should I tell my coworker she’ll never get promoted, are two-week vacations excessive, and more

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

1. Should I tell my coworker she’ll never get the promotion she deserves?

I have an ethical dilemma and I feel like I’m definitely in the wrong here. I have a coworker, Sammy, who is absolutely incredible at her job. She’s been here for six years and worked very hard to get out of her entry-level position, which she has done. She has also gone above and beyond with her education and licensing important for this industry, so she is currently vastly over-credentialed for the work she is doing. She has been trying for years to be promoted to a higher level, but keeps getting passed up. She was passed up by me, in fact, two years ago. It’s happened two more times since.

I was at the meeting discussing the next promotion to our team. We brought her up, we discussed her favorably. She is so incredibly good that she has saved us thousands by catching errors, even mine. But upper management blocked her promotion. Why? Because they would have to hire two to three more people to cover what she does, and they didn’t budget for that. They need her “where she is” because she’s so good at what she does. They picked a different person, Peggy, who has only been with us for a year and does not possess the experience or credentials Sammy has. Peggy is okay, but not exciting.

I knew about this for a week but was not allowed to talk about it. When they blasted out a congratulatory email about Peggy yesterday, I saw Sammy get the email from across the room. I saw her shoulders just sag and her heart break. Then she just went to work like nothing was wrong.

I bumped into her at the grocery store last night. We have a really good relationship so she did unload a little, and she mentioned that she should have known she was getting “f-ed over” when everyone kept popping by her desk to tell her how much they appreciated her over the last week.

I want to tell her the truth. I want to tell her that she’s never going to be promoted here, that everything she has done to secure a better rate of pay and position is a waste of her time with this team. I want her to stop wasting her time and incredible ability and work ethic here and do what she needs to do for her. But I’m afraid to lose someone like her because I need her where she is too. I will definitely suffer along with everyone else if she up and quit, which she absolutely should. Am I the real asshole here for not telling her?

You could be if you don’t tell her. What your company is doing to her is shitty. You know it’s not in her interests to stay, and you know she’s wasting valuable time when she could be building a career somewhere else. That’s not an abstract thing! For every year Sammy stays where she is, she’s losing out on career growth and real actual money. And now you’ve sat in the room where it’s happening; if you had a voice in that meeting and didn’t speak up, you’re now complicit in it.

And in purely practical terms, Sammy could figure this out on her and walk away at any time (and hopefully this latest incident will push her to do that), so it’s not like your choices are “tell her the truth” or “keep her forever.” She’s going to leave at some point, so you and your team are going to suffer through that at some point. (And if it involves real suffering, that’s a huge indictment of your management for not giving your team the resources it needs, separately from what they’re doing to Sammy).

I do need to point out that, assuming that management discussion was confidential, you have a professional obligation not to share obviously confidential details with people who weren’t there (although that’s at odds with your human obligation to Sammy) and it could affect your own standing at work if it gets back to your management that you broke that confidentiality. If you want to avoid that risk, you’ll need to be thoughtful about how you frame a discussion with Sammy but you can still get the point across. Even just urging her to assume nothing is going to change and encouraging her to look elsewhere would be a kindness.

Read an update to this letter

2. Is a two-week vacation excessive?

I’ve been planning a two-week trip with my wife for our five-year anniversary and ran the dates off by my boss. He responded that a two-week vacation is not a normal thing to do, with the exception of weddings/honeymoons, and that he’d have to see what the policy is. The written vacation policy permits me 20 days off and put no restrictions over how many consecutive days can be taken. Is a two-week vacation really an excessive request? Is it reasonable for my boss to claim that some reasons, like a honeymoon, justify a two-week vacation and an anniversary trip doesn’t? Is it reasonable to bring to his attention that, that prior to the pandemic, other people in the group took two-week vacations on an annual basis and thus this is a policy he just made up?

Two-week vacations are normal and common. There are offices that discourage them, but those offices are mostly outliers; two weeks off at a time isn’t generally considered excessive. A lot of international travel would be impossible otherwise!

In theory your boss can stop you from taking two consecutive weeks even if there’s no written policy against it (or at least he could in some companies) but since he said he wanted to check what the policy is and you know there’s no policy against it, proceed as if of course that will be the deciding factor. Go back to him and say, “I looked at the vacation policy and we don’t have a rule against taking two weeks off at a time. I recall people regularly doing it in the past before the pandemic. I’d like to go ahead and book the dates unless there’s something I missed in the policy.”

3. Can I edit my boss’s emails before forwarding them?

I frequently receive emails from my boss with errors. I’m expected to forward the emails to the managers under me, but I find myself correcting typos or misspelled words before I send them. I feel like I’m making my boss look good, but is that an acceptable thing to do?

I get the impulse, but when you forward someone else’s email, you shouldn’t change what they wrote, even to correct typos or misspellings. The assumption is that you’re forwarding the message untouched. (There can be an exception if you’re an admin where a regular part of your job is to edit your boss’s messages before they go out.)

But if the email is difficult to comprehend or rife with errors, could you send your own email summarizing it instead?

