employee said she was leaving and has been replaced, but now doesn’t know when she is going to leave

A reader writes:

I am hoping you can help me with a dilemma I’m currently facing. My small nonprofit organization has been going through some staffing issues lately, and we recently had two employees leave abruptly due to family issues. My direct report approached me and our CEO two weeks ago on a Wednesday and said she had received a job offer and would be giving formal notice once she received a contract. She stated she would have the contract the next day, Thursday. We thanked her for the heads-up and began to plan to find a replacement. Note: I would not have replaced her if I could have avoided it, but this role is critical to our functioning and given our ongoing staffing issues it is nearly impossible to function without someone in that job (it is an admin role that handles customer service and account billing — something that is not easy to cover when you also have a full-time job to do).

On Thursday, I followed up with her about her notice and she said the contract was delayed and she would be signing it during her pre-approved time off (Friday through the next Wednesday). She said she wouldn’t be able to communicate with us if she signed the offer while on her trip, but her notice would start from the date she signed it. I said okay and asked her if it was okay to go ahead and post her job, and she said that it was.

Well, I had a lot of great interest in the job posting and was able to find someone, do two rounds of interviews, and offer them the job by that Friday after she got back from her trip. She was back in the office and had seemed irritated on Thursday when I asked her about the status of the contract. On Friday, before I made any offers, I approached her privately and let her know we had someone in mind for the position and would like to go ahead and offer them her job, but wanted to be absolutely sure that she was really planning on departing soon before we offered this job, and she said it was fine.

Well, the candidate has accepted the offer and starts training next week, and my employee is now upset because the contract has been further delayed and she doesn’t want to leave the organization yet! I feel that I checked in with her multiple times in the process to say “hey, this is happening, are you okay with it?” and got confirmation each time. I would love some advice on how this situation could have been handled differently and also how I can navigate my current employee’s hurt feelings and also gently negotiate an actual time for her to be finished at our organization. I want to take the best action that is fair to the current employee and our new hire, but I feel that I am now stuck between a rock and a hard place and have no idea how to proceed delicately. (If it matters, this employee produces very high quality work but I have had to have several conversations with about her attitude and communication skills. She has only worked for us for six months as well.)

This isn’t your fault! You did everything right — you checked in with her multiple times, asked if it was okay to post the job and got her confirmation that it was, asked if it was okay to offer the job to someone else before you did, and got a confirmation that she was indeed definitely leaving soon.

In theory you could have waited until you received her formal notice, but given that it’s a crucial role and she gave you a green light every step of the way as you looked for a replacement, you didn’t act unreasonably.

If I could advise her, I would tell her not to give her notice until she had that contract and a start date set up. In fact, this kind of situation is exactly why I tell people that all the time; things can get pushed back or fall through altogether and it doesn’t make sense to quit a job until the offer is both firm and accepted. (Of course, maybe she did have reason to think the offer was both firm and accepted — but it’s still risky to tell you she was leaving before she was ready to make it official.) Even after that, though, she had a bunch of opportunities to ask you to slow down or even stop. At multiple points, you made it really clear that you were seeking her confirmation before you moved forward, and each time she waved you onward.

At this point, she’s told you to hire her replacement and you’ve done so — with her explicit blessing!

You’re a small nonprofit so I’m guessing you don’t have tons of money lying around that you can easily put toward funding two people in one role or creating an additional position for her. If you did have that ability and there was a way to use the additional slot that truly benefited the organization, it would be something you could consider. If she were a long-time employee, I’d push you to really try to find a way to do that, at least short-term — or even to have her help out in another area, especially since you said you’ve had staffing issues that maybe she could be a temporary solution to (although obviously that would depend on the skill sets involved). But if it would be a big stretch for the organization to make that work, it’s hard to argue that you should do that for someone who’s leaving after only six months, or where you’ve already had to have several conversations about her attitude (at only six months in!).

So assuming there’s no easy way to do that, all you can really do now is figure out how long you can realistically keep both her and her replacement, and then be as up-front as possible in explaining that to her. For example: “I know you’re in a tough spot — you expected the other job to have come through by now and it hasn’t. I want to make sure you know we weren’t trying to push you out before you were ready to go, and it’s why I was careful to check in with you at each stage, and relied on your go-ahead when we advertised the position and then again when we hired Jane and set her start date. The situation we’re in now is that we don’t have the budget to have a lengthy overlap between the two of you. Normally we wouldn’t want more than a week of overlap but because I know you’re in a tough position now, we could stretch that to X weeks — but I want to be up-front that that’s the maximum our budget can afford.” (Try to make X as much as you can reasonably swing. You need to be responsible with donors’ money, but part of that is making sure you’re a workplace that treats people well when situations like this arise … because of simple decency, but also because it’s important for morale/retention/future notice periods that other employees to see that you’re trying to handle it decently.) Also, if there’s any other work you can offer her beyond that period (even if it’s part-time or very different from her current role), mention that too — she may or may not want to take you up on it, but it’s worth showing that you understand the situation she’s in and are trying to do what you can to mitigate it on your side.

And everyone else: Do not resign — even informally — until everything is finalized. This is why.

{ 219 comments… read them below }

  1. Justin*

    This is why you just can’t do it until it’s fully settled. I resigned yesterday the moment after I signed and received confirmation of my start date, but not a moment before.

    I feel for her, but it’s not a gamble you can take.

    1. Brightwanderer*

      Yes, and I feel like this is a good example for the people who think “my job wouldn’t treat be badly so it’s okay” – it doesn’t even have to be a case of anyone acting in bad faith! Just, if you say you’re leaving, then wheels are going to start turning in the company clockwork on the assumption you’ll be leaving, and you can’t always walk that back.

      1. CatPrance*

        “Hey, boss, I’m leaving. Okay, not yet. Sure, post the job, I’m leaving. Hey, not yet. You have a new employee? But I haven’t left yet!”

        OP is the only boss I’ve ever heard of who would all this to stretch out like s/he’s doing.

        What IS more usual is, “You’re leaving? Okay, we’ll say two weeks from today. Your new job offer hasn’t come through? Sorry to hear it; your last day is Friday.”

        1. OP*

          Part of my inclination to stretch it out is because of the necessity of having this role be filled almost continuously. However, I really didn’t think it would be this stretched out – based on every conversation we had, I got the vibe that she was already mentally checked out and would be leaving very shortly. I also wanted to do right by her and honor the fact that she tried to give me as much notice as possible. However, I have learned a lesson about trying to be flexible with folks when it comes to situations such as this. If something like this happened again I would get an end date in writing and discuss what the transition would look like in the first conversation, not after. I am a new manager (less than 1 year) and new to my higher-level position, and some lessons I have learned the hard way!

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            I will caution you not to overcorrect! If this was a longer term employee with a better track record, your bending over backwards would be much more warranted. It’s great to give people flexibility and grace when you can.

            The takeaway is knowing where your line in the sand has to be, and rightly it’s when a new employee is hired and ready to step into the role. Realistically, I wouldn’t tell you to do anything different. Maybe get the end date in writing, sure, official documentation of notice is helpful. But being flexible when things don’t go as planned and keeping your current employee in the loop on your process was all very good.

          2. Cthulhu's Librarian*

            I understand the desire to get your end date in writing, but really, you’re dealing with a set of aligning circumstances you aren’t likely to see again in the future – What if it had taken you a five or six weeks to find her replacement, but you had a piece of paper saying her end date was going to happen in two? You’d be ecstatic that her process was taking longer than anticipated, because you wouldn’t have had the gap in the responsibility, rather than trying to push her out because of what she had signed earlier.

            Or what if the new person turned out to be a dud? Someone who interviewed well, but couldn’t actually perform? You’d be grateful to be able to let them go easily, and still have your original direct report around while you tried to find or bring back one of the other candidates.

            What you might want to focus on is explaining what your hiring process looks like (“We expect it to take X weeks to fill your position from when we post it”), and what your expectations of overlap time would be (“We think it will take a week for a new person in your role to get up to speed, and are willing to let you train them for that long, but can’t keep you both for longer”)

            1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

              That’s what happened when my husband resigned because we were moving out of state for my work. He was happy to give them a flexible notice period (because we didn’t know how long it would take us to sell our house and move), but they needed a firm end date. We were still in town for over a month past his end date and they couldn’t find anyone to replace him, but his end date was his end date at that point.

          3. Trillian*

            Then another thing to take from this, is that if you haven’t already got an “X gets abducted by aliens” plan, i.e., a crisis plan, you would be wise to put one together. How will you manage if the employee in this role becomes seriously ill, or has a family crisis that involves them dropping everything.

