so doesn’t have time to socialize even if they wanted to? It sounds like from the OP’s POV, that’s fine.

    To me, this isn’t a team of co-workers – it IS a clique.

    1. fposte*

      It wasn’t even a non-drinker thing. It was the OP and her old team going and leaving the new kid behind.

    2. mw*

      I believe it was noted that the entire team was fired and one of the reasons was drinking on the job (in one of the updates, the OP defended it saying they weren’t actually drinking “at work”). So those beer runs weren’t, “hey, let’s run down to the brewery so we can pick up a 12 pack to take home. Those beer runs were, “hey, let’s go have a couple beers during lunch and then come back to work.” Also in one of the updates claimed they were trying to get earn the business of the company that owned the brewery. The company that the OP worked for was a firm owned by a Fortune 500 company, not some small time start up. No surprise that these “beer runs” would be against company policy.

  14. staceyizme*

    “HR thought that there might be a problem based on an exit interview. Here’s all the reasons why it’s not a problem, (that are actually reasons why it is”). Teams can be close, sure. But “I cannot monitor relationships”, “she’s at a different stage of life with a kid, long commute and house” etc. doesn’t indicate as much self-awareness as defensiveness. The person leaving did LW a big favor, because this kind of culture can go from too insular to wholly closed off very quickly. Manage by the numbers, perhaps, rather than by the feels. (Admittedly, this team may be very high producing, so that last statement is a guess.)

  15. EricT*

    I have to point out that a person in there mid 30’s is also a millennial, so doesn’t feel right to say she is out of touch with a group of professional millennials when she is one herself.

  16. Future Cat Lady*

    I’m glad this letter is a repeat of something I read a while ago; I’d hate to think this style of management was gaining popularity.

  17. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

    So what should the LW should have done if they were not a toxic bad manager? If you just happen to realize that your team has gotten cliquey while you were focused on other things, and you want to make room for more diverse points of view and a more work-focused approach?

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Alison has gotten letters like this. Where manager didn’t realize that the group was divided into camps because everyone had their own spheres, and limited interactions with each other. Like, “Bob and Sally do X” or don’t do X, even when there’s a call for all hands on deck.
      It takes a new person/procedure/process coming in to shake up the precarious office ecosystem.
      Suddenly the manager discovers that Bob never does X, Sue only does X, Mary will not do X, but says she does, but Joe just does her part. And now people are coming to the manager pointing fingers and blaming each other.
      And Alison replies, “you need to shut it down.”

    2. fposte*

      That’s an interesting question. I think there could have been a parallel universe version of the OP who realizes she’s overinvested in her old team to the point where she’s freezing out valuable new talent and manages a course correction. That course correction involves: shutting down the brewery runs; giving the new talent the work she was supposed to get; setting the model by publicly giving the new talent credit for her work, and shutting down complaints about the new talent or the changes from the old team. The line is “I made some bad mistakes that were bad for all of us, and now I’m correcting to be a fairer manager.”

    3. Nanani*

      You could stop the beer runs during office hours, thereby stopping the problem of the same person being stuck with coverage every time. They can go to the brewery on the weekend if they want.
      You definitely back off from encouraging friendships outside work, which is overstepping.
      You hold everyone to the same high standard, with no “it’s ok if this person is on twitter all day but not if that other person does”.
      You definitely don’t let work be assigned by friendship, like by having the most popular people pick the choicest tasks.

    4. Irish girl*

      One of the issue that came out in the comments was a SnapChat on company phones that some one reported to HR rather than the manager. The Snaps were making fun of the employee and rose to bullying. A non-toxic manager would have dealt with that and put a stop to the behavior. The OP did not and wanted to retaliate and move the employee who reported to another team.

    5. RagingADHD*

      The thing is, none of this was actually an accident.

      In the update the LW admitted that they intentionally sabotaged the employee (and the company’s overall strategy in hiring her) and did everything they could to drive her out. Primarily because they didn’t want her to advance to a senior level beyond LW, even though she came in with more experience and was supposed to be an advisor to the team.