4. Should you avoid the verb “helped” on your resume?

I am updating my resume to reflect my new position, and I am struggling with how to capture several items that may not be accomplishments per se but probably should be reflected somehow. For example, I have been asked by management, over my peers, to assist in developing a couple of new processes: workflow procedures and QA. I have read that one should never use the word “help” in a resume because it is overused and sounds weak. However, I’ve said “collaborated” in a couple of places in my resume already, and I really can’t take credit for executing/initiating/managing/directing the new processes, but I did, well, help. Is there any nuance to this rule?

It’s not really a hard and fast rule. But the problem with “help” isn’t that it’s overused. It’s that it’s vague; I can’t tell what your role was. “Help” could mean anything from taking phone messages for the people doing the work to playing a substantial and crucial role.

Instead of of “help,” try to describe exactly what your role was. Specifically what did you do and toward what end? That’s what you want to put there.

5. Can I ask not to be managed by someone who doesn’t like me?

In my first internship, right after college, I had a manager I’ll call Kara. Kara was cordial and professional to me in person, but had serious concerns with my work a few times. Some of these concerns were warranted (it was my first job in the field) but I also felt (and still feel) that some were overblown. Other senior team members expressed to me during my time there that they were puzzled by the grudge Kara seemed to have against me.

Additionally, I was in a non-traditional family arrangement for part of that internship and was public about it with the team. Kara is very religious, and I heard through the grapevine that she strongly disapproved of this.

Kara did not extend me a job offer at the end of the internship. I was the only intern in my cohort who didn’t get one; it was fairly unusual. In our exit interview, she was clear that she thought I was not cut out for this field. It was so upsetting that I cried afterwards and considered leaving the industry. However, I was convinced (mostly by the senior coworkers on that team, who convinced me that I had a lot of potential and shouldn’t listen to her) to stay.)

It has been quite a few years now, I’m in the same field, and I’ve advanced a lot. I work at a much larger and more prestigious company in a senior position. I have an excellent manager, Jane, who thinks I am great and who I love working with. I am not in contact with Kara apart from occasional polite greetings at industry events; I do not use her as a reference. Meanwhile, almost all of Kara’s team from the old company has left, including Kara herself. I have heard that Kara was fired due to issues with her management.

Our company is hiring a new executive and we’ve been told that many of Jane’s reports will be moved to them. I was in our hiring system the other day for an unrelated reason, and happened to see that Kara is a finalist for the position!

Is my bad experience with Kara worth bringing up to Jane if Kara is hired? Would it look entitled to request that she not manage me? Or am I obligated to give Kara another chance because it’s been so many years? Is this just something I should accept about working in a small industry?

Talk to Jane. Given the positive feedback you got from senior colleagues during your internship — and their urging you to stay in a field she told you to leave, a field you’ve apparently thrived in since then — there’s enough reason to think that Kara might have been biased against you because of your non-traditional family situation or simply had a personal dislike of you. There’s no way to know for sure, but there’s enough to make it a concern. And since it sounds like there’s some flexibility in who ends up managed by the new hire and who stays with Jane, it’s not entitled to ask to stay where you are rather than be managed by someone who might already have a personal bias against you. A good manager in Jane’s shoes would want to hear info like this.

{ 504 comments… read them below }

      1. BPT*

        Agree – I think “Contributed to development of organization-wide workflow processes and QA by [taking lead on XYZ portion of the project, surveying industry for best practices, drafting materials for executives, etc].

        I think making sure you put exactly what you did is important. Even if you didn’t “lead” the entire project, are there portions you led?

    1. Well...*

      I was given the advice once that in my (male-dominated) field, that as a woman saying “I helped” will make people think I just brought the coffee or something. Instead I was told to just take the word help out. I changed a lot of sentences to “my collaborators and I did XYZ.”

      1. Nanani*

        This – if you have a feminine-sounding name, there is a real risk people will read “help” and think it means making copies and filling coffees. Other demographics can also have this problem.

        But regardless of that risk, clarity is better. “Contributed” and “assisted” aren’t any better than “help” because it doesn’t show what you actually DID.
        Put the things you actually did, even if you weren’t the only one doing them (the phrase “as part of a team” can clear up that you weren’t the only teapot painter)

    2. Nonke John*

      I’ve seen (and would probably use) “Tapped by management for QA process-development initiative.” Or maybe “selected.” I don’t think that falsely implies LW 4 did the whole thing herself.

      1. Mockingjay*

        “Team member for company-wide QA process initiative. Created and updated the workflow as the process was refined…”

        I like ‘team member’ for group work. Then OP4 can describe her role in the project or her portion of the task.

        1. Uranus Wars*

          I have used things like “Member of 4-person task force…” Could “One of five selected to develop company-wide QA initiative…” or something like that work?

        2. Nonke John*

          I think that’s good for someone who’s in the Quality Assurance division and was put on the workflow/QA standards team as more or less an extension of their regular job. But LW 4 mentioned being chosen over peers, and I think her instinct that that’s noteworthy in this case is right. It makes a stronger case that her work is visible to and valued by the company.

    3. EPLawyer*

      The LW actually used the word assist in their letter. The word is there, use it. Just lay out what it means: Assisted in production of weekly TPS reports by gathering and organizing all relevant data, or whatever.

