update: my coworker says I bullied her … should I tell her boss she needs more of a backbone?

Remember the letter-writer whose coworker said she was bullying her, and who was wondering if she should tell her boss that the coworker needed more of a backbone? Here’s the update.

I think many readers did not understand what I was trying to convey so I hope added context will help.

“Sally” did create the procedures in question. During the 3 months she filled in, she combined 4 audits into one and created a way to find errors before implementation instead afterward. This had potential to save a lot of time and money. However, her execution was sloppy and she was still working out the kinks to the new process when I came on board. This made it almost impossible for me to follow her logic and learn. Sally should have left the process as is and let the new hire create efficiencies after they’d been on the job for a while. Sally overstepped while she was filling in for my role.

Many readers also wondered about my achievement level while still needing detailed training. Before this role, I worked for many years in consulting. My new role is a pivot into administration. I essentially became one of my former clients. Since this is a new side of the table for me, I need more help and my boss is supportive and understands this.

I also want to address the backbone comment. I agree I needed to select different language. However, my perspective is Sally was insecure about her procedures – for the new processes SHE implemented – and hated to be called to the mat when things weren’t working or a needed modification was identified. She was quick to explain away issues by referring to the procedures which included a bunch of “if/then” analysis on how to think something through and identify the next step. Her new process would find errors and then her procedures explain how to look into them since everything has a different solution. I think her process could be strengthen to do more than simply highlight something that needs looking into.

When I onboarded, Sally told me training is not just how to do something, but how to think about something. Sally’s position is that as long as you think through something and make a good faith decision, a mistake cannot be made. Even if another choice would prove to be better in the end. Management appears to support her because one time she had to walk something back she did not get into trouble. In contrast, I prefer to know the best way to do things the first time around. It is better to do something once the right way, in my viewpoint. As such, Sally’s training style and materials are not providing the knowledge I need to do my job and I have expressed that to our boss.

The day before my letter was published, I was pulled into a meeting with my boss and Sally to clear the air. I was looking forward to moving past this. Instead of a civil discussion, Sally very quickly melted into tears. She accused me of bullying her, using the term exactly. She claimed I treat her very differently when we are alone, making snide comments and that I generally behave very differently when our boss is present. Through tears, she told me she “does not feel safe and does not want to engage with me anymore.” She claimed that when I commented on her procedures I specifically said, “I thought your updated procedures would be better” and took that as a personal insult directed at her. The reality is that after walking me through her new process only two or three times, Sally would refer me back to her procedures when I asked questions. I finally found something not in her procedures and pointed it out to her when I made this infamous comment. She also listed other direct quotations she has written down over the past three months. She framed most of the things I have said as put downs directed at her when they were factual observations. I was able to defend myself in the meeting well and my boss said this has all been a misunderstanding.

I was shaken by Sally’s accusations though. Sally had never discussed any of this with me but was asking for our boss to intervene for almost two of the three months I have worked here. I have come to the conclusion that she is extremely, extremely sensitive. She has taken almost everything I have ever said as a personal slight against her which all started when I “dismissed” her. If I had known it would cause such a fuss, I would have kept my concerns to myself and verified with my boss afterward. That is what I plan to do moving forward.

I do not want to walk on eggshells with Sally. I want to work with professionals who can handle other people breaking down their ideas in order to strengthen them. My boss and I had a frank discussion after Sally’s meltdown and I expressed my concerns. I detailed my concern that my boss was getting negative feedback and not sharing it. However, my boss understands that it will take time for me to learn the role and has repeatedly said I am an important member of the team. Thankfully, I think my boss sees things for what they are: I need to use kid gloves for Sally sometimes, and Sally needs some thicker skin.

My boss is going to meet with Sally to decide next steps, but I am hopeful our interactions can end soon.

{ 870 comments… read them below }

  1. Squid*

    Yeah, OP is still in the wrong here and needs to learn how to navigate the politics of this company/team. And maybe how to give some people grace and the benefit of the doubt.

    1. KR*

      Yup. They seem to have tremendous confidence that their approach and view of things is the *right* way which can be an asset. But when you’re training you need to be humble and focus on getting up to speed.

      1. KR*

        Also that whole thing about how OP just believes you should do things right the first time instead of taking a “sloppy” approach was so off to me. Like I’m sure Sally didn’t purposefully decide to make a process decision that ended up not working. She probably thought it was the best decision in the moment that she made it. Saying you make a practice out of doing it right the first time is just…. Not a nice thing to say about your coworkers unless they are doing something that you know they should be well practiced in and that there’s a established Way To Do Things. Sounds like Sally was figuring it out as she went along.

        1. Squid*

          I wonder what field they are in (OP just mentions consulting and administration), because iterative processes are everywhere and I can’t imagine OP will be successful in their field if they don’t learn how to operate in an environment where iteration is a part of life.

          1. Antilles*

            Especially given that getting it exactly right takes longer, sometimes a LOT longer.
            “Pretty good, today” is often better than “perfect, next month”.

          2. Eldritch Office Worker*

            Consulting takes a TON of iteration. I work at a consulting firm, I cannot imagine someone being successful with the mindset “I want to know how to do something correctly the first time”. That’s just…not how it works.

            1. Neurodivergentsaurus Rex*

              Yes! I’ve had roles that were in the consulting vein. Trying new things and finding the process that works best with the people and resources you have is all about trial and error. At least for me, that’s the best way to learn, because you’re learning WHY one way of doing things is better than another, or why a given procedure may be great for one setting but not for another.

          3. NaN*

            Seriously. This quote stood out to me: “Management appears to support her because one time she had to walk something back she did not get into trouble.”
            This is exactly how a functional workplace should work. Processes and decisions aren’t always right the first time, there are many, many things that you will have to iterate on in most jobs.

            1. Becca Rosselin-Metadi*

              Exactly. What does the OP think should have happened to Sally for this? A PIP? A reprimand? Should she have been fired?

            2. LCH*

              we can’t see the future so it isn’t always possible to do the task that produces the right outcome the first time. most jobs value people that are flexible, adaptive, and creative in problem solving particularly when something unforeseen occurs.

            3. GlitsyGus*

              “get into trouble” jumped out to me too. It maybe just wording, but it puts me in mind of small children being reprimanded for breaking rules, which is not how adults should solve problems or fix mistakes. Should Sally have been put in the Time Out chair for 5 minutes? Had to write “I will not save files in the wrong folder” 100 times?

              OP, I do think part of the problem here is that you have veered a little bit into BEC territory with Sally. Sally is probably there with you too.

              1. Heffalump*

                And stand over her to make sure she isn’t just copying “I will not save files in the wrong folder” to the clipboard and then pasting it 100 times. That would be a real good use of her manager’s time. /s

              2. Bad Memories*

                100% – what an odd way to view a workplace or the role of a manager. For people to ‘get into trouble’ – yikes

                1. Yeah ima librarian*

                  BEC is Bitch Eating Crackers. From Urban Dictionary: Everything this person does annoys you, even something as simple as eating crackers.

                2. LPUK*

                  Bitch eating crackers – when you are so irritated by someone that even the most innocuous thing they do makes you cross- ‘ look at that bitch over there eating crackers …’

                3. Marzipan Shepherdess*

                  Byeny, BEC stands for “B–ch eating crackers”. It refers to someone whose very existence annoys you – not because they’ve actually done anything to hurt you (or anyone else) – but just because you find their existence irritating. “Eating crackers” means that you dislike every little thing that person does – however normal, harmless and none-of-your-business it may be.

            4. Avril Ludgateau*

              That part reminded me of the letter from the other day when the LW talked about not accepting mistakes, no matter how trivial. If you expect people to be disciplined aggressively for simple human error (especially a first “offense”), you should then expect people to hide their mistakes going forward. Which will be disastrous.

              1. Ross*

                This is incredibly true. In a lot of safety-sensitive workplaces there are entire structures around reporting mistakes without fear of disciplinary action as a way to encourage transparency and learn from them to improve processes. Aviation is a major industry where this is implemented. As an example on the other end – the conditions that caused the Chernobyl accident were discovered about two years prior, but the information was never disseminated to reactor operators because the powers that be did not want to be seen as promoting that their reactor had flaws or dangerous attributes. Anytime there is a penalty for sharing negative information, negative things happen.

              2. Can't we all just get along*

                It reminded me of the recent issue of Bob the mansplainer telling the 40-year old woman how many minutes there are in a work day. This person seems extremely sure of themselves and extremely sure the other person is not only wrong, but needs their advice, even though they’re the one who’s being trained. Sounds just like Bob the mansplainer to me.

            5. Abby*

              Yes! The other quote that stood out to me was that she wanted to work with people who can handle other people “breaking down their ideas” in order to strengthen them. Maybe just a poor choice of words, but there are a lot of more effective ways to collaborate and improve a process without having to “break down” someone else’s ideas. That comes across to me as sounding both arrogant and aggressive. The OP woood not have lasted long in the office where I work. My fabulous boss would have never allowed anyone to treat (and yes it sound like “bully”) another employee this badly.
              Poor Sally!!!

              1. Sometimes supervisor*

                I get the idea of “breaking down” somebody’s ideas to make them better – it’s quite a common process in my profession (although based on the detail’s in the letter, I’m almost certain it’s not the same industry as OP’s). And, yes, it does take a thick skin to have an idea you were proud of picked a part with a barrage of questions.

                But there’s also a massive different between doing this collaboratively as a genuine fact finding mission (“Hmmm, looks like we need to know more about X, Y and Z. Let’s go find that out and regroup once we’re done”) and doing this combatively because somebody must be right and somebody must be wrong (“Looks like you didn’t think this idea through properly, did you? I thought your ideas would be better.”) I wonder if OP thinks they’re doing the former and is actually doing the latter.

              2. Boop*

                Oh yeah, that phrase made me want to run and hide. Sounds like an absolutely demoralizing exercise for the idea-haver, and a total ego trip for the breaker-downer.

                “I thought your processes would be better” was a pretty terrible thing to say to a colleague. Generally, when I run into a gap in instructions, I check with the process owner and then go ahead and update the process manual. No need to comment on the quality of the process instructions – everyone skips steps/doesn’t write down things they think are obvious or know incredibly well. I’ve updated process manuals that I created or inherited, and have encouraged others to make their own changes. No need to berate someone, just try to make it work better.

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  This is why, when I started at Exjob, I did usability testing on all our instructional report modules as I was editing them. Someone else had written them before me, but there wasn’t any concrete reason for me to go back to that person and say, “You did a really lousy job on these.” I just wanted to make sure that I, a person who was as new to the software as an end-user might have been, understood the instructions.

                  I mean, I MYSELF had to make changes to SOP documents THAT I WROTE later on as processes changed. It’s a thing.

              3. Federal Worker Drone*

                Yes, that was the comment that made me say out loud to my computer screen (who gave it just as much attention as the LW seems to have) “Oh, no, you’re not getting it. At. All.”

              4. tangerineRose*

                The thing is, there are ways to suggest improvements without verbally calling someone out. Talk about the improvement; don’t criticize what’s there.

          4. MP*

            “I thought your updated procedures would be better.“
            LW considers this a good way to provide feedback? This person sounds very arrogant. Not only just this statement but throughout the letter.

            “Sally’s position is that as long as you think through something and make a good faith decision, a mistake cannot be made.”

            If Sally did make this statement, this is not correct. Mistakes can still be made but good bosses should be understanding if a good faith effort was made. Based on LW letter, I doubt that she said it, though.

        2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

          I actually read that and thought, if Sally created new procedures while in a temporary role for 3 months that combined 4 things into one process, Sally is a rockstar.

          1. Sloanicota*

            To be fair, I believe OP that the system is not working correctly and/or was not done the way it should have been done. I think OP is hung up on that point, but we believe you OP! The point is, the approach to correcting it was almost certainly off if coworkers are being reduced to tears. There was a kind and helpful way to do this; this wasn’t it.

            The way OP presents the facts of the case doesn’t really line up with Sally just being incomprehensibly sensitive – and, if Sally actually WAS just too precious for this world, this wouldn’t be the first/only incident and the boss/other coworkers would already know that.

            1. quill*

              I read it as that there are some things in the process that don’t work quite right but it still saves time anyway, and immediately thought of scientific experiments and coding, wherein the problems are often “do one thing, see if it works, improve from there,” which is not something OP seems to be cut out for. Procedures are not built in a day.

              1. Sloanicota*

                Ok, but even if Sally actually made a pretty boneheaded system that doesn’t work correctly, my response to OP would be about the same.

                1. quill*

                  Yeah, I wouldn’t have a good response to OP either! Even if Sally’s system didn’t help AT ALL it was a good faith effort and you can always go back to the old system. And OP admits that it has streamlined things, it just doesn’t do ALL of the things correctly. (And “correctly” is not always evaluated properly by OP.) That’s why you re-test and amend procedures.

                2. Sloanicota*

                  (response to Quill): the reason I’m saying this is because, from OP’s letter, they seem hung up on the sense that the commentators didn’t understand how badly the system works or that it wasn’t done correctly. So if OP sees these process comments they may just be fuming that we don’t “get” the problem with the system and why it’s so bad.

                3. NaN*

                  Yeah, Sally’s procedures could suck and should could be overly sensitive about it, and OP’s attitude would still be a big part of the problem here.

              2. Jora Malli*

                And the way OP describes it, Sally was still in the process of fine tuning the procedures and working the kinks out. That happens with most procedure changes I’ve been part of, no matter how carefully they were considered before they were implemented. There’s always going to be a step that was left out or a series of actions that makes sense in theory but plays out differently in practice. This is what changing procedures looks like. You’re never going to get it exactly perfect the first time you try.

                1. Need More Sunshine*

                  Especially adding in that this isn’t even Sally’s job and she’s doing the best she knows how. OP says she shouldn’t have messed with the former procedures at all, but if I were covering a role for 4 months, I’d probably also tweak some procedures so that they were more streamlined for those 4 months. It’s OP’s prerogative if he wants to go back to multiple audits but he can do so while still being gracious about how Sally has held down this position until he arrived.

                2. Christina*

                  Yeah, if you are doing two people’s jobs for four months, you streamline the ____ out of those processes. And yes, you might be sloppy doing it, you are trying to do two jobs.

            2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

              I believe the processes don’t work for OP. OP’s mistake is thinking that that makes it a fact that the procedures are bad. I can tell you in the roles I manage, Sally would succeed more than the OP.

              1. Jora Malli*

                I agree with you. I think OP and Sally have very different working styles, but instead of acknowledging that Sally thinks about things differently and that’s okay because companies need diversity of ideas to grow and thrive, OP has decided that if Sally thinks about something differently, she must obviously be wrong. That’s not a healthy way of characterizing the situation.

                1. GrooveBat*

                  Yes, this exactly! It seems to me like OP is someone who likes detailed, step-by-step checklist-style instructions that cover every eventuality, whereas Sally’s procedures appear to accommodate more variability and thus focus more on “thinking through” an issue than following an exact checklist.

                  Personally, I think Sally’s way sounds more realistic because you’re never going to be able to account for every variation.

                2. GlitsyGus*

                  It was exactly my read as well. You have two people here who have almost opposite ways of approaching tasks and situations. They are going to be like oil and water- both great on their own, but not so much together.

                  Sally is probably a bit on the sensitive side. That said, OP I am a little concerned that you don’t see any issue with your behavior or see that it may be useful to step back and look at how you talk to people when you disagree. I don’t think the problem here is that your ideas aren’t good or that changes need to be made. The problem is that you can’t see that there may be any room for improvement in how you communicate with others. You admit to being snarky, derisive and negative while talking to Sally. Expecting your coworkers to be generally kind and non-combative when asking questions or making observations about improvements is not being over-sensitive or lacking a backbone, it’s basic respect.

                  OP, you are being given free rein to make any changes you see fit. If Sally’s way doesn’t work for you, change it. You don’t need to rip it apart to her face before doing so, you can just do it. When you realized you were wrong about the thing you went to the carpet on, you could just say, “Oh man, sorry, this is the one exception I haven’t come across before! You learn new things every day!” and smooth it over. You didn’t acknowledge it at all. You can just not be sarcastic with someone who is clearly doing her best, even if it isn’t the way you would have done it. None of these things are unusual expectations.

                3. Karia*

                  @GlitsyGus – I’m not sure Sally is sensitive at all. As you say OP seems to communicate in a way most people would struggle with – (“You admit to being snarky, derisive and negative”). Also regardless of OP’s gender, the language being used to describe Sally – “sensitive / meltdown / insecure / fuss” – feels really gendered, in a bad way.

                4. Lydia*

                  And the corollary to Sally being wrong is that OP is automatically right. Not only is that shortsighted, it’s almost guaranteed to be not true.

                  OP, four months is a LONG time to have to do something a way that doesn’t work for you because they may hire someone in the future who would do it differently. Unless you’ve been there long enough to know, and I remind you, you haven’t, the decisions Sally made were the best she could make with the information she had.

            3. EPLawyer*

              But Sally even aCKNLOWLEDGED it was not perfect and that OP could improve it. Sally knows that the system she created IN A TEMPORARY SITUATION NOT HER USUAL JOB had glitches. So for OP to then complain it is not perfect is really missing the ENTIRE POINT Sally was trying to convey.

              OP seems to have a rigid style of doing things. Anything that does not fit into that style is just … wrong and needs to be called out. OP needs to be more flexible and open to understanding that ALL systems are processes. NOTHING is every done 100% correctly the first time.

              I hope OP and Sally’s interactions end soon too. For Sally’s sake.

              1. Alice Ulf*

                And frankly, I would be nervous that if something entirely new IS done 100% correctly the first time, that result was simply due to luck…and that I shouldn’t assume that luck will repeat itself in the future.

          2. SoThenISayish*

            I agree- And it kind of feels like they’re trying to catch issues before they’re implemented, which is ideal. I do a lot of troubleshooting in my role and while it’s great to have processes, you simply can’t process out every single thing that can go wrong and how to fix it. There are things like, if A, try D and K, or look at F, but the nature of the work is that if we knew it was going to be an issue and what kind of issue it would be, it wouldn’t be there. And trial and error and “maybe this” or “X did Y”, so lets try doing J before X and try again, etc is really expected. The mindset isn’t “guess right on the first try or your punished”. The mindset is, use your knowledge, skills, and thought processes to identify solutions .

            If I were training a new person I wouldn’t be able to prescribe exactly what to do in every situation, I would coach on which symptoms can mean what, and make sure they know what tools are available to them to look deeper, but a lot of it would be on the thinking through things side, because that’s how you’ll be successful in the role.

        3. JSPA*

          If you only work on simple problems, or procedures that are already solved, then sure, there is a right way. But as the problem becomes complex, the challenge is to engage with the problem. Sometimes kids who were excellent at arithmetic have a meltdown when they have to deal with geometry proofs, and [gasp] there’s more than one way to answer the question… and the “answer” is the act of thinking, not finding the final number.

          1. MissM*

            I have to use “it depends [on the actual examples versus this hypothetical question you’re trying to use as a one-size fit all rule]” so often that I’ve learned that phrase in other languages so as to switch up my default response. ¡Se depende!

          2. Bad Memories*

            Exactly – and I can’t get over the example from the original letter, where LW (rudely) insisted that Sally was wrong with a snarky “that can’t be right.” Well, it turns out Sally WAS right, which LW wrote off as ‘oh but normally it wouldn’t be and it was just a weird exception.’

          3. Koalafied*

            Yep. I’m hiring for a role right now and the single quality I want more than anything else is someone who’s willing to think through a problem. We have a lot of legacy systems, budget limitations, staffing limitations, etc that have led us to cobble together something that produces really impressive results with much less resources – but it means, for instance, that we’re stretching every cheap piece of software we use far beyond the basic use cases the company expected its clients to need. It means that the software’s Help documentation is just a place to start your investigation, and support providers at the software company usually know less about advanced/extended uses of their platform than our staff do.

            We’re constantly running into novel situations where we have to develop new processes on the fly to meet our needs, and we don’t always anticipate every possible edge case effect. Often it’s not even that something is *wrong*, but we think, “Oh, hmm, didn’t realize X was going to happen after Process Update ABC. What did we miss that caused this? Ideally, we’d like to be able to do Y… hmm, what hooks do we have, what levers can we pull to get at Y without negating the main reasons we implemented Process Update ABC?”

            I don’t want to hire someone who’s just going to come to me and tell me something is wrong/not working/bad and then just… stop talking. I want to someone who will come to me saying, “I noticed X was happening. I went through Process ABC bit by bit and checked the results each step of the way, and traced the problem to a process that’s grouping customers by timezone, but it’s looking them up against a reference list of time zones by ZIP codes we pulled in the fall. We forgot that Arizona doesn’t observe DST, so six months out of the year those customers are getting placed in the wrong timezone group. We could either change Process ABC to query the ZIP code/timezone list in real time as records are added, or I could just update the static list with a currently correct one and set a reminder in my calendar to swap out the reference list whenever the clocks change. The automatic approach has a hard cost associated with it we’d need to budget for, but will be more accurate and less prone to human error mucking things up than the manual approach.”

            Any idiot can spot a problem and point to it. It’s much more valuable and hard to find someone who can think through a problem and take an active ownership role in working out a solution in the absence of any authoritative source or existing process to give them the answer.

        4. Turnip Soup*

          Training to ask the right questions is a valid approach in many fields though – it’s essentially what a PhD is, for starters, and it’s necessary for any position in which troubleshooting is a key skill. The OP isn’t necessarily correct in their approach.

        5. The Cosmic Avenger*

          To me, that was the worst part. I’m trying to find a way to say this that’s easiest on the OP (especially since I feel like that’s the part they’re totally missing), but they sound like they do not collaborate or share well at all. If they have ideas to improve a process, they should be excited to help Sally and collaborate on improving the process, not disdainful. If there was only one best way to do things, we consultants would probably be out of business, as it would just take one good consultant one report to sum up exactly how everything should always be done, and then that company would never need consultant again! I’m constantly fine-tuning or even retooling existing products and processes, and then suggesting new improvements in order to keep us busy and competitive. It’s a constant, iterative, collaborative process, and that sounds like everything the OP thinks it should not be.

          1. anne of mean gables*

            Yeah, I can think of very few examples of problems/projects in my line of work (scientific research administration) that are solved or solvable by a clear, indisputable “correct” answer. It’s all balancing multiple, often competing priorities, and picking a “least-worst” or “best for this situation, because of intangible contextual factors” solution. Sally’s approach to developing an SOP for these sorts of problems sounds pretty spot-on to me – I would way rather work with someone (either as my manager, or as a colleague) who took her approach because it’s in line with the reality of actual, complex (interesting) problems.

          2. CatPrance*

            OP is learning the specifics on how to do this particular job, which Sally had been filling in on for a few months before OP was hired. It’s not Sally’s main job. And Sally isn’t particularly skilled at the job, and there’s nothing to be excited about in having to deal with a tangle that someone created even if it was with the best of intentions. (I’m thinking of my own technical job, and envisioning the ungodly mess that could be created if someone decided to “roll up” various parts of it into one process. No no no! Oh, dear God, no!)

            OP is lacking in tact and is not playing well with others. Some highly technical people do lack tact and do not play well with others. It happens.

            Sally’s position is that as long as you think through something and make a good faith decision, a mistake cannot be made.

            Umm. That is not a good philosophy at work. I have seen a number of howling mistakes that were “good faith decisions,” because the “good faith” has nothing to do with the validity of the decision in a given situation. So, I can understand OP’s frustration, while I wish s/he would have been kinder and more patient with Sally.

            1. EPLawyer*

              But Sally’s point is “no one at this company is going to berate you and make you miserable if you make a mistake. It’s all about improving.” OP takes it as “well its not perfect so therefore it is terrible.”

              Sally was letting OP know that perfection is not required but that putting a good faith effort and them improving the process IS.

            2. Eldritch Office Worker*

              But management seems to agree with Sally, and this seems like an iterative job. So while it might not be right in some highly technical fields (as someone who has done work in consulting and administration – they do not fall under this bucket) it seems like that philosophy IS okay in this job. Even correct. It would be correct in my job too, especially for a new employee. The fact that Sally puts it in her training tells me that she wants to encourage new hires to learn how to think and problem solve, not give her a “correct” answer that may not technically exist.