          4. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

            Chiming in to agree with Eldritch Office Worker and Cthulhu’s Librarian. I think it makes sense to talk about end dates and timelines early on in the process, to make sure you’re both on the same page, but getting it in writing at the start is probably overkill. In this situation, that could look like making sure the implications for Jane’s end date were clear when you checked in with her about the next steps in the process. Like noting that if you’re going forward with posting the job, you’d be tracking to have a successful candidate chosen in X weeks and ideally joining Y weeks after that, which means that a reasonable last date for Jane would be Z.

            But as others have said, I don’t think you have handled this badly! It’s more a matter of minor tweaks than making big changes to your approach.

        2. June*

          Yes. Exactly. I don’t get this treat her well advice as she was being treated very well. She stated she was leaving her position. Employer took her at her word.

        3. Anxious one*

          Agreed, it’s time to give them an end date. Not wait for them to give OP an end date. I also have to add it’s probably confusing and a bit distressing to the new hire who may feel that you could decide to keep the other person instead of them. Be sure to reassure the new hire that is not the case.

      2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Agreed. Though I wouldn’t even say this is the job treating somebody badly. OP is just listening to Jane and believing what she says. OP is trying to do right by her staff and also to make sure that the organization has the people it needs in place to be successful.

        1. June*

          Yes. OP has been very very flexible. It’s not on the business to keep someone employed who has stated they are leaving and even signed off on their replacement. Any overlap is being generous.

    2. KRM*

      I felt a little weird giving notice at my last job before having the formal offer from my new one. But for me, I 1-wanted to take the month of December off and 2-realisitcally knew that if somehow new job fell through, I could get another job in the market in my area without much trouble. So long story short, it’s a calculated risk that some people can take if they have made sure to have savings and everything else they need.
      OP, you did nothing wrong and even bent over backwards for this employee, even with her short tenure and less than stellar attitude! It’s on her to to make sure she can bridge between jobs, not you.

      1. Lunch Ghost*

        Agreed– you don’t need to have the new job locked in if you’re committed to leaving either way. If you’re only leaving for a specific job and would no longer want to leave if it fell through, that’s when you need to be sure it’s settled.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      It’s so perplexing to me because that’s what employee ostensibly planned to do–submit her two week notice after signing the new contract. The extra one day heads-up wasn’t going to make a substantial difference, so why not just wait?

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Agreed – I get being excited but literally taking one day to realize things weren’t going to happen as smoothly as you thought is a harsh life lesson being learned here.

        1. OP*

          Based on her attitude during the conversation, I felt like she was just so excited about her new job opportunity that she couldn’t wait to tell someone. (She all but skipped into the room, and you can read one of my comments below about the general tone of the conversation). After hiring this employee I began to realize that she was very immature, and this is the biggest showcase of that IMO.

          1. Justin*

            This is what friends are for?

            I’ve been talking to a colleague about my search for a while, but not management. You gotta have backchannels. That’s too bad for her.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              I can muster up some empathy on the idea of a young person getting the second job offer of their entire life, and thinking “If they say I’ll have the contract tomorrow, I’ll obviously have it tomorrow!”

          2. Goldenrod*

            This employee just doesn’t sound that great, to be honest. I think you’ve been more than fair, and you will be lucky to see the last of her!

            She should have handled all of this better, and that is in no way your fault.

            1. JessicaTate*

              Strong, strong agree with Goldenrod. Reading all of your comments, OP, you’ve been more than fair and accommodating, she made some poor choices (that were further evidence of her communication and attitude problems), and you’ll be better off once she’s gone.

              At this point, I’d use Alison’s script to set a firm date and move on (to let someone else coach her out of that attitude problem). Good luck with the new hire! Congrats on finding someone you’re excited about so quickly.

    4. Maglev to Crazytown*

      I recently resigned and am currently between jobs (the new one expected I would want time off between in addition to my 2-week notice and was encouraging of that). I had signed the offer and started the onboarding paperwork before I formally resigned, but have still been a nervous wreck over the standard “contingent on results of drug test and background check.” Even as someone who has never once done illegal drugs, and with an existing security clearance… I was still paranoid until I got the official ” You are cleared to start!” Just got that last week, and I start next Monday!

      1. June*

        lol. I’m like that too. I’m the person who passes security at the electronic store and thinks did I stick a TV up my ass as I’m walking out lol. Congrats to you.

    5. Momma Bear*

      Also, if there’s a contingency (references, background check, drug test) make sure that is in order before giving notice, too. Old Job had someone quit and then ask to return after they failed one of those contingency things. They were able to come back because no replacement had been hired yet but they were on thin ice after that and no one trusted them to be invested in the project. It was not good.

      I agree that at this point OP needs to do the math and give the outgoing report an end date. She’s only been there 6 months and sounds like she spent a chunk of that job hunting. Whether or not she lands on her feet is not up to OP at this point. OP should be invested in their new hire. It stinks for the original employee but hopefully she’s learned something about waiting for a contract.

      1. Fran Fine*

        She’s only been there 6 months and sounds like she spent a chunk of that job hunting. Whether or not she lands on her feet is not up to OP at this point.

        This is a really good point. OP is bending over backwards to accommodate someone who hasn’t been there long, has a less than desirable attitude, and clearly has less than stellar judgment as well. I think I’d kindly tell her that we don’t have the capacity to keep her on once the new hire starts, wish her the best, and move on.

    6. June*

      Not fair what this employee is doing to employer. With this run around I would tell her that three weeks from the date you advised you would be leaving this company is going to be considered your notice period. And that’s generous.

  2. Schrödinger's Job Seeker*

    My employee handbook explicitly demands that all employees tell a VP when they start looking for a new job so that the company can plan to replace them.

    This is (one reason) why I will never comply with that.

      1. Xavier Desmond*

        I would imagine it’s not explicitly illegal but it is completely unenforceable. Unless your company is monitoring your home internet usage, it’s one rule you could just ignore.

      2. Observer*

        Oh, I’m sure it’s legal. But I doubt it’s enforceable. Sure, they could fire someone but that tends to happen whether or not there is a formal policy. But there is nothing else they could do about it.

        1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          if (and it’s a big if) the employer were a government entity, it might be able to be construed as compelled speech, which government entities theoretically aren’t allowed to do. I don’t know of any case law directly on point, but I suspect an argument could be made.

      3. Dr. Prepper*

        It certainly is legal, just there are no enforceable legal repercussions if you do not follow it in an at-will state.
        The only issue may be in a state that is not obliged to pay out PTO, they can use not following this policy as justification not to pay out your accrued PTO.

    1. Rachel in NYC*

      and I thought my employer’s new requirement that they had to check references before making an offer was bad.

      for a group of people who were already employed- everyone in my office had a LOT of opinions about this. and all the reasons why we didn’t like it.

      1. Jamie Starr*

        Why is checking references before making an offer bad? I know you can make an offer and say it’s contingent “upon satisfactory reference and/or background check” but I’m not understanding why requiring reference checks before an offer is bad. (I would not make an offer without checking references first unless there were extenuating circumstances.)

        1. Jenn*

          Because by doing that you’re alerting your candidate’s job that they are looking, which puts them in an awkward position with that employer. What if you come back with an offer that they don’t accept? Now their current employer knows they’re looking for another job and may react accordingly – not give them a promotion (that might have made them stay), choose them to lay-off because “they’re leaving anyway” or make their life miserable to make them leave to “get it over with.”

            1. Jenn*

              No, they don’t but (as Alison has pointed out) potential employers don’t have to limit themselves to contacting only the references a job applicant provides. We’ve all seen the letters from someone who is surprised/upset that a potential employer contacted someone at a current employer for more information. While ideally “current” reference will keep their mouth shut, sometimes they don’t.

              1. Jamie Starr*

                But again, the onus is on the job seeker then to not list a reference at their current employer. I think the chances that a decent prospective employer would go rogue and call a current employer out of the blue – without having them listed as a reference – are low.

                1. Ancient Grudge*

                  Tuh! Depending on the job and the industry that is BS. I applied for a job to get away from my legally hostile manager and workplace. Hopeful New Job connected with my then current manager BEFORE even reaching out to me. My then manager badmouthed me to the point of never even receiving a call or email from them. My then manager bragged about it to me in my review, saying “You’re applying elsewhere? I got a call from my friend at Hopeful New Job asking about you and I told them you don’t have what it takes to make it in this industry.” Ma’am, why did you hire me? Why did you keep me on for 4 years? Why are you piling on more responsibility if I don’t have what it takes?