      If a manager is actually managing relatively competently, it’s not going to get this bad. This situation got so bad because the manager deliberately enabled and fostered it, and turned a blind eye.

    6. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      You could tell them not to talk about social stuff in front of those who are not included. Treat all workers the same regardless of whether you personally like them or not. Any team building exercises are to include everyone, or at least there should be a variety of activities so that it’s not always the same person being left out. Make sure everyone gets to contribute when planning activities whether for work or socialising…

  18. Nea*

    I legitimately and sincerely hope that “My Employee Wasn’t Respectful Enough About Not Being Paid” reads this and all the updates. Because they both start out from the exactly the same place: “She didn’t behave how I felt she should have behaved and that’s her fault.”

  19. I should really pick a name*

    A side note:
    Does “beer run” have a different meaning to some people?
    To me, a beer run is one or two people running out to bring back beer for a group whereas this seems to be the entire group going out (and possible drinking while out?)

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      That confused me, too. That might be regional thing. My town a beer run means you are going to buy it. When I read the letter, I had an ah ha moment. She means they went for a liquid lunch. And they left the new person behind. Every time.

    2. Sir Nose d'Voidoffunk*

      My old town had a restaurant/store called Beer Run, which (in addition to the great beer selection) did a really good brunch.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      The theory is that people go to the local small brewery to get a few cases of this week’s small batch, and then have a boozy lunch in the attached pub. (As I recall, LW et al were convinced this would cause the brewery to hire them, so these were all ways to bring in new business.)

      1. mw*

        I wouldn’t be surprised if the LW was putting these lunches on a company card or expensing them either, as it was being done to “try and generate business”

    4. LMB*

      I think they are going out a beer break during work hours. Which in and of itself is odd—I’ve worked at and heard of companies (albeit 10+ years ago) that might have in-office beers availability late on Friday afternoons or something, but I can’t imagine regularly/frequently going out to drink in the middle of normal work days openly and with permission from management. Afternoon coffee runs are normal at work, but I’ve never heard of a “beer run” other than you’re at a party, beer is running low, and someone “runs” to the liquor store to get more.

    5. GreenDoor*

      In in the Milwaukee area (BrewTown!) and if you’re going to a brewery here it’s to take a tour…get free samples….or eat/drink at the brewery’s in-house bar/restaurant. If all but the LW are going to a brewery, where I come from, it’s not a traditional “run” as in going to a store and bringing a supply back for everyone else.

    6. mw*

      Same, beer run is going to buy it. When I read this version of the letter, I didn’t see what the problem was, outside of the leaving one person at the office. Not until I read the original and updates did I realize that it was turning lunch into happy hour.

  20. LMB*

    Why does this manager think icing out certain team members is just how a modern business with millenials works? They are focused on the social activities (the “beer runs” and social media communications) instead of the actual problems, which are (1) team members are not supporting one particular team member with work and (2) as a manager they desperately need inclusion training for the reasons Allison points out. It’s good that HR got involved here— many HR departments would not necessarily respond to this. And these employees are going out drinking during work hours with the express permission of their manager? That seems odd to me, but regardless, the LW is missing the point that they don’t actually have “coverage” while the team is on these “beer runs” because the employee in question did not feel comfortable being the only one left to do the work. It does not surprise me that the employee in question did not raise these issues with the manager because it seems clear this manager promotes an exclusionary environment and would be unwilling to reconsider the “culture” they have developed.

  21. Really?*

    This was my introduction to AAM.
    And ironically, the woman they excluded was also a millennial and is probably at 40 by now.

  22. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    Can I just say (In addition to everything that was said about this letter over the past 4 years) how impressed I am that the unraveling of this ridiculous workplace clique (and the subsequent education of the OP) all started with an exit interview? We are so used to seeing exit interviews as a formality, where any feedback you may provide promptly goes into the circular file the moment you leave, so no point in saying anything constructive. I was blown away by how well OP’s workplace handled this feedback that they were given. This gave me hope.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      “I imagine I’m leaving for the same reason that the last 11 people did, and staff has turned over twice in a year.”