              1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

                I’m not sure that management agrees with Sally as much as they don’t agree with OP’s “one time she had to walk something back she did not get into trouble.”
                She made a mistake and didn’t get into trouble because management is not punitive.

            3. Metadata minion*

              “Some highly technical people do lack tact and do not play well with others. It happens.”

              Sure, it’s practically a stereotype, but that’s something the LW needs to work on since highly technical people still need to interact politely with other people at work.

              1. Sloanicota*

                Some highly technical people find themselves unable to work well in collaboration and repeatedly lose jobs despite their skills. It happens.

              2. Nonanon*

                This stereotype bothers me. It reminds me of “boys will be boys” — we shouldn’t normalize or excuse bad interpersonal and communication skills with the excuse that the person is “highly technical.” It leads to a false perception of what a “highly technical” person looks and acts like. I am a highly technical person, but because I’m not an a-hole, I have to work that much harder to prove that I’m highly technical.

                1. Look Back In Ingres*

                  Same, and let’s face it, this line of thinking is usually fairly gendered.

              3. Holey Hobby*

                Honestly, my hot take is that when a person is THIS keen to tell you how technically brilliant they are, you are looking at more red flags that the University of Wisconsin’s majorette corps.

                It’s like people who tell you how honest they are. Or how real they are. Always, always “uh oh.”

            4. Jora Malli*

              “Sally’s position is that as long as you think through something and make a good faith decision, a mistake cannot be made.”

              I think it’s less that a mistake “cannot be made,” and more that, if you’re making this decision from a place of having thought things through and trying to determine the best course of action, it’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t come out perfect.

              I think OP and Sally just have fundamentally different ideas about the role mistakes play in the workplace. OP sees mistakes as an evil to be avoided, Sally sees them as a natural part of the learning and growth process. So when OP keeps insisting and insisting that Sally’s making mistakes and should be called to account for them, it does feel like bullying to Sally, because it’s an attack on her philosophical beliefs.

            5. BluntBunny*

              I think Sally is describing what in my industry we would call a “no blame culture”. It’s where we get to the route of the problem not spending time trying to blame someone. Mistakes happen and if your staff fear punishment, they won’t point out mistakes or issues.
              What Sally is saying, is unless you are deliberately or maliciously doing things like making results up destroying key data that should be archived etc than it’s nothing to kick off about.

            6. Max Floof*

              “OP is lacking in tact and is not playing well with others. Some highly technical people do lack tact and do not play well with others. It happens.”

              *raises hand in slow silence* I’m one of those people….
              One of the things my last job did very well was help me reframe my brain around not being perfect on the first try and specifically how to rephrase my thoughts (ideally before they fall out of my head) so that I’m not coming across as an a**hole. I’ve gotten better… but it’s a bumpy road…. and not one I would have traveled if I didn’t have a supervisor lay things out in black and white for me to comprehend.

          3. Not Tom, Just Petty*

            Agreed. The “civil conversation” OP expected was an airing of grievances while Sally sat idly by
            But Sally had a meltdown…well, yes.
            -OP refused to apologize for the time s/he was completely wrong.
            -OP denies the gravity of the instances Sally documented
            -OP expects management to punish Sally for mistakes (the statement she didn’t get in trouble.)
            -OP is glosses over how s/he needs time to learn the role. “It’s ok, my boss understands I need time to learn.”
            OP, you are new, but I assure you that everyone knows who you are.

        6. Fergus, Stealer of Pens and Microwaver of Fish*

          Unless OP’s job is so simple that a monkey could do it, there’s no way to know if the “right” choice was made until you think it through and see what happens and every possible outcome can’t be anticipated and documented ahead of time. And OP’s incredulity that Sally didn’t “get in trouble “ for something not working out as expected sounds like a fourth graders understanding of how work works.

        7. Wintermute*

          I think that one really boils down to “there are two kinds of jobs”– there are jobs where the answers are in a book someplace and you must find that book, apply the proper formula to the problem and the problem goes away. The OTHER kind of job is one where you have general principles and frameworks but must evaluate unique circumstances and determine the best way forward.

          Sally is 110% correct in her approach for the second kind of job. There is no “just get it right the first time” when reasonable people can disagree about what “right” even means in that moment! Unless you’re a psychic you’re unlikely to come up with the solution your boss would prefer each and every time. But as long as you can show you were using good judgement and solid business-focused reasoning from the basic principles and guidestar policies, you can’t go too far astray.

          In that context the idea of “I just get it right the first time” looks laughably naive and remarkably arrogant, as if people would intentionally CHOOSE to do the wrong thing or that you alone are intelligent enough to make good decisions in all circumstances.

        8. Artemesia*

          the OP sounds very rigid and black and white in her thinking while Sally is more process oriented and frankly being a problem solver and process oriented is likely to be more effective in any kind of complex role. Most jobs don’t involve cookie cutter ‘right’ solutions but involve figuring out what is next.

        9. DataDataData*

          I’m not sure OP realizes how combative their language is, even in the post. Referencing that Sally will not “go to the mat” is very aggressive and implies that when something is wrong it means a fight or tear down is to be expected. OP, if you read this, please reread your post. Reread the quotes from Sally. There is a difference between helping or encouraging someone to grow in their role or confidence and your words and “matter of fact” nature that can tear others down. Put yourself in her shoes. Can you honestly say that you would be happy in your job if someone was undermining and calling you out on every mistake or misunderstanding (big or small) and showed zero compassion towards your own growth? It’s ok to feel frustrated or confused while onboarding to a new role. It is not okay to treat the person who was doing that role (and likely their own) as lesser because they made mistakes while trying to adapt to the circumstances.

        10. Justanotherguy*

          Not to mention making a quick decision and getting “it” (whatever it is) right enough is oftentimes better than spending a ton of time getting it perfect- and you can always improve on your response the next time the issue comes up.

        11. The Rules are Made Up*

          Right, that’s just not realistic. No process is perfect. It’s not a reasonable expectation to believe everything will work out the first time. Some things are trial and error and that’s fine. The OP seems really critical about anyone making a mistake ever and I too would not want to work with someone like that.

      1. Squid*

        All I can picture right now is Winnie the Pooh with a jar of honey reading this with an “Oh, bother.”

        1. Sloanicota*

          We’re not alone, I see some other comments starting the exact same way! It’s the whoosh of the point going over OP’s head, I’m afraid.

      2. Anon Supervisor*

        Me too…I read this: “However, her execution was sloppy and she was still working out the kinks to the new process when I came on board. This made it almost impossible for me to follow her logic and learn. Sally should have left the process as is and let the new hire create efficiencies after they’d been on the job for a while. Sally overstepped while she was filling in for my role.”…and thought…How can you overstep while filling in for a role? Was she supposed to just do the work of two people while she waits for the role to be filled and not apply any temporary efficiencies? If her process doesn’t work for you, just keep your comments to yourself and do it the way you want without making someone feel like an idiot for not knowing exactly how to do a job that they weren’t really hired to do.

        1. Jack of All Trades*

          I filled in for someone this week (they quit last week and we didn’t have a replacement yet). I didn’t know how long I would have to fill in for this person but you can bet I’m not doing things exactly as the previous person did them because I am not the same person and don’t work the same way. When I hand this job off to the next person a couple of weeks from now, I will tell them how I have done things as well as the information I received from the previous person. I imagine she won’t do things the exact same way as I have, either, because she is yet another individual person.

        2. Koalafied*

          I caught that too – it wasn’t “my[LW’s] role” when Sally was doing it, before LW was even hired!

          I mean, I could easily see someone on my team doing a passable job covering a vacant role while we filled it, and us eventually hiring someone with much better skills who would do a better job. That’s totally plausible. But if that new hire had the nerve to say that my coworker was not just unskilled but had been somehow infringing on their territory by doing a job they were asked to do and that our team needed done, I would not mince words telling them how out of line they were.

          I find myself wanting to say: Sally made mistakes, but that doesn’t mean she did something wrong. As in, she might have made an objective error, but she didn’t violate any established procedures, take unnecessary risks, or do anything she knew she wasn’t supposed to – she wasn’t morally wrong even if she was technically incorrect.

          I wonder if that’s the distinction LW is missing with the reference that Sally thinks if you operate in good faith “mistakes can’t happen.” Maybe what she was getting at is, to loosely quote the Captain Jean Luc Picard, “It is possible to do everything right and still lose. That is not a weakness; that is life.”

    2. Expelliarmus*

      They’re both in the wrong here; OP for the reasons you stated, and Sally for spinning everything OP said as a slight and trying to get OP in trouble just for stating work concerns.

      1. Jade*

        How do you know Sally spun the comments as slight? They seem pretty clearly intended as a slight to me. The whole attitude of the OP is “I know everything and you should be embarrassed for not knowing as much.” The OP acknowledges being snarky and combative with Sally. Sally in return tried to not engage with the OP, until she reached a breaking point.

      2. Somebody*

        and Sally for spinning everything OP said as a slight and trying to get OP in trouble just for stating work concerns.

        Except I don’t think that’s what happened (or at least not all of what happened). OP admits in their original letter that they refused to believe something Sally was telling them, insisting she was wrong. When it turned out Sally was right they weren’t even apologetic, simply shrugged off their own behavior (and that was one of the examples they thought would make them seem in the right!). I’m not saying Sally hasn’t done that, but based on the behavior OP described I don’t think she needed to spin things as a slight.

        1. Holey Hobby*

          That bit in the original letter was pretty intense. The LW dug in and absolutely REFUSED to believe what Sally was telling them about how the company did something. Just argued – as a brand new employee – that the person training them was wrong about their own procedures until Sally walked away. And then when they got confirmation that Sally was right (I’m gonna go on a limb here and say the confirmation was probably somebody with a penis going “Oh, no man, that actually is how we do things here”) they still saw NO ISSUE with their behavior. And the LW *doubled down* – saying essentially that they were still right because the way the company does stuff is stupid and not common in the industry.

          It’s like someone going to the mat in an argument about your own name is pronounced, and then after seven hours you bring in the priest who baptized you, and they go “well I was still right because you pronounce it stupid, and MOST people pronounce it my way.”

      3. Nia*

        I don’t understand why you’d take anything the letter writer says about Sally at face value.

        1. lost academic*

          That’s what we’re asked to do here.

          But… I agree that at this juncture I am struggling to accept her take on Sally including the report of this meeting. The phrase “unreliable narrator” is ratting in my head loudly right now.

          1. AD*

            I think the point is to give letter writers the benefit of the doubt, but I think it’s fair to say after the first letter and the update that OP has a lot of learning and growing to do. Their monomaniacal fixation on pointing out the errors of a training system designed by someone temporarily taking over that function is not the behavior of a good performer or a thoughtful colleague.

          2. Eldritch Office Worker*

            I think OP believes what they’re saying. And I think Sally interpreted OP differently. And I think OP can’t wrap their head around the difference between these two perspectives.

          3. Observer*

            Up to a point. We are expected to assume that the OP believes what they say. And GENERALLY we also expect that the OP is the best judge of their situation. *BUT* – and this is the key – when the OP show us that their judgement cannot be trusted, we are not expected to ignore that.

            The OP told us originally that they rudely “corrected” something that Sally said, and didn’t think to apologize when they found out that Sally was right. They also tell us that they want to work with someone who is ok with having their work “torn down” – that is the OP’s description here. And they refuse to use Sally’s processes because they want specific answers to each situation AND they only want the ONE RIGHT WAY of doing things rather than Sally’s process – which THE OP KNOWS the company agrees with!

            So the OP has made it pretty clear that they are not a really reliable narrator about Sally’s competence or supposed sensitivity.

          4. Wintermute*

            there is a difference between being asked to trust their interpretation of facts and assuming their subjective interpretations are correct.

            Some of AAM’s best advice has been challenging the LW directly, “Woah you’re taking an oddly adversarial view of the manager/subordinate relationship here and if you keep it up you might get fired,” “you are interpreting this as a deeply personal slight when it doesn’t seem to have been targeted at you at all”, “You’re assuming malicious intent here when they probably just weren’t thinking too hard” and so on.

          5. Anon Supervisor*

            Yeah, OP seems pretty insistent that people should just be comfortable with open criticism of processes because that’s the environment they think is the best. Well, it’s quite clear that not everyone OP works with feels that way about public criticism of processes. As the new person in an office, you gotta learn the politics of an office before you start swaggering around. Sally didn’t know OP from a hole in the ground and her first two interactions with the OP were contentious. That doesn’t mean Sally’s immature or overemotional, just that her only interactions so far with the OP is met with snark and difficulty about a process that was temporary anyway.

        2. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

          OP didn’t even deny that they treat Sally differently when the manager is vs. isn’t around.

          1. CatPrance*

            No, but that doesn’t mean that OP does do that. I saw it as being just another of Sally’s slew of accusations.

            She framed most of the things I have said as put downs directed at her when they were factual observations.

            I think Sally was at the point that if OP inadvertently broke wind, Sally would have thought it was intended as a personal insult.

            1. EPLawyer*

              Just because its factual doesn’t meant it isn’t a put down.
              Just because something is true does not make it unkind.

              OP can say “hey your processes have some problems.” Which is factually true. But that they are terrible is an OPINION. OP admits she said that last bit. OP has made it clear she has disdain for Sally. I am sure tone, attitude and other body language are convey QUITE clearly that OP thinks Sally is incompetent and too flutterheaded to be competent. When Sally seems to have taken on a job outside her role, developed process that actually HELPED the situation (even if they need tweaking which SALLY readily acknowledges) , then been trying to train the new person who all the new person can do is complain that Sally isn’t perfect.

              1. Eldritch Office Worker*

                “Just because something is true does not make it unkind.”

                And you can choose kinder ways to say unkind true things. Tone, word choice, body language – we communicate with a lot of things.

                1. Retrotardigrade*

                  Exactly. “I thought your updated procedures would be better” is unnecessary and unkind.
                  “I finally found something not in her procedures and pointed it out to her when I made this infamous comment” sounds like everything else actually *was* in her procedures (go, Sally!), but LW took satisfaction in finding justification for a gotcha moment (and referring to it as “the infamous comment” supports Sally’s assertion that LW is snide with her).

                  LW says that Sally “hated to be called to the mat”–a needlessly aggressive and confrontational framing of feedback. “I want to work with professionals who can handle other people breaking down their ideas in order to strengthen them” implies that LW does not view Sally as a professional. I get the sense that because LW is criticizing Sally’s work (and not her wardrobe or hobbies), they believe that their openly hostile attitude can’t be considered personal.

                  I just finished reading a book that is widely recommended here at AAM and there is a chapter on screening out employees who may become problems later. Rigidity of thought, inability to adapt, and always blaming others for their problems are among the things the author recommends screening for. Management there sounds pretty competent, so I wonder how much longer LW will be a “valued member of the team.”

              2. Sans Serif*

                Your first sentence is exactly what I came here to write. And who is to say it’s factual? I’m sure Sally believes what she is saying is factual as well. OP has a very black-and-white outlook and can’t seem to accept there may be more than one good way to do something. Or that something she believes is factual may not be. Or that something that is factual can still be said in an insulting or mean way.

            2. Jora Malli*

              I don’t think there’s evidence in the letter to support that. There *is* evidence in the letter to support the idea that OP was repeatedly, consistently, snarkily telling Sally that she was bad at her job.

              OP doesn’t think Sally should have been hurt by her statements because she didn’t intend to be hurtful when she said them. But that’s not how it works. If I step on your foot, I don’t get to decide whether or not your foot hurts. You do. OP doesn’t get to decide if the statements she was making to Sally were hurtful, Sally does.

            3. Observer*

              What EPLawyer says is true. But also, the OP’s description of things being “factual” is highly suspect, based on what they have described. Their description of Sally’s processes as “bad” is not factual at all. Their insistence that Sally was wrong, and even when she explained maintaining that she must be mistaken was neither factual nor correct. The OP even admits that their tone was snarky.

              And if the OP HAD been treating Sally the same way when they were alone as when the Boss was around, do you think for one minute that the OP would not have said so?

            4. Somebody*

              I think Sally was at the point that if OP inadvertently broke wind, Sally would have thought it was intended as a personal insult.

              Really? The read I’ve gotten from both the original letter and this one is that if Sally had said 2+2=4 the OP would have found a way to prove her wrong.

            5. Karia*

              OP, in both letters, includes multiple statements that most people would take as an insult.

          2. fhqwhgads*

            I got confused during that part. She mentioned the things she was doing/accused of saying, but didn’t clarify if she did actually say or do those thing, or if from her perspective, yes she said that, yes she does that, but she doesn’t think it’s wrong or bad to have said/done. Like, if Sally’s memory of these quotes is slightly off – making the remarks more adversarial than constructive, ok I’d get OP’s take. But it’s not clear to me if OP meant “she took it as this harsher version but what I actually said was not”.
            Like I’m trying hard not to make stuff up here but I feel like a better example would make the whole thing more clear. From the original letter’s headline I imagined something like “I told her the form she’d created for this process omitted a field for X, but X is required by Regulatory Body when submitting, so we need to get that added to the template immediately. She told our boss I said her form was crap.” Like that’s an example of “I made a factual statement. She interpreted it as a personal insult.” But the letter makes it sound more like “I told her the process was not good, because it isn’t. She cried. But it’s true so it’s not a problem to have said that.” If what’s going on between the two is closer to the second, sorry OP, you have a tact problem. If it’s more like the first, then yeah, the coworker is taking things personally that were not personal.

      4. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

        Did you read the first letter? Where OP described openly snarking at her and repeatedly insisting it was impossible that she was correct (over something that she was 100% correct about) until Sally had to just walk away? And how there were numerous examples of similar interactions that OP didn’t feel like detailing because the one example was enough?

      5. SJ (they/them)*

        OK so the thing is though, “Dear Boss, OP is being extremely rude to me and I can’t seem to make them stop” IS a work concern. When Sally goes to the boss with this, she is raising a work concern! Having workplace interactions that meet a baseline level of decency and respect is a workplace necessity, work cannot get done if this is not happening, this is work. She’s at work. Sally reporting this is not “trying to get OP in trouble”, it’s reporting an interpersonal problem that 1) has risen to the level of impeding work and 2) she cannot solve on her own. That’s a normal and good thing to do. Oof.

        1. ScruffyInternHerder*

          Exactly my take, both at the original and now. Similar situation a dinosaur age ago, and my comment to my boss was “am I being set up to fail here, or are you guys truly expecting me to train her?” Kind of wish Sally and her boss luck here, though I know that’s colored by personal experience!

        2. Koalafied*

          +1

          As a manager, one of the things I make sure my reports know is that I want to be a supportive ally. I want to know if another employee is making my employee’s job unnecessarily difficult or being rude to her. While in some cases I will advise them on how to handle an interpersonal conflict, if they’ve already tried on their own – or the conflict is with a senior or politically important person and they’re afraid of blowback if they rock the boat themselves – I will not hesitate to throw my weight around on behalf of my juniors and shut down any unprofessional/disrespectful behavior. If I don’t have the weight to throw around either because the rude person is THAT senior/important, I will not hesitate to take the problem as far up the chain as I need to go to find someone who will shut it down. Rude/insulting/disrespectful behavior, unlike many other problems that can pop up in the workplace, is a 100% preventable impediment to my juniors getting their jobs done and I don’t want to be kept in the dark if someone is getting in their way.

      6. JSPA*

        OP seems less-than-clear on how to indicate confusion with a process, without implying that the process is broken.

        In my grad student teaching days, I had a student who thought it was pretty shoddy that when they extracted DNA, they had to test the concentration before moving on to the next step. Surely if I had designed the experiment better, this could have been avoided!

        And having to use different temperatures for different enzymes or reactions–shoddy and needless, clearly!

        I got eyebrow cramps from incredulity that semester…and chest cramps from the effort of not laughing in their face.

        Not every “concern” is a valid concern. Not every opinion is a valid opinion. Not every reaction is an informed reaction. Not every trainee is trainable.

        1. bridge_truth*

          Not gonna lie . . . I’m getting eyebrow cramps just READING that. How VERY DARE different enzymes have different optimal temps. I’d love to see that student run one of those western blots where all the bands just . . . disappear. Magic ladder? There. Clear as day. Everything else? Into the ether.

        2. Dust Bunny*

          I can literally see my cell biology prof’s perplexed and exasperated stare as I read this. And we were only clueless undergrads.

        3. MChesnik*

          When you say “grad student teaching days”, do you mean that you were a grad student at the time or they were? Because those issues are surprising from an undergrad, but if it was a grad student . . . holy crap.

      7. FrenchCusser*

        I had a boss who did the ‘nice in front of others, snarky and mean when alone’ thing, and yes, she had me in tears.

        And I usually only cry at movies. Broken bones don’t even make me cry.

        And from reading this letter, I totally believe Sally that that’s how the OP operates.

        Fortunately for me, that boss left a year after I started. Whew.

      8. Orora*

        “I thought your updated procedures would be better” is an insult. How does this comment improve the process or procedures at all? What value does that comment produce other than to make the listener feel like their work isn’t good enough?

        “That wasn’t included in the procedures. Can we add it?” is factual and works to improve the procedures. If said politely, most people wouldn’t be offended.

        The OP doesn’t like Sally’s procedures. Fine. But learn how this company does it first. You have to know a process before you can make effective changes to it. It’s pompous to think that you know better without having all the information.

      9. Margaretmary*

        As Sally is training the LW, it seems quite possible to me that she is expected to brief those above her on how the LW is doing. That may well be part of her role and not a matter of trying to get the LW in trouble, but simply giving them the information they asked for on how the LW is working out.

        I also think stating work concerns about how the person training you is bad at their job because their way of training doesn’t fit your way of learning…at the very least doesn’t look good. If you are finding it hard to learn from somebody, the problem could be with you, with them or partly with both and well, firstly, neither person involved is really in the best position to evaluate that and secondly, rightly or wrongly, the company are more likely to blame the person learning than the person doing the training unless multiple people are having the same problem being trained by this person.

      10. Froodle*

        But is OP “just stating work concerns”? From the original post:

        “When I “dismissed” her, it was actually a misunderstanding: She was trying to tell me something that I was sure was inaccurate. From my years of experience, I did not think what she was saying could be possible and so I told her, “That cannot be right.” I admit my tone wasn’t completely snark-free, because she went on to explain why she wasn’t wrong and I doubled down that she “must have been mistaken.” She just walked away. I found out from another colleague a couple weeks later that Sally was right and our company is just a rare exception to the rule, but it is certainly rare enough to warrant my pushback.”

        Those are OPs own words, and honestly, that sounds like awful behaviour for Sally to have been on the receiving end of. Op berated and honked at her until she wAlked away, and even after finding out Sally was right, OP still thinks their actions were warranted.

        OP sounds like a bully to me.

    3. get up*

      A few choices of words & phrases sets off flags a villainous unreliable narrator of outrage fiction. There’s certainly jerks like this in the workplace so it’s certainly fine to hash it all out here—-but, like in the last letter, one wouldn’t actually say they “doubled down” in their own crappy behavior, then allude to other obnoxiousness that they dismissively won’t bother to enumerate. That’s what someone painting the picture of the antagonist would do.

    4. Cat Tree*

      This update was basically, “nothing has changed. I still think I’m right and nothing can convince me otherwise.”

      1. Paula*

        The OP seems to have a lot of difficulty understanding different perspectives. Their rigidity and inability to see outside of their process seems extremely limiting. How have they been able to operate up until this point? Do they only act this way with certain people?

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          They’ve been a consultant, so most clients may well not have had to deal with them for very much time at a stretch. It’s possible they tended to think, “Well, X is awfully rigid in their thinking, and they have a weird thing about being always right. But they’re right at least moderately often and that’s useful to me. I can put up with this for a brief stretch when I really need them, I guess.”

    5. Lynca*

      What I really hope to see (but I’m not holding out for it) is that OP’s boss lays out how increadibly difficult and unprofessional they are being. The OP’s attitude is really unflattering and I feel really bad for Sally.