                  All of that is to say that simply providing an accurate resume could be enough for unscrupulous managers to be Haters.

                2. GammaGirl1908*

                  Low but not impossible. The world is small. There have been letters even here about people who semi-innocently ask questions of a friend in the same industry about a candidate, and as a result the current job figures things out. Employers aren’t required to speak only to the people you list, and you don’t know who knows whom.

              2. ecnaseener*

                That’s not what this policy is saying to do, I assume. If the policy was “call the candidate’s current employer before making an offer” that would be a huge jerk move. But most employers get that they shouldn’t call current employers without permission.

              3. Pghde*

                Nope I think she was looking for more money. She wanted the OP to offer her something to stay. And when that didn’t happen she didn’t know what to do.

              4. allathian*

                Yeah. I’m so glad that I’m in Finland. Here it’s illegal for employers to use references that the employee hasn’t explicitly provided. It’s even illegal for employers to look at a candidate’s LinkedIn profile, unless the candidate provides a link in their application. Security checks are a different matter, but they aren’t handled by employers, but by our security services. The employer only gets informed that the candidate passes or fails the check, no details.

                OTOH, most employers have probationary periods of up to 6 months, or half the term of a fixed-term contract, so there’s time to find out that you’ve made a bad hire. During the probationary period you can quit, or the employer can fire you, with no notice.

            2. Rachel in NYC*

              ours require a current employer.

              yeah, no- its just awkward. it’s apparently an interpretation of some city regulation, apparently? no clue.

              but all of us had the issue that Jenn pointed out- that if you haven’t told your current employer that your job hunting, they’ll know now.

              1. Jamie Starr*

                That is awkward. But I also think that by the time employers get to the reference checking stage, they are planning to make an offer… At least that’s how my company handles it. We do interviews, decide who we want to make an offer to, then check their references, then make the offer. Only once in 10+ years have we decided *not* to offer someone a job because of a not so great reference. To be fair, though, the reference confirmed something that we had already noticed in the interview process (e.g. this person was late for everything). We don’t check references for people as a deciding factor between two candidates. Admittedly, my industry is also a bit smaller/niche so candidates are usually weighing multiple offers simultaneously.

                1. Jamie Starr*

                  oops, that last part should read, “candidates are NOT usually weighing multiple offers simultaneously.”

                2. Coder von Frankenstein*

                  So… if bad references (essentially) never cause you to not make an offer, and you don’t use them as a deciding factor between candidates, what’s the point of doing them?

                  Anyway, that approach would not make this okay, because “offer” is not “acceptance.” If the company makes an offer after outing the candidate to their current employer, that’s putting grossly unfair pressure on the candidate to accept.

                3. Jamie Starr*

                  @ Coder von Frankenstein. I never said we made offers despite bad references – you assumed that. We never had any truly bad references. (Which, if you choose your references right, should be the case! Why would you ask someone to be a reference if they would give you a bad reference?)

                  There are a lot of reasons to do them: provide additional information about the candidate (for example, how are they to manage? which is not a question the candidate can answer objectively); confirm the start/end dates and responsibilities of role; why the person left; etc.

                4. umami*

                  Likewise, we check references for the top finalist only. And we do also call their current supervisor, even if not listed as a reference. I’ve never had a finalist express concern about it, and I’ve never had a supervisor speak ill of a finalist. If they did I would find it suspicious if all the other references were good.

            3. Goldenrod*

              “References don’t have to be the current employer”

              They do where I work. (Large state university.)

          1. WantonSeedStitch*

            Do you require that one of their references be their current manager? I’ve had candidates who interviewed for a job with me, and we absolutely do check references before making an offer, but we don’t require that one of them be their current manager, and most people don’t list them as a reference.

          2. Anon for This*

            But people don’t typically use people from their current place as references, so that shouldn’t alert their current employer. Mandatory references from current employer, yes, those are horrible, but your current references aren’t typically people who would be bothered by this.

            1. No Longer Looking*

              Really? That would have been pretty difficult for me in my last job search, seeing as I had been at that job for 10 years, and only would have had one ex-coworker contact that I’d consider a good reference. My previous jobs were in a different industry and focus as well. Sometimes it just isn’t a viable option not to have current-job references.

              That said it wasn’t actually a concern for me anyway given we had two months notice of a layoff due to reorg, followed by a decent severance, so everyone knew our department would be job-hunting. Should I be concerned about that if I end up leaving my current position though?

              1. allathian*

                Yeah, I’m in the same situation, I’ve been at my current employer for nearly 15 years. It’s also my first employer after my career change, and I sincerely doubt that any of my former managers in my previous career even remember me at this point. Even if they did, they wouldn’t have anything useful to contribute about my qualities as an employee now.

                Two years ago I applied for one job, just to see what else was out there, and to get some practice applying and interviewing, and used my then-manager as my only reference. She gave me a positive one, I later heard. My previous manager had retired, and there’s a very strong culture here that it’s inappropriate to ask retirees for references, unless you become friends with that person after they retire. My former manager and I definitely aren’t on those terms.

                That said, moving from one governmental agency to another is common, and encouraged. In my org, managers are evaluated in part on how they help their reports advance in their careers. Giving positive references to good employees who are looking for a change is a good way to do that.

          3. KRM*

            You don’t have to give a reference with your current job though, and most employers understand why people don’t do that. Requiring that people who are hiring in YOUR company check references for applicants has nothing to do with alerting those at the APPLICANT’S company that they are looking. If the applicant has given a reference at their current company and it ends up hurting them, that can’t be your problem.

          4. CatCat*

            I’ve had something like this recently play out. I would never use my current boss as a reference for this reason. The vast majority of people don’t use the current boss for this reason.

            BUT the organization I was applying with REQUIRED checking with your current supervisor (bananas, I know, but it’s government and they do nonsense things sometimes). I called the hiring manager and said we needed to be on the same page on the pay if an offer were to come through before I would agree to this. Back and forth for a couple of days and end result was it was “highly unlikely” for the recruitment that they would come up from the bottom of the pay scale (I exceeded minimum requirements for the job). I let the hiring manager know it was against my interest for him to talk to my current supervisor then since I won’t accept an offer at the bottom of the pay scale. So I withdrew. Too risky.

            1. dresscode*

              Oh man, my best friend went through this- also for a local government job. Her grand boss was an absolute psychopath and tried to tank her offer. He said he would call everyone he knew at city hall and tell them not to hire her if she didn’t give him a 4 week resignation period. She did, but she was so scared of not getting the offer she didn’t sleep for weeks. That place was her hellmouth.

          5. Just Another Cog in the Machine*

            That’s why most people don’t list their current employer as a reference. Or, am I missing something?

            1. MsSolo UK*

              I don’t know if Jenn is in the UK, where current/most recent employer is standard. It’s usually an “offer subject to references” scenario and it’s mostly a check of employment dates to make sure you’ve been truthful in your application, rather than the full reference you might do before an offer.

              1. Holly*

                In the US we wouldn’t even call that a reference. That’s just employment verification and which is part of a different process that the employer may or may not do in addition to the reference check.

      2. Iris*

        It doesn’t really make sense to check references after giving an offer. There have been several letters on here from hiring managers who check references after an offer and find out not-so-great things about their new employee. Now, if they’re confirming current employment before an offer, that’s messed up. But I see no issue with checking references.

        1. Rolly*

          We make an offer conditional on reference checks. The reason is to make sure that both parties are agreed on salary, benefits, etc before using their references’ time (and perhaps revealing to a current manager the person is leaving).

          The references do not need to be stellar, just OK with no major red flags. We feel this is more respectful to the applicant and their relationships with references.

          1. Artemesia*

            this seems right to me — you negotiate salary etc and the applicant lets you know they will accept THEN you check references. They don’t have to give notice till that is completed. And if possible you avoid current employer.

      3. ostentia*

        What’s the point of a reference if you aren’t going to check it before making an offer?

        1. Lydia*

          It’s not unheard of to have an offer contingent on a reference check. That’s what my current employer does.

      4. The OTHER Other*

        If you require references, they absolutely SHOULD be checked before making an offer. This is part of finding the right candidate, checking them afterwards is pretty much like extending a job offer and then interviewing the candidate afterwards. If you find out something terrible in the reference check, you have to then fire the candidate (with all the potential liability that might entail) and start the whole (flawed) hiring practice over again, wondering whether you are going to pick another seemingly great candidate who turns out to be a lemon.

        1. Rolly*

          We make an offer conditional on reference checks. The reason is to make sure that both parties are agreed on salary, benefits, etc before using their references’ time (and perhaps revealing to a current manager the person is leaving). So we do all negotiation, etc so both sides know what the work relationship would be like.