      It seems this company responded to exit interview information from the first person to leave, rather than try to convince the 18th person to quit that they really cared about figuring this out and it’s just a head scratcher.

    2. LMB*

      Yes!!! That is some good HR. And specially to follow up on this type of inclusion issue specifically. I was going to say they may have sensed there was an potential age discrimination issue, but the employee wasn’t over 40 so it doesn’t seem like they would be concerned about potential legal issues.

      1. Wintermute*

        maybe but if you’re in HR and someone is age discriminating against someone for being 5 years older than them you can bet your bottom dollar they’d be way, way worse with someone who is protected.

    3. Mirve*

      Since the person was hired to expand a new revenue area in particular and had a dotted line reporting to someone else (info from first update), the exit interview may not have been the only thing that triggered it. For instance, perhaps the person had been more willing to talk with their dotted line manager than the LW.

      1. Observer*

        That’s true. But they clearly WERE listening specifically to what was said in the exit interview. They mentioned that she had brought up the beer runs in her exit interview. Also, based on the timeline, it’s pretty clear that while HR and the OP’s boss must have already had a sense that there was a significant problem, the exit interview was what kicked it up to a focused investigation.

  23. 2cents*

    Weirdly, I had never come across this one before and wowzers. The update. Wowzers. Like Alison, I’d be wondering if this is real because this has to be the less self-aware person I’ve ever “seen”. It would be great to have an update from the other side of the story – I’ll choose to believe that the lady is soaring high in a company that deserves her!

    1. Heidi*

      I’m wondering if there is a list of AAM legendary posts somewhere? With links to all the classics so that new readers can get up to speed and know what we mean by leap day employee, liver boss, cheap ass rolls, Guacamole Bob, dress code interns, and whatever we call the one where the guy ghosted his live-in girlfriend and later she became his boss.

      1. 2cents*

        That would be amazing. Something similar to the “new here?” section over at Captain Awkward where she lists the classic posts.

      2. Heidi*

        Wednesday confrontation boss, spicy food stealing boss, graduation boss, and bird phobia car accident would round out the top 10.

  24. Sabine the Very Mean*

    “Dear AAM:

    I work for in an office that I can only describe as some strange experiment where they allow middle schoolers to run things. I don’t know if I’m in some sort of hidden-camera show and there’s an audience somewhere laughing at me and placing bets on how long I stay, but I’ve never experienced anything like it.

    The “manager” appears to be the queen of the cool kids and the others are her minions. I’m 33 now but started here when I was 30. I frequently come in to find people snickering in whispers, quacking at each other (?), and drinking mid-day with the boss. There are inside jokes about how old I am and how I need to run along to bath time before it gets too dark for me to drive. Then they all run off to the bar together at 3:00pm.

    The weird thing is, my boss clearly likes how I do my work and seems very pleased with it in general. But it seems she’d be happier if I were drunk while doing the good work I do?

    What should I do?”

  25. Cheap Ass Rolex*

    “ I do allow my staff to go to breweries as long as they have coverage.”

    … if one sole staff member was stuck behind doing everything, then no, they did not have coverage.

  26. Roscoe*

    I’m honestly of 2 minds on this. As I have been the “odd man out” before in a number of ways. I have been the only guy in a department of all women. I have been the youngest in a mostly older department. More recently I’ve become one of the older people in a mostly younger department. And I can’t really tell where the “fault” lies, if there is any.

    Unlike Alison, I didn’t take “I encourage them to be friends in and out of work” as pushing for “real” friendships, just encouraging them to get to know each other. Granted, I can’t really assume what OP means, but that is how I read it. So, based on that, I’m not ready to place blame. The beer runs… I mean, again, this can vary based on what that means. Is this just a local brewery that is 5 min away and people are going to grab a 6 pack for the weekend? Or are they going there and drinking and coming back tipsy?