      I kind of have to roll my eyes at the “I like to do things the right way the first time” because there are so many jobs which can’t be cookie cutter with procedures. So far they haven’t convinced me Sally has done anything wrong, just that she has a different perspective.

      OP has said some very unkind things to Sally and I really wish their boss had not brushed this off as a misunderstanding. OP talks about Sally as if she’s stupid and not worthy of any respect. That kind of disrespect needs to stop if you expect to have a good relationship with any co-worker.

      1. Sans Serif*

        Yeah, who DOESN’T want to do it right the first time?? But that’s just not how life goes sometimes and there’s value in learning and improving by doing.

    6. Scmill*

      I have the hide of a rhinoceros, and I think I only made two of my direct reports cry twice in over 40 years. One because he was having problems at home, and I backtracked quickly to give him the space and time he needed to get back on track. The other was just someone who was in the wrong role, and I helped her move to a different position where she was able to succeed.

      OP, you need to rethink your approach.

    7. Momma Bear*

      I said before that OP needed to work on their soft skills and I think that still applies. OP seems to really need to double down on being right and “better than” Sally. I’m still feeling for Sally here. I find OP very off-putting in writing and I can only imagine what a ball of sunshine they are to work with.

      1. Well...*

        The kindest reading I have for OP is that things with Sally escalated to the point that neither could stand each other.

        I work with a lot of difficult personalities, lots of whom are extremely arrogant (I’m an academic in physics). Someone taking criticism of their work personally annoys me a lot more than arrogance and mansplaining though… I’ve worked with a lot of guys who are frankly incompetent in their academic service work and want to be patted on the back constantly for how well they do, then when you point of the flaws in the existing system they lose it. That makes my work life worse than being told I’m wrong when I know I’m right (which is an almost every day occurrence for me). So I can understand some of OPs frustrations with Sally, though only if I give OP a huge scoop of benefit of the doubt.

    8. BeenThereHatedThat*

      This. I know people like OP, and regardless of Sally’s being right or wrong, OP is going to continue to have issues working with whoever, based on the attitude I hear in this letter.

    9. Walk Don’t Run*

      I see the OP as being absolutely, completely clueless as to how they are perceived by other people. There was nothing in either post that indicates that. The OP has an outstanding lack of self awareness.

      The arrogance of “I prefer to analyze up front so my processes are always right the first time” is another red flag. That’s not how problem solving works.
      The OP projects an “I’m right, everybody else is wrong” attitude.
      It must be tough for the OP being the only perfect person in the room. /s

      I’ve had coworkers like the OP. I’m a reasonably blunt person myself, but people like the OP are insufferable. I often wonder if in social situations they say to people “that dress makes you look fat” or “wow, you’ve gotten a lot more bald since I last saw you” and defend those with “well, it was the absolute truth, those people should have thicker skin”.

      1. Julia*

        I’m sure you did not mean it this way, and I sympathize with your perspective, but this comment is fairly rude and unconstructive. I might consider rephrasing your thoughts in a way that has the potential to help LW, or at least doesn’t make blanket generalizations about her character.

        LW – I suggest that you apologize to your coworker (even if you don’t feel like you were being rude, it’s important to clear the air) and try to keep your comments about her processes constructive from now on. Telling her they’re bad, or that you expected them to be better, is not constructive.

      2. Sans Serif*

        The “prefer to analyze up front” makes me think the OP assumes that when people are wrong, they must have been careless or didn’t do the pre-work/analysis necessary. And that’s not true. OP is very rigid and honestly, I would have a hard time working with someone like that. And I’m someone who is pretty good at rolling with the punches and dealing with different personalities.

        1. Genny*

          There also comes a point when you have to stop analyzing and start executing. For some industries building the plane while you fly it is expected, and it sounds to me like that’s what Sally’s doing. She inherited an onerous process and overhauled what she could to improve it knowing that there were still kinks in the system that would have to be worked out after the new system was rolled out. That’s life. You can’t wait to adjust critical processes until you have the perfect solution – you have to do what you can up front and then tweak as necessary.

    10. Kuddel Daddeldu*

      Yes, transitioning from consulting (where being clear on analytics is key, and you are explicitly called in by leadership to fix something – which may lead to a bit of arrogance, especially when you are actually not that clear on the facts) to an in-house role (where politics matter) can be hard!
      I have been in consulting for many years, and I see this effect a lot in my brother (also in consulting). Hopefully I can rein it in well enough – I try hard!

    11. IndyStacey*

      OP, you keep using the work factual in the wrong context. Your opinion is not factual. Many of your comments are merely your opinion and were rudely stated at that. I don’t expect self reflection since you clearly didn’t do any after the first round of responses, but that’s something you should really work on.

    12. chewingle*

      Right, Sally doesn’t need a backbone, OP just needs to learn how to be more professional. It sounds like Sally’s training has been to catch OP up in how she handled covering the role (which we must reiterate is NOT PART OF HER ACTUAL JOB), which is perfectly appropriate. Instead of just thanking her, accepting her processes aren’t ideal, and then changing them as you go (which she said OP should do), OP decided to…give her a lecture and make he

      1. chewingle*

        Anyway.

        *lecture her and make her feel incompetent.

        OP, you say Sally’s career will suffer without a backbone, but actually, the opposite is true. She has behaved professionally under difficult circumstances. Whereas you have been a jerk. I think you’ll find if you don’t learn to work on this, your career will be the one suffering.

  2. Albeira Dawn*

    Both you and Sally seem to be adversarial and defensive around each other, instead of collaborative.

    1. Reba*

      Yes, even the language here, like “called to the mat,” is antagonistic. Regardless of the actual content of OP’s remarks* to Sally, OP would likely benefit from a major reframing of this work relationship in her own mind. You are working together, you are not trying to win anything or prove Sally’s inferiority to anyone!

      *To be clear, “I thought your work would be better” is plain rude.

      1. hugseverycat*

        Yes, revising procedures doesn’t need to be antagonistic! I helped develop a procedure for a new tool my company was using some months ago. We didn’t really understand the tool very well or have a good sense of how exactly we were going to use it, but we needed some sort of guidelines to start out with, and I helped come up with them.

        Recently, someone was hired into a role where they were going to be in charge of this particular tool. They knew I helped develop the procedure and they made no bones about the fact that he was going to change it. But instead of giving me a hard time about it, he asked me about some of the decisions we made, and listened when I gave him the context under which we made those decisions. I’m sure he will be changing many of the things he asked about, but he found out with an open mind that some of the things he thought were needlessly obtuse were actually purposeful.

      2. HotSauce*

        “Factual observations” while piled up one on top of the other can come off as nit-picking. She literally said she did the best she could while covering and OP was welcome to make changes as necessary and yet it sounds like they continued to list the “flaws” they found in Sally’s processes. It’s one thing to make a suggestion, but it’s quite another to just criticize someone else’s work. Maybe Sally is a bit sensitive but even a person with the toughest skin would crack when constantly being criticized.

        1. Ginger Dynamo*

          Not to mention, “I thought your updated process would be better” is not actually a factual statement about her work—it is a very snide factual statement about how little you think of her work. Just because it’s true, doesn’t make it useful, OP. And just because it’s about her work product, doesn’t mean that wasn’t a personal attack. As soon as you get snide like that, you make it personal because you make the conversation adversarial. No productive conversation will follow an adversarial, sarcastic remark. Avoiding insulting someone to their face is not “wearing kid gloves”—it’s being a decent coworker and human being.

    2. honeygrim*

      I’ve been in an office where an initial interaction between two people went poorly for some reason. After that, each of them seemed to always approach the other as if they were ready for a fight. Having that kind of adversarial mindset about a colleague made communication between them–and thus any improvement in their working relationship–impossible.

      That’s what this sounds like. It’s going to make for a very stressful working environment.

    3. Suzie SW*

      I think Sally’s response is appropriate given that she’s been repeatedly critiqued and insulted by a person whose job was to learn from her. LW forgot to take her consulting hat off when she transitioned to the role of trainee (though I’m skeptical her harsh delivery would fly even as a consultant), and she feels completely justified in “calling to the mat” a person who was solely there to assist as a stop-gap until her onboarding. The pervasive “my way or the highway” tone of these letters is harmful to any workplace culture. It’s a shame LW’s boss doesn’t see what’s happening. If this were my employer, LW would be on the road toward a “thanks, but this isn’t a good fit.”

    4. Oakenfield*

      OP, if you can’t iterate your job after 3 months, can’t take the initiative to fill in the procedure notes with new or missing information and are going back to Sally so often she has to start referring you back to the training materials you cannot blame Sally for your poor performance. This job may not be right for you but don’t take Sally, who was performing a job that isn’t her specialty, down with you. If you were competent, you would change what needed to be changed and decide what needs to be decided without involving Sally at all now that she’s stepped out of the role and you have had MONTHS to learn.

      You are bullying Sally and this commentariat is not going to fall for your redirection.

      1. Mar*

        This right here: “If you were competent, you would change what needed to be changed and decide what needs to be decided without involving Sally at all now that she’s stepped out of the role.” It sounds like OP wanted to step into a fully formed role that needed no nuancing and where she could just execute established procedures.

  3. Starbuck*

    Oh dear. I hope LW’s plan to keep future concerns to themselves helps alleviate things. I feel for Sally. Hopefully she can soon completely hand this task over and be done with the part of the role that requires training LW.

      1. Polecat*

        Sally is a freaking saint in my opinion. I would’ve lasted about two days with this guy.

      2. Doug Judy*

        It reminds me of the classic Principal Skinner meme “Am I that out of touch? No! It’s the children who are wrong”

        Readers weren’t wrong the first time, and aren’t wrong this time too. Maybe the OP will have some self awareness this time.

    1. Grand Admiral Thrawn Is Blue Forevermore*

      Oh, really, she’s just strengthening the thought process of the AAM readership. :) It’s kind of her thing.

    2. sacados*

      Yeah, I’m also quite taken aback by the comment about how Sally “didn’t get in trouble” when she realized a certain process wasn’t working well and had to change direction.
      Like …. that’s not something she should get in trouble for??? I for one would not want to work at a company where I would be “in trouble” for making a decision based on experience/reasoning/logic, realizing that the result was not as expected, and notifying my boss that we needed to change the procedure!! And I don’t see how an office that does penalize people for that could be at all healthy or successful.

      LW seems to think that the ideal method is to only implement a process that you know with 100% certainty is correct and the best possible solution, but that’s just not going to happen in the real world.
      I’m not even going to get into the question of whether Sally is also in the wrong/overreacting/too sensitive because at this point LW ought to focus on improving their own issues in this area. If that happens and Sally is still being sensitive, etc. then that’s a separate problem that can be addressed, but that’s really the second step in this process.
      The fact of Sally being also in the wrong does not change the missteps that LW is making in these interactions.

      1. Orora*

        Right? Unless Sally purposefully created a process she knew wouldn’t work or overlooked obvious, glaring issues, there’s nothing to “get in trouble” for. Sometimes stuff works like you think it will. Sometimes you get halfway through and realize, “Well, that’s a wrinkle I didn’t anticipate.” Smart employees figure it out and adjust; smart managers let them do so without chastisement.

      2. Koalafied*

        Also, what does “in trouble” even look like in a workplace? I can’t think of anything that wouldn’t be totally unacceptable in a healthy workplace. Sit her in a chair and berate her for 20 straight minutes for her incompetence? Make her wear a dunce hat so everyone in the building knows she messed up? Dock her pay? Send her home to write apology letters for letting the team down? All of those are horrible, counterproductive, illegal, or all three.

        When someone makes a mistake, the business has an interest in 1) fixing it and 2) making sure it doesn’t happen again. If you need to fire someone or take away projects/responsibilities because you don’t think they can get done the job they were hired to do, sure. But dressing someone down or doling out punishments aren’t about advancing a business interest – they don’t fix the problem and they don’t prevent it from happening again. They just satisfy some manager’s desire to go on a power trip.

    3. Zombeyonce*

      Yeah, this is one of those few updates that makes the OP sound even worse to work with than they originally sounded.

      1. MistOrMister*

        I thought this too!! Through the first letter I just thought, ok well none of this is great and OP has been rude to Sally a number of times. But this update was just hard to get through. The explanations of everything made me feel MORE sorry for Sally, not less. That being said, I worked with someone who “documented” every time I did something they didn’t like and complained to the boss for a good while. I can understand why OP would be put off by it. In my case, the person was trying to manipulate their way to the top (and boy does it seem to have worked! I left and now they’re the office manager and the previous office manager has been demoted). It doesn’t sound like that’s what Sally is doing, but being put in that situation sure can be frustrating. That said, OP seems to have been behaving way too harshly to Sally and to not be willing to reflect that they might be part (if not most/all) of the problem.

    4. Annie E. Mouse*

      Absolutely. OP is incapable of self-awareness. It seems that they never wanted advice at all, but were hoping someone would validate their terrible behavior. I suppose the takeaway here is an eye into the mind of the toxic employee.

    5. JamminOnMyPlanner*

      no, don’t you see? The readers just “didn’t understand” what the letter writer had to say. Every single one of us pales in comparison to LW’s genius.

    6. QuinleyThorne*

      Which kinda has me wondering why they bothered to provide an update? “I refused the advice I was given believing it to be bad/wrong, so I didn’t apply it. Here’s how nothing changed at all.”

      Uh, well, okay then?

    7. Esa*

      To be fair, OP’s update said that they were pulled into a meeting with Sally and their boss the day before the letter was published.

      Having said that, I would’ve hoped that after writing the letter to AAM the OP might have viewed what they’d written objectively and could see things from Sally’s perspective. But sometimes when people are so adamant/stubborn it can take a lot of distance to see a different perspective on things.

      I would say to OP though: sometimes it’s more important to be kind than to be be right and OP has the opportunity to improve or develop systems where they see fit and to focus negatively any more on Sally should be avoided for a great number of valid reasons. OP, if you want to work with professionals who can handle having ideas be broken down to be strengthened then you need to demonstrate this yourself also – your ideas about the systems at your work and your ideas on interpersonal relationships with your colleagues got you off on the wrong foot and you need to be able to handle their critiques of your behaviour just as professionally so that your behaviour can be strengthened. And if you can’t say anything kind, don’t say anything at all, *that’s* having a backbone.

  4. musicinjune*

    I’m not sure the OP wants to see themselves as anything but having the best intentions. Which, yes that may be true. But we all know that saying. But in my observation of working in the corporate world, being abrasive isn’t very professional, especially with those you work with. And while, yes, Sally may need a thicker skin, OP needs to tone things down in general. Not just for Sally.

    1. Squid*

      What lead to success in one role won’t necessarily lead to success in another. OP went from consulting to admin, which is a drastic change… Their style needs to reflect that change.

      1. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

        I think you may have found the key issue here for LW. Their role has changed drastically. What works in consulting (literally being hired to assess problems and tell people how to approach them differently), probably isn’t the right approach for colleagues in the new role. LW can use that consulting brain as applied to their own work, but probably needs a gentler approach with colleagues and a bit of deliberation over what it means to stay in their own lane.

        1. Blisskrieg*

          I have never been a formal “consultant” but as part of my job I frequently need to diagnose problems and report recommendations back to clients. I feel like this requires a lot more kid gloves than the internal aspects of my role, and as I read this I thought WOW OP must have been interesting as a consultant. I always thought–I could be wrong–that consultants have to bring more diplomacy to the table because their contract is at stake. I make recommendations all the time, but rarely call the baby ugly. Does being a formal consultant change things?

          1. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

            You make a really good point. I’m an in-house lawyer so I do a lot of this sort of thing too. I often need to convey that something that happened or is planned to happen is a big mistake with very serious consequences. I think you’re right that diplomacy is a huge part of doing that well. So is taking steps to understand what’s important to the person you’re talking to and understanding their perspective.

          2. Sloanicota*

            No doubt depends on the type of consulting. Technical consulting, probably can be quite direct if they’ve being asked to fix a database problem or crunch numbers or something, like an auditor. If it’s strategic planning yes, a lot of diplomacy required if you realize the problem is that the ED is an ass or the organization is chasing money around.

          3. Alexander Graham Yell*

            In my firm we definitely push back, but with tact. We’ve had to go in and diagnose issues and find polite, client-appropriate ways of saying, “This is a total mess and there is no way you could unmake it yourself.” But internally, it’s a lot more direct/blunt and there can be little patience for errors. (The “pls fix” jokes are abundant online and I’ve definitely had things returned to me that just say, “No. Try again” and leave me to figure out what’s wrong.)

            Ultimately I think OP needs to adjust and treat their coworkers more like clients.

          4. JustMyImagination*

            I worked at a company where clients would hire consultants to come audit us. We never saw the consultant/client relationship but some of those consultants were doozies and we would cringe if their name came back around for another client.

            1. InsufficientlySubordinate*

              Yeah, we had one that was a smug twit and condescending to our Technical Manager. It was kinda hilarious when the consulting company put him into a different role/demoted him which was supervised by…the Technical Manager. Who was a nice enough person not to be condescending in return.

          5. Turnip Soup*

            I think it depends! I’ve definitely seen places where consultants can say things that employees can’t get heard and they’re often extremely blunt.

          6. Eldritch Office Worker*

            Seconded. I prefer admin over consulting specifically because you can be more blunt and less nuanced/political with your language. That works better for me.

          7. Neurodivergentsaurus Rex*

            You need buy-in from the client to be a successful consultant. I wonder how OP’s consulting clients felt about their recommendations and working style.

          8. Antilles*

            It really depends on the consultant’s role.
            There are plenty of consultants who are brought in to shake things up, in which case being blunt is just part of the deal. We’re hiring an outsider specifically because we need someone with no ties to “how we’ve always done it”, who can call out things that need changed, who has a broader view of the industry to point out where we’re sub-standard, who can make suggestions on workflow. So in many cases, it’s entirely possible for consultants to be much more straightforward and less diplomatic than if they were regular employees already part of the system.

        2. unpleased*

          As a consultant, I will tell you that genuine kindness is as important as directness. Not treating people with empathy when you are a consultant is a bad move.

        3. LPUK*

          My suspicion was that OP was a junior consultant – tasked with doing the analysis, but no face- time with customers and a with a boss who handled the client side

      2. The Prettiest Curse*

        Yes, OP has to realize that admin generally involves following procedures and consulting generally involves creating or improving procedures. If they shift into the mindset that they’re not there primarily to critique procedures, they will make things a lot easier for themselves!

    2. Sloanicota*

      It’s also like – what Sally needs to do isn’t your problem and can’t be a part of your thinking here about the solution. OP needs to focus on what they need to do in order to navigate this solution. I agree that minimizing time spent with Sally is likely a big part of that.

    3. Elizabeth I*

      I love what you just said: “I’m not sure the OP wants to see themselves as anything but having the best intentions”.

      That seems to be the way Sally feels too, according to OP: “ Sally’s position is that as long as you think through something and make a good faith decision, a mistake cannot be made”

      In other words, BOTH Sally and OP are focused on intention over impact. And this is IMPACTING their relationship.

      Fascinating…

      1. Sloanicota*

        Both letters, OP was unduly focused on what SALLY needs to do differently – trying to tell Sally’s boss that Sally needs to grow a backbone in the first letter, or here, reflecting that Sally needs a thicker skin. OP should stop thinking about what Sally needs to do differently and think about what they can do differently – and “treat Sally with kid gloves” is pretty dismissive. More work to do there.

        1. Elizabeth I*

          Agreed!

          It was interesting to hear about “Sally’s” perspective through the lens of OP as letter writer. I wonder how much of the Sally quote I copied above is truly how Sally feels vs. how much is OP’s interpretation. And whether OP’s perspective of focusing on intention over impact is perhaps coloring his/her interpretation of Sally’s intentions?

    4. Fluffy Fish*

      I don’t think they care anything about intentions. I think they are determined they are right and could not care less about how they are displaying their “rightness”.

      1. Oakenfield*

        Agreed. With a large dash of blaming Sally for their continued low performance and inability to suss out answers on their own.

        1. Fluffy Fish*

          The funny thing is this update did provide context, but not the kind OP probably intended. Them not getting up to speed is glaring, except of course to them.

          1. Salsa Verde*

            That really jumped out to me – the OP says: The reality is that after walking me through her new process only two or three times, Sally would refer me back to her procedures when I asked questions. I finally found something not in her procedures and pointed it out to her when I made this infamous comment.

            That’s what I would do! If I already explained the procedure multiple times, I would definitely refer you back to the documentation instead of answering your question. And I would alert the boss if this happened too much, telling them that I had concerns about your ability to do this job.

            1. Froodle*

              “after walking me through her new process only two or three times, Sally would refer me back to her procedures when I asked questions.”

              This is legit the advice Alison gives out time and time again for people dealing with co-workers who try to outsource their brains to letter-writers. If someone can’t or won’t work stuff out for themselves, after a few times it’s okay to point them back to the written documents.

              Sounds like OP isn’t performing as expected and trying to make this Sally’s problem…

            2. t*

              and the other part of this quote – “I finally found something not in her procedures and pointed it out to her”

              OP makes a big deal of how ‘bad’ the procedures are… yet ‘finally’ definitely sounds like the procedures covered the vast majority of what the OP has run across! And that they were very much LOOKING for something to crow about.

              The professional response to ‘finally’ finding something not in your job’s procedures is to…. add it to said procedures. That’s it.

    5. Dust Bunny*

      Best intentions don’t mean you’re not in the wrong and/or harmful. I know plenty of people whom I think genuinely believe they have the best intentions as they tell you how you’re doing everything wrong and if you just did it their way it would always be right. It doesn’t mean that they aren’t also self-centered, misguided, and hurtful.

      1. musici*

        I’m not saying that OP isn’t wrong or hurtful. But the saying is the road to hell is paved with good intentions. So even if OP THINKS they’re doing the best they can, it’s clearly not actually that.

    6. CheerfullyCool*

      Its hard when we read these letters to understand tone, but it may be OPs tone and her affect that makes thing seem more abrasive than they really are. Benefit of the doubt to OP but still, it feels like OP double downed on the entire post.

      1. Working Hypothesis*

        Except that if this is OP’s level of abrasive tone in addressing us, I have to think they’re probably at least that abrasive in addressing Sally. In theory at least, they’ve got nothing to be irritated at us for, while they openly acknowledge that they think Sally has been doing a lot of stuff wrong that’s been making OP’s job harder. So even if you’re right, I think that can show us a lot of what Sally is probably dealing with from them.

  5. Curiouser and Curiouser*

    “I want to work with professionals who can handle other people breaking down their ideas in order to strengthen them.”

    This seems like a particularly adversarial view toward ‘professionalism’. I consider myself a pretty professional person, but I’ve never found it necessary to break down someone else’s work or ideas while I’m collaborating or trying to solve a problem. I don’t find it unprofessional to not want to be told my ideas are bad or you “thought they would be better”(!). Sally may not have as thick a skin as you would like her to…but I don’t think it’s only unprofessional, “thin skinned” people who would get their hackles up at this kind of response.

    1. Squid*

      And even if they want to “break down” the work, there are professional and polite ways to do so. OP can’t read a room to save their lives, apparently.

      1. Curiouser and Curiouser*

        Exactly! I’ve certainly corrected people, or commented on why something may not work or may need to be fixed/reworked, but there are ways to do it that feel…collaborative and not combative. “I thought your updated procedures would be better” is a rough way to collaborate!

        1. Noodles*

          Yeah, there’s a big difference between giving helpful, constructive feedback and just being bluntly critical. “This should be better” might be honest but it’s not helpful in any way.

        2. Anon for This*

          Exactly! “I like this idea, but if we implement it unilaterally, it’s going to create conflict because you and I both know John from other department doesn’t like being arbitrarily told to do things, even if they’re better, so let’s propose this to John, give him several options, let him pick one, and let him think he contributed in a meaningful way, and then we can get this great idea implemented without having to wrestle John into submission” is so much better than “This sucks, let’s give John a choice of a, b, and c”

        3. Alexander Graham Yell*

          I use a former mentor’s method all the time – I just ask to be walked through their thinking. That way you can pull apart the logic and thought process and either address anything that needs corrections when it’s just a small part of the whole and solve the root issue OR learn a different way of approaching the issue that you can potentially apply to other situations.