          Then we use references to just confirm the applicant is OK. The references do not need to be stellar, just OK with no major red flags. We feel this is more respectful to the applicant and their relationships with references.

          It is rare that the references matter – in fact I can’t think of an instance in which we found anything different than what we thought. They are insurance against our being way off.

    2. Anonym*

      I imagine your company’s employees have a remarkable number of career opportunities simply dropped in their laps out of the blue!

      1. Generic Name*

        “This opportunity presented itself to me, and it was too good to pass up!!” = I’ve been job hunting for a while to leave this damn place

        1. Generic Name*

          (meaning this is what I hear every time I hear a departing coworker use this line. OF COURSE the vast majority of people who are offered jobs have been job hunting.)

          1. No Longer Looking*

            To be fair, once you reach a certain level, if you are on LinkedIn you will semi-regularly have headhunters or HR people dropping you notes there to offer new positions. *checks* It looks like I’m averaging one a month right now. I could imagine that eventually one might tempt me. My wife is higher on the food chain, and she gets to field occasional offers by phone as well.

            1. Alex M*

              Yeah, my mom gets headhunted a few times a year at least. She’s a highly experienced corporate paralegal, and they’re in short supply here. Local law firms are always trying to poach each other’s paralegals.

    3. Just J.*

      Why would you ever think about complying with this? So, like the LW if your offer falls through or it takes you weeks or months to find a job, you can become a lay-off target if you start hunting, tell a VP, and have them assume you are unhappy or undedicated? This is a hard pass. Plus it also raises a lot of red flags about the company you are working for……

    4. JelloStapler*

      That is rife with “we’re going to find a way to push you out before you’re ready” to me.

      1. Antilles*

        That was my immediate thought too. If you announced your job search early and it took time to fill the spot, they’d hire someone and then lay you off.
        I also think that if you announced the normal two weeks, they might be angry and immediately tell you that no it’s not two weeks, you’re leaving today.

      2. The OTHER Other*

        It absolutely looks that way, and I wonder how many people working there told their prior employers they were looking before taking jobs at this employer.

        Telling your manager you are looking is a pretty unusual step, to be taken only when you have a good relationship with the manager and can trust them not to be retaliatory. I’ve done it only twice in my career, not counting internal transfers.

    5. Cat Tree*

      That seems really unenforceable. If you find a job and don’t tell them until you give your official notice – what are they gonna do, fire you?

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        The only thing they’d be able to leverage is a reference, and I’m not convinced you’d get a great reference from a place that operates this way to begin with.

  3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    It’s so sad when everyone is doing their best to do everything right, and it still goes wrong.

    I do hope the outgoing employee gets her new start as soon as possible.

    1. anonymous73*

      Everything right, except the employee giving attitude to OP when things are not going their way.

  4. Smithy*

    I worked in a medium sized nonprofit but where I was on a critical team and a team of one.

    Because of a number of factors, my leaving worked as followed. I gave three months notice during which time they were unable to come to close to hiring a replacement. For reasons more legitimate and less so. I didn’t have a job lined up and was in fact moving to a new country where I was in fact happy to continue working as a consultant while I looked for new work. My job asked that I sign a contract to consult for 4 months, I declined – but did end up consulting for 4 months until I started a new job. My replacement started two weeks before my consultancy ended.

    The situation ultimately helped me out because I was relocating from one country back to the US, and then from the city where my parents lived to the city where I was hired. Remaining employed during that entire time helped me significantly, but I share this story to show that small nonprofits that can have very legitimate struggles in filling certain roles are often not helped by an extra week or two.

    Make moves that help you out. In my case, the seven month grace period supported both the needs of the organization and I…..but make sure you’re clear on your needs first.

  5. INeedANap*

    My last job, I announced my plan to resign in June of 2020 in anticipation of a cross-country move. When the plague delayed the move by 6 months, my replacement had already been hired and I had already spent a month training her. I was ready to leave regardless — but the company found another short-term project for me to backfill until I moved.

    All this worked out because 1) I was a long time employee with an excellent track record, 2) the company was pretty functional and generally treated employees well, and 3) I think they appreciated my willingness to bow out without drama.

    OP, I appreciate how much you’ve tried to do for this report, but consider how much more you are willing to do for a short-timer with attitude issues. And especially consider prioritizing the onboarding of the new employee over the feelings of the old one.

    1. oranges*

      +1 to your last sentence.
      Do your best to accommodate your old employee, but your new employee is your future. Successfully and fully onboarding them should be the priority.

      1. Ashley*

        And given that you have had to discuss attitude, make old employee’s staying contingent on a good attitude and not making new employee feel guilty or make things more awkward then they are. The new person might likely feel some awkwardness walking into someone’s job they turn out to not want to leave.

        1. Fran Fine*

          Yeah, I was going to say – I definitely wouldn’t let the old employee do any onboarding with the new hire, lol. She sounds like the type to resort to sabotage, especially if her fancy new job never materializes.

    2. Sunny*

      Very much agree with the last paragraph here – make sure the new employee feels welcome and valued, because this could be a very awkward situation to walk into. I’d also keep an eye on how the exiting employee is treating the new one, because if their new job falls through completely, they could become very resentful. You’ve already said they have attitude problems!

      Also – next time, get an end date in writing from anyone who resigns!

      1. Colette*

        I don’t think getting an end date in writing would have helped. She wasn’t officially resigning, just letting the OP know she was expecting to resign soon. She didn’t have an end date to give – and if she’d given one, she would have come back just the same to say “Oh, that date doesn’t work anymore, my new end date is probably going to be X”.

    3. OP*

      I was feeling badly because I got the sense from her that she was trying to help us out by giving us an extended notice period given our ongoing staffing issues and then it backfired for her. I didn’t want to push her out, but as anyone involved in hiring knows it can be impossible to predict if you will find someone qualified to take the role quickly or if it will drag on, hence my haste in getting it posted/starting interviews.

      However, I am very excited to start working with the new employee and think this will all work out for the best in the end, because as you mentioned, my employee was only here for a short stint and had some issues.

      1. Lydia*

        I’m sure she thought it would be helpful, but giving an extended notice period should still be done after you’re certain you have your contract. She could have negotiated a start date a month out to give you a little more time to find a replacement.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      In addition to the three you list, I think it’s always easier when you have an “It’s not you, you’re great, it’s my life transition” reason–moving, going back to school, etc. Between that and your excellent track record, it’s very likely that if they agree to keep you for an extra 6 months then you won’t quit after 2 months.

    5. Sara without an H*

      And especially consider prioritizing the onboarding of the new employee over the feelings of the old one.

      Bingo! OP, try to be especially sensitive to how your new hire may be feeling right now. Does she think her new job is in jeopardy? In your place, I’d arrange lunch/coffee/a private conversation, just to make sure her onboarding is going well and that she isn’t afraid that Departing Employee is going to push her out. If she does have such fears, the sooner you surface and dispel them, the better.

      It’s true that your other employees will take notice of how Departing Employee is treated — and good on you for wanting to be as decent as possible — but they’re also going to notice how New Employee is treated. Make sure you treat her well.

    6. Sleeve McQueen*

      Agree. you’ve tried to be accommodating, but at a certain point, it’s their problem. And if the situation was reversed, ie you wanted to extend their notice, it would be entirely up to them whether they wanted to comply or not.

  6. Lynn*

    I feel like the first red flag was that she said she was expecting to sign her new contract while she was on vacation but that she wouldn’t be able to give notice until she got back. If she had enough cell service to do one, she could have done the other.

    1. OP*

      That’s what I thought too — but didn’t want to press the issue given the fact that I was already planning for her to depart soon. The way she handled this situation was another big red flag in the “attitude and communication” area, and even if I hadn’t replaced her unexpectedly quickly I feel it would have only been a matter of time before these problems became bigger issues.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        This is the manifestation of those problems becoming a bigger issue! Unfortunately for the employee it ended up being her who the problem ended up screwing over.

        You are being incredibly professional and compassionate with your employee, but she had control at every stage in the process. Now you really have to focus on your new employee.

      2. Cat Tree*

        The drama side of me is curious about her other issues with communication and attitude that warranted *multiple* discussions in only 6 months. It sounds like this is just the tip of the iceberg. (I understand that you have to be careful about what you share though.)