    Finally, while I don’t think OP should use this experience to inform her hiring decisions moving forward, its also possible that this woman just didn’t really fit in, and didn’t want to. I’ve worked in a group of people around 10 years younger than me. While as people, I had no issue with them, I also didn’t really have much in common with them nor did I really have much of a desire to do much more with them than work. And that should be fine. Its possible that the way the group evolved just wasn’t a situation she wanted to be in anymore, but that doesn’t mean how the group evolved was bad, just not her ideal situation. I find it interesting the pushback that this is getting since so many on this site seem to be very much of the mind that “I come to work to work, not socialize”

    1. Roscoe*

      While I stand by my above points, I did see that someone posted her update, and YIKES, with that added context, she was pretty awful

    2. Arctic tern*

      “I’ve worked in a group of people around 10 years younger than me. While as people, I had no issue with them, I also didn’t really have much in common with them nor did I really have much of a desire to do much more with them than work. And that should be fine.”
      Is it indeed fine? I am in the similar situation. I am 3 month into a new job in a new country, I am older than the rest of my team, I am the only foreigner/first-generation immigrant/non-native speaker in the whole company, I am a quiet introvert, and for all of the above reason it is difficult for me to socialize with my team outside of work. I am wondering if it will come up during my upcoming performance review in the form of “interpersonal skills do not meet expectations” or something like that.

      1. Roscoe*

        I mean, I think it depends on how you work with them. Most rational bosses aren’t going to ding you for not socializing with people outside of work. However, it may not look great if you don’t socialize with them AT work. Even with the language barrier, I’d suggest making an effort to seem friendly while there. But outside, no, that shouldn’t be a problem.

  27. Junebug*

    I wonder if everyone on her team was really fine with the culture. Someone reported the Snapchat.

  28. Meep*

    “As long as they are covered”. So by Susie who just walked out the door and is only covering because she isn’t “in the clique”? Sound about right.

  29. RJ*

    This letter and the updates that followed were perfect examples of two things. One, that not everyone is meant to be a manager and they can cause much unnecessary workplace drama and alienation when they manage based on their preferences and prejudices. Two, that when exit interviews are done and used correctly, they can change a company’s culture.

  30. Delta Delta*

    When I saw this pop up, I thought, “oh, geez, it’s this letter.” I remember this and the update (which was so cringey) and I really wonder if the OP ever considered another update. This one had a whole lot of yikes.

  31. Rosacolleti*

    Mid 30’s, OMG, that’s ancient and ancient people just hate being asked to join colleagues to lunch!
    Seriously, if your team are going to lunch en masse and not inviting her, that’s just awful and sad, but also the definition of a clique.

  32. Aneurin*

    “We were sad to see her go.”

    Re-reading this letter after having read the original & updates, this is the sentence that stands out most for me, because it was so clear that the OP & team were actually pretty glad to see the back of this poor woman!

    1. Boof*

      Yeah, not sure if LW was trying to sugar coat things at first, then let the truth flow after she was fired, or if after being fired she was just flailing for reasons to blame the ex employee for their (really very self-imposed) woes, but it’s interesting in later letters LW said the exact opposite; they were trying to get the employee to leave because they weren’t part of the LW’s clique!

      haha, this letter does not reveal the true depth of high school mean clique that was revealed later at all

  33. ecnaseener*

    I forgot about the update! Can’t believe this LW had the nerve to frame this as an innocent case of someone just not fitting in, only to later admit “I thought if my team and I froze her out, she would leave. I called it un-managing.”

  34. Mastadon United*

    Did anyone else catch that the ex-employee said when they go to the brewery, she’s “the only one left in the office”, and then LW said “I do let them go to the brewery as long as they have coverage?” Ugh. I can perfectly imagine the mindset of “oh, janes a square and can stay behind and watch the office while we make a beer run”!