          But the key to it is genuinely engaging and being open to being wrong and/or learning things, which is not a quality the OP is showing in these letters.

          1. Observer*

            I just ask to be walked through their thinking.

            This is one of the things that sticks out to me. The OP absolutely does NOT want to do that! They don’t want to walk through the thinking process. In their mind that is wrong. There must be a RIGHT WAY and at that point there is no thinking process anymore.

            Never mind that it’s not a mind set that makes any sense in a situation where each situation has a different answer.

            1. Neurodivergentsaurus Rex*

              Yes. OP seems to resent being told to learn actual problem-solving skills rather than just following a predetermined list of instructions.

          2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            I just ask to be walked through their thinking.

            I like that plan of action, too, and use it frequently. I’m still working on the perfect phrasing that doesn’t put others on the defensive, though.

        4. Ace in the Hole*

          I work in a highly regulated, highly dangerous, poorly-understood field. I often have to tell people I work with that the way they are doing things is illegal/dangerous and needs to change. I also often have to tell people that their ideas are deeply, irreparably flawed and we need to completely ditch it for a different plan. I have actually yelled at coworkers when that was the only way to make them stop doing something dangerous.

          In TEN YEARS of doing this job I have never made someone cry or say they feel bullied. And I’ve worked with some pretty volatile people! In fact, most coworkers feel comfortable coming to me with sensitive issues because they trust me to handle it well.

          LW, this is not a problem with correcting people or giving constructive feedback. This is 100% a problem with how you are communicating. I think your comments are unnecessarily blunt at best, and may not even be constructive at all.

      2. GlitsyGus*

        Exactly! It’s my job to go in and break down everyone’s processes, find the issues, and help them put them back together. I have seen some MESSES, let me tell you. I have read SOPs that I needed to re-read 4 times just to figure out if they are actually for the process they are supposed to be applied to. I have thrown out documents and re-written them whole cloth because they were completely useless and whoever wrote them must have been high.

        But you know what I didn’t say when I was unravelling the sweater? “I expected this to be better.” “Were you high when you wrote this?” (to my example, not OP’s) I have never said anything sarcastic. I don’t use phrases that direct blame at a person (except in a few rare, extreme situations). It’s not helpful. It’s not kind. It doesn’t do anything to get you closer to the desired end game. It will hurt you in the end.

    2. Lilac*

      I wonder how OP would respond to having THEIR ideas broken down, because it seems like they cannot handle someone else’s way of doing things.

      1. Elizabeth I*

        Well OP certainly didn’t absorb Alison’s (kind but direct) breaking down of his/her ideas.

      2. MEH Squared*

        In the first letter, OP pushed back on something that Sally said, found out they (the OP) were wrong and still insisted they were technically right, so probably not very well is my guess.

      3. yala*

        Well, they were basically bluntly told about a flaw of theirs, and now insist that it isn’t a flaw at all and that the other person is unreasonable for even perceiving it as a flaw. So…there’s that.

        But yeah. They seem like they think that anyone with a different mindset or process is wrong.

      4. GrooveBat*

        It seems like OP doesn’t have any ideas though. OP seems to be looking to be told exactly what to do, step by step.

    3. Starbuck*

      Totally. Why does it have to be “I thought this would be better” and not, “What if we improved this by adding XYZ?” Add something constructive or the critique is just going to come off as pointlessly mean.

    4. Jade*

      My read is – OP felt threatened by a young woman doing high level work. That’s right there in the first letter. So OP decided to take her down a notch. Bring her down to scale. And OP succeeded – within, what? A month? OP has successfully taken a young rising star at her company and made her seem crazy and over sensitive and immature. Really makes me sad for Sally. I don’t believe any of this was accidental.

      1. Ell*

        This is exactly my read, because, like many commenters, I have also been Sally.
        And OPs “proof positive” that she needed to be taken down a notch is that she… is imperfect? Doesn’t do things 100% correctly the first time always? Cool.

    5. ferrina*

      It’s telling that OP never once said “collaborate”. All their language is adversarial and shifts blame- “the readers did not understand”, Sally needs to let me “[others need to] handle [me] breaking down their ideas”
      And then they describe “finally” coming so something not in the procedures and immediately telling Sally her procedures need to be improved. What?! A truly professional way to handle that is “fyi, I ran into XYZ which wasn’t in the procedure. I’ve added it in.” Not immediately blame Sally for not anticipating every possibility.
      Regardless of Sally, OP needs to take some responsibility for professional communication. Most letter writers we see here are looking for a gut-check–this person is looking for vindication.

      1. yala*

        I’m just thinking about exactly how bad the fallout would be if I ever said anything like that to my supervisor or coworkers when I found a gap in the written procedures, and it, justifiably, be a nightmare.

        I’m not…great with professional communication. But I mean. Lord have mercy, OP just seems like a jerk.

      2. Kes*

        Yeah I think the language is very telling, and the “I finally found something not in the procedures” really makes it sound like OP was looking for anything wrong to leap all over, which they immediately did, in order to prove how right they are. My overall impression is OP has no interest in actually working with anyone, thinks being right is the only thing that matters and is out to prove themself right and everyone else wrong (and as such is unwilling to accept they might be in the wrong in any way). OP claims they want to break down ideas in order to strengthen them but I don’t see them working with Sally to strengthen anything, only the breaking down. Even in this situation where they got feedback their reaction isn’t ‘I could have handled this better’ but ‘it’s Sally’s fault, Sally is oversensitive and I hope we can stop working together so I don’t have to change anything in my approach’

    6. biobotb*

      Also, I’m not sure the OP would feel comfortable having others break down *their* ideas, since they apparently refuse to consider that there may be any validity to Sally’s prioritizing how to think about problems. (When actually, there are many situations where being able to think things through well is a much more important skill than just being able to implement the same steps over and over again regardless of the situation.)

      1. yala*

        I’m thinking about library cataloging, where there is definitely a right and a wrong way to do a lot of things…but there’s also aspects where “thinking through and applying what you think works best in this situation” comes into play (or, more commonly: “cataloger’s judgement”)

        OP being walked through the way of thinking their coworkers use when approaching various problems is an absolute blessing that I would be so grateful for. Knowing HOW your coworkers think helps you all stay on the same page.

        1. honeygrim*

          I was thinking about cataloging as well. Specifically about how the “right” way to do some parts of it has changed three or four times in the past decade or so? (I’m looking at you, “place of publication not identified!”) Sometimes judgment and flexibility are just as important as the rules, especially when the “letter of the law” gets in the way of the spirit.

          I wonder if OP’s background as a consultant is impeding their ability to think about collaboration and teamwork. It seems like OP is so stuck on what they perceive is the “right” way that they’ve completely overlooked the nuances involved in working with others. Other commenters were right in mentioning OP’s need for soft skills. I’d say some emotional intelligence would be useful as well.

    7. Fluffy Fish*

      Lest we forget OP is new. A new employee should not be focused on breaking down their colleagues ideas. They should be listening and learning.

      Its absolutely bananas that a trainee would be antagonizing the person on-boarding them. Frankly the last time we hired a know it all who periodically acted like a jerk, we fired him in i believe less than 8
      weeks.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yes very much this. When you are new and you encounter a process you don’t like, you need to figure out why it is the way it is – there’s often a lot of nuance. You need to assume the other professionals you’ve encountered are just as smart as you, and learn their perspective. Then, and after you’ve sat with the process for awhile, you can start to COLLABORATIVELY “break down ideas”, though that’s not the phrase I’d choose.

      2. AD*

        I think it’s also worth mentioning that not only is OP new at this job, they are new at *this type of work*. There needs to be some self-awareness of that and it does not sound like OP has any at this time.

      3. Orora*

        I have a feeling the only reason that OP hasn’t been shown the door before now is because the position is highly specialized. Hope that company left the job ad up so they can find OP’s replacement.

        1. Froodle*

          Hope for the company’s sake that they show OP the door before they’re looking for Sally’s replacement, since frankly she seems like the higher-value employee

    8. Kate R*

      Thank you! I thought this was such an odd comment. That’s not professionalism. There is a big difference between providing suggestions that might improve something (and listening to why they might not work) and just telling someone their ideas are bad or you thought they would be better. As it is, Sally told OP they were welcome to make any updates they wanted to, so there was no need to belabor the point that they were bad (especially when they weren’t). It’s also baffling to me that in the first letter, OP seemed convinced that Sally’s procedures were bad because she wasn’t as familiar with the role as OP because Sally was just filling in temporary (which made me wonder why Sally was needed for such extended training), but here OP explains this is actually a new role for them, which is why they need all the training. So why assume you already know everything when you also know you are learning a new role? (and as an aside, I’m not sure what’s wrong with referring someone back to the procedures after already having walked them through the process 2 or 3 times). I’m kind of disappointed with the boss’ response here because it sounds like OP was being fairly rude to Sally. It’s unfortunate that Sally got so emotional in the meeting because people tend to be more dismissive of that, but I’m curious as to how other colleagues feel about OP.

    9. Momma Bear*

      What struck me is that OP thinks they need to break down other people’s ideas to “strengthen” them, vs seeing any value in what’s there. There seems to be a lack of desire for collaboration. If OP is Sally’s peer and not boss, then they need to learn to work with Sally (and anyone else on the team). Feels to me like OP has no desire to take any input from anyone else except maybe the boss. Not a good team player.

      1. Properlike*

        There are people who do this routinely. See also: “I serve the necessary role of playing devil’s advocate.” You say the sky is blue? I will challenge that assumption because ALL assumptions must be challenged in order to be strengthened! You say the start time is 9am? WHY?! Prove that this is the best start time! Justify this TO ME.

        It’s exhausting. And frankly, only something I’ve seen from men… usually ones who like to hear themselves talk and never feel they need to prove themselves to anyone.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          It’s not only done by men… I’m a woman and I admit I used to do stuff like that, back in college. I got over it, and in my (barely marginal) defense I was at a university which encouraged that kind of behavior among all of us, of any gender.

          It *is* much rarer in anyone but men, though. They’re so often taught that all their opinions are worth making sure everybody hears, no matter what they might be.

    10. Gnome*

      Yes. Also, there’s a time and place. Being trained isn’t it. Maybe during brainstorming… In how to improve things.

    11. Tequila & Oxford Commas*

      I want to work with professionals who can handle feedback well, sure…and also professionals who can give feedback in a nuanced and constructive way, who can approach new situations with a learner’s mentality, who can flex their communication style based on the context and the audience, and who can keep an open mind when their “factual observations” are challenged.

      What the OP doesn’t seem to understand here is that even if Sally actually were a very sensitive person (and that’s a big if!), the OP has made mistakes here–if you thought you were dealing with someone oversensitive, you could have adapted your approach to working with them at any point, and you chose not to, OP. This is not all Sally’s fault. There are a lot of “soft” skills that the LW does not appear to have, based on their own description.

    12. Filosofickle*

      This reminds me a lot of the ethos of my design school education, where extremely harsh critiques were considered necessary and helpful to grow your skills. Personally I hated it then and avoid it now but it is a not-uncommon, old school way of thinking.

      1. GlitsyGus*

        Yeah, I went through that as well. I have… complicated thoughts about it. I do think learning how to receive very negative, blunt CONSTRUCTIVE critiques is useful. Not because they are the best or ideal, but because it will happen. As we see here, not everyone is tactful and sometimes you will have to take feedback from tactless jerks. Learning how to let the jerk part roll off and keep the constructive part is a useful skill.

        Having to smile and nod while someone says, “this is garbage. I hate it. End.” is dumb and no one should have to learn to just “take it.” If anything, we should teach students (design in this situation, but applies elsewhere) how to deflect and shut down those kinds of nonsense bashings. If the person is important enough that you kind of have to care even if they are totally off base, learn how to direct the conversation, not to justify yourself (that will never help) but to better understand. Then, if it’s still nonsense, let it go. If Sally had written in, this would be part of my advice to her.

    13. Bug*

      OP would probably describe herself as “brutally honest.” In my experience, folks like that lean into the “brutal” as much as the “honest.” I wish they’d think of being “kind and honest.”

      1. Holey Hobby*

        Very agree.

        In fact, I have a handy translator app – let me run “I’m brutally honest,” through it and see what comes back:

        “I’m a raging asshole with a mean streak a mile wide. I get off on humiliating people, and I’m about to do that now. When I do, I would like you, the victim, and you, the bystanders, to all agree that I’m actually doing something prosocial and worthwhile. That will enhance my social dominance, legitimize my aggression, and insulate me from any pushback about my behavior. Shall we start?”

        It’s a cool app. It also does “I keep it real.”

    14. Lizzo*

      “I want to work with professionals who can handle other people breaking down their ideas in order to strengthen them.”

      There is an ever so slight undertone of…fraternity pledging mindset? But maybe it’s just been a long day and I’m misreading this.

    15. Koalafied*

      Yeah, there are definitely jobs where being able to set aside your ego and let colleagues shred your work so they can make it better is both routine and important! But that kind of work requires a high level of psychological safety – coworkers have to be able to trust that each other are operating in good faith and with a genuine interest in collaborating to develop a better product together – not looking for ways to take them down a peg or prove that they could have made a better product themselves.

    16. nnn*

      That jumped out at me too. You can totally say things like “What if we added some screenshots to the procedures?” or “It’s not clear to me what is meant by “follow up” in this step. Would it be possible to be more specific?” No need to break them down before you strengthen them!

  6. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

    LW, I’m not sure you fully took Alison’s original advice to heart. You owe Sally an apology. You may be right about her approach to training, but it doesn’t actually sound like it’s Sally’s responsibility to fix the things you believe to be her shortcomings. You should accept what she has offered you and keep track of the changes or fixes you want to build into the procedures going forward. Sally may be overly sensitive, but you sort of threw collegiality out the window and that’s the bigger problem here.

    1. Van Wilder*

      100%

      It doesn’t matter if everything Sally has implemented is bad. It’s your role now, so finish your training and then start to implement any changes you think are necessary.

      Since Sally is moving out of the role and you are moving into it, why do you think it’s so important to you that she know all the mistakes she made? Do you genuinely want to help her improve (even in areas that aren’t her job)? If so, let it go. The relationship is soured and she isn’t going to accept lessons from you.
      But it sounds like there is something else going on. Are you usually competitive in jobs? Do you evaluate yourself based on how you compare to peers? Are you insecure about switching fields and knowing you’re better than Sally makes you feel better? If so, that’s something to work on (switching to a growth mindset) but either way, keep your observations to yourself and don’t burden Sally with it.
      I would also guess that this has something to do with putting a talented young woman “in her place” but I’ll let you parse out if there’s any truth to that.

    2. Oakenfield*

      Maybe OP would, if they could – but they’d rather blame their low performance on Sally.

  7. Nick*

    Oh my, certainly not the update I was hoping for. I was looking forward to some personal growth here, but OP has done nothing but double down on her unprofessional behavior. I am so disappointed. OP is clearly in deep denial and has an ego that seems to be impeding personal and professional growth. Everything said about the procedures can be true and OP is still the bad guy here, though I suspect the procedures and the training is not nearly as bad as OP is making them out to be.

    1. JustAClarifier*

      This. This screamed ego driven. It takes a lot to make someone go to their manager and tell them they don’t feel safe working, and I think it’s bonkers for OP to overlook that and remain convinced they’re in the right despite being new to the job and the company. I don’t see how that can be anything other than ego.

      1. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

        My first instinct was to be a little dismissive of the “don’t feel safe” comment (I work in an industry where I can encounter that sort of framing in contexts that just don’t make a lot of sense), but it would help LW to think about what that really means here. Is LW so persistent with the questions/commentary that Sally feels like she literally cannot escape it or assert control over a situation where she is the position of authority? Has LW ignored cues to move on? Has LW every physically trapped Sally into one of these interactions whether meaning to or not (this is especially important if LW is larger than Sallie, male, or otherwise potentially physically intimidating). We don’t know where that comment came from, but probably ought to be given a fair shake in LW’s reflection and introspection.

        1. yala*

          It’s a little loaded, language-wise, but also the sort of thing I could understand. I’ve been in situations where I “don’t feel safe” asking questions, not because I’m worried about physical safety, but because I’m afraid of the fallout that may come from asking the “wrong” question when doing so has previously resulted in a bad reaction. If it happens often enough, it creates a sort of hypervigilance where you do everything you can to avoid anything that even *might* trigger a reaction.

          I suppose “I’m uncomfortable” would be the better way to phrase it, but if Sally has gotten to the point where she feels like any action or statement will prompt snide/aggressive comments from OP, then I could also understand the “unsafe” feeling–the sensation that you always have to be on your guard.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            My guess is it’s the hypervigilance that Sally’s referring to – but I think that’s real! Maybe the phrasing could be better but I think that’s probably how she’s feeling.

        2. Gerry Keay*

          Psychological safety is a real thing. If Sally doesn’t feel like she can say *anything* without being berated, and every interaction leaves her shaken and distressed, I think saying “I don’t feel safe” is understandable.

          1. GrooveBat*

            Yes, this is what I’m thinking as well. It’s less about physical safety and more about feeling secure in your job, your role, your workplace, and your own sense of competence.

        3. Ama*

          I don’t know that I would use that wording myself, but last fall someone I’ve worked with with no problems for years (not an actual coworker but a member of an expert volunteer board I manage), misinterpreted an entirely routine email I sent him and the next thing I knew my boss, the chair of the volunteer board, and I were in a cycle of getting extremely ugly and unprofessional emails from him, having emergency meetings to compose a professional response, getting another ugly email and repeat. It finally died down and he’s definitely damaged his reputation with everyone involved but we weren’t allowed to kick him off the board (something I personally don’t agree with but I don’t have the power to make that decision). The first time that volunteer called into a Zoom meeting after that I had to turn my video off because I started having a panic attack.

          Today I had to email that volunteer for a completely unrelated bit of routine business and I did find myself getting a little nervous (it turned out fine, he actually responded in an overly polite manner that makes me think someone told him how badly he came off last fall). This all happened over email, I never had a direct confrontation with this person (physically or over Zoom) and yet I find myself hesitant to interact with him because of the possibility that he’ll fly off the handle again. I suspect Sally feels much the same about OP.

        4. Fluffy Fish*

          I’ll give you an example from a previous boss from hell. He was a big man – both tall and broad.

          He would stand in your doorway, arms braced on the frame blocking the entire exit while he trapped you in your office and berated you or forced you to listen to his (aggressive) opinions. Once he had an employee in tears over something and she repeatedly stated she needed to leave. His response was well then go, while continuing to block her way.

          Logically, was he likely to physically hurt any of us? No. But his point was intimidation and that’s exactly what it was and yes, it absolutely psychologically made you feel unsafe.

          My point is I’m not willing to dismiss anything about Sally coming from this particular narrator.

      2. Squid*

        OP is a (now former) consultant. In my experience, they all have some kind of ego. And this comes from someone who was literally raised by a consultant.

        1. ferrina*

          Currently in the consulting world- yes and no. We need confidence in our expertise and to be self-assured that we know what we are talking about, but not all of us are arrogant jerks. There’s a difference between saying “These processes aren’t serving you well and we recommend the following updates….” and “These process are archaic and wrong, and you should have done better at making them” (ignoring context that this isn’t Sally’s job)

          1. Alexander Graham Yell*

            OP is treating Sally like a cutthroat consultant treats internal people (they remind me of a few people I’ve worked with, actually), not clients.

    2. anonymous 5*

      All of this. Anyone whose takeaway from an onboarding process includes the claim that the trainer “needs some thicker skin” is…not necessarily a reliable narrator.

    3. Zennish*

      Yep. OP needs to decide if they want to be “right” or they want to be successful, and come to some understanding of the difference.

    4. ecnaseener*

      I know, it’s really disappointing. I was one of the people on the original letter saying “it’s great that you’re asking for advice, you can still salvage this and learn from it” and LW unfortunately didn’t take that opportunity. They’re just digging their heels in on the whole “if I’m just being honest that can’t be mean” thing.

  8. Somebody*

    She framed most of the things I have said as put downs directed at her when they were factual observations.

    The two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, though. You also don’t comment on the fact that you (by your own admission) talked over her when she was trying to explain something, telling her she was wrong, and when it turned out that she was in fact right you shrugged off the fact that you had handled the situation badly on your end. I’m not saying Sally isn’t sensitive and that she was right in all of her actions, but you still don’t really come off great to me. This feels like a lot of backpedaling and justifying what was clearly some aggressive behavior on your part (based on your descriptions in the original letter).

    1. Sloanicota*

      You know what might help OP is reading about “task based” versus “relationship based” cultures/orientations. Sally is relationship-based so a perceived insult is personal to her. OP is behaving in a task-based orientation so the insult is merely a statement of fact that should not have an emotional component. This is never going to work itself out as long as OP is speaking only their own language without an sense that other languages exist.

      1. Lizianna*

        Yes. Realizing that some people have different communication styles is critical.

        I have a very direct style. If I’m not careful, I can come across as a jerk.

        I work with people who have much more of a focus on relationships. They can drive me bonkers, because I feel like it takes them so long to get to the point.

        Both of us bring our own strengths to the team, but we have to recognize those differences and give each other the benefit of the doubt to keep projects moving forward and civil. Just because my style is different doesn’t mean it’s *better*. And vice versa.

        1. bunniferous*

          THIS. I too can be very direct-but part of good communication is being aware of how my communication is RECEIVED. OP needs to do some more selfreflection and reflect on their part of this miscommunication. I’m not seeing that they have done this yet.

        2. biobotb*

          I mean, the OP is pretty offended by statements made about themselves, so it seems like they’re only task-based when it comes to other people (conveniently).

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            Well, the OP rejects statements made about themself. I’m honestly not sure whether they are offended, it just so convinced that they’re right that it seems like matter of fact information to explain that to people. Either way, it’s a significant error (both because in this instance they’re largely wrong, and because they need to be able to reflect when anybody tells them they’re wrong, no matter what the final conclusion turns out to be, or they’ll never figure out when they are and aren’t). But one is a relational error and the other is a task-centered error.

            1. Lizianna*

              If they’re like me, they may just be frustrated/offended by any discussion that’s too “touchy feely” because they think it’s a waste of time.

              (I’m NOT saying that is the right approach, just that it is a hard habit to break. But an important habit to break if you want a team with any diversity of thought at all).

      2. ferrina*

        I think this goes beyond that. Even in “task based”, there’s the goal of looking forward and the goal of assigning blame. It’s one thing to say “This procedure can be improved, and here’s what I’m thinking…”, and something else to say “I finally found something not in the procedure! I was right, you didn’t do a great job on this, it does need work!”

      3. The jerk store called, they're all out of you*

        I’m extremely task-based but “I would have thought your procedures would be better” has nothing to do with being task-based or productive. It’s just being a jerk.

    2. quill*

      Yeah. You can be technically correct and still an absolute nightmare to train. Because you have to let a trainer actually do their job! and OP definitely derailed that process.

      1. Order of the Banana*

        Yes this!!! Sometimes it comes down to, “You can be right or you can have a warm and functional relationship with your coworkers”. After all, there is always the possibility that Sally talks to other people in the office about her experiences with OP. If Sally is as overly-sensitive as OP says, then ok, her coworkers will probably know that and adjust accordingly. If OP is the one in denial and Sally is actually an awesome employee, then what? Then you just have a team whose first impressions of you are going to be tinged by Sally’s negative interactions.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          I don’t think there’s any evidence that OP necessarily was being asked to choose between being right and having a warm and functional relation with their coworkers! They’re just being asked to choose between being rudely and abrasively right, and having a warm and functional relation with their coworkers. If they’d been reasonably tactful in *how* they were right in the first place — and how they were wrong, since in one case they were weirdly aggressive about insisting that Sally could not possibly be correct, and it turned out that she was — then they might be doing fine with Sally to this day.