      1. Kuzco*

        You can also flip that sentence around to get your action verbs:
        Gathered and organized all relevant data for production of TPS reports

    4. RPOhno*

      What I’ve taken to writing is “In coordination with [list of involved departments] personnel, provided [skills/expertise] to [list of team accomplishments]”. At least in my mind, it reads less like you were an assistant and more like you were an active, equal player.

    5. Person from the Resume*

      I can’t tell for sure, but I think the LW may have served as a sort of SME?

      So my question is how did you “help” / what did you contribute? You were selected over others so you were presumably recognized for some skill or talent that you have that contributed tothe team developing successful workflow procedures and QA processes. I’d try to zero in what did that skill of yours add to the team effort.

      1. ferrina*

        Agree- be specific with how you helped. So “Selected to serve as Subject Matter Expert on Ergonomic Teapot Handles” or “Selected to design preliminary product roadmaps.” etc.

    6. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      I use “assisted” or “provided technical assistance” a lot because a big part of my job is supporting smaller community groups with things like grant writing, survey design, policy briefs, data analysis, etc.. I am 100% NEVER in charge because they are in charge and the driving forces of the projects.

    7. Canadian Librarian #72*

      Depending on context, “supported” can also be a good one.

  1. Aggretsuko*

    For #1, would OP be allowed to tattle on a private managers’ meeting? Like I would expect s/he probably can’t reveal that sort of thing honestly and openly without losing their job. However, hinting that Sammy should move on (which she’s probably figured out on her own at this point) is probably fair game. Sammy has probably deduced this by now herself anyway, unfortunately.

    It’ll be fun at that company the day Sammy finishes her 2 week notice, y’all.

    1. Heidi*

      I’m actually wondering if the OP should also think about finding a job elsewhere. Aren’t the managers basically saying that the company does not have the resources to pay people fairly to do all the work that needs to be done? It doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence.

      1. Mid*

        And, if their rockstar leaves, they’ll still need a way to get that work done. Kind of a cutting off your nose to spite your face sorta deal here.

        1. Johanna Cabal*

          I predict said company is going to give Sammy a meager counter-offer with a Promotion That’s In Name Only then be surprised when she doesn’t accept it.

        2. Sashasoo*

          This happened to me a few years back. I was told directly that I couldn’t be promoted, even though I was more qualified than others and would do well at the job, because they didn’t have anyone to do the job I currently did. I left the company, and they were in the same spot of needing someone to do my job. I think they thought by being honest I would agree to permanently stay at my position, but that was not the result.

      2. Irish Teacher.*

        And they could well treat the LW in the same way. It seems like the company does not reward hard work and promotions are not necessarily on merit. I know finding new jobs isn’t always easy and of course, there is always risk involved (as you don’t really know what the new company is like until you work there) but I can see an argument for looking to move on if possible.

      3. Edwina*

        Right? And I’m assuming OP spoke up and urged them to promote Sammy, and they didn’t listen to her; so they’re disrespecting OP, as well. I agree!

        1. Snow Globe*

          I’m not sure that is true – the OP said that they passed over Sammy for a promotion a couple of years earlier. I think OP was just surprised to hear the blunt commentary about why Sammy would not be getting a promotion – ever.

          1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

            OP said “we” brought her up and discussed her favorably, but her promotion was “blocked,” which sounds to me like OP was part of the discussion that they should promote Sammy.

          2. fhqwhgads*

            I read the bit I think you’re talking about as OP got a promotion 2 years ago for which Sammy was also in the running. But for this promotion recently, OP was on the “yeah give it to Sammy” side of discussions. And was also surprised to hear the blunt commentary about why Sammy would never get a promotion there.

      4. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

        I interpreted it more as “the company is exploitative and short sighted.” But yes, OP should look to their own future and get out as well. If they’re doing it to someone else, they’re doing it to you to, OP – you just don’t get to be in the room for those discussions.

        1. kiki*

          And even if they never do this exact thing to OP, the negative repercussions of this managerial short-sightedness will negatively impact OP and/or their work at some point. Perhaps I’m jaded, but I’ve found voting with your feet (i.e. leaving) on bad management and leadership decisions to be the only thing that works.

      5. Falling Diphthong*

        I imagine they will promptly find the money in the budget. It’s just that so long as they’ve got a highly efficient person who hasn’t quit yet, they are convinced that money can better be spent on flowers for the executive suite or profit for shareholders.

      6. EPLawyer*

        Was gonna say this. If you do your job well and are a team player by going above and beyond your reward at this company is — staying right where you are.

        First and foremost, LW you need to make sure you do not become Sammy. Don’t do anything extra or work too hard. Second, let Sammy know that her hard work is not going to be rewarded so encourage her to do her job and only her job. Then BOTH of you polish up your resumes and get out of there.

        1. Heffalump*

          I would say do extra and work hard, not to be promoted at this job, but to put on the resume for the next job.

          1. INFJedi*

            I agree. Well, perhaps not taking on extra work (unless it would be really interesting and/or look good on my resumé) but keep doing the things I had took on before. And of course trying to get a new job since they obviously don’t respect the hard work.

        2. The OTHER Other.*

          The company punishes ability and rewards mediocrity. They deserve to reap what they sow. I hope Sammy realizes this and moves on to a more functional company ASAP. There hasn’t been a job market this good for at least 30 years.