  35. Paperdill*

    This is something I am experiencing at the moment.
    I am 40, have kids, a mortgage, a husband and work part time and have paused my career development atm to focus on kids. The rest of my team are early 20’s, new graduates, living at home, dating and working full time.
    Of course they have more in common and of course have more opportunity to bond and to meet outside of work. But it’s really getting to me how often (daily? Twice daily?) they’ll all suddenly disappear if for coffee or lunch together, they organised the entire “decorate the office for Christmas” thing together which ended up with everyone having their elf costume photo on the wall except me, they whisper right next to me, they help each other with work and they pack up and leave together at the end of the day regardless of what anyone else is up to.
    I’m not a shy person – I chat, I offer help with work, I ask if anyone wants coffee when I got to get, I ask about people’s weekend.
    It’s not that I want to be besties with everyone (to be completely honest, sometimes I have to Google some of their phrases to work out what they mean – “YWAH”?) and I’m not on tictok. But it would be nice to not feel quite so isolated and alone all the time.
    It’s been a rough couple of years for me, profession-wise. I had to step down from the specialization I had been in for 15 years due to my part time status (and currently going through 2 kids being diagnosed with ASD/ADHD) and am now stuck doing very generic work that even the new-grads are moving on from. So this situation is really further bringing me down and I can empathise with this employee as to how much this junk can really affect a person.

  36. DJ*

    Yes I’m concerned that the LW was OK with staff going to the brewery for socialising if the office was covered but didn’t pick up on it always being the same person and acting on this. Also LW encourages friendships amongst her staff but did nothing to ensure this staff member was included i.e. not have to be the one to cover the office, organise different lunchtime activities seeing staff member’s long commute and family responsibilities impacted on after work activities (morning tea or lunch time activities often suit those with long commutes and or family responsibilities who can’t stay after hours)
    Hopefully the departing staff member has better pay, conditions, obviously a shorter commute and much better team mates.
    The staff member probably felt too embarrassed to raise her concerns. I remember raising a concern at a team meeting years ago about those missing out when someone had a celebratory lunch because someone had to cover the office/counter. I stated it positively by suggesting could the person the celebratory lunch was for take a 2 hour lunch so all could attend i.e. cover the office an hour then attend the 2nd hour/vice versa. The response was the person may not have the time available and they felt “really bad” about those who missed out. My response was well if you want good team morale and yes it was really bad for those that did miss out and did nothing to generate good team feelings. Also often the lunch would go for the whole 2 hours but yet the same person was expected to cover the office for the whole 2 hours.
    2nd example in a different job, discussing with my manager some being excluded from being invited to the pub, feeling wouldn’t work to suggest they invite me next time and thus suggesting we organise a drink after work inviting EVERYONE. This I advised would include those who are excluded and would also model better behaviour without causing the negative feelings generated around making a complaint. Manager decided to raise this with his manager who balls it up.

  37. Quickbeam*

    As someone who just retired from a job with a massive coverage issue, I had a lot of feelings about this letter. Year after year I was everyone’s go to coverage person. I was able to make it to retirement but I laid out the issues in my exit interview.

    It’s awful to be the invisible odd man out. I tried to ask my manager to even things out but got the “team player” pep talk. I hope my former manager hears what OP heard here. An office culture should not be exclusionary.

  38. Mama Sarah*

    Can anyone share the second update? I seem to recall the LW does see the error of their ways…
    We have a group of friends that meets after work for a beer run. We literally go for a run and then have a beer. It’s super fun and was often my only social activity (beers were outdoors and various paces made for descent social distancing) during the pandemic. So it took me a second to realize the manager was condoning beers – without running – at lunch! Drinking on company time is a hard no for me.

    1. Filosofickle*

      Not going to post the link to save Alison the hassle of moderating it, but it’s in a comment above by Becky time stamped January 4, 2022 at 1:50 pm

  39. Puppet*

    This letter had two updates, in the latest one the LW admitted they’d been wrong and was in therapy. Why doesn’t Alison mention the updates, as she always does? Need for drama?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’ve never posted the links to updates on letters included in my Inc. posts, per my agreement with them. They want people going to their site to read, not mine.

  40. Lizzy*

    LW truly makes me want to gag. My heart goes out to that employee. I am so glad she left and I hope she found a job with a good manager.

  41. Lizzy*

    LW is the kind of manager who gaslights people and makes it seem like they are crazy / creating problems that don’t exist. This one really hurt.

  42. LilPinkSock*

    LW, I’m a professional millennial. The clique you’ve enabled and the overall culture aren’t “the norm” or acceptable. Good on your former employee for moving onward and upward to a healthier situation.

Comments are closed.