          It’s not at all clear from the facts we’ve been given that Sally actually has the thin skin OP thinks she has. She might react fine to having something added or corrected in her training, if it were done in a halfway diplomatic way. Or she might actually be thin-skinned and no way of communicating rightness could be okay with her. We just don’t know, since the OP never seems to have tried the tactful approach.

          1. Order of the Banana*

            Yes of course! I didn’t convey my sentiment well–I was more alluding to the fact that sometimes you can be absolutely right about something, but if other people are not receptive to hearing it (regardless of how you’re conveying the message), you can try to keep digging in until they see the light or sometimes it makes more sense to just keep the peace and it’s a small enough matter that you can just let go of the debate. It can very possibly be true that Sally is too sensitive and OP is too blunt, and if neither of them can meet in the middle, then sometimes the more useful tool to learn is dropping a subject.

            1. Filosofickle*

              On that note, “Do I want to be right or do I want to be helpful” is one of the guiding principles in my life!

    3. Ann O. Nymous*

      Yeah, OP seems to be operating under the assumption that their perception = objective reality and that therefore their objective reality must be defended above, I don’t know, tact and kindness?

    4. Lady_Lessa*

      I’ve had similar problems with folks taking “factual observations” as being put downs.
      I’ve learned that a lot of them aren’t necessary, and taking a softer approach works much better.

    5. Llellayena*

      Exactly. The statement “That dress makes you look fat” might be a factual statement, but it doesn’t mean that statement should EVER be uttered as it is essentially assumed in today’s society to be an insult. Tact and flexibility would serve you much better than this “factual” warpath you’re on.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        THIS. OP sounds like one of those “I just tell it like it is” kind of people that think that gives them an excuse to be insulting and mean.

    6. Fluffy Fish*

      Interestingly in the original letter OP made an observation that was factually incorrect. And then justified why of course he would think that.

      So by OP’s own admission their factual observations aren’t always…factual.

    7. yala*

      I’m reminded of the kind of guys who make a big deal about being “rational,” but it usually just winds up meaning that they decide whatever they think is rational, rather than actually applying logic.

      Also, given how badly the tone is coming off in writing, I wouldn’t be surprised if OP’s tone and body language are very negative.

    8. digitalnative-ish*

      Yeah getting major Bones vibes from this (without the realization and work so ouch). Just because an observation may be factual does not mean it’s tactful. I’m trying to imagine a tone where “I thought your updated procedures would be better” wouldn’t sound bad but can’t (outside some close relationship). Soft skills are important OP.

    9. Polecat*

      I can tell someone they are ugly and that can be a factual observation, but it’s also a put down directed at that person. This guy has the social skills of a baked potato.

    10. Aerie*

      Agreed that something can be factual and a put down. I’m reminded of the phrase “is it true, is it kind, is it necessary?” Something might be true, and necessary! But it’s usually possible to figure out how to say it kindly, or at least constructively, especially in a professional context.

  9. Jade*

    Ugh. Reading this defensive rebuttal was a bummer. You are so dismissive of Sally throughout and then act like she’s being over sensitive by perceiving your attitude. Your boss agreeing with you does not make you right. I hope sally finds a better environment where her boss will have her back against the “brilliant jerk” trope.

    1. Squid*

      Yeah, I am disappointed by the manager’s response (at least as OP recounts it – would love to hear the manager’s POV in this situation).

      1. Sloanicota*

        I would not be positive that OP is reporting the bosses’ tone/attitude with 100% accuracy here – although the boss may well hope that OP can fix the reporting function correctly and probably does value the skills they bring. Boss probably also thinks it’s a bit odd for a new hire to be bringing a longstanding employee to tears. Unless Sally has a history of being very fragile.

        1. Renee Remains the Same*

          This is a good point. Given the fact that the OP didn’t really take Allison’s previous advice to heart and still maintains that their way is the right way, regardless of the fact they’re being horrible to work with indicates that the OP likely uses the same perspective to filter the boss’s attitude.

          I also initially thought the boss might not be handling this properly, but you’re right that it’s also likely they’re handling it well and that the OP is not taking the direction, because that would mean they were wrong.

          Interestingly, it doesn’t even matter who is right or wrong in this situation. Whether Sally is overreacting or being bullied, the truth is that she has extreme discomfort working with a colleague and while I wouldn’t expect an employee to fake niceties, I would expect them to act courteously with their colleagues and recognize their contributions even if they don’t understand or agree with them. The OP here clearly needs to be right at all costs, which in fact, makes them wrong.

          1. Sloanicota*

            Exactly. If I were OP’s boss, even if OP was completely right that that the process Sally created was a complete hash and OP produced a much better process in every way … I’d still be suspicious of a new employee that brought an established employee to tears over well-intentioned mistakes, or someone that others begged not to work with any more.

        2. Yikes*

          I honestly think the OP is down playing both interactions with Manager and Sally to try and fit a circle in their square narrative.

      2. animaniactoo*

        I suspect it may be one of those things where Manager says “XY, and Z” and LW hears “X” and half of “Y” because those are the things that LW is hoping to hear/makes sense to them.

        1. ferrina*

          Yes! OP is really entrenched in their viewpoint. I’m def getting vibes of the LW who “got fired for taking initiative” (I’ll link below). I’m wondering if manager was really saying “I want this to work out and I appreciate your expertise, but you also need to have some basic skills of getting along with other human beings” and OP heard “This will work out and I appreciate your expertise. Sally needs to get along with other human beings.”

        2. MsM*

          Yeah, I want to give OP some degree of credit for at least hearing that Sally’s not the only one who needs to adjust their attitude…but this entire response suggests they don’t really know what making adjustments on their end should look like in practice, or understand that the problem goes beyond Sally.

      3. Karia*

        “My boss understands that it will take time for me to learn the role”, can be jovial and supportive or a careful warning that you’re not where you should be. I would actually be worried if a boss said this to me.

  10. Clever Alias*

    Ok got it: Sally is a bit over sensitive, and you value correctness over collegiality. You do you, I guess.

    1. Squid*

      What’s funny is that “correct” isn’t always “right,” and OP doesn’t seem to understand that at all.

    2. Wisteria*

      Your tone is quite dismissive, and it should not be. Valuing correctness in communication is one type of social pragmatic communication. It is not worse than valuing collegiality, it is just different. An appreciation of how different social pragmatic communication styles are not a personal attack seems warranted on both sides here.

      1. Jora Malli*

        You’re right that there’s a place for both approaches, but there are ways of valuing correctness that don’t leave your coworkers in tears and demanding never to work with you again. Correctness and collegiality can happen simultaneously, but it’s not uncommon for “correctness” people to leave collegiality out of the equation altogether, and that’s what OP appears to have done here.

  11. Ann O. Nymous*

    What a breathtaking lack of compassion from OP. Sally has clearly been very upset by OP and their takeaways are that Sally is “unprofessional” because she doesn’t want someone to be an asshole to her? Also I don’t know OP’s gender but regardless, the language and tone here are coming off pretty sexist to me.

    OP, if you are literally making someone cry and refuse to be around you, maybe stop for one second to consider if maybe, just MAYBE, you were in the wrong somehow. To see a fellow human that upset by your behavior and to basically just be like “well, she’s just sensitive,” and not “oh god, I feel so bad,” is pretty bizarre! Very glad I don’t work with you.

    1. Jade*

      Thank you!! It’s so frustrating to see everything Sally does be explained away as “sensitive.” Maybe she was crying because you were being persistently combative and condescending??

      1. Ann O. Nymous*

        The perception that tears and emotion are never okay in the work place is meant to diminish and undermine women. Of course crying can be sometimes inappropriate, distracting, and difficult for people to deal with at work, it can be a really, really normal response to the kind of boorish and disrespectful behavior OP is exhibiting. I don’t think Sally’s tears are a sign of weakness or inappropriate in this situation — not all crying in the workplace is unwarranted!

        1. Ama*

          I cry when I’m exhausted … the two times I’ve cried in a work meeting were both times (different jobs) when I was overworked and sleeping poorly due to stress and one last thing added to the pile (one time it was a correction, the other time it was just one more surprise task I needed to take on) just broke me. If OP is as persistent in “correcting” Sally as it seems like from their letters I wouldn’t be surprised at all if having to defend herself yet again drove her to tears.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            I’m an angry crier. It’s gotten me into awkward work positions once or twice. But I’m really not oversensitive by default and Sally sounds…frankly really stressed.

            1. Lizianna*

              I cry when I’m angry too, especially if I feel like I’m not being understood or dismissed. Which doesn’t necessarily help, but it gets to the point where it’s a psychological response.

              I wonder if OP would react the same way to a coworker yelling where Sally cried. Because “male” angry reactions are often seen a lot more acceptable than “female” angry reactions, even if they are just as emotional.

    2. Dark Macadamia*

      Yes!! Sensitivity is not inherently a bad thing. I’ll always prefer someone who cries too easily or is maybe a little annoying over someone who blatantly doesn’t give a shit about anyone else! LW would come across as MORE professional if they had any sensitivity at all, because professional people don’t repeatedly make their coworkers cry and then blame them for lacking backbone.

      Maybe Sally is overreacting. Or maybe LW is being WAY more awful than their letters suggest (and like… LW, you come across pretty awful here and we only have YOUR side of the story where you’re actively trying to portray yourself positively. Yikes)

      1. Properlike*

        For as much as Sally appears “sensitive” to OP, that’s as much as OP appears “insensitive” to… everyone else.

        I highly doubt the manager backs OP as strongly as they think. I’m waiting for update #3 when OP writes to Alison that they’re “completely blindsided” because “management caved” and fired them because it was “more important to give in to an overly sensitive employee” than to “get things right.” Followed by the conclusion that OP was doing them a grand favor and if they can’t see it, then it’s on that company.

        1. Sal*

          +1. Ctrl+f’d for “fired” to find the first comment saying that that’s what LW is staring down the barrel of, even if they don’t appear to recognize it.

        2. anonymath*

          Agree. And I think it’s interesting/illustrative to put myself in the manager’s shoes here. I am wondering if the manager is doing the “compliment sandwich” when giving the LW feedback: “You’re a really valued member of the team. I need you to….” and the LW is hearing “You’re a really valued member of the team. Wahwahwah….” like in all those old Peanuts comics.

          I think the boss, too, is someone with different social norms and is trying to tell LW that while a strong contributor, LW needs to change her method of communication to avoid this type of “misunderstanding”. What I have learned from interacting with people who remind me of the LW is that you cannot use a compliment sandwich, you cannot assume that they understand how to soften tone. The boss must be much more direct and say very clearly in words what most people would get from subtext or would be able to read between the lines. The LW will indeed be “blindsided” in the future.

          1. anonymath*

            ah, wish I could edit. I am betting the boss has social norms closer to the majority and is softly communicating to LW rather than being what most folks would consider jaw-achingly “honest”.

    3. Gnome*

      “you’re too sensitive” is a phrase that is only uttered by jerks. Why? Because kind people will see you are upset and focus on that, neutral people may think it but not say anything because that would be mean (kick a person when they are hurting = mean), so that leaves unkind people (a.k.a. jerks).

      People used to say this to me as a kid. Usually after saying something like “You are ugly” or another similar thing. They didn’t fool me or the teachers when they said “I’m only teasing” or “well it’s true.”. Apparently they might fools themselves.

      General rule: just because it’s true, doesn’t mean you have to say it. Does it move things forward? Is it the right time for it (right before the meeting is not the time to point out ways to improve things, etc.)?

      1. Walk Don’t Run*

        “You’re too sensitive” is in the same category as the non-apology “I’m sorry you’re upset”. Both of those mean “I did nothing wrong, its your own damn fault for taking things the wrong way”.

    4. Gerry Keay*

      I’ve literally cut off family members for having this reaction about me being emotional; it’s so fucking callous.

  12. quill*

    Sounds like there’s a lot of personality clash at play but also I’m concerned about the claim that Sally “overstepped” by creating a process that needs improvement but already saves a bunch of time in the months she was in the position. OP, it’s very hard to not see the idea that improving a process while you are in charge of it as adversarial

    1. quill*

      ETA (though no edit button) If you start by bringing the attitude that it wasn’t someone’s “place” to make changes at their current position, you often continue to project an adversarial tone to your interactions with them. It’s the sum of your actions, and not the technicalities of whether you were right or wrong or whether your statements were factual that created this conflict.

    2. SpreadsheetSuperfan*

      In Sally’s position, where I was taking over duties of another position during the hiring/training process IN ADDITION to my regular duties, you bet your socks I’d be making process improvements wherever I saw them

    3. biobotb*

      Yeah, OP’s attitude that Sally is somehow completely in the wrong because the processes and improvements she implemented (in only three months) don’t work perfectly all the time is super weird. And why do they think Sally overstepped? Is management telling OP Sally shouldn’t have improved anything, but they were somehow powerless to stop her, or is this OP’s framing (because everything Sally does is wrong, apparently).

    4. Fluffy Fish*

      For a NEW employee to decide that someone overstepped doing something is full on audacity. OP is not Sally’s boss, was not there for the decision process and has absolutely zero authority to be deciding anything related to Sally’s time in the role.

      Honestly OP’s managers needs to have a conversation with the OP about staying in their lane amongst other things.

    5. Momma Bear*

      Also, it seemed to be working for Sally at that time and probably Sally had no idea how long she would be acting in that role. Okay, so it wasn’t how OP would do it, but to take Sally to task over something she did accomplish because it’s not “your way” is short-sighted.

      1. quill*

        I don’t know how to code. I do, constantly, make excel calculations and occasionally macros to make things faster. I’m sure it would be done BETTER by someone who could code, but also my way was better than what we had before, AKA the spreadsheet from hell.

        Sally could be way better than me at whatever she’s automated, or way worse, but it doesn’t matter because 1) any tangible process improvement is saving money 2) the company can’t wait for OP to descend from the heavens and save them all from their own processes.

        1. Wandering Panda*

          I do not know how to code well either and my macros aren’t always efficient. But with all the daily, weekly, and monthly reports I need to provide on top of my other duties, I would gladly use my macro that takes 5 minutes to run than waste 5 hours every day. Anything to reduce your workload and time on tedious tasks is a plus.

  13. Queen Ruby*

    “I thought your updated procedures would be better” is not a factual observation. Sally walked you through a process 2 or 3 times and you still didn’t understand how to do it? Then you followed up with that comment on the same process? I guess you were an expert after the fourth time she walked you through it?
    Also, my best boss ever once told me that if I make a good faith decision based on the information available to me and with the business’ bottom line at the forefront, even if it’s not the best decision, it’s not a mistake. So I’m with Sally on that one.

    1. Working Hypothesis*

      Well, technically it is an objectively factual statement about OP’s thoughts. As in, yes, it is a fact that they thought that! But there’s no reason why it is important or valuable for them to tell Sally that they thought that. Not all thoughts are worth sharing, especially if they’re mean.

      1. Jack Straw from Wichita*

        Observations are grounded in something you can see, hear, taste, touch, smell and free of judgement. While it may be “fact” that the OP had that opinion, there is zero observation in it.

        The statement is judgement. Observation would’ve been: “Steps 4 through 6 are missing.” or “There is a large block of text. Using bullets will make it easier to read and follow.”

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          Didn’t say it was observation. Only that it is saved as technical fact by the words “I think.” Because the only thing in it that is factual is that the LW thinks that… the rest is opinion.

      2. Queen Ruby*

        Lol yes, you are correct! I was thinking more along the lines of OP saying Sally’s procedures should have been better. When in fact, maybe there wasn’t much room for improvement in her procedures.

    2. Batgirl*

      I actually gasped when I read that; I truly believe OP has no idea how adversarial it sounds, but it is a really unnecessary thing to say! So is the word “factual”, as though OPs opinions are somehow enshrined in logic instead of being a plain old preference like everyone else’s. So much of the language here is way, way too aggressive; I’m aware not all of it was said out loud to Sally but this attitude that she would be “taken to the mat” must be coming over to her nevertheless. I’m sure all the OP’s language and attitudes are honest, and non malicious but that’s still really not good enough! Before OP takes their flawless logic and opinions to someone in future they should ask themselves why on earth the other person should care what they think, and they should frame requests or different opinions politely and not as universal truths.

      1. Kwebbel*

        Precisely. “I thought your updated procedures would be better” is just as factual an observation as “I don’t feel safe and don’t want to engage with you anymore” – as they’re both observations of one’s own emotions.

        Looks like the OP has trouble applying their own logic to themselves.

  14. Plebeian Aristocracy*

    Why are you still so focused on what Sally is doing instead of your own action, OP? Your takeaway from the meeting was that you were able to “defend yourself in the meeting well,” which implies both that you were defensive and not listening to an actual word Sally said.
    On top of that, you specifically said that your expectation for yourself is to “do something once the right way.” From reading your update, I got the impression that you seem to think you therefore always do things the, “right way.” I really hope that you take the comments here to heart, because I think a lot of people would agree that how you are treating Sally is not the “right way.”

    1. Working Hypothesis*

      And in at least one case, we know directly from OP that they did not, in objective fact, do something the “right way.” They insisted repeatedly that Sally could not possibly be correct on a subject about which, by their own admission, they later discovered that Sally was correct. This doesn’t appear to have made a dent in their iron belief that they’re always right, nor led to an apology to Sally.

      1. Momma Bear*

        I feel like they don’t value anything from Sally, even when she’s proven to be right. If my coworker didn’t value/respect my input or expertise and I had to train them, I’d be highly frustrated.

  15. animaniactoo*

    LW, Sally’s meltdown isn’t great. I grant you that.

    But mostly your additional context did not help at all. From what I can tell, you have tunnel vision and a surety that you are right that is so strong that you are rejecting rather than listening to and considering what others are telling you.

    Among other things – it does not matter how much experience you have elsewhere when you will not take into account someone else’s experience at this company. You want your experience and expertise to be respected? You need to be prepared to give that and it really doesn’t sound like you have been.

    Things that you see as wrong, you chalk up to Sally’s sensitivity or inexperience. You’re still out of line – even if Sally is sensitive.

    I want to work with professionals who can handle other people breaking down their ideas in order to strengthen them.

    And Sally wants to work with someone who is capable of code-switching and working to deliver a message in a way that is tactful or diplomatic, and the recipient can “hear” better.

    1. WomEngineer*

      In OP’s defense, the meeting took place before Alison’s advice came out. I really hope the manager at least makes it so OP and Sally don’t have to work together.

      1. biobotb*

        Except OP wrote the update after Alison’s advice, and apparently has not used the advice to reconsider their previous actions/attitudes…

    1. Istanzia*

      Is the boss horrible, or is the OP just not hearing what the boss is saying? Because OP didn’t listen to anything Alison had to say either, so I’m skeptical that they really took in what the boss said…

      1. Kes*

        Yeah it’s hard to tell if the boss is mishandling this or OP is just reading into it what they want to hear. And it’s entirely possible that the boss has decided the situation is so fraught at the moment that the best thing is for OP and Sally not to work together directly at the moment and is hopeful they can support both of them and get to a better place as a team, and OP is just taking it as ‘great, I don’t have to work with Sally anymore, I can keep trashing her procedures to the boss until everyone accepts that I’m right about everything’. Either way it seems like the boss does need to be clearer with OP that the way they’re handling this isn’t okay and they need to actually work with their coworkers, not ‘take them to the mat’ (and it’s possible they did say this and OP is just reading that as ‘I need to use kid gloves when I talk to Sally’)

    2. STG*

      I mean…it’s possible that the boss agrees with her. I’m not saying that IS the case and maybe that does make him a horrible boss. They might also be right about Sally.

      I think the likelihood is higher that’s not the case though.

    3. anonymous73*

      Could be, but based on the fact that OP is updating us by defending her actions instead of taking a step back and understanding why her behavior is not okay, I’m not sure I can take her words about boss at face value.

      1. Pocket Mouse*

        In an update with a tone and perspective such as this one, if we don’t see a phrase like “boss took Sally’s side” or “boss caved” or “boss dismissed my explanations”… the boss is not being clear enough to OP about just how concerning their behavior is, and how very deeply it needs to change. So yeah, boss needs to step it up.

        1. anonymous73*

          Disagree. It’s not clear on what the boss is doing/not doing, and like I said, I don’t buy what she’s selling. I’m not saying the boss is a saint, and it’s very possible that they could be part of the problem. But we don’t have enough information to say for certain.

          1. Pocket Mouse*

            I suppose it’s possible OP heard and registered and understood the words coming out of the boss’s mouth saying that their behavior needs to change and simply doesn’t believe it or disagrees… but I do think we’d see a phrase in the update similar to the examples I gave if that were the case, so I’m not inclined to think it happened.

          2. Koalafied*

            Yeah, there could be a lot of things going on. Chalking this all up to a “misunderstanding” does give me “manager in over their head, doesn’t understand how minor differences of opinion are turning into intractable interpersonal conflict, wishes employees would just decide to not be fighting anymore” vibes somewhat, but I’m definitely making a very small number of words, filtered through a third party’s perception, do a lot of lifting to get there and by no means think that’s the only possible interpretation.

  16. Web of Pies*

    Woof, OP you still seem very difficult to work with. It’s the “I’m going to say mean things under the guise of ‘radical honesty'” vibe that’s the problem. You shouldn’t ever “bring colleagues to the mat”, you shouldn’t mercilessly rip your colleagues’ work to shreds; there are much better ways to improve flawed systems.

    Repeat after me: Just because someone does a thing differently than you, doesn’t mean the way they do it is wrong. You seem to think your ‘objective’ approach to finding solutions is the One And Only Way. It isn’t. And even in cases where you are completely in the right, you can’t be as brusque as you have been; you ARE putting Sally down and you need to stop.

    1. biobotb*

      Yeah, the “to the mat” comment was strange. It sounds so aggressive, like the OP thinks Sally should get a dressing down for somehow not creating a 100% perfect system, despite only being in the role a few months (a system that the OP even thinks she shouldn’t have created!).

    2. Fluffy Fish*

      “Just because someone does a thing differently than you, doesn’t mean the way they do it is wrong”

      YESSSSSS. I have on occasion stated this to people. The general response is chagrin as it should be.

  17. matcha123*

    Being in a similar situation for the past five years, my take is that it’s on the person who’s been there longest to try to reach out gracefully.
    The point of giving feedback isn’t to break down the other person, but to build up something that is an overall win for the team. There are many ways to give feedback. As someone sensitive to criticism, I am able to tell the difference between times when I need to hear the harsh truth and when someone is being mean and petty just because they can.

    I am not there to observe this situation, but one can only control their own words and actions. I find that offering a bit of kindness goes a long way to improving relations.

    1. anonymous73*

      If I am in charge of training a new employee, and that employee is combative about the process from day 1, I do not owe them any grace. It’s all about approach. If someone explains a process, and you think there may be a better more efficient way of handling it, it’s okay to ask questions and make some suggestions. It’s not okay to tell someone that their process is crap and argue with everything you’re being told. And even if you don’t agree with a process, there may be a specific reason that it’s being done that way – if you’re new you need to accept it and move on.

    2. Critical Rolls*

      I wonder if you read the first letter, which described how the LW began this work relationship by disrespecting Sally, trashing her work, and failing to acknowledge when LW was objectively wrong, never mind apologizing.

  18. Zolk*

    OP not only did I think you were a bully the first time I still think you’re a bully now. Step back, you’re the problem.

  19. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

    Another way that OP is wrong (and Sally is right) is that it is absolutely valuable for a process to identify problems to look into, even if it doesn’t (yet) explain exactly what to do about every possible problem. Maybe OP can be part of the solution (instead of part of the precipitate) by starting to look into frequently identified issues and writing up the steps to respond to them?

    OP sounds like an ex-coworker of mine who wanted detailed, step-by-step instructions for every possible activity. If a new activity was different in any way from a previous one, he wanted another complete set of step-by-step instructions. He wouldn’t (or couldn’t) fill in the blanks himself, which would have required him to work to gain a deeper understanding of the systems to learn what each step really did and how it might be done differently to produce a different outcome. He wouldn’t even mix-and-match two sets of steps to apply to a new situation similar to old ones.