          OP can’t divulge what was said in the manager meeting but could and should definitely offer to career coach Sammy and that coaching should focus on getting a resume together (if she doesn’t already have one, many internal hires don’t require formal resumes) and looking more broadly. If OP doesn’t do something like this because she too is “afraid of losing” Sammy, the OP aid part of the problem and deserves the feelings of guilt they express.

      7. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I’d be looking if I was in the LWs shoes since if they are willing to do it to Sammie, they will be willing to do it to any high performer. Of course, I might no longer be considered a high performer since I might have been unable to hold back saying, “This is BS!” in the meeting about Sammie and Peggy.

      8. Smithy*

        I don’t think this is a red flag to start looking today, but I do this it’s one of those good yellow flags to make an effort not become too comfortable with.

        For someone in a more junior level role, this kind of career stalling is deeply detrimental. Especially for a person who desires to move up. But in more mid-level/mid-senior roles….a job where you know you’re pigeon holed might be fine for a good chunk of time or even desired. In particular, people going through life changes can find a job appealing where the expectations and growth demands aren’t significant.

        But while that may be helpful for someone during a season in their life (that may not be short – I know some parents of younger kids have found jobs like this for 3-6 years very helpful), it’s helpful to confuse that with those patterns being ok or good. Because management in one area can easily become bad management over your area. So doing things to make sure your resume is fresh, that you have a version of a recent cover letter you could start from….all of that is savvy.

        1. Software Dev (she/her)*

          I always feel a lot of this could be avoided if companies made it a habit to give people raises even if they don’t get promotions!

          If you have someone who is essential in their current role, pay them more money, give them more prestige, etc. Lots of people are happy to do the same job, they just want to keep making more money

          1. Smithy*

            While this is very true, in this case I think it’s not entirely the same issue for the OP.

            I had one boss in particular in a “golden handcuff” job – where he was very happy with his salary but knew the organization was badly run, treated other very poorly, made bad decisions, etc. However, for our sector at the rate he was paid and what he was expected to do, getting that salary matched would either mean taking on significantly more responsibility, management duties, likely hours, etc. It wasn’t impossible, but if he just wanted to avoid a pay cut (forget pay raise) – it would have likely been a fairly long job hunt.

            But he was happy with the money, he had a young family, and decided he could suck up the bad management despite how it treated others. Except one day the bad management came for him, pushed him out and he’s been consulting ever since and really struggling to get back into the sector. He learned a lot of bad habits, didn’t stay on top of the larger sector issues, and that because he could make it work – it would always work for him.

            For someone like Sammy – right now the bosses want to keep her where it serves them. However, if they get a new system and don’t need those tasks done or anything else changes where suddenly that niche expertise isn’t of value, then what? Right now the OP knows that these leaders aren’t to be trusted to develop someone’s full professional career as opposed to meeting their immediate business needs. And that has nothing to do with being happy about your pay.

          2. kat*

            That’s totally me, I’ve always said that I never want to manage, I just want to be a very highly paid individual contributor. I’d love to be a Sammy; just compensated well!

            1. The Original K.*

              I’ve said the same thing, verbatim. And I used to work with a guy who felt the same and left for an organization that had a promotion track that didn’t involve managing. He’d turned down promotions where we worked because he didn’t want to manage, and it was clear that that was the only way to advance where we were, so he found a place that better aligned with his goals.

      9. quill*

        Or they have the resources but are committed to unsustainable labor expectations because it’s more profitable.

    2. JSPA*

      #1: Anonymous isn’t normally good… but printing out this column, putting an asterisk by the relevant question, and leaving it a couple of layers down in Sally’s inbox might be well- justified in this case.

      Be prepared to respond with some variant of, “I couldn’t very well say so if it were” if Sammy asks if you know anything about it.

        1. JSPA*

          Quite possibly, but…so what? There will no doubt be other people printing out this column and doing same / similar, for the “Sammy” in their office. Including plenty of people who don’t have official inside information, but are nevertheless clear on the dynamic.

      1. MistOrMister*

        I’m not necessarily a fan of this approach. If OP was to print the column, they very well might be outting themselves as the one who wrote it. After all, how many people are going to have gotten promoted over Sammy 2 years ago? OP would be better served having an in person, confidential conversation.

      2. Yorick*

        Never do this. OP can have a vague conversation with Sammy without revealing what people said in any meeting.

    3. AcademiaNut*

      If the conversation comes up, the OP could offer that if Sammy were applying to higher positions at other employers, the OP would be happy to be a confidential reference. If Sammy’s good at picking up on subtext, the message would be pretty clear.

      1. Mostly managed*

        LW #1, this would be a really kind confidential conversation to have with Sammy.

          1. Insert Clever Name Here*

            I think you may have misinterpreted what Mostly managed meant.

            OP would not be risking getting fired if they were to privately say to Sammie “I was thinking about our conversation in the grocery store the other day and I just want to let you know that if you decide to apply to higher paid positions at another company I would be happy to be a reference for you.” That is not divulging any information that OP is privy to because of the meeting.