      3. Lynn*

        OP, you seem very kind and thoughtful. Some of my off-the-wall and unsolicited advice would be to 1) protect professional boundaries because this person in particular seems very willing to take miles and 2) maybe evaluate if you are going out of your way because this person irritates you and that makes you feel guilty in a professional setting. In reading this letter and some of the comments, this person seems genuinely unprofessional and irritating — they deserve only curt professionalism and they may not be happy with it but that problem has an expiration date.

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          I think you’ve made an important point, Lynn, that might not be getting enough attention. OP, are you working this hard because you don’t want this (soon-to-be-former) employee to be sad or be mad at you? Do you find it upsetting when other people are mad at you? Especially as a relatively new manager (as you said in one of your comments), I can see a scenario where you’re trying really hard to make this all go OK because you want to avoid upsetting that person. This is very human! Many of us have had those moments! I have been a HUGE people-pleaser in the past and it’s taken a lot of time and work to get away from that. Ultimately, we must hold ourselves accountable for our behaviour, but we can’t be responsible for other people’s emotional states. And someone being upset does not necessarily mean that you did something wrong.

          I say this not to criticize you. Just to draw attention to a dynamic you may not be aware of which could be affecting how you’re approaching this.

          1. OP*

            You are right. I have struggled with being a people pleaser and especially ever since stepping to management / senior leadership. “Someone being upset doesn’t mean you did something wrong” – I needed to hear that!

    2. TrixM*

      When I lived in the UK, I went back to my homeland (NZ) for a holiday. While there, I unexpectedly got recruited for, interviewed and offered a job within the matter of a few days.

      Due to my current job being an academic institution in the UK, I had to give 3 months notice (still grinds my gears for non-academic staff). So, after my new employers agreed to the delayed start date and we signed the paperwork, I waited till 10pm my time to call my boss in his London office and give him the news Done! This was 2002, by the way, I expect it’s even less complicated now, even on the opposite side of the world.

      (As well as the notice period, another galling aspect was that my UK boss immediately offered a 15% pay rise – thanks, mate, maybe if you’d approved the 5% we’d asked for not 3 months before (no raise for 2 years previous), I wouldn’t have been interviewing on my holiday.)

    3. Kevin Sours*

      I wouldn’t have even faulted her a great deal for giving notice when she got back. It was the part were she expected the notice to start from when she signed the contract and not, you know, when she gave notice.

  7. Sparkles McFadden*

    LW, this is 100% on the employee. She might feel she was being accommodating by giving you notice early in the process, but all she was doing was making everything more confusing. The only thing I have to add is that when you have this sort of a nebulous transition period that you firm it up by setting a specific date for the employee’s last day. Please set a last day now or it will make things harder for the new hire.

    I was the new employee in a similar situation. The departing employee’s new job fell through and he figured he could just stay on eventhough he had signed a severance agreement: “But I signed that when I was going to another job and now I’m not doing that.” It was not fun for anyone.

    1. CatPrance*

      Oh, dear. That sounds like a nasty mess. Did he think he could still hold the job you had been hired to fill?

      1. Sparkles McFadden*

        Yes, he somehow thought he was irreplaceable so he could stay on until he found something else “suitable.” The guy was supposed to be training me and he openly said “I’m going to have to stop showing you things and tell them you’re not working out because I have to stay employed for at least another six months. Nothing personal.” We locked him out of everything the next day. When he couldn’t get into the building, he called the boss and she told him “We’ll pay you the severance as agreed but yesterday was your last day.” Everyone seemed relieved he was gone.

        1. EmmaPoet*

          I’m glad your new manager supported you here! This is ridiculous, and locking him out before he could do some kind of mischief was a sensible move.

    1. OP*

      I didn’t put this in the letter for brevity’s sake, but she had finished a degree which qualified her for higher-paid work awhile back and took this job instead of going into her field because she said she didn’t know if that’s truly what she wanted yet, and that she always had a passion for serving the teapot community. The job offer she got was through her network in said professional field, and when she notified us that she was giving notice, she said verbatim: “I would give you the chance to try and keep me, but you can’t afford it!” with a big smile on her face.

      So I don’t think that was behind it.

        1. Mona-Lisa Saperstein*

          Yeah, it definitely colors my assessment, too. I think I feel *significantly* less sorry for her, haha. That’s such a weird and off-putting thing to say!

      1. CatPrance*

        Uhhh. Well! Worked to get a degree in X, wasn’t sure she truly wanted to do X so she took a job with your organization — huh! Well, good luck to her, and I think you’ll be a lot happier without her.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Makes me wonder if at first she COULDNT get a job in her field (for the not great interpersonal skills that are turning up in the comments from OP) so she took the job at the non-profit in an “any port in a storm” philosophy.

          Unfortunately, the job is now gone, because she let it get away. OP, I think professionally firm and brief is the best course now.

          Also unfortunately, sounds like this is going to be one of those lessons learned through the burnt hand.

        2. Starbuck*

          Oh, I don’t think we can really blame someone just out of school wanting to explore a “passion” subject before they dig into their, maybe less passionate but higher paid career. It’s not a bad idea, and probably one of the best times in her work life to do it. Definitely inconvenient from the employer’s side though, since that’s not usually the best hire for you.

          1. EmmaPoet*

            Agreed. Who knows, maybe they’ll learn they’re crazy about Teapots and find a way to turn their degree in Porcelain Chocolate Pots into something relevant to the field- or they’ll decide they’re just not that into Teapots and move on.

      2. Fran Fine*

        WOOOOWWWW. Yeah, this should have been in the letter so Alison could respond specifically to this part, lol.

  8. Falling Diphthong*

    I am legitimately confused by the following:
    She said she wouldn’t be able to communicate with us if she signed the offer while on her trip.
    If you’re able to receive offers (presumably as email attachments?) you’re also able to email your current employer your formal resignation with two weeks notice. So this isn’t a camping somewhere remote.

    But her notice would start from the date she signed it.
    I just don’t get why, if she had time off, the date of her resignation had to be a surprise that could not possibly be revealed on the long weekend. Unless carrier pigeons are involved, receiving the contract and sending the resignation could happen within the same hour.

    Anyone have a guess at employee’s reasoning here?

    1. Lydia*

      I’d guess it’s because she wanted the luxury of taking her full time off and being paid without having to do any work stuff like answering questions or whatever. Also, she could have thought it would be helpful to give them the full two weeks of notice rather than having it be two weeks minus two days she was gone.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        But she’s willing to review and sign a contract during that rest and recuperate time.

        I would completely understand deciding to block off both jobs for that time. But if she’s going to take the time for the new one (which involves reviewing and checking things) she can then send “Jane, This is my formal two-week notice. Thanks for everything.” She can even compose it in Word beforehand, then just paste and hit send for 20 seconds of effort.

        Giving notice (or not!) on a secret date that will only be revealed mid-notice period is… not really a business norm for good reason.

        1. Lydia*

          Getting and signing a contract for a new job while you’re on vacation from your current job isn’t really that baffling.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            No, it’s not. The baffling part is saying you won’t be able to give notice while you’re on vacation. As if you’re capable of communicating with the new job but not the existing job for some reason.

          2. DisgruntledPelican*

            The baffling part is saying “my two-week notice will start sometime during my vacation, but you won’t know that it started until potentially almost halfway through.”

            1. Lunch Ghost*

              I can only guess the employee was using “notice” to mean “last two weeks of being an employee”, when in fact it requires actual notification.

      2. Kevin Sours*

        Except she’s not giving a full two weeks of notice. She’s expecting it to start from when she signs the contract and not when she you know notifies her employer that she is leaving. If she wants to enjoy her break without interruption that’s fine, but her notice period can start when she gets back and actually gives notice.

        What she wants makes no sense and is troubling that she thinks it should work that way.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      Somebody doesn’t understand what “notice” means. “I gave you notice that I’d be leaving on X date. I mean, in my head I did that.”

    3. Other Alice*

      Yeah. “I am on holiday from April 10 to April 17. My two week notice may or may not start on a random day in that time frame, that you will not know until I return” — that is not how it works! Notice periods are for wrapping up your work, so it’s pointless to have them overlap with a planned vacation anyway. I doubt the employee put much thought into it, aside from wanting to leave ASAP for the better paid job. Except it looks like it backfired on her. I’m sympathetic to a point but she looks like a massive headache to deal with, so in the long run this might be a good thing for OP.

    4. ecnaseener*

      My only charitable guess is she thought she needed to write a formal resignation letter like in movies, rather than a two-sentence email.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        Where I am (a place with more than 2 week notice periods, so not where she is!), resignation letters actually do have to be formal letters, on paper, signed by hand, and in the actual hands of your manager on the day you want the notice period to start. That is, officially. In reality, reasonable employers will not hold you to that, because making employees stay longer against their will for a formality won’t do the employer any good. But I can see how one would get the impression it is an absolute requirement.