    1. quill*

      Yes! If you’re handed an incomplete work instruction and you find that there are things it doesn’t cover, you add things to it or ask questions to get clarity – and add in the answers for the benefit of future trainees.

    2. Squid*

      My husband worked with one of those people, to the point where she flat-out refused any work that didn’t have super detailed documentation available for her to follow. And she wasn’t willing to create any documentation, herself, because she was paralyzed by a fear of failure. IDK how many hours my husband (her teammate, not even her manager) spent 1:1 with her explaining processes and telling her to take notes, but it was far too many because she still hadn’t written anything down for herself by the time he resigned. Waste of time.

      She would even say on calls that she didn’t know how to do something, he would say “we went over this and/or did this on X date,” and she would deny everything until he produced written evidence that this had occurred. And then they had to start all over again…

      1. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

        What was whacky in my situation was that I was actually just an intern, and my mentor quit in the middle of my internship, and the person demanding these step by step instructions was his replacement. So I was generating these step by step instructions based on only a few months of experience with the systems myself. And the replacement was going to need to get that deep understanding and start generating his own steps, because I was going to leave in a few months.

    3. PC*

      Sally’s approach to flexible problem solving is how the majority of processes in my industry/core business are handled; there is rarely a perfect cookie-cutter one size fits all approach even to similar issues within the same project. There are a lot of variables to consider. If OP works in a field where process exist as a supportive backbone but problem-solving skills and innovative thinking are a core requirement, OP may not do well in this role for long. OP seems to want a Step A –> Step B linear, set approach every time, and while that’s great and certainly do-able for many roles, it may not be for this one, and Sally may know it, and OP would know it too if they would stop trying to be right and start paying closer attention.

      1. Kes*

        Yeah OP’s thinking seems very black and white and they want there to be a right process and answer to everything, and that may not be the case in this job and situation, and if that’s the case so far they aren’t really showing the flexibility that could be needed to handle that. OP thinks it’s a huge problem that Sally changed approach on something or that there’s a case that isn’t covered in the current procedures, but unknown cases and new information coming up are things that can happen and OP doesn’t really seem set to be able with these.

    4. biobotb*

      Yeah, if the OP is like your ex-coworker (and it sure sounds that way to me, too), I’m not so sure they’re as good at their job as they think. Flexibility and being able to trouble-shoot and problem solve new issues is often much more valuable than coming up with a different process for any slightly different issue.

    5. lizcase*

      This is what I noticed as well. I’m in third-level tech support, and I often have people ask me to just give them the answer, and the problem is, the answer isn’t always the same. For cut and dry cases, sure, here’s the knowledge base article. But that doesn’t work for a lot of things, so Sally’s process – “Her new process would find errors and then her procedures explain how to look into them since everything has a different solution.” – is exactly what I try to teach. It’s better to know HOW to find a solution, then to have a solution that only works sometimes and then you’re lost if it doesn’t work. In many cases there is no best solution like the LW needs – “I prefer to know the best way to do things the first time around.”
      If LW needs all the questions and answers, and this is a job where that’s not possible, then they are in the wrong job.

      1. Momma Bear*

        MANY jobs have nuances, and OP doesn’t sound like they are good at dealing with those situations.

    6. Just stoppin' by to chat*

      Love this user name: So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out!

    7. Constance Lloyd*

      I had one of these, and she continued to text me for months after I left because nobody else would help her. She never seemed to catch on that I wouldn’t help her, either, just referred her to the procedure manual I created and emailed to her multiple times before my departure.

  20. Not A Manager*

    It’s quite possible that your interactions will end soon, @LW. I hope this all works out in the very best way for everyone.

  21. JustMyImagination*

    A few things really stood out to me-
    1. “Sally overstepped while she was filling in for my role.” How many times do we read letters where an interim role or responsibility becomes permanent? Sally took ownership of the process in the interim and, if she had the time to learn the old way and implement a new process, she probably was serving in that role for a bit.

    2. “Management appears to support her because one time she had to walk something back she did not get into trouble. In contrast, I prefer to know the best way to do things the first time around. It is better to do something once the right way, in my viewpoint.” Some companies have a culture where mistakes must never be made. Other companies have a culture where innovation is valued and, as long as laws are not broken, new ways can be tested and tried. You need to figure out which one your company is because if it is the latter, you are going to run into situations where it’s not just Sally frustrating you.

    3 I had a consultant friend who once said the best part of his job was going into companies, doing his work, and identifying the flaws to be fixed but he didn’t need to deal with fixing them. He was very good at his job but didn’t have to deal with internal company policies, reluctant management and office politics. You’ve switched from consulting to a full time employee. Time to (re)learn those office politics skills and how to manage relationships with coworkers.

    1. Gwen Soul*

      point 3 hits it on the head. Consultants come in, give their idea and leave, they rarely see the work that goes into putting those ideas into action and that they are not “right” the first time and never see the iteration. I have seen dozens of consultants come in and maybe twice have what they given us worked without major effort. having to work long term instead of short term is a skill set that OP needs to work on, not just the relationship part but also thinking of work as part of a whole and the time to do something “right” in the first place may never come.

      1. Doug Judy*

        The whole “I get it right the first time” made me roll my eyes so hard. Not once ever had they had something that in theory worked but in reality, not so much?

        There’s entire departments, methodologies, and careers made of continuous improvements. No one gets it right the first time, every time.

        OP, for real, some humility would serve you well here. I am sure you are a successful and smart person, but you can and have been wrong. And that’s ok! That’s a way a lot of people learn. Give space for mistakes, they can be your best learning tool.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I’ve said this a few times elsewhere but I need to keep repeating it because also CONSULTING doesn’t work that way. Consulting is full of innovation and iteration. If there was one right way to do something people would just google it they wouldn’t need to hire a consultant. I can’t understand how OP functioned like this in that job.

          1. All Het Up About It*

            I can’t understand how OP functioned like this in that job.

            I will admit that several times in reading this thread I have wondered if part of the reason the OP is in this new role is because this is exactly how they functioned as a consultant and it did not go well.

    2. BethRA*

      “Sally took ownership of the process in the interim and, if she had the time to learn the old way and implement a new process, she probably was serving in that role for a bit.”

      Yup. And/or found herself doing two jobs and HAD to streamline processes to make it work.

    3. nona*

      #2 – and sometimes you don’t know the best way to do something the first time around, because its the first time you have encountered the problem. Sure, its best not to have to fix something, but the idea that the best way is always knowable before doing it is really naive.

      Also – you learn a LOT by making a mistake and correcting it.

    4. Essess*

      Wow, step 2 really hit me this time. A GOOD company would not have employees “get into trouble” for making a mistake. Companies that are toxic are the ones that punish mistakes. Good companies acknowledge that people are human, a mistake was made, and support the employee not to make the same mistake again unless the mistake was extremely egregious to the point of legal liability. OP seems big on retaliation and punishments instead of collaboration and strengthening work relationships.

    5. Tazzy*

      I love everything in this reply. A lot of my tasks as an admin assistant aren’t well defined, and I can’t imagine management at my job criticising me for trying something new at a task that wasn’t previously mine to deal with. If it doesn’t work we can try something tried and true or find a different new way, but I’ve managed to streamline so many things here just by having a new set of eyes on something.

  22. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

    Oh my god, OP. You… are not coming across the way that you think you are. And honestly, since you took absolutely nothing away from Alison’s original reply or the comment section (which had some very thoughtful and detailed breakdowns and advice), I… honestly don’t see the point in in putting labor into a reply beyond “YIKES’ to this update.

    I mean, I knew as soon as I read “I think many readers did not understand what I was trying to convey so I hope added context will help” we were going to be in for a ride, but… YIKES.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      I keep hoping that some day, the additional context in an update like this will be “Oh, I didn’t mention that my colleague is 12ft tall alien who shoots space lasers at people whenever they get upset”, but nope, nothing here to radically change anyone’s opinion of anything from the original letter.

    2. cubone*

      It’s funny because commenters understood exactly what the LW was conveying the first time.

  23. jess is my name, seltzer's my game*

    Apparently no advice was taken… because LW never thought they were in need of advice, or training, or Sally’s procedures ‍♀️

    I could not imagine trying to train someone who was constantly making snide comments like “I thought your updated procedure would be better” that IS a personal attack.

    I’m so flabbergasted… how can LW read both letters submitted and not see that they are the issue?

    LW seems like a mansplainer (regardless of gender) and its frustrating!

  24. SJ (they/them)*

    Ohhhh the boss here needs to step up so badly and I just don’t get the sense that they are, or are going to? Ugh. This sucks, like, a lot. Poor Sally. I hope she’ll be alright.

    1. mah*

      I am (optimistically) hoping that this is a case of unreliable narrator (which is a title I feel fairly confident giving to LW) and that the boss *is* planning to take some action to assist Sally. But agreed, poor Sally.

  25. undrinkable*

    Oof, OP, please take a step back and find some self-awareness. While Sally is overreacting in some respects, you’re being awful and owe her a huge apology.

    1. Squid*

      I thought my emotional intelligence was bad, but it is NOTHING compared to the stunning display put on by OP.

    2. biobotb*

      Given how snide and dismissive the OP is of Sally, I’m not sure she is overreacting. This has been going on for months, if I’m remembering the letter correctly.

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      depending on how new they are, they may simply be escorted from the building permanently.

    2. Velawciraptor*

      Honestly, if someone this new in my office was this antagonistic, arrogant, rude, and rigid in their thinking, if they were still in their probationary period, I’d simply let them go at this point. No PIP–just I’m afraid this isn’t working, especially if the conversation about the issue has happened at least twice (the conversation that led to the original letter and the one described above) without improvement or even introspection. I’ve dealt too often with people who were kept on despite glaring problems for the sake of having a warm body in the position. They always created more problems than getting rid of them immediately would have caused.

      1. Critical Rolls*

        If LW were my employee, their butt would likely be on the curb by now. Wrecking a longtime employee who stepped up in a number of ways when the company needed her, and then not seeing any problem with their behavior, would be more than sufficient within a probationary period.

  26. The Lexus Lawyer*

    So you need help and time to adjust but Sally doesn’t?

    Some people just aren’t cut out to be management.

    1. another_scientist*

      This is what got me, too. OP gets all the grace here, adjusting to the role and wanting to be walked through procedures multiple times (even though they don’t stop mentioning how experienced they are).
      At the same time, Sally also deserves some grace, adjusting to OP’s learning and communication style, but instead she is diagnosed with a personal failing of no backbone and OP gets huffy about having to use kid gloves.
      Big double standard!

  27. Girasol*

    When someone new comes in, sometimes an old hand feels threatened and territorial: if they don’t protect their turf then the new person might do their job better and push them out. OP was on Sally’s turf and told her that she was doing her job badly. That’s not bullying but it’s the wrong thing to say/do at such a delicate time. That said, any new person always wants to show that they’re skilled and worthy of their new job, which makes the temptation very strong to do exactly that wrong thing. This situation needed a good manager’s touch.

    1. biobotb*

      I don’t think that’s what’s happening here. Sally did not take the job to be permanent–she took over the role temporarily. The OP cannot push Sally out of her main job, because it’s a different role.

    2. Fluffy Fish*

      Please go re-read the first letter. There is zero indication Sally was anything but helpful.

  28. Hoping to Teach*

    Yeah, the OP is 100% full of themselves and doesn’t recognize their issues. Self-reflection would go a long way to help this situation.

    1. Okay Boomer*

      That is how it seemed to me, too.

      I doubt I would do much better in that situation, sadly.

  29. KP*

    If the LW keeps acting like this, their ego is very quickly going to get in the way of the balue they bring to the team.

    I work for a large company, so I know these trainings aren’t available everywhere- BUT if they are available to the LW I would recommend picking up a few courses on communicating, (something like Crucial Conversations.) personality types, work styles, etc.

    I think it would help the LW understand there’s lots of ways to approach a problem. But honestly, they need to do a lot of work on their soft skills.

    1. Bexy Bexerson*

      Crucial Conversations is great! My employer offers the course, and I took it a couple months ago. I had an absolutely fantastic instructor, and I learned so much and really enjoyed the experience.

    2. Panda (she/her)*

      +1 for Crucial Conversations! They have a self-paced online course for a few hundred dollars and it’s fantastic. I use what I learned every day.

  30. Taylor*

    The only thing I gleaned from this update is that you ARE kind of bullying Sally. Every thought/idea you express about “professionalism” screams ruthlessness to me and I am not surprised that someone prone to sensitivity, like Sally, is reading that as bullying. It’s too bad that you didn’t seem to take Alison’s advice to heart or that you think the original comments on your post misunderstood you. I think we understood perfectly. You’re just not prepared to hear anything that is counter to your worldview. I hope you can find it in your heart and mind to open up to a different perspective.

  31. MT*

    Oof. Just because we didn’t agree with how you handled the situation doesn’t mean we didn’t understand what you were trying to convey. You used examples of where you though Sally was being overly sensitive, Alison (and the readers) had another read of your examples – you were being unnecessarily unkind and unfair. I don’t think anything that you’ve added here actually changes that, because it was always about the way you were treating Sally.

    Being civil and respectful to your coworkers is not “kid gloves”. It’s base level professionalism and human decency.

    1. Stay at home dog mom*

      Exactly. Us readers understood exactly what OP was saying. They don’t like Sally, came here to bolster their argument that Sally is the worst – didn’t work out because everybody here on team Sally, so OP back to say we got it wrong.

      My guess is Sally is the first of many at that company that you will eventually have problems with.

      1. Stay at home dog mom*

        … edit…. My guess is Sally is the first of many at that company that OP will eventually have problems with.

    2. biobotb*

      Also, it would actually make the OP better at their job if they would consider the possibility that Sally could be right about some things (I mean, even when she was, they found a way to dismiss her!).

    3. hbc*

      Yes. “I think many readers did not understand what I was trying to convey so I hope added context will help” = “You all didn’t come to the same conclusion as me so I need to give you more information.”

      And then that “context” does nothing but confirm my original feeling. Paraphrasing, OP got walked through the process 2 or 3 times, had several occasions where they asked questions when the answer was right there in the manual, finally asked a question that was not covered, and then sniped, “Oh, I thought your docs would be better than this.” Sally is a friggin saint for not shooting back, “And I thought you’d have learned the process by this point given your experience, so I guess we’re both disappointed.”

  32. Susanna*

    People are slamming OP here, and I agree OP should have approached her colleague, apologized, and tried to move forward.
    But Sally has issues, too. Bullied? Oh, please – OP was indeed acting like a jerk, but that is not “bullying,” with the hostility and implied threats behind it. And “NOT SAFE?” What – she thought OP was going tentacle her on the way to the break room?
    I don’t like OP’s behavior as was described in the original letter. But Sally seems to have no ability to deal with any adversity at work, and falls back on buzzwordy themes as “safe”-ty and “bullying.” It’s like the people who have bad managers who say they are being harassed. Not necessarily true – your manger may be blowhard and glass bowl, but it’s not harassment just because of that.

    1. CarCarJabar*

      I think it’s important to remember that we’ve only heard OPs side of the story, in which they surely painted themselves in a softer light. I can easily imagine Sally’s side of the story as accurate.

    2. Ann O. Nymous*

      It’s weird how sometimes people are more upset by people using the word “bullying” than, I don’t know, actual bullying. We don’t know Sally’s side of the story, who are you to say to say she wasn’t bullied?

    3. Nopetopus*

      > But Sally has issues, too. Bullied? Oh, please – OP was indeed acting like a jerk, but that is not “bullying,” with the hostility and implied threats behind it. And “NOT SAFE?” What – she thought OP was going tentacle her on the way to the break room?

      I think it’s important here to remember that psychological safety is also incredibly important in the workplace, and as someone who was also a victim of this more covert bullying (because yes, it is bullying) I’m almost certain this is what Sally meant by feeling unsafe. Not that she thinks OP will physically attack her.

      1. yala*

        Yes, exactly that. Constantly being on edge because you don’t know which move, breath, or word is going to trigger some kind of negative reaction from someone is exhausting. Ask any kid that’s grown up with an emotionally abusive parent. I rarely ever felt physically threatened by my mother, but there were a lot of times when she was just not a safe person to be around.

        1. TyphoidMary*

          I am just absolutely in awe of all these folks who think emotional and psychological abuse doesn’t occur in workplaces, and that it doesn’t impact our safety and wellness.

    4. Lana Kane*

      Bullying is not just physical, and emotional safety in the workplace is a thing that we should all be more aware of. We’re not talking about the school bully taking kids’ snack money. Bullying in the workplace looks pretty much as described in the letter. Systematic breaking down of someone’s work and thought processes, questioning the quality of the work, telling someone you just want to help after you have clearly upset them. That’s not a safe work environment, but we’re all so accustomed to that BS that we just tell people, like the OP did, to “get a backbone”.

      1. Kes*

        This. Bullying doesn’t have to involve threats or physical attacks and OP does come across as pretty hostile to Sally, and that kind of consistent and relentless negativity towards Sally and Sally’s work and ideas can indeed be bullying

    5. CoveredinBees*

      Ohhhhh, nooooo. You’re a member of a team and it’ll clearly take some time for you to learn how to be one. Nothing you wrote here helps at all. If anything, you come off as even more condescending and rude this time.

    6. Fluffy Fish*

      I think it’s pretty unfair to assign issues to Sally. OP has by their own admission been more than unkind. In the first letter Sally walked away from a situation the OP would not let drop. What about that makes you think Sally can’t handle adversity. Sally has been with the company some time and is highly competent and magically a new employee starts and they area problem?

      Also note that they didn’t deny treating Sally different when the manager was around. That’s not usually a sign that someone is nicer when the manager isn’t around. OP has indicated they’ve made it their mission to tear down her work and “bring her to the mat”. So yeah, that does sound a lot like harassment.

    7. Dark Macadamia*

      1) This is LW’s version of the situation.

      2) Sometimes when people are being treated badly and don’t feel heard they frame things a little more dramatically to get results.

    8. cubone*

      what an incredible disappointment it is to see someone call the concept of “safety” a “buzzword”. My god.

    9. Lily of the Field*

      Unfortunately, tenets like the one you are espousing here; i.e., that Sally is not being bulled because bullying is only bullying if it involves physical assault, are some of the core reasons that non physical abuse (mental, emotional, verbal, sexual, financial, etc.) is often not considered abuse and is minimized by the public, the abuser and the abusee, and is not treated as the crime that it most definitely is. As someone who used to be in an extremely violent relationship, in all ways, this is an entire false narrative, and does nothing to help those who are suffering from bullying or non physical abuse. Name calling, snide remarks, a snarky attitude; those can all absolutely be bullying, and there is NO “Oh, please” about it. Please reflect on what your words convey.

      1. Ayla*

        I’ve mostly recovered from physical abuse I’ve experienced (aside from some lingering effects of a couple brain injuries) and I know how to make myself physically safe. But being systematically taught that I am stupid, worthless, and incapable? The mental *and physical* impact of that is incalculable. Yes, being around people who work to tear me down makes me feel unsafe. That isn’t dramatic buzzword manipulation. It is truth.

    10. Walk Don’t Run*

      Disagree. The OP acted/is still acting like a jerk.

      Unsafe can also mean continually being insulted, criticized, and argued with so often that it becomes “every interaction with this person feels like an attack”.

      1. Walk Don’t Run*

        This was reply to Susanna’s “oh please” comment, not LilyOTF.
        Lots of people commented similarly by the time mine posted..

    11. MistOrMister*

      OP kind of puts me in mind of my grandboss. No matter what I say/do, what she has decided about a situation is correct. Even when I can prove that I did something correctly or did not make a mistake, it does not matter. She will still berate me for it. I can ask her how to do something, get an answer, do exactly what she said, and then if it turns out to be wrong, get a lecture on how poorly I do my job by not just following simple procedures. I don’t know that I would call her a bully exactly, but I can see how working with someone like this, one might use the term bullying. And I can say without a doubt that I absolutely do not feel safe when dealing with her. I am not in fear of my physical safety, but I certainly do leave every interaction with her wondering if I will be fired. Granted, OP doesn’t have power over Sally, but if I was Sally I wouldn’t want to have anything to do with OP either. Sally could have used different word choices, but based on how OP has presented the situation, they are absolutely horrible to Sally and Sally is well within her rights to say she doesn’t deserve to be treated so poorly and to ask to not have anything more to do with OP.

    12. justanotherguy*

      “Bullied? Oh, please – OP was indeed acting like a jerk, but that is not “bullying,” with the hostility and implied threats behind it. And “NOT SAFE?” What – she thought OP was going tentacle her on the way to the break room?”

      this is like the people who proclaim “it can’t be abuse, I didn’t hit them” about their spouse or kid. verbal/psychological abuse is abuse and verbal/psychological bullying is bullying

  33. CarCarJabar*

    Bless your heart, OP.

    Your hubris is preventing you from seeing the real lessons in this situation, which has nothing to do with the correct procedures and everything to do with being teachable and working with others.

    Sally sounds like a stellar trainer. Teaching you how to think through a nuanced issue is so much more important than anything you learned in school.

    1. cubone*

      It’s like, we keep hearing again and again the value of “soft” skills (I don’t love the term but whatever). Stuff like relationship management, teamwork, etc. This letter is such a stellar example of this in action. The LW thinks their expertise on “correct procedure” absolves them from having to care a huge amount of VITAL workplace skills.

  34. ErgoBun*

    OP, please consider this: You think that Sally should behave differently when interacting with you (“she needs a thicker skin”) without having any feelings about that. However, you clearly have negative feelings about changing your behavior when interacting with her (“treat her with kid gloves” and “I do not want to walk on eggshells”). Why is Sally the only one who should adjust her behavior to work better with you? Can’t you meet her partway?

    Instead of framing this in such an adversarial way, maybe consider framing it as interacting with someone who values relationships and connections over facts and hard logic. It is difficult for BOTH of you to flex to adapt to the thinking style of someone very different.

    And here’s the biggest shocker: neither you nor Sally is Objectively Right All The Time. If you want Sally to adapt, you have to be willing to do the same.

  35. Panda*

    Wow. A lot of condemnation and criticism to Sally who took on extra responsibilities in addition to her normal work for months until you were brought on and made the process better in that short time even if it wasn’t up to your standards. It wouldn’t be or Sally would be doing your job instead of you. Sally may be a bit sensitive but you are in the wrong here by far and I’m glad I’m not your coworker.

    1. Panda*

      I wrote this directly to OP, in case that’s not clear. I wish I could go back and revise my reply at bit.

  36. Nia*

    I wish I could say this update was surprising but everything about the original letter telegraphed that the OP wasn’t capable of self reflection.

  37. Freelance Anything*

    Not really surprising O ‘I’m right about everything’ P decided to update like this, instead of doing any serious self-reflection.

    Disappointing though.

    I really hope they come to a better mindset at some point in the future.

  38. Marion Cotesworth-Haye*

    Is anyone else impressed at Sally, an admitted non-expert, managed to come up with a way to combine 4 audits into 1 in the span of 3 months while filling in on this position and manning her pre-existing full-time job? The OP seems to think she shouldn’t have bothered because she was always just filling in, but that overlooks the fact that Sally may have had no idea when a replacement would be hired to take this off her plate and seems to have actually accomplished a great deal given the timeframe and other demands on her time.

    1. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

      *And* identify problems before the processes are run rather than after (presumably requiring the processes to be re-run or the results to be manually adjusted)!

      And OP annoyance is that the new process only identifies the problems, and doesn’t explicitly state how to fix every single problem identified!

    2. biobotb*

      I kind of wonder if a lot of the OP’s defensiveness comes from the fact that Sally actually did a really impressive job–better than the OP could have done–and they don’t want to acknowledge that. I mean, the OP has been in the job a few months, this is their main role, not a side role, and they’re still struggling to understand Sally’s improvements!

    3. Pocket Mouse*

      Yeah, that was indeed very interesting context that OP provided in this update. Go Sally!

  39. Curious*

    After reading about Sally’s melodramatic tears and the fact that she pulled out the “I don’t feel safe” card, I’m very curious about the racial dynamics of this situation.