            OP might risk getting fired if they told Sammie “the bosses said they’ll never promote you because it would take 3 people to replace you.”

        1. Imtheone*

          Yes, I was thinking just this. People who have worked at one place for a long time worry that they have no references if they can’t ask their current manager. The OP can help Sammy.

      2. BA*

        This is exactly what I was scrolling down to write.

        OP isn’t saying anything specifically about the meeting but definitely letting Sammy know that if they’re looking elsewhere (as they should be) there is at least someone in their corner who can sing their praises.

      3. Smithy*

        1000% this.

        I also think that even without making it a subtext warning, it can be in the context of their conversation in the grocery store. I’d recommend taking Sammy out to coffee or lunch (essentially anything that’s obviously outside the office – if you’re full time remote, I don’t think you need to be so discrete to not use workplace video chat options) and say that you’ve been thinking about your last conversation in the grocery store. While the OP may not have ever been Sammy’s supervisor, to offer being that confidential reference.

        If Sammy started as entry level, there may be very few references she has outside of this job that are field relevant. Offering to be a reference and a confidential sounding board should Sammy ever look for positions outside the company can be a genuine way to support her without divulging any confidential details.

        1. ferrina*

          Yes, this! Take her out to lunch, and I would say something like “I understand if you want to start looking at opportunities outside this company. I think you’re an incredible worker with amazing potential. I want to see you reach the full potential of your career, even if that ends up being outside our company. I’m happy to be a reference for you whenever you’d like, whether that’s next week, next year or next decade.”

      4. Cochrane*

        To be frank, if Sammy was any good at picking up at subtext, she would have already gotten the message that no amount of hard work and extracurricular activities were going to get her promoted.

        I’ve been there myself and until my own boss told me point-blank that I wouldn’t be getting the smallest promotion for my efforts, I probably would have held on for a lot longer until I got the message myself.

    4. Tamarak on a phone*

      Sometimes our highest ethical obligations aren’t to our employers.

      1. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

        They almost never are. If you look at professions with robust ethical codes, usually the highest obligation is to the person you are providing services to (ie your client), rather than to your company/employer.

        1. Fran Fine*

          That part.

          And yes, I would want someone to tell me if they knew I wasn’t being promoted ever at my company when I’m busting my ass for that very purpose. I could take that same spirited energy and use it for my next job search!

    5. octopodes*

      “We don’t want to move this person up because they’re doing the work of two people and we’re cheap” is (sadly) not an uncommon situation, as well, so OP1 would probably be able to hint at it or say “I bet they…” in a way that would help to nudge Sammy into realization without directly revealing their insider knowledge (though I don’t love calling it “tattling” either).

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Reporting lack of ethics is not tattling. smh,

        Ideally, OP would have said something in the meeting. “We are going to lose a good employee if we keep doing this.” Even more ideally, OP could have said, “Hmm. So what do we tell her WHEN she asks why she got denied promotion AGAIN?”

        But that ship has sailed.

        OP, you could just say to her that old adage about, “When you see something three times, you have a pattern. It’s okay to adjust what you are doing accordingly.” You say she has been passed over three times in recent years, that is a pattern. You can encourage her that it’s okay to believe this is the answer.

        For the bigger picture, this is what LAZY management looks like. “Oh if x person leaves we will have to train three people to do the job.” Yeah, so WHAT?! Training is part of managing. s/ Surely, they aren’t saying that THEY don’t want to, you know, DO their jobs. /s

        OP, heads up and eyes wide open. At some point YOU will be treated in the same manner. Your company sucks, OP, I am so sorry.

        Tell Sammy, “They have done this to you three times (at least), they are showing you who they are and it is definitely OKAY to believe them and adjust your response accordingly.”

        1. Just J.*

          At Not So New Reader: You have summed it up perfectly and your last line nails it on its head.

          OP – do a kindness to Sammy and say something to her. She already can see the writing on the wall. She just may not be willing to read it to herself. Tell her that your company stinks and its in her best interest to move on.

        2. Office Lobster DJ*

          I like this general approach about telling Sammy to look at patterns, but it may need a little tweaking since one of the times it was OP’s decision. It sounds like Sammy and OP have a strong relationship anyway, so maybe it wouldn’t matter, but OP should probably have an answer if Sammy responds with “What do you mean THEY?”

            1. Office Lobster DJ*

              Maybe so! Whatever happened, it sounds like OP was the face of that rejection to Sammy and has been involved in other decision-making processes that led to Sammy’s rejections. OP may just be a little too close to “they” to pull off “they showed you who they are,” but that will depend on their relationship and prior conversations with Sammy.

          1. ferrina*

            Yeah, you really can’t say this. It undermines the confidentiality of these types of meetings. If anyone finds out what you said to Sammy, you’re credibility as a manager is gone and you might be out the door.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              People do have to know their setting.
              And people have to know what hills they are willing to die on. I see an employee getting messed over like this- I have found my hill. I definitely would have reason to believe that my turn will come. I too will be treated this way.

              For the most part, when I have spoken up in situations like this it felt like a huge risk in the moment, but in the long run people indicated they respected my thoughts on things.