  9. Arya*

    This could have been me. I’m working a temporary job and got a permanent offer. But my start date is contingent on completing a security clearance. I wanted to tell my temporary employer early, so they could make plans to find someone before my end date. I filed my papers, sent them off, then….had weeks of getting no word about my status. My proposed start date came and went, with no idea of when I might actually be done with the process. Fortunately my position hasn’t been filled yet, and I’m doing a good enough job to warrant my current job keeping me on. But I could easily have been in this position. Lesson learned-I’m giving no updates to current employers until the ink on the contract has dried and the start date is set in stone.

    1. Lydia*

      It’s especially rough for positions that require security clearances. I worked with a woman who was moving because her husband was offered a job with a pretty stringent security clearance. She was fortunate in that she could give everyone a head’s up and then give an official notice, but the clearance took MONTHS. It was about six months between the time her husband was offered the job to the point they could give him a start date and she could say her last day would be X.

      1. Colette*

        Yeah, I once had a security clearance take 3 weeks – 2 weeks longer than expected – when I was already doing the job (I was a temp, moving to a regular employee).

      2. Rachel in NYC*

        that’s rough. I had a former colleague run into that issue with background checks. A number of years ago, there was an issue with whoever my employer uses for background checks.

        They were taking way longer than usual. My colleague had already given notice at her previous job but couldn’t start at our office until her background check cleared (there have been incidences so they’re more careful now.)

        But she ended up between jobs for like 2 weeks.

    2. OtterB*

      My husband moved from one federal job to another a few months ago. His verbal offer was contingent on the security clearance (which we didn’t expect to be an issue since he already had an equivalent clearance in the old job, and it wasn’t, but you never know). Then, before the new job could set a start date for the formal offer letter, the HR person from the new organization needed to talk to the HR person from the old organization. The end result was that his old supervisor was notified by HR that he was leaving, rather than him getting to break the news himself. And for a little while the two HR people were busily engaged in setting his notice period and new start date without either of them talking to him, which was a bad idea because of a pre-planned vacation that it made more sense to take between jobs than a week into the new job. All settled eventually, but it was a bit nerve-wracking.

      1. This is a name, I guess*

        My partner was in the military and worked on nuclear stuff, so she had an intense security clearance. Then she left the military as an enlisted person and was hired by the military as a civilian to work on the exact same nuclear stuff. It took 6 months to give her literally the exact same security clearance. She’s trans, too, and left the military so she could transition and did so immediately. But, she ended up having to work at a shipyard for 6 months and partially in the closet until all the paperwork was processed.

        1. OtterB*

          Oh, no! Yeah, my husband’s was a more lateral move, from Army civilian to Navy civilian, and not that stringent a clearance.

    3. generic_username*

      I know someone who put in notice when they got an offer contingent on getting top-secret security clearance, then moved to my area for the job, and then something happened with her background check and her offer was revoked. Suddenly she was jobless in a new (and very expensive) city. She wound up becoming my manager at the place where I worked for about a year and then went through it all again for a different job – this time not officially putting in notice until she had her firm offer.

      1. Ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

        It also depends if you’ve not been in Canada for a long time. I had a fellow whose clearance just sat in the hands of the feds, going nowhere, because he hadn’t been living in Canada long enough for them to not have to contact his home country to verify info. Home Countries don’t always comply quickly…

        Dude was already employed and was doing fine but could not be assigned to projects that required Secret clearance.

    4. Alexis Rosay*

      My friend was offered a position that involved a security clearance—the clearance took two years to come through. (It was for alphabet agency work.) Thankfully, she was freelancing at the time so it was easy enough to keep freelancing for years.

      1. This is a name, I guess*

        My friend got into the State Department senior year of college. The application process took almost a year. Then she went abroad to teach English for another year waiting for her security clearance. It was wild!

    5. This is a name, I guess*

      Until recently, basic background checks for human services jobs were taking 2-3 weeks, when they used to take 2 days. The pandemic made everything weird.

    6. cleared person*

      Yeah, it took over a year for me to get my security clearance! Luckily for me, I’d been hired primarily to do unclassified work, and was able to continue doing that while we waited for the clearance, but it was a pain.

  10. Non lawyer*

    She said her intent, she didn’t submit a resignation, so wouldn’t you be terminating her employment and have legal implications?

    I am pretty sure if I said I plan to leave in a month or two, that doesn’t mean my employer can tell me to leave today without severance.

    Seems the moral is, don’t ever give more notice than your statutory minimum.

      1. Non lawyer*

        Yeah, not in a location with at will employment, and this situation is a little shocking to me. There’s no minimum notice here but even if you gave longer notice, you couldn’t terminate their employment before that date without cause or paying it out.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          In both cases, people saying “I’m giving you my one-day notice of giving you my two-week notice” isn’t really a thing. For good reason. Especially when the employee tries to explain that the two-week notice period now might actually turn out to have started the previous Friday, it will be a surprise for next Thursday.

          If you tell your employer “I’m putting in my two-weeks notice, starting sometime over the coming long weekend. I’ll let you know in a week when it actually was” then I think it’s very reasonable for them to interpret that as your “giving two-weeks notice” and acting like you’re leaving in two weeks.

      1. I went to school with only one Jennifer*

        Is there *any* location in the US where severance is actually required (outside of union jobs)? I have never heard of this being a Thing, and I live in California.

        1. truesaer*

          Only for mass layoffs, which fall under the WARN act. Actually the act technically requires advance notice of the layoff but employers typically pay out the salary you would have earned as severance in lieu of that notice.

    1. Colette*

      The issue isn’t that she gave more notice than necessary; it’s that her end date wasn’t firm, and has changed several times.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      One of the reasons Alison says not to tell your employer that you’re looking is specifically because they can say “today is your last day”, unfortunately. They can also do that when you give your notice.

      In the US that is.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      The moral is, don’t give notice if you aren’t sure you’re going to want to leave on the date you state.

    4. Sunny*

      That was true on the first day, but after the employer proceeded with posting the job and hiring a replacement, I don’t think the employee can legally claim it’s severance. Especially considering the multiple check-ins along the way. Not a lawyer here, but I think the company has solid standing here.

      But another solid reason the OP should have followed up that first conversation in writing, with a clear end date. And definitely by the time of offering a new employee the position, there should have been a fixed end date.

    5. Cat Tree*

      So wait, I’m not sure I understand. If you told your employer that you’re leaving within two months but decided to stick around longer, they wouldn’t be allowed to end your employment?

      If that’s the case, they would be wise to wait until you actually go before looking for a replacement. So how would it be a benefit to tell them so early anyway?

      1. ecnaseener*

        No, I think what non-lawyer is saying that in their location, if if I say I’m leaving on May 1, my employer couldn’t make me leave any earlier than May 1. If I decide to stick around longer, they CAN make me stick to the May 1 end date.

    6. Liz Lemon*

      The thing is, the OP isn’t pushing the employee out earlier than her notice period- she’s just holding the employee to the notice she gave.

  11. Katie*

    As someone who put in a notice before everything was perfectly lined up and then things fell through, don’t do it.
    It worked for me in the end, but it could easily have resulted in me having no job.

  12. OtterB*

    Thinking of trying to keep the old employee on as long as it’s financially feasible – maybe you could keep her on at half time hours and, as Alison suggested, perhaps have her help fill some of the gaps from the other staffing shortages, as long as the skills required work out.

  13. RandoLlama*

    I was unfortunately a manager who had to deal with this exact situation. Wanda told me that she was leaving in about 6-8 months, towards the Fall. Due to staffing pipelines, we had to find a replacement really early, but I was able to still wait until she was about 2.5 months out. We found a replacement, coordinated a start date…. and Wanda’s new position was delayed. Wanda no longer wanted to leave because her new position delayed, but leadership told me her end date was the date she originally provided since we had a new resource coordinated.

    I had to tell her that we accepted the date she provided and that was that (nicely, of course). The thought behind that was that work knew Wanda was leaving “soon,” but the new resource would be in place much longer for the future. Unexpectedly ending up taking a twist though, because the new resource bounced right before their start date. The client was out Wanda and out a new resource; they ended up closing the whole billet.

  14. Miss. Bianca*

    This is why I never put in my 2 weeks notice under I have the offer letter signed, the background check is completed and HR has confirmed my start date. I had a former coworker give his “notice” in Feb 2020 saying he was leaving the company in May 2020…then apparently in April or May 2020 he tried to backtrack and told everyone he wanted to stay. But then in May they let the “low performers” go, and he was one of them.