    1. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

      Good question, me too. I am assuming both OP and Sally are women but that would be good to know too for any nuances.

    2. Cheap Ass Rolex*

      Why do you assume the tears are melodramatic? Lots of people cry in stressful, frustrating, or embarrassing situations. Assuming that a woman is crying “at” someone is pretty insidious.

      1. Stay at home dog mom*

        I’m one of those people. Usually the harder I try to not get emotional, the worse it gets.

        1. yala*

          Same. I’ve cried at work more than once, and I’ve HATED it every time, because I know it’s perceived badly.

          Granted, that has gotten better since I started anxiety/adhd medication.

          But still. For a lot of people, crying under stress is very involuntary.

          I also think Sally mean the “unsafe” thing to be in terms of always wondering when the next snide/hostile remark from OP will come, not that she thinks OP would physically attack her, so I don’t really think it’s likely that racial dynamics are in play.

          1. Squid*

            ADHD/anxiety/severe rejection dysphoria here… The times I have cried at work (which can be counted on one hand, thankfully) have all been very involuntary and in direct response to something activating my rejection switch. It’s a very real problem that thankfully doesn’t make itself known very often.

      2. Sasha Blause*

        White women often use our tears to manipulate, to make ourselves look like the victim. Our tears and fragility are perceived to matter more, whereas WoC don’t get the privilege of crying in stressful, frustrating, embarrassing situations. As white women, we have to train ourselves to stop dissolving into tears in those situations. Crying when we’re frustrated, stressed, or embarrassed is an unearned luxury.

        1. yala*

          How about instead of telling people to stop doing something that is often involuntary and embarrassing, while framing it as something purely manipulative, we learn to extend sympathy to WoC, or rather, everyone, because lots of people cry when frustrated, stressed, or embarrassed, and it’s not something that people should be judged for?

        2. Grand Admiral Thrawn Is Blue Forevermore*

          Wow, there is so much condescension dripping from your comment, Sasha, where I do start? What gives you the right to judge me for my tears ? And to call them an unearned luxury, who do you think you are? Trust when I say I have earned every. one. of. my. freaking. tears.

          1. miss chevious*

            Sasha isn’t judging YOU for YOUR TEARS. She’s talking about a very common phenomenon of weaponizing emotional reactions against people of color. Regardless of your personal experience, the issue of White Women’s Tears has been broadly discussed as part and parcel of how white supremacy is reinforced.

            1. yala*

              “Crying when we’re frustrated, stressed, or embarrassed is an unearned luxury.”

              That sounds a lot like it’s judging white women for crying at all.

              Yes, we know she’s talking about the common phenomenon of White Woman Tears, but her take on it isn’t that we need to learn discernment and to also extend that same compassion to PoC and men, but that white women don’t *deserve* to be able to cry.

              It’s a poor take.

        3. Properlike*

          Wow. #notthiswhitewoman

          I would rather stab myself in the eye with a letter opener than cry in ANY stressful situation, and not just because of the job implications. *Women’s* tears and fragility don’t matter in work situations, and your hypothesis that white woman are voluntarily crying in work situations as manipulation and privilege, but WoC can’t do it…? Your intersectionality needs A LOT of work. Start with the feminism piece.

          1. Sasha Blause*

            Where did I say it’s voluntarily crying as a form of manipulation? It’s possible to be unconsciously manipulative. We’re conditioned that if we cry people will be more gentle toward us (and look unfavorably on the big old meanie who “made us” cry). A person who’s crying because they lack a filter is indistinguishable from someone who’s crying to assert dominance, and should adapt accordingly. “But not all of us mean it like that!” isn’t an excuse for creepy men, and it’s not an excuse for white women either.

            1. EBStarr*

              I’m pretty sure the regular old anti-feminists already have the market cornered on “shame women for crying at work.” I don’t think they need any help from intersectional feminists on that one.

              Maybe white women could actually focus on noticing and supporting non-white women whose emotions are ignored/belittled, and fighting for non-white men who are being judged unfairly based on the “white women’s tears” phenomenon–instead of trying to stop crying in meetings, which many of us have desperately attempted to avoid and failed in the past already but for much more selfish reasons than racial justice.

              I also noticed that you assert that a white woman crying in a meeting is as inexcusable as a man violating or threatening to violate the bodily autonomy of another human being, which is what “being creepy” generally means. I don’t feel equipped to respond constructively, I just want to point out that that seems to be what you’re saying in case I’m wildly misreading.

            2. yala*

              “Where did I say it’s voluntarily crying as a form of manipulation? ”

              Speaking of being manipulative, doing this little dance where you now claim that your initial statement in a discussion regarding this SPECIFIC information wasn’t saying that THIS was an example of crying as manipulation, even though you know darned well that you were implying it, AND you go on to imply that white women shouldn’t cry at all

              “A person who’s crying because they lack a filter is indistinguishable from someone who’s crying to assert dominance, and should adapt accordingly.”

              Or, counterpoint: We adapt by learning to extend compassion to people who are crying, regardless of their race or gender, if only by not assuming that they’re trying to be manipulative, but acknowledging that sometimes crying happens. (And it isn’t because people “lack a filter.” It’s because people are human.)

              You are literally claiming that people are in the wrong for an involuntary physical reaction purely because it can also be done voluntarily as manipulation. And it’s deeply unkind.

              I guess we shouldn’t get sick, because some people are really just Munchausening…

            3. Karia*

              Oh for goodness sake. The last time I cried at work (hidden in the car park) I wasn’t being ‘unconsciously manipulative’. I’d had a recent bereavement, 4 hours sleep and the CEO had just berated us all over nothing. Not all emotion is a weapon, and sometimes, people who hurt other people *deserve to feel bad*.

        4. hbc*

          As someone who’s done a lot of reading on the subject *and* who has a cry reflex that regularly embarrasses me, none of the recommendations I’ve read involve the (Herculean) task of just not doing it. You might as well tell someone with allergies to just not sneeze around someone with noise-triggered PTSD. The crier needs to make sure that they’re not taking attention from the victim, stop people from giving them sympathy when their feelings aren’t paramount, and remove themselves if they are too much of a distraction.

          I mean, I’m sorry I didn’t rein it in while I was listening to the audio version of The Bluest Eye in the line to pick up my kids the other day. I’ll let you know if I figure out who I was subconsciously manipulating.

        5. Karia*

          The goal should be that everyone gets to express emotion, not that women are forced to suppress so that bullies aren’t made to feel uncomfortable by their victims.

      3. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

        I take the question to be asked using the OP’s framing of Sally’s tears as melodramatic, not necessarily concurring that they were or weren’t, since we don’t know and never will. I do think the boss should have shut down the meeting if one person was sobbing since that does create an excessively emotional atmosphere not conducive to clearing the air or getting to solutions. This three-hand meeting itself seems to have earned the label melodramatic.

        1. TeamSally*

          Based on OP’s writing style, Sally could have blinked a couple of times and OP might have described it as full on sobbing. OP is an unreliable narrator and I am totally #TeamSally here.

    3. Anonymous Koala*

      I get the sense that OP’s account is missing a lot of information about their interactions with Sally – either because OP doesn’t think they’re important, or because OP isn’t willing to make any concessions to Sally’s perspective. But I can think of a bunch of reasons for someone dealing with a coworker like OP to not feel safe, so that may not have been a “card” but rather a genuine attempt to get more involvement from the boss (who appears to be doing as little as possible to manage this situation – which is going to hurt both OP and Sally, TBH).

      1. yala*

        I think their implication is that maybe Sally is a white woman and OP is a Black man, and Sally is trying to pull a White Woman’s Tears stunt against OP.

        But given OP’s tone in both their letters, I really don’t think that’s the case. At all.

    4. Pony Puff*

      I really don’t think they were melodramatic tears. It’s more likely they were involuntary tears of frustration given the situation and how dense OP is when it comes to actual human interaction.

      1. Properlike*

        Especially if Sally is forced to be in a three-way meeting with OP who won’t admit anything wrong and her manager won’t FIX IT ALREADY.

        Who wants to place bets that Sally’s job searching right now?

    5. Karia*

      Wow. I had the complete opposite read – that if anything Sally is the minority, being bullied by someone who thinks she should know her place.

    6. Ginger Dynamo*

      Considering OP regularly uses adversarial and hostile phrasing in this letter to describe their coworking relationship (I.e., take them to the mat) while also being pretty hostile to Sally by telling Sally to her face that OP “thought her updated process would be better” (which OP admits was the actual wording, not Sally’s overstatement), I’m not at all surprised Sally is this upset. Sally has a trainee hounding her, waiting to find the slightest fault or mistake in her work as an excuse to just Let. Her. Have. It, apparently as penance for doing OP’s job pretty effectively, considering it wasn’t Sally’s wheelhouse. She doesn’t feel safe probably because she’s not safe professionally in this scenario. She had OP rooting for her to be disciplined and punished for not “doing it right the first time” every time in everything according to OP’s liking.

  40. Elle Woods*

    It’s disheartening to see that the OP continues to take no responsibility for their words and actions and blames Sally for everything. I do not blame Sally at all for not wanting to work with OP. I wouldn’t want to work with someone who treats me with such disdain either.

  41. Chrissimas*

    Did I chuckle when they said they were a former consultant that had just pivoted to administration? Maybe.

    You probably need to look into coaching or something from your boss as to how to work on a team together and get out of that consultant mindset. You seem to feel that constantly criticizing or critiquing others work is still your role and you should be able to do it with no softening at all.

    A close friend of mine was a consultant and said he realized that mode of constantly optimizing and critiquing seeped into all aspects of his life and he had to make a deliberate effort to turn it off. You sound like you may be in a similar situation.

    We’ve had consultants come on permanently in a similar manner, but there is a mindset change that needs to happen for that jump to be successful. The ones that don’t make that change haven’t lasted long at my company.

    1. ENFP in Texas*

      I had that same thought when I saw the OP’s precious position. There’s a huge difference between “being paid to tell people what they should do differently” and “being part of a team trying to do things differently”.

    2. biobotb*

      I’m curious as to whether, while happily pointing out everything wrong in Sally’s system (that she came up with in three months will also doing another full-time job), the OP has actually figured out any improvements *they* can implement. My only experience with a consultant who joined administration is that she like to tell us we were doing everything wrong–but was hopeless when it came to telling us how to improve or what to change. She could NOT come up with solutions to alleged problems at all.

    3. S*

      This is exactly what I’m here to say. OP, you’re getting a lot of criticism, but I think you might be encountering something Alison warns about: you’ve come from a dysfunctional environment and the skills that kept you afloat there are hurting you here. Your comment about tearing things down really, REALLY isn’t how most workplaces function. You see Sally as someone who needs to toughen up and produce only production-level output, and I bet that would have been 100% true in your old job–she wouldn’t have made a good consultant.

      But. You’re discovering that things are different here. Your relationship with your coworkers needs to be collaborative rather than competitive, and you’ve caused some problems by failing to meet that requirement. It sounds like work needs to be produced for discussion and collaboration at an early stage, not just when it’s in its final form, and you should expect other people to work with you to refine it. You now know that your form of critique is too blunt for the office you work in, and you probably need to tone the snarky way, way down.

      I’m on the autism spectrum and I’ve definitely made some terrible missteps while trying to figure out the “soft skills” or “people skills” side of work. But it helps that I know it’s not a natural strength, so I’m careful to watch for cues and ask for feedback. You’re now finding out that your people skills aren’t well-matched with your office’s expectations, so you probably want to either go to your manager and ask for some serious coaching, or decide this isn’t an environment in which you want to work. But don’t ignore it–your style would be a serious performance issue in many offices, and at the least would give you a reputation as a difficult person.

  42. Boss makes a dollar I make a dime*

    I want to make a list of all the letters where the LW is clearly the one in the wrong, they’re always the craziest ones and the ones I love to reread

    1. Not really a Waitress*

      > Start with Employer won’t let employee take BDAY holiday because its on 2/29 and therefore she doesn’t have a birthday
      > Then Employer thinks employee was unprofessional for quitting when she couldn’t get her graduation day off
      > Also Employer thought employee was out of line for insisting they get paid after multiple weeks of NOT getting paid

        1. Lance*

          Not to mention the update, in which they doubled down and insisted the employee wasn’t losing anything (except, you know, the day off? the very tangible gift cards? nope, that’s just ‘nothing’).

    2. Gracely*

      This. Like the “ghosting” LW. That was so bananacrackers.

      (This LW is nowhere near that level of crazy, thankfully.)

            1. Rainy*

              The best part was when he rage quit because his new boss and her boss and HR were trying to put measures in place to protect *him*.

  43. awesome3*

    I wonder if going from consulting, OP isn’t used to working in this sort of environment, where someone is thrust into a job and told “fix this thing you aren’t trained in on top of your other work” and subsequently “you’re welcome, we hired someone to do the stuff we’ve been making you do that you’re not skilled in, so you’re training them.”

    I feel like that’s happened to me a lot in my short career. If anything it shows you there’s an issue with the company, not Sally in particular.

    OP I’m not sure if you got the right take away here, but best of luck in your new role

  44. Emily*

    I’ve been in work environments – probably not coincidentally consulting – where this kind of criticism is not out-of-place. People would say a lot worse, and if you cried, that would not reflect well on you. It was horrible and toxic and the quality of the work was not actually particularly good. But it certainly exists, and if you’ve been in that kind of environment I can see why this would be jarring.

  45. Yeah*

    I hope your interactions with Sally end soon too. Sally doesn’t deserve to be treated like this.

  46. Order of the Banana*

    So frequently on the internet, whenever someone comes back with “additional context” to defend their points, more often then not, it just ends up making them look worse.

    OP, you in this letter said that this position involves switching over from consulting to admin work–this in itself will require a mindset switch. When you act as a consultant, companies are paying you specifically for the best solution (doing things the right way on the first go). In this new position, that might not be the case. The nature of the role might require that you excel at troubleshooting, being able to logic things out, making that “good faith decision”, and having back-up plans if that first solution doesn’t work. I also don’t know that, three months in, you can judge whether Sally overstepped her responsibility while filling in; this may have been something she ran by management (and they gave her the greenlight) or it could’ve been the system she used to keep things afloat as a temporary solution.

    Highlighting that you learn best through a different training style to your boss was step in the right direction. However, in basically all of the interactions you’ve listed in your letters, your tone is coming across as very blunt. Even those who consider themselves very straightforward and honest people need to evaluate their tone in a workplace, unless you operate in an environment where the overall culture is like that. Saying “I thought your updated processes would be better” does seem very personal–it doesn’t sound like a critique of the general processes that a company has in place; the subtext is “You do sloppy work and I’m disappointed in you”. Wording and tone matter! Also, everyone has off-days where they might let something a little snarky or rude slip out of their mouth. It’s one thing if you pointed out her ineffective processes once or twice, but a whole other if she’s been training with you for a couple months and potentially dealing with them on a daily basis.

    I think in general, your commitment to using different language is the right one, but it isn’t because Sally needs kiddy gloves.

    1. WindmillArms*

      YUP.

      I read this and thought “OK, so Sally made some audit changes and you disagree. It’s your role now; change it back! Fix it! Why are you bothering Sally with it?”

      OP, you believe she overstepped by experimenting with some process changes. Maybe she did, but she’s out of the role. It’s your responsibility now to take some action, not just complain to/about Sally about how terribly she did.

      1. miss chevious*

        OP, you believe she overstepped by experimenting with some process changes. Maybe she did, but she’s out of the role.

        Not only that, but when OP told Sally the procedures needed to be strengthened, she was fine with it! From the original letter: When I made the comment, my colleague responded with “you are welcome to make any updates to any procedures” and even said the procedures get better every time someone new comes aboard. She didn’t seem upset.

        I read through both letters expecting to find out that Sally was trying to hold on to the procedures or resist change brought about by a new person, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. OP needs to worry about themselves, and care les about whether Sally did something perfectly the first time, especially because she’s no longer involved in the role.

  47. I'm Done*

    I read the update and all I could think was, wow. I would hate to work with someone like the OP. They sound highly critical, intolerant of approaches that do not align with their methodologies, and totally unaware of how smug and condescending they come across. No wonder Sally feels bullied. I noticed not even one crack of self doubt in that wall of superiority.

  48. Pascall*

    Woof. While I’m disappointed in OP, I’m even more disappointed in the boss in this situation. Sounds like nothing was really resolved and OP will continue to treat Sally, and everyone else, as unprofessional when they respond poorly to her blunt (and, quite frankly, rude) criticism of their processes and procedures.

    As someone who works with my department to CONSTANTLY review and revise previously constructed SOP’s, there are absolutely ways to collab respectively and cooperatively with others to fix and adjust things that are no longer working. Not once have I had someone push aggressively back on new changes to procedures. Has there been push back in general? Sure! But I always work to find out why, how can we meet in the middle, or how can I educate the other individual on what may work even better.

    It does everyone a disservice when you refuse to work with people without the desire to always be right.

    1. Katherine*

      I’m wondering/hoping if OP’s sense of her own perfection prevented her from hearing what the boss actually said. Like, the boss said “You aren’t 100% in the wrong” and the OP heard “You’re right.” Or the boss said “Maybe it’s a misunderstanding but it seems like you’ve treated Sally despicably” and the OP heard “It’s a misunderstanding.”

  49. Caramel & Cheddar*

    “The reality is that after walking me through her new process only two or three times, Sally would refer me back to her procedures when I asked questions. I finally found something not in her procedures and pointed it out to her when I made this infamous comment. ”

    I’m very curious about the appropriate number of times to walk someone through something before you’re allowed to refer them back to the procedures that have already been covered multiple times, especially when by LW’s own admission it sounds like it was hard to find something not covered in the procedures.

    1. Not Buying It*

      I would bet money that OP keeps asking to be walked through the process repeatedly so OP can continue to point out all the ways OP thinks it isn’t correct and to continue to push back on things Sally has already explained, as an attempt to disguise OP’s continued critiques as the more insidious sneaky version: “help me understand”.

      1. WindmillArms*

        Yep! OP is asking Sally to explain the same thing over and over because they seem to enjoy picking out problems, both real and imagined. I’d be referring them back to my written documentation, too!

    2. biobotb*

      No kidding. I do kind of wonder if a lot of the OP’s rudeness and defensiveness come from the fact that they’re apparently still struggling so much so many months into the job. Instead of looking at whether they’re right for the position or there’s anything *they* could do to better retain the information, they just want to blame it on Sally.

    3. calonkat*

      I rearranged this a wee bit just to make it easier to follow:
      The reality is that after walking me through her new process only two or three times, Sally would refer me back to her procedures when I asked questions. I finally found something not in her procedures and pointed it out to her when I specifically said, “I thought your updated procedures would be better” and Sally took that as an insult directed at her.

      The bit about being walked through a process multiple times and then being offended (clearly) at being asked to refer to written procedures, then searching for something not covered by a procedure (finally found) and making a negative comment. ARRRRRGGGGHHH. Was this update supposed to make the OP look better? Because it … does not.

      1. Fluffy Fish*

        Right? I didn’t like what I was being told so I nitpicked until I found something I could be shitty about for the sole reason of being shitty and then I’m going to pretend to be shocked that Sally took it personal.

        OP knew what they were doing and had every intention on trying to upset Sally.

    4. Budgie Buddy*

      Right??? This part made OP sound so incompetent. Like learn your job, Buddy. And when you find flaws in the procedures to improve — Sally freely admitted that her new system still had kinks to work out so no surprise there are some flaws — congrats. That’s now your job to fix, not Sally’s. Get cracking.

    5. yala*

      Actually, this just made something else stand out to me:

      “I finally found something not in her procedures and pointed it out to her when I made this infamous comment.”

      There are two things that this phrasing implies to me:

      1) Almost all the questions OP asked WERE explicitly covered in the procedures

      2) OP was actively TRYING to find something that wasn’t covered by the procedures, not because it was their job (though it may also have been), but SPECIFICALLY to take to Sally to rub her face in.

      1. WindmillArms*

        And it sounds like it took WORK (“finally found..”)! How much time did OP spend combing through procedures to “finally find” a problem? And how much time have they spent doing their job, which seems to be at least partially…improving those procedures.

  50. ENFP in Texas*

    If the OP’s writing is any indication of their communication style in real life, I can easily see why Sally has an issue with it. It drips with condescension and a sense of superiority.

    1. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

      This. I have outright refused to work with people like this. That’s what we’re NOT gonna do over here, sir/madam/mx. Absolutely not. And I am unlikely to be pleasant about it, either. Professional, yes, but it will be clear that I won’t tolerate crap behavior from anyone.

  51. Sincerely Raymond Holt*

    Wow, OP, you just doubled down on your behavior and treatment of Sally. I don’t blame Sally for feeling that way around you. I’m not a sensitive person, but I would be defensive and have my feelings hurt if what you’re describing is true. You said you came here from a consulting role, so it might be worth figuring out how to re-integrated into a team culture again. It sounds like you’re well within your right to feel frustrated with Sally’s procedures but you’re taking it as a personal affront. Maybe Sally’s procedures aren’t the way you’d set them up but that doesn’t excuse how you have treated her. What you call “sensitive” is someone who is charged with a new hire who is being a jerk to her, being overly critical of her work, and dismissing all of her efforts. I’d encourage you to think through how you have treated Sally and find a way to acknowledge how your behavior towards her have impacted her, and the rest of the team. You might otherwise find yourself out of a job.

    1. Pink Candyfloss*

      “What you call “sensitive” is someone who is charged with a new hire who is being a jerk to her, being overly critical of her work, and dismissing all of her efforts.”

      STANDING OVATION. GIF

  52. Observer*

    OP, you need to put your “kid gloves” on and KEEP them there. And stop thinking of them as “kid gloves” and start thinking about how you start being more respectful of people.

    breaking down their ideas in order to strengthen them” is hardly how “professionals” behave. Neither is your refusal to actually work with Sally. She made it very clear to you what you need in order to do your work, yet you are ignoring her. What you need is not lists of answers but to go through a process, since there are not enough lists to give you all the solutions you are going to need.

    If you can’t deal with that, this may not be the job you need. I suspect that if you start running to your boss every time Sally doesn’t spoon feed you the answers you want, they may start to see your “value” a bit differently.

  53. Elsa*

    OP – at the beginning of your first letter, you made a point to mention that your role was hard to fill. You need to be aware that no one is irreplaceable. You are in danger of your boss thinking you are more trouble than you are worth.

    1. Properlike*

      “Hard” is not the same as “impossible.” In fact, looks like Sally is on her way to mastering it.

      1. WindmillArms*

        My work often runs alongside process improvement. Honestly, combining four separate audit procedures into one master audit, with if/then statements, training people to think thoroughly instead of filling out fields… does Sally want a new job? She sounds excellent.

  54. OhNoYouDidn't*

    Even if Sally’s processes weren’t great, OP is showing a classic case of being on the wrong side of right. Tone and attitude matters. You can be right and still come off as a difficult person. There is no self-awareness in this update at all.

  55. LHOI*

    $5 says OP went straight from school to consulting to this job. This all just reeks of “the important part is to be as good as you can be and be evaluated thusly as individuals” rather than an office where you are ultimately just tasked with the collaborative job of running a company.

    1. Khatul Madame*

      Also, the consulting approach often is cookie-cutter and misses the nuance present in the particular client organization. Just press ahead without thinking things through too deeply, as the clock is ticking. Getting problems solved is not a priority.

  56. Missinlnk*

    If there’s ever a letter where I hope the other party finds it and writes in with her side of the story, it’s this one. Please Sally, if you’re out there (or even just think it’s you), write in! We want to hear the other side of this whopper of a tale!

      1. English Rose*

        And their manager, because I strongly suspect OP is hearing what they want to hear in the manager’s reaction.

  57. PinkCandyfloss*

    OP, you probably think that this additional information supports and justifies your position, but all it does is dig the hole deeper. You don’t come across as a person who listens or adapts your approach based on feedback or situational awareness. Rather than looking at the organization as a whole, you are honing in on one person you see as a weak link, and heaping all of the blame onto Sally rather than digging deeper into the structure itself. Swing and a miss, OP. There is nothing in this follow-up that would make me want to work with them any more than I wanted to work with them after the original (which was: not at all).