        3. Mangled metaphor*

          At first I wasn’t sure about calling it lazy management, seeing it as “but hiring two or three people to replace Sammy will negatively affect our profits” (/whine)
          But then I remembered that they *are promoting people. And presumably they are hiring people to replace those who are promoted? So it’s not a “hiring hurts profit” argument, it really is “promoting hurts my workload”.
          OP1 needs to find a way to tell Sammy, directly or indirectly, that her employment needs will never be met by this company and she’s doing herself a massive disservice by sticking around. Unrequited loyalty only hurts one person, sorry Sammy.

          1. Fran Fine*

            And presumably they are hiring people to replace those who are promoted?

            Not necessarily true. I was just promoted last month, and no one has been (or will be) hired to replace me. I’m still managing my same programs, just with more strategic initiatives and soon-to-be people management responsibilities on my plate. My soon-to-be direct reports will begin helping to take some of the program work off my plate, so there’s no need for my department to spend anymore money.

        4. Overit*

          I would love to know the reasons TPTB give Sammy about not promoting her and what Sammy’s annual reviews say. We know, of course, that any promotion-related feedback is a lie because they are not going to tell the truth. I am so betting they are not saying she is a rockstar emoloyee doing tremendous work in her reviews either. I wonder if they are denigrating her work to justify their exploitation.
          Amd OP – when someone shows you who they are, believe them. This company has shown you how dishonest amd expoitive they are. Ask yourself how you have been screwed already or when your turn will be.

        5. Observer*

          Ideally, OP would have said something in the meeting. “We are going to lose a good employee if we keep doing this.” Even more ideally, OP could have said, “Hmm. So what do we tell her WHEN she asks why she got denied promotion AGAIN?”

          You don’t know that the OP didn’t say that. It’s the kind of thing I could see an OP leaving out because it doesn’t really affect the question and answer. Because regardless, that ship has sailed.

          Having said that, even if the OP didn’t say anything, it doesn’t mean anything. On the one hand, it’s quite possible that the OP was too startled to come up with a good response. Also, what makes you think it would have had the intended effect? People who think that way are SURE that in *THIS* case it won’t happen. Look in the archives here for a sampling of employers who are just SHOCKED when good employees move on because they were not well treated.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Honestly, it seems inappropriate for most adult interactions.

        “Tattling” implies our greatest loyalty should always be to whoever did the bad thing, because as bystanders our duty is to carry out the cover-up they now need, which is usually not a great model for the bystanders to buy into.

      2. Observer*

        Ugh, let’s not use tattle in a work conversation.

        Thanks for saying that. It’s just not appropriate here.

      3. The OTHER Other.*

        I was going to say this. Seeing the word grates on me. Can we please expunge “tattling” from our vocabularies, along with “cooties” and “bisgetti”.

        It’s especially irritating given the context is often one where saying something is really the glaringly obvious moral choice. “My coworker kills people during his lunch hour and stuffs their bodies into our company’s incinerator. Should I say something, or would that be tattling”?

    6. I Hate Holidays*

      OPs company is behaving immorally. OP can’t do anything worse than what her company is doing. Horrible.

    7. Anya Last Nerve*

      The thing is, I’ve worked with a lot of Sammys and continue to do so and not all of them quit. In fact, many of them do not for lots of reasons. The impulse on this board to tell both Sammy and OP1 to rage quit is just fascinating to me. Maybe Sammy is a single mom and doesn’t want to lose the flexibility and built up capital of being at her current employer, maybe the location of this office is so convenient she would rather not seek employment with a burdensome commute, etc. Also you can’t assume that any new employer would be all rainbows and kittens – she could go from the frying pan to the fire. I think Sammy deserves to know why she wasn’t promoted but moving directly to scorched earth/everyone should quit is extreme.

      1. pancakes*

        I haven’t read all the comments yet, but the ones I’ve seen have been much more along the lines of “you should start looking for a new job” than “you should quit right away.”

        1. Well...*

          I think people are fixating on the rage quit wording and missing the central message of this comment.

          If Sammy can’t just quit, let it sink in how sad this situation is for her, and the damage being done with no real remedy available in the current system.

          1. pancakes*

            The central message of the comment is that other commenters have overreacted and are giving poor advice about quitting in a huff. That’s simply not correct.

            1. Well...*

              No, the central point of the comment is that there is an ethical obligation the employer and OP have that isn’t sidestepped or negated by Sammy’s “freedom” to find employment elsewhere.

              1. pancakes*

                Maybe something has gone amiss in the threading. I am referring to Anya Last Nerve’s 8:16 AM comment, and it doesn’t say or suggest that at all.

      2. Irish Teacher*

        I don’t think most people are saying they should rage quit. I think people are suggesting they should keep an eye out for other opportunities and apply if something suitable is available. Yeah, I know it is something many people are cautious about and yeah, there may well be things that make this employment worth it to either the LW or Sammy, despite the attitude of upper-management, but to be fair, people are only making suggestions, and in the case of Sammy, people are just saying she should know what is happening so she can make an informed decision as to whether she wants to apply elsewhere. Maybe she will decide she’d prefer to stay where she is even if there is no chance of advancement, but maybe she HAS seen opportunities elsewhere that interest her but she doesn’t want to take the chance because she assumes she is due for promotion soon at her current company.