  15. Rocket*

    I was in something of a similar scenario, but I was the new employee in the situation.

    I was hired and was supposed to have a week of training with the old employee before she left (she was moving to another country). But the move got delayed a bit and she was so beloved by the org they decided to just let her stay an extra 6 weeks. This was a small nonprofit. Like… Really small. Like…there wasn’t an extra desk small. So I spent 6 weeks “training”, and by that I mean just sitting next to her watching her work because I didn’t have my own desk to work at and we only had one position’s worth of work to do.

    Eventually she left and the job was fine, but that was a pretty terrible 6 weeks. And ended up being just one example of bad management under the guise of “kindness.”

    1. ecnaseener*

      Oof that sounds maddening to sit through for 6 weeks! Yes, as others are saying, OP needs to prioritize the new employee’s experience over the departing employee’s at this point. Give the new employee a desk, for a start :P

      1. Dragon*

        I didn’t get my own desk at a big company because I was hired for a “floating” position, and the department hired more people than they had spare desks for when we weren’t covering absences.

  16. anonymous73*

    You have gone above and beyond with this situation. Figure out how long you can keep both of them, and let the one who resigned know when her last day will be. She brought this on herself, and considering she’s only been with you for 6 months and has a known attitude problem, you owe her nothing more.

  17. Kath*

    I informally resigned from my last job before I had the offer in hand. It was my first time resigning, my boss was actually leaving before I was and she wanted to leave things in hand for her successor, and in my sector hiring is notoriously lengthy so I wanted to help them get the ball rolling as early as possible and ideally be involved in hiring my replacement. I was clear with both my new and old bosses that I was not officially resigning until I had the offer in hand but as soon as I did, I would.

    For a variety of reasons out of my control, it took a couple of months to get the new offer. And it was a constant barrage of “can we start the hiring process now” “when do you think you’ll know?!” And I also didn’t feel I had the space to change my mind once I got the offer because I’d already informally triggered that I was leaving. In hindsight I’m never doing that again. Highly recommend not even informally signalling your departure until the offer is signed and you’re 150% sure.

    1. Anne of Green Gables*

      I had a situation last fall where an employee did tell me before giving formal notice and all was fine, but I can see how in most circumstances, it could cause problems.

      In our case, the employee (Lucy) told me that they had been offered the job I knew they had interviewed for, and they planned to take it, but she didn’t have the contract yet and still needed the background check. We agreed to tell my grand-boss, our director, and went together to do so. This was partly because Lucy had some questions about time-off payout that I didn’t know the answer to, partially because it had the potential to impact the hiring process for a part-time position we were in the middle of, and largely because we both trusted the director.

      Knowing ahead of time allowed me to delay the hiring process of the PT position so I could turn Lucy’s position into a full-time version of the same position once formal notice was given. (They would let me move the full time position up a grade because Lucy had been in the position long enough she was almost making the starting salary for the higher position, but my previous attempts to get a new FT position at that level had failed.) We’re also about to move into a new building and were able to quietly move the next person in seniority behind Lucy into the last cubicle by a window (previously to be Lucy’s) before it would require a lot of red tape to change around. Lucy knew we were doing this and agreed. (This was in plans on paper only, we still aren’t in that new building. And again, only me, Lucy, and our director knew it was happening.)

      It did take a week or so longer than anticipated for the background check to clear and Lucy to get her contract, but it did happen. We put the hiring in motion once she formally gave notice. But our HR process is such that we need written resignation with last date from a departing employee, so I couldn’t have started the hiring without her formal notice anyway. I appreciated the extra time but also know it was not owed to me, and I know it took a lot of trust on her part to tell me before it was official.

  18. NoviceManagerGuy*

    I don’t understand the value of keeping this person around at all after the new employee has traction. Your organization owes her nothing.

      1. IndyStacey*

        They HAVE treated kindly – by checking in every step of the way and getting her go ahead each time.

        1. NoviceManagerGuy*

          Right. They confirmed every step they took. The employee made the choice to leave, hasn’t been a good performer, and now has a replacement lined up.

  19. Not So Super-visor*

    This happened to us recently as well. The employee had been with us less than 6 months and had a terrible attitude and constantly complained about everything related to her job. She didn’t like her hours (we were upfront about the schedule during the interview process), she didn’t feel that she was being paid enough (we purposely pay more than competitors in our area and well above a living wage), we upgraded systems and then she felt that she was being asked to do 3X the work without being paid more. Her work was terrible and if you tried to address it, she’d tell you that she wasn’t being paid enough to do it the way that she needed to. She was constantly calling in or leaving in the middle of her shift. We sat her down, and she told us that she was quitting but it was only a matter of her finding a new position. We told her that meant that we’d need to post her position, and she seemed to understand. She started complaining more loudly about things, and then calling in because she stated that she had last minute interviews. Her work was impossible to manage. I asked HR to allow us to force her to set a last day, but they refused to do this. They wanted us to manage her out using the verbal warning, written warning, and PIP process. As I was having HR and Legal review the PIP paperwork, I went to lunch, and she quit in a blaze of glory by sending a group chat message to everyone about how this was the worst place to work and she was so happy to be leaving and then stood up and threw all of her papers in the air and walked out.

    1. Any One*

      This isn’t snark, really. Just wondering how these types of people get hired. Do they wow in the interview? Check all the boxes and demeanor isn’t taken into account? The only applicant?

      1. Not So Super-visor*

        We were hiring 15 people for an entry level role. Usually, we’re not hiring so many people at once, and we can usually be choosier, but we were facing a major expansion and needed to add a lot of people at once. With the current job market, we ended up hiring everyone who applied except for the woman who told me that her greatest accomplishment was her cat, her biggest regret at work was the time she sharted, and kept asking me riddles to figure out my astrological sign.

        1. Audiophile*

          Wow, your last two comments may be the all-time BEST comments I’ve come across on this blog.

          My mind is just blown.

        2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I think we hired at my job (but he didn’t make it out of the probationary period) the male version of Riddle Lady. The former hiring manager at our job was, well SNL Church Lady “special” and so we’re all her hires. I’m convinced the only reason I was hired is because she wasn’t the one that interviewed me. None of the rest of the group she hired (with two exceptions) made it out of probation – most going out in a Blaze of Glory.

  20. Hiring Mgr*

    Can the resigning employee temporarily do some of the work that the two other people who left had been doing? Seems like with a small company down three people there could be something there.

    It seems like she was being generous (and naive) to you by announcing all this before it was necessary and now it’s backfiring on her…Not anyone’s fault of course, sometimes things just go like that.

    FWIW once her contract was delayed the first time, as a mgr i might have held off until I knew for certain, but maybe that’s just because i’ve seen how these things play out before.

    1. MistOrMister*

      I don’t think it would have made sense to delay the hiring process. OP said it usually isn’t a postion that would get filled all that quickly. But also the employee had already been talked to about their attitude multiple times and had only been with the conpany for 6 months. I am really surprised OP even took as much trouble as she did to try to accomodate the employee who sounds like a trouble maker they’re better off without.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        I guess something about the employee giving an earlier than needed heads up, then having that backfire on them bothers me. Not that OP or anyone did anything wrong, but to me it’s one of those situations that if there’s a way to accommodate I’d at least explore it.

  21. Michelle Smith*

    I made it to the final stages of a hiring process that should have been a shoe-in for me and I let my then-new boss at my current job know that I might be taking another job soon. That was November 2020. It fell through and it made things really awkward when I ended up staying. Thankfully no one was hired as my replacement, but yeah. Definitely do not give any type of notice, formal or informal, until you know!!

  22. The OTHER Other*

    OP has gone above and beyond to try to be considerate to the existing employee, especially in light of the fact that she’s only been there 6 months and has some attitude problems.

    I think some of the current employee’s exasperation is actually not with the OP or current job, it’s misdirected frustration with the potential new job taking longer than expected, and perhaps embarrassment about her own poor planning. Neither of these are OP’s responsibility.

    Look on the bright side–OP may be able to have the new hire shadow/trained with the current one for a longer period than usual, budget permitting.

  23. Andi*

    I have a question on this…what did does fully settled mean? Does that mean after offer letter signed or after background/drug test? It could be a few weeks later it’s finally completed. I had one employee that didn’t give notice at their prior job until after that, which ended up pushing out their start date (which I wasn’t happy about).

    1. Colette*

      It means after all pre-employment stuff is done and you have a firm offer with start date. So yes, if you need a background/drug test, it would be after that has come back with acceptible results. It’s not reasonable to expect someone to quit a job they already have until you’re not willing to give them an unconditional offer.