  58. Grandious spacecat*

    I’ve been on both sides of this (as sally and lw). My personality can be blunt and abrasive because i can easily miss social cues. However, i was often sensitive to criticism of my work because i took it personally.

    My advice for sally, is to separate her work from “herself.” Just because a procedure isn’t good, doesn’t mean she didn’t do a good job with what she had to work with at the time.

    Lw, I’ll give you the same advice i tell myself when i make comments on my coworkers work. Phrase comments as questions, and don’t make use accusatory language such as second person. Bad procedure? “Hmm, i think this could be better. What about blank and blank?” Not “this is bad why did you do it this way when blank and blank is so much better”. At a higher level i also think about what i want to accomplish from an interaction; what information do i need from my coworker and to keep the conversation focused on the work itself without going into if it’s good or bad. I’m a computer engineer and my coding experience is different from my coworkers and i was brought on to provide a different perspective. I have to be very careful not to insult the work done, and perphase I’m overly cautious, but that’s no skin to me if it ensures i can have good relations with my coworkers. In the end we’re all working towards the same goal. (That said i is will defend my work, and I’m not saying don’t have a spine, trying to advice how to not be confrontational)

    Yes I’m very neurodivergent and mask to get along with my coworkers, but i also like having a pleasant work environment. I’ve been taken aside by team leader before because i apparently intimidated who i thought was the scariest person in the team because of how direct i was. Remember sally may not have known the timeline for your hire, and started the new procedure because reason. It is not her fault she doesn’t have the correct experience.

    I guess tl;dr, be kind.

    1. Pony Puff*

      “My advice for sally, is to separate her work from “herself.” Just because a procedure isn’t good, doesn’t mean she didn’t do a good job with what she had to work with at the time.”

      Maybe I’m overlooking something in the letter but I don’t get the impression Sally is sensitive to criticism about her work. It seems she’s upset because OP is so clearly making it personal and dripping with disdain towards her as a person.

      1. Grandiose Spacecat now with correct spelling*

        Not that sally will ever read this…

        I took it as, just because someone is making the remarks about your work that are also accusatory doesn’t mean you have to take them as that way. Yeah i have a coworker who asks questions abrasively, but english is also not his first language and i know it really isn’t about me, even though that’s how it comes across. That distances allows me to not react on an emotional level to something that isn’t meant to be a put down.

        I can’t speak for lw intentions, nor will i. Yeah there are bad people to work with, but not working with them isn’t always an option. Not letting them eat at you doesn’t mean that sally was wrong to go to management with this because no one should have to work with a negative nanny. But to help her “grey rock” when such situations come up. Doesn’t mean she doesn’t have emotions about how she feels about whats happening, and they’re valid. The distance would create a buffer for emotions so hopefully she doesn’t spend the whole time feeling miserable.

        Yeah, i had a coworker I absolutely hate (he constantly misgendered me and ignored my suggestions and attempted to mansplain to me), but I’m also sure he had no idea i hates his guts because i was able to keep those emotions away from the workplace, and involved hr about the pronoun issue.

    2. Pocket Mouse*

      We don’t have evidence that Sally’s procedure was not good. Remember that it took several (possibly many) instances of OP pointing out something that was “wrong” or “missing” only to find out it was in fact not wrong or missing. Also remember that something can be quite good and still not perfect, especially when created by someone who had to learn on the job, initiated efficiency changes, and wrote up thorough documentation, all in the span of a few months… and acknowledge room for improvements.

      What’s Not Good is OP’s inability to see room for improvement in their own POV and behavior, and the cruel way they’re treating Sally.

  59. JukeBoxHero*

    My most toxic boss ever was a former consultant who moved into management, brought in to help us introduce new communications and sales strategies with our customers. Within the first hour, they were so abrasive telling us every thing we were doing wrong, it left one of my direct reports in tears. OP likely is still in the consultant mindset of being the expert who will be listened to, rather than a colleague who needs to use collaborative skills with others on the team. All jib transitions are hard, and the consultant-to-teammate one seems to be a struggle for OP.

  60. safety officer*

    I think there’s problems from OP and Sally here.

    OP: you are so focused on what the “right” way to do things is, but the reality is there is hardly ever one “right” way to do something AND despite your years of experience you’re still new to this role. When you are learning the ropes, it’s best to get as much clarification as you can on the way things are done and keep the criticism to yourself—once you’ve mastered your training, you’ll be free to make whatever process changes you want to make. Even if your expectation is that Sally’s processes and documentation are flawless, saying “I thought it would be better” IS insulting, and there’s frankly hardly any room for that kind of rude, blunt commentary in a work environment. Once again, focus on getting the missing information and filling in the gaps for yourself. Once you’ve completed training, you get to decide how it all looks moving forward.
    Aside from that, OP, any time you find yourself thinking “this person is just too sensitive”, you can assume you’re not taking the full breadth of the situation and your own behavior into account. If someone doesn’t like the way you are treating them, the answer isn’t to simply write them off as “sensitive”. The answer is to find a common ground from a place of mutual RESPECT. You clearly don’t respect Sally.

    from the other side, I really dislike when people use the term “unsafe” for anything other than dangerous situations. OP sounds like a real piece of work to work with, but “unsafe” isn’t the right language.

    1. Squid*

      I disagree – it maybe can be phrased differently, but psychological safety is a real thing and very important to have in a work environment/on a team.

      1. How About That*

        What do you mean, psychological safety? I’ve never looked for that in 40 years of working.

        1. Squid*

          Being comfortable enough in your environment to express your ideas, opinions, etc. without fear of retaliation or humiliation. It’s something that a lot of people take for granted, and something that others have to actively seek out.

          1. zfd z*

            so just because one person is an asshole means she can’t be at ease with others? What a weird reaction. When 1 person is a constant asshole to me, I may squelch myself around them, but if the rest of the people are fine I am comfortable with them and have no problem continuing to express my opinions and recs. Why would she suddenly feel unsafe around everyone else? I don’t think she, or anyone, else would. That’s just bizarre.

            1. Environmental Compliance*

              It’s lovely that you have never felt this way, but this does not negate that others have.

              If a person *has to* work with someone who is constantly berating them for the most nitpicky of details, in an aggressive and belligerent way, and there is *no way* to remove yourself from them, coming to work is likely going to start to have negative connotations. Just going to work. Because now you know that you will be on eggshells at the minimum all day. Going to work means you are going to be in a negative atmosphere and there is *no escape*.

              Mentally/emotionally unsafe *is* feeling unsafe. Simply because OP has not physically attacked them does not mean that the workplace is otherwise completely harmless and therefore safe. It is entirely fair to say that one feels unsafe when they are constantly mentally on edge. It is draining. It is exhausting. It is damaging.

            2. Yala*

              “Why would she suddenly feel unsafe around everyone else?”

              Why would you think this is what she said at all? I didn’t get any implication that she didn’t feel safe around everyone else, just that she didn’t feel safe with OP (presumably because he will jump on absolutely any opportunity to criticize her and point out any perceived errors in a very hostile way)

              Tho if she has to interact with OP a lot, or if he does just, y’know, pop up whenever with limited warning because he thinks he’s found something to rake her over, then that can translate to a general unsafe feeling because YOU CAN NEVER RELAX

              You start worrying about every period and semicolon. Will this hyphen be the thing that I get demeaned for next?

              It’s exhausting.

        2. TyphoidMary*

          I’m completely envious that you’ve never had to consider your psychological safety at a job before!

    2. How About That*

      Yeah, unsafe gives me Sister Wives vibes, I’m never sure what they mean when they use it either. How about uncomfortable, attacked, disrespected, something like that?

      1. Rocket*

        Because what they’re feeling is “unsafe.” Why should they use a different word that doesn’t convey the same thing just because you don’t know what that word means?

    3. Fluffy Fish*

      I really don’t think we should police Sally’s language or behavior especially considering the conversations was edited by OP. OP is clearly trying to pain themselves in a good light and they still come across as awful.

      In the original OP fully admitted to arguing about something repeatedly, was wrong, and STILL justified their behavior. I just don’t find them to be a reliable unbiased narrator in the slightest.

  61. HR Ninja*

    *sigh*

    Start job searching. I would also recommend to take a hard look at how you communicate, “instruct”, and deal with conflict, but I am confident that would fall on deaf ears.

  62. Salad Daisy*

    OMG I am so glad OP is not my manager. “My way or the highway” is not an effective way to manage.

  63. Nom*

    It can be true that Sally is too sensitive while still being true that OP is a bully. I do not understand why OP felt the need to critique processes during training – all they needed to do was ask genuine questions. There is a huge difference between telling your training “this process is in efficient, why didn’t you think to do X instead??” and “Have you thought about trying X?”

    1. biobotb*

      Yeah, why is the OP critiquing the processes? Isn’t it their job to improve them now? So learn the processes and then improve them. Why continually drag Sally into this? Just learn from her, make a note of what you’d like to improve, then go do it. (without crowing to everyone about how terrible Sally’s (apparently very time-saving) processes were.)

      1. Myrin*

        Yeah, I thought that OP seemed fixated on Sally in a way that’s beyond the scope of either of their work.

  64. Just Your Everyday Crone*

    LW, some roles are better suited for your approach of knowing “the best way to do things the first time around,” and some roles just aren’t. It sounds to me like the role you are inheriting is not very suitable for someone who needs A to Z instructions on everything that can come up. I had an employee who wanted what you want, thorough instructions that applied to every situation. That is a difficult person to manage in the applicable role, because it is subject to a lot of variations and application of judgment. There are some routine tasks, but a lot involve strategic decision-making. They wanted certainty, which is fine, just not a good match for the job.

    The way you describe Sally’s procedures sounds fantastic to me for the roles that I manage. I also think you’re unfair in your description. You say her processes say how to look into problems but then say they simply highlight that something needs looking into.
    And please learn that the way you personally prefer is not factually correct. Everything you have said is an opinion but you characterize it as just stating a fact.

  65. Aspie_Anything*

    My hunch is LW is not long for this company.

    Also, I’m a manager, and when I train new staff it’s always on how to think through problems/do their jobs within our organization’s & industry’s framework because I don’t have time to teach someone how to do everything they’ll need to do and that’s really, really normal

  66. HelloAvocado*

    LW, I would encourage you to go back and re-read Alison’s original advice, as well as try taking a step outside of yourself and recognize that others can provide valuable contributions. In consulting you need to have a lot of confidence and present yourself as an expert in order to create trust with clients. Your new coworkers are not your clients. They are your peers. You don’t know everything, and that’s okay! That’s what your team is for. You need to adjust your mindset for your environment. Best of luck to you

  67. Cheap Ass Rolex*

    OP, you really seem impervious to humility and self-reflection, at least in work matters, and it’s going to hurt you in many ways until you work through that impediment. It’s in your best interest and that of people who interact with you that you should step back and really examine your ego and your treatment of others.

  68. antiqueight*

    OP states “In contrast, I prefer to know the best way to do things the first time around. It is better to do something once the right way, in my viewpoint” which tells me they haven’t a clue what they are talking about. Yes, “right first time” is important where appropriate. But finding the right way, knowing it IS the right way and working the kinks out of it takes time and isn’t always possible in every situation. Knowing how to find the solution and finding a way that identifies the solution is much more important more of the time (unless this is a highly repetitive job and even then you have to get there).
    Meanwhile “I think her process could be strengthen to do more than simply highlight something that needs looking into.” So – her new process does improve things but isn’t the end of the line? One could assume the new hire should be able to get that done… once they learn to listen.

    1. WindmillArms*

      Plus, “do it once, the right way” makes no sense in a role that the OP describes this way:

      > Sally’s position is that as long as you think through something and make a good faith decision, a mistake cannot be made. Even if another choice would prove to be better in the end. Management appears to support her because one time she had to walk something back she did not get into trouble.

      OP, your colleague is telling you how to do your role well *at this company*. You are not listening.

  69. Asked You Thrice for a Towel*

    My man, Sally is so valued that the company trusted her to fill in for an open position AND create new processes AND train the new person. She then came to the bosses with a detailed list of issues with the new hire (that’s you), including direct quotes from you that she tallied over your first three months which were insulting, demeaning, and bullying to her.

    If this were my company, you would be looking for a new job, and she would be getting a raise for dealing with you.

  70. BigBodyBill*

    Well, this wasn’t the update I was hoping to see. I was really hoping OP had taken Alison’s advice and implemented it. Sally must be a very valuable member of the team to be the one asked to take over a role that wasn’t hers, allowed to write procedures for the role and then train a new hire. I feel really bad for her. She now has a coworker who is empowered to continue this toxic behavior and a manager who gave in and seems to now be dismissive of her feelings. One day, she’s going to leave them for a better job with better people, and they’ll be wondering what they could have done to keep her.

    1. calonkat*

      I dunno. The end of the letter says:
      “However, my boss understands that it will take time for me to learn the role and has repeatedly said I am an important member of the team. Thankfully, I think my boss sees things for what they are: I need to use kid gloves for Sally sometimes, and Sally needs some thicker skin.

      My boss is going to meet with Sally to decide next steps, but I am hopeful our interactions can end soon.”

      So knowing the narrator is not seeing reality the same way we are, I’m reading this as the boss is very concerned about OP and their management skills. The boss is reassuring OP that they are an important member of the team because they don’t want to fire them right away, and trying to push them towards better skills by discussing treating people better. I particularly note that there is no mention of “I was assured that my skills are needed and the company will do whatever it takes to support my decisions.”

      The boss will meet with Sally to discuss ways to shield her from OP and to assure her that SHE is in no danger and has committed no wrongs.

      1. Fluffy Fish*

        Agreed. Some managers will soften their message by adding in a compliment thinking it helps the tough message go down farther.

        In reality it usually only obfuscates the message and people don’t take the serious part seriously. I would not be surprised to learn that’s what’s really happening here.

        OP is for sure underestimating Sally’s tenure and good reputation vs their new and unknow quantity that’s not coming across well. Since I doubt they will change I suspect the next update will be about them being let go because Sally cried even though they were right in all the ways.

  71. Dogismycopilot*

    I’m concerned that OP hasn’t brought any responsibility on board. They have been (and continue to be) dismissive and condescending. I’m not surprised Sally didn’t feel comfortable bringing her concerns to that table. It sounds like she has endured months of snarky nitpicking and it bothers me that the OP didn’t have any ability to hear that and consider amending their communication style. It’s hard to imagine driving someone to tears and not feeling any compassion.

  72. I Am Truly Stuck!*

    Hold up – you STILL have a job there? Three months into it? Wow. Count YOUR blessings and make sure that resume is up-to-date. I have a feeling you’ll be using it sooner rather than later, and NOT because you have chosen to.

  73. No Dumb Blonde*

    This definitely provided some clarity, but not in the direction you intended, I’m afraid.

  74. DML OKC*

    OP, please don’t wait as long as I did to step back and listen. Really listen to what your manager, Allison, and the commenters are telling you. Slow down or you will find yourself on an island with no coworkers or managers willing to support you. You’ll find that you’re walking on eggshells no matter where you go because you’re the one cracking the eggs. I get it. You’re proud, accomplished, and confident. Great — but you’re not the only one and your way isn’t the only one. As others have said – humility. You can do this and once you master it, you’ll find that you are stronger and even, maybe, a leader. Take it from the me at age 56 — the rock star with the big mouth at 25 — don’t wait that long.

    1. Soup of the Day*

      Oooh. “You’ll find that you’re walking on eggshells no matter where you go because you’re the one cracking the eggs.” Great line and great advice!

  75. BBB*

    However, her execution was sloppy and she was still working out the kinks to the new process when I came on board.
    Sally overstepped while she was filling in for my role.

    I can’t get over this. process improvements always involve kinks. that’s not sloppy implementation, that’s just how it works? you gotta test driving the new process and see where it’s working/not working.
    evaluate, implement changes, test new updates. wash, rinse, repeat.
    Sally was responsible for this role until it was filled. she did not overstep by taking responsibility for the work and implementing process improvements. Sally deserves a raise and the perk of not having to work with OP anymore lmao

  76. Chicken Situation*

    Oh. Oh no. Oh no no no no no. OP, you are still very, very wrong here. You are acting like a judgmental jerk who thinks they know everything. You should really consider some training in your soft skill, because they are lacking to the point where it could hold you back in the future.

  77. Popinki*

    My goodness me.

    During the 3 months she filled in, she combined 4 audits into one and created a way to find errors before implementation instead afterward. This had potential to save a lot of time and money. However, her execution was sloppy and she was still working out the kinks to the new process when I came on board. This made it almost impossible for me to follow her logic and learn. Sally should have left the process as is and let the new hire create efficiencies after they’d been on the job for a while. Sally overstepped while she was filling in for my role.

    So in 3 months she cut through a lot of clutter and invented a process to save a lot of time and money, even though that wasn’t specifically her job, but because she had some teething trouble with it she should have just sat on her hands and waited for a rockstar to come along and do it “right”. Noted.

    Sally’s position is that as long as you think through something and make a good faith decision, a mistake cannot be made. Even if another choice would prove to be better in the end. Management appears to support her because one time she had to walk something back she did not get into trouble. In contrast, I prefer to know the best way to do things the first time around. It is better to do something once the right way, in my viewpoint.

    Management supported her because her way of doing things has worked fine so far, and being willing to admit mistakes and make corrections shows maturity and flexibility. Just because her style of problem solving is different from yours doesn’t make hers inferior to yours, and doesn’t necessitate running to the boss because she’s not doing things the way youwant. A new process is, by definition, new, and everyone is going to make mistakes at first on something new. Everyone.

    I was looking forward to moving past this. Instead of a civil discussion, Sally very quickly melted into tears. She accused me of bullying her, using the term exactly. She claimed I treat her very differently when we are alone, making snide comments and that I generally behave very differently when our boss is present.

    Do you?

    Through tears, she told me she “does not feel safe and does not want to engage with me anymore.” She claimed that when I commented on her procedures I specifically said, “I thought your updated procedures would be better” and took that as a personal insult directed at her.

    Ah, yes, her new procedures that she shouldn’t have even bothered with should have been perfection right out of the gate. Noted.

    The reality is that after walking me through her new process only two or three times, Sally would refer me back to her procedures when I asked questions.

    Her processes for her procedures? Who knew.

    I finally found something not in her procedures and pointed it out to her when I made this infamous comment. She also listed other direct quotations she has written down over the past three months. She framed most of the things I have said as put downs directed at her when they were factual observations. I was able to defend myself in the meeting well and my boss said this has all been a misunderstanding.

    It sounds as if you deliberately went searching for something to trip her up on, which sure is jerkish. The fact that she’s been documenting you suggests that however you’ve decided she’s supposed to interpret your comments, she’s got the temerity to feel harassed and picked on, even though she’s not supposed to be doing things her own way. Maybe, just maybe, she’s crying because even a professional adult can only take so much nitpicking, questioning, and criticism before it just gets to you and you can’t help reacting, not because she’s got a thin skin or lacks a backbone.

    I’m also hella disappointed in your boss for brushing her concerns off as just a “misunderstanding”. That’s asking for an experienced and talented employee to start perusing the want ads.

    You might want to read and have a good long think about a couple other letters that have been posted lately. First the one about the manager who becomes furious when anyone makes even a minor mistake, second, the one about a coworker wrote in because a coworker went all Queen Bee and demanded that the boss make everyone follow her whims, and the boss went along with it to keep the peace and now the rest of her employees are frustrated and miserable.

    Do you want to be the person someone writes a letter ABOUT?

    1. Popinki*

      aaaaaaaack, I screwed up the quoting there big time. My queendom for a WYSIWYG editor! XD

  78. Fluffy Fish*

    Op we didn’t need additional context to “understand”. We understood you quite clearly and it was not favorable to you because of your behavior/attitude/actions. Perhaps go re-read the comments without mentally trying to justify your behavior.

    You opinion on what Sally should and shouldn’t have done while filling in this role is not relevant. You are new and those decision were made before you with management knowledge. Acting like you know better when you weren’t even there for how things shook out is the height of arrogance.

    To be blunt, not acting like a condescending know it all to a coworker isn’t needing to use kid gloves, it’s acting like a mature adult in the office.

  79. Goldenrod*

    “Sally’s position is that as long as you think through something and make a good faith decision, a mistake cannot be made. Even if another choice would prove to be better in the end. Management appears to support her because one time she had to walk something back she did not get into trouble.”

    Yes, I agree with Sally. She’s right – there’s really no such thing as a “mistake” because no one is perfect and it’s impossible to predict with 100% accuracy what will always work. Also, adults at work should never “get into trouble” if they are acting in good faith.

    I will concede, though, that it may also be true that Sally could probably work on having a thicker skin at work.

  80. Middle of HR*

    OP, if you want to succeed in jobs where you have to interact with coworkers and aren’t just heads down working on your own forever: I highly recommend you look into working with a coach or counselor on communication skills, particularly delivering feedback and reading others’ reactions. There are lots of people who can help you deliver feedback in a professional manner, and help you with navigating new workplace norms.
    Hopefully your boss is gearing up to give you help, but you’re going to be so frustrated in this environment if you keep speaking to coworkers the way you do. Folks just won’t want to work with you, and you risk losing out on opportunities no matter how smart and diligent you are.
    (I say this as a very straightforward person myself, but I know that you can’t be that blunt to coworkers or clients without looking like a supreme jerk.)

  81. Bibliospork*

    Some jobs involve problem solving, and you can’t always have a flow chart or list of steps for that. Problem solving jobs are going to involve some attempts that fail. That process is just the nature of some work, and since the bosses are not bothered by Sally having to roll back a solution that didn’t pan out, then it sounds like this is one of those jobs. If you can’t handle that, this might not be the right job for you.

    1. Bibliospork*

      I can’t even try to address the interpersonal issues here. IS Sally actually overly sensitive? People who need to work on gracefully accepting criticism do exist! Or is LW actually being aggressive/condescending in a way they aren’t recognizing? What did Sally mean when she said she didn’t feel safe? Like physically? Or emotionally? Maybe Sally needs to work on dealing with people who aren’t soft spoken. Or maybe LW is actually being a jerk in the same way they’re coming off from their letters.

      There’s too many holes in the picture to really tell what’s going on there. But I still think LW needs to consider whether the job itself is right for them, even aside from interpersonal issues.

  82. BethRA*

    Anyone else find it interesting that OP directs all their responses to what commenters had to say, and ignored/didn’t address Allison’s feedback?

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      +1!

      I am getting so many flashbacks to the condescending AH I worked with for far too long who would demand answers from supervisors about all of the “wrongs” in our office and would refuse to sit still to listen to the response.

      Eventually I refused to be in a room alone with him because the reek of dominance was so unpleasant and pervasive.

      So very very glad when he finally left.

  83. Taylor*

    I also wonder if this is a “consultant” vs “actual work in the field” issue too. You say your expertise is being a consultant, but I’ve worked in many job environments where companies implement procedures based on a “consultant’s” expertise, but then those said procedures are a nightmare for those actually doing the work. I wonder how out of touch you are with your own field…

    1. Anonymous Hippo*

      This was my thought as well. I call it MBA mentality in my particular field but there can sometimes be a big difference between “how things should be per MBA training” and the actual real world, and if you don’t do anything until you have the perfect answer, nothing would ever get done.

  84. Hepzibutt Smith*

    Honestly I’m kind of delighted by this human? But only because I don’t have to work with him! This level of cognitive rigidity is almost impressive—LW even starts out this letter hoping to correct the commentariat, because if we REALLY understood the situation, of course we’d agree with him! Hilarious from a distance, genuinely exhausting up close. Good luck, Sally!

    1. Rooty Tooty*

      I know, right? I wonder who is less self-aware about how they’re coming across? This person or the Leap Day Birthday boss?

      1. Hepzibutt Smith*

        The final circle of capitalism hell is AAM’s most infamous letter writers running Succession scenarios where nobody wins and it never ends

      2. Neurodivergentsaurus Rex*

        Or the boss who fired their best employee for not missing their graduation for work