        1. The Original K.*

          Right. The advice I’m seeing is letting Sammy know, “if you want to move up [and there’s evidence that she does since she keeps throwing her hat in the ring for promotions] it’s not going to happen here, so plan your life accordingly.”

      3. MK*

        No one here is suggesting the OP or Sammy rage quit, they are suggesting they start job searching. Maybe they won’t find a better job, taking everything into account, but they will at least get a better idea of their employment situation. In any case, Sammy needs to know the reality of her prospects. You are right that people in her position might not quit, for good reasons, but in my experience they either leave or they scale their commitment to their company way back. Not everyone is going to choose to pursue their career, but those that don’t will definitely stop doing the job of two people for no reward.

        1. Just J.*

          THIS: Sammy needs to know the reality of her prospects.

          I agree that no one is telling her to rage quit. But telling her to hold on to hope for future promotions and growth within her current company is lying. Do you want to be perpetually lied to?

        2. I Licked Your Salt Lamp*

          Right, a job search could take over 6 months or even year. Start job searching doesn’t = quit asap. At the very least, if OP hints strongly that Sammy is never getting promoted, at least Sammy might realize she doesn’t need to go above and beyond anymore. Maybe she will realize that working hard is pointless for this company. I do hope she stops putting in overtime, stops going above and beyond, and just does the bare minimum that is required of her job. This company doesn’t deserve any more than that.

      4. bamcheeks*

        There’s a big difference between suggesting someone rage-quits and suggesting they satisfaction-quit after having found a new job.

        But yes, it is of course possible that Sammy will decide that on balance she needs to stay where she is even if there is no promotion in the offing. She just deserves full and accurate information in order to make that decision.

      5. Inca*

        Many don’t quit. They just become more cynical over time, and eventually whole workplaces erode. (And I’ve seen this especially in places where the stakes are high, like in health care or education. At a certain point there is almost no recovering because there is no trust left. And patients/students suffer, especially at the edges.)

        1. Bluesboy*

          This is the truth. I’ve seen people like Sally who after a while start to say “What’s the point in going above and beyond when I’m not getting anywhere?”

          Long-term, they become jaded, and stop going above and beyond. At that point management has lost the performance of the old Sally, don’t have a happy and motivated Sally in a higher position and have an unhappy employee poisoning the atmosphere in the office.

          What’s more, at that point it’s too late to fix it by promoting her, because her performance no longer justifies it. And where I live (in Europe) you can’t even fire her, so you’re just stuck with an unhappy and unmotivated employee dragging the place down. It’s such a missed opportunity and ends badly.

          I’m on board with management not promoting a rock star only if there is a good reason to believe that they are good at their current job, but won’t be in the next (for example, if they are great with customers, but would struggle with the extra paperwork, or with managing people). Unfortunately in my experience that leads to discrimination, where the rock star is the ‘wrong’ gender and ‘too nice to manage people’ or similar.

          1. Smithy*

            I agree so much with this, and I do think it’s why when the Sammy’s of the world write in – I do push strongly for them to do their very best to try and find other positions elsewhere. Because over time that cynicism can degrade their quality of work but I’ve also found that can heavily institutionalize someone.

            In this case, I use the word “institutionalize” to mean that they know exactly how their workplace functions more so than their field or the larger professional world. So you start hearing sweeping generalizations around how every employer in the field is “like this” or even all employers, and therefore they may as well as stay because X. And X might not mean trivial things – they do get regular raises, they do have workplace flexibility that appeals to their personal life needs, etc.

            Why it can be hard to watch people end up in this place, be they colleagues or friends/family is that it often does speak to a larger fear or anxiety around changing to a new job. Where yes, it might not work out. But that they don’t trust their interview skills to do their best due diligence possible and their own resilience is so shot, that there’s not the bandwidth to take on the risk of change. In the US, while you do see lots of people end up in these places and some people do become “unfireable” – more often they end up being pushed out eventually and not on their terms. And that can alone can leave someone in a poor place mentally to choose their next steps.

          2. Ettakit*

            ^Everything about this hits home.
            I work in higher education and see this all the time. People are hired and trained by (rightfully) jaded co-workers who then train the new person. When the new person is trained to do the job, they’re also trained that the university is going to screw them over, so why put in their 100%?

          3. The OTHER Other.*

            Your first few paragraphs illustrate many of the ways this terrible hiring policy damages the company. I will add: It demoralizes other good employees, who see their company doesn’t reward excellence and instead promotes mediocrity, and every mediocre promotion damages the organization more and more. People tend to promote people like themselves; mediocre managers will usually promote middling people, often because they find stellar employees threatening.

            In fact, it’s worthwhile wondering whether managers here are threatened by Sammy. If they aren’t, they are acting as though they are.

            Sammy was right to view people coming around to her cubicle and talking about how much they appreciate her as a sign she was passed over again. The people who make a point of telling the person delivering the pizza how much they REALLY appreciate them almost never tip.

      6. Person from the Resume*

        I haven’t seen anyone suggest that the LW suggest to Sammy that she rage quit.

        Sammy already knows that she is overqualified for her current job and underpaid based on her role (and underpaid based on her qualifications). She should start job hunting and use those qualifications to get a higher paying, higher level role. That’s not rage quit or even quitting with no reason; that you be moving up by moving companies. It would be kind for the LW to suggest this.