    2. Other Alice*

      I take it to mean after I have a signed offer and there are no more contingencies. You can be unhappy all you want, but it’s my livelihood and I’m not going to risk it. If your process takes a few weeks, my start date is in a few weeks plus two. I would be very wary of a workplace that insists future employers need to give notice while the offer is still up in the air.

    3. I should really pick a name*

      Fully settled would mean employment is guaranteed.
      If a background/drug test could result in rescinding the offer, then it’s not fully settled until the test has been completed.

      It’s an unreasonable expectation to ask someone to give notice before they’re certain that they have a job.

    4. louvella*

      Why would someone ever give notice before their background check and if necessary drug test are completed??? You do all that stuff and then you give two weeks.

    5. SnappinTerrapin*

      Their reasonable notice to their then-employer isn’t what postponed their start date with your firm; your firm’s prerequisites for them to be employed are what caused the delay that frustrated you. Presumably, those requirements met your firm’s business needs.

      Hiring someone who is currently unemployed might save you a couple of weeks, in that scenario.

  24. Florida Fan 15*

    I think Allison’s advice is really good, with one quibble. It doesn’t sound as though an actual leave date for your direct report (I’m going to call her Sue for a shortcut) was discussed. If you’re looking for what you could have done differently, I’d focus on this.

    Sue said she was planning to accept another offer and would be giving notice when she had a contract. She also stated her notice would start from the date she signed the contract. Fine as far as it goes, but there’s no end date here. From her point of view, I could see an argument that she hasn’t really given notice yet, just that she intended to. Which might work for her, and as a manager I appreciate being informed, but I need something more solid than that.

    Skip to when OP wants to offer the job to someone else, they ask Sue to make sure she’ll be departing “soon” and Sue says “fine”. This is way too loosey goosey for my tastes. As anyone who’s ever had to get someone out of their house knows, “soon” is subjective as all get out. Either she needed to provide an actual date of departure, or you needed to set one based on your business needs. Hopefully you would work it out as best you could for all involved, but it needed to be specific.

  25. Moira Rose*

    If this is in the U.S., consider giving her the option to leave (and stop pulling a salary) right away while retaining health insurance for as long as you can swing it. A lot of people would rather retain insurance and be out of a job for longer than have access to their salary and insurance for a shorter period.

  26. Lobsterman*

    I’ve come around to the view that employees who don’t have contracts or union protection usually should not give notice. I don’t know of any employer that can fill a job in a week, then have the employee train their replacement. In addition, because every offer is contingent or might fail or whatever, you’re just setting yourself up for being stuck in this position. By far, the best plan is to go ahead and create documentation, call in sick on the old job for the first day of the new job, and then when everything finally comes through, quit your old job and promise to be available by phone/email to answer questions. Because you might get fired/rescinded that first day, or HR will veto your hiring, or you’ll discover that the new place is a harassment factory, or etc.
    There are industries where extended notice is expected – academia, primary/secondary education, etc. But other than that, everything is so scattered and nonfunctional these days that it just doesn’t make sense to give notice as a default.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Well the two week notice period isn’t intended to hire and train a replacement, it’s intended for transition planning and documentation. In a lot of places you’re totally right, but it depends on the company and how you’ve seen them treat exiting employees in the past. If your last two weeks are going to be writing manuals, handing off clients, getting a cake and having an exit interview, giving notice is fine. If you don’t know how it will be handled…I’d still say give notice in most cases but be prepared for them to say get out. If you know it’ll be handled poorly then yes, they company forfeits all expectations of a notice period.

    2. Colette*

      That’s a good way to screw yourself over. You don’t want to be known to your (former) manager, HR department, and coworkers as someone who quit without notice.

  27. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    Reading between the lines, I wonder if the new job fell through at the last moment, so the employee is hanging around hoping that either she’ll keep the current job or be fired and qualify for Unemployment. LW could ask, but there’s no guarantee she’d answer candidly or accurately and I can’t think of a way to suss that out without her cooperation. But it would explain a lot and the hunch does influence the rest of my thoughts.

    About the only thing you could have done is negotiate a firm departure date once the replacements who would receive offers were identified.

    At this point, I think you have two big options:
    A) if my hunch is right, the new job is falling through, and the staffing issues you allude to mean you have another position you need to fill, does she have skills to consider her as a transfer into that new role? or…
    B) lay her off due to redundancy with customary notice for layoffs for your organization.

  28. Just a thought...*

    Lots of comments, so not sure if this is a duplicate. Whatever your plan is, please do not to distract from the quality and excitement of your new employee’s onboarding experience while trying to make it better for the past employee. That will set the tone for the new employee’s tenure with your company and with you as the manager.

    1. FrizzleFrazzle*

      Seconding this. I’ve been the new hire in a similar situation, working in the shadow of an employee who got cold feet about leaving and was allowed to stay on for over a month in the hopes that more work would magically materialize so they could stay longer. In my case the employee was perfectly nice but everything about the situation was strange and off-putting, and it definitely interfered with getting acclimated to the org and owning the role. In this case the employee has already demonstrated attitude issues, so you really need to minimize impact on the new hire, especially since this is a critical role that can be hard for hire for.

  29. Dr. Prepper*

    While not explicitly called out by AAM, even a fully executed offer letter which has the phrase “contingent upon …” in it should be considered the same as NO offer as far as resigning and giving formal notice is concerned, because if anything goes wrong they will pull the offer, and TS to anybody who’s already given notice..

    I had two positions with offer letters containing title, salary and start dates, but were contingent upon background and drug testing. The start dates were extremely tight from the offer letter leaving almost no time for notice at Old-job. I got the notices that I passed all the background & drug testing and they were happy to expect me the following Monday. I told them that only NOW could I give 2 weeks notice at Old-job and they needed to move up the start-date accordingly. I thought HR was going to have a stroke, but after much sputtering and hair-pulling they finally agreed.

    1. Other Alice*

      This, so much. I already commented as much upthread, but it’s so easy for people new to the workforce to assume a conditional or informal offer is a guarantee. It’s not. I had an offer in hand with salary and starting date, they told me that they needed approval from higher up before formally sending me the contract. It took over a month in the end, and I had to move up the start date twice because I refused to give notice until I signed the contract. HR wasn’t happy but I didn’t budge, and if I’d agreed with their request I would have been pushed out of my old job and lost a paycheck or two. It’s not a risk you ever want to take.

  30. Chirpy*

    I’ve been in this situation from the other side – new hire when the person I was hired to replace didn’t end up leaving. It worked out in the end because the company was able to transfer me to a department that I actually liked better (someone else left for real a few months later), but it was awkward. Especially when my coworkers brought up later they thought *I* was going to get fired once the busy season I was hired during was over. Which would have been personally awful for me, since I’d never gotten anything but good reviews there and it would have been the second time in 5 years where my job was cut suddenly.

  31. Audiophile*

    I’ve learned this lesson before myself.

    A few jobs ago, I gave “notice” as I thought I would be kind to my new manager and tell her I was looking. I was actively applying and interviewing; my role was not one I was happy or satisfied with, but I got along well enough with my manager and felt it would be a disservice to her to spring two weeks’ notice on her once I had an offer. I expected an offer imminently, but that did not materialize.

    Unfortunately, my manager panicked after I gave notice, and it quickly made its way up the chain. Within short order, they gave me an end date with severance and replaced me. Thankfully, I found something during the period I had severance, but I’d keep my mouth shut if I could do it all again.

    It was a hard, hard lesson to learn. I thought I was doing the right thing; being loyal and kind to a manager who was a voice of sanity in a very dysfunctional company.

    Now, I don’t give notice until I’ve hammered out a start date and accepted/signed an offer letter.

  32. MCMonkeyBean*

    This is an unfortunate situation for the resigning employee, but it sounds like OP went well beyond what should be expected in that situation checking with them so many times during this whole process!

    It sounds like while you now technically have two people for the same position, you are still short-staffed overall–is that right? If so, are any of the other open roles something that the resigning employee could cover for a while until she sorts out her new situation? It seems like it could actually be a good thing to have the new employee in their new role but still have the other employee around for a little while, available for questions the new employee will likely have.

  33. Marie*

    Is it possible that the employee was playing a game of “if I say I have another job they will increase my salary so I stay? By pushing back the start date the new hire might not be available. Oh. Well, the boss might ask: if we increase your salary will you stay? I find it interesting the employee went job hunting after just six months in a “critical” role.

Comments are closed.