        The other option is for Sammy to recognize that she is underpaid for her current duties/role (they would have to hire two to three more people to cover what she does), and try to leverage that into a pay raise. That may need to be backed up by a threat to quit because management seems like short-sighted jerks trying to use a hardworking employee for as little pay as possible and prevent her from moving up in the company when she deserves it because “they didn’t budget for” having to replace her.

      7. Antilles*

        It’s true that not everybody in Sammy’s position would quit. But she’s gotten extra certifications to improve her skillset to the point that she’s vastly overqualified for her role, been actively applying to promotions for years, was visibly disappointed about being passed over, and referred to not getting the promotion as “the company f’ing her over”. She shouldn’t rage quit on the spot, but that certainly doesn’t strike me as someone who’ll happily accept sitting in the same chair for the remaining X decades of her working life.
        And while it’s true that “she could go from the frying pan to the fire”, that’s the reality of every job search ever. There’s *always* the possibility that the next place has the same issues, is equally bad but in a different way, or could even be worse. But at some point, if Sammy wants to continue to advance her career (and again, her actions seem to indicate she does), she’s going to have to take that risk because the company has made clear that it’s not happening here.

      8. Observer*

        The impulse on this board to tell both Sammy and OP1 to rage quit is just fascinating to me.

        Most of us are not advising anyone to “rage quit.” What most of us are saying is that 1. Sammy could legitimately use this information in deciding her next steps. And that it would be very reasonable and unsurprising if Sammy decided to find another job. 2. The OP should realize that if the company will do this to Sammy, they will do it to them if they think it will work for the company. So, the OP should consider finding a job at a company that doesn’t to this, perhaps sooner than later.

      9. Well...*

        This situation is so much sadder if Sammy doesn’t have the leverage to quit. Then ethically one must grapple with the fact that she is being taken advantage of by her employer.

        I think you put your finger on the reason why a lot of the advice here along the lines of, “think about looking for employment elsewhere” is very helpful individually (this sites purpose, of course) but super unsatisfying systemically. That’s just not how the story can go a lot of the time, which is why we need more robust labor rights.

        1. Lydia*

          I’m not sure what this has to do with anything. Sammy is skilled, resourceful, an asset to the company she currently works for. She absolutely can start a job search and find another position. She hasn’t signed a contract stating she will never leave the company. Why would it be difficult for her to start a job search and what does that have to do with labor rights?

          1. Well...*

            There are a ton of factors why it would be hard for Sammy to find employment elsewhere that we can at best speculate about here. She could live in an area with limited employment options, and she could be tied to that area by family or caretaking responsibilities for one. She could have aspects of her background that make her unemployable by other companies (it seems like this is not the case here, but many places that employ undocumented folks or people with criminal records treat them horribly because they know they have nowhere else to go).

            Assuming Sammy has a plethora of employment options is a big assumption and comes from a place of privilege.

            1. pancakes*

              These are all possibilities, not certainties. On some level you seem to realize that, since you switched from talking about what “would” hold Sammy back to what “could” hold her back.

              1. Well...*

                I think I realized it in my first sentence: “we can at best speculate about here”

            2. Lydia*

              I think you’re stretching to the point of pain. You’re making a lot of assumptions, too, which comes from a place of paternalism. What we know is Sammy has worked hard and made herself competitive in her field and sought promotions in the company she works for and that she’s being actively blocked. She has agency, or she wouldn’t have made those efforts. Let’s assume she isn’t being tied to her chair and forced to work and instead encourage OP to encourage Sammy to take her immense talents elsewhere.

            3. The OTHER Other.*

              Ok, so what is your advice to the LW? Tell Sammy to suck it up?

              Sammy may not have a “plethora of options” but she certainly has more options than continuing to (over)work for an employer that will never promote her when that’s something she clearly very much wants.

              Fantasizing about someone’s lack of employment options not in the letter is not helpful, especially when that person isn’t even the LW.

      10. KK*

        I haven’t seen any rage-quit advice. Mostly just “this is your future (or lack of) with the company, prepare to continue to accept it or prepare to make your future elsewhere”

    8. hbc*

      I think OP can say a lot without saying, “This is what was said in the management meeting.”

      I’d go for something like “I can’t say exactly what the reasons are here, but in my experience, when a rockstar like you isn’t promoted, it’s because people are too reliant on her in that position and the rockstar needs to look elsewhere.”

      1. BigHairNoHeart*

        I like this wording, I feel like it gets the point across well without revealing exactly what was said in the meeting.

      2. Clever Alias*

        I like this a lot. I don’t like the idea of hinting, because personally — I miss hints pretty easily. This is blunt enough that I would get it (and the bar is pretty low with me, so hopefully Sammy is well above it) but not explicit enough to be giving away confidential information.

        If you’re torn up enough to write in to AAM about it, OP, I have a feeling not saying anything is going to hurt you more in the long run psychologically than dealing with the pain of her leaving. I’d advocate for saying something for your own good, if not Sammy’s.

      3. Also going anon*

        Yep. She could say “Sammy, I think they like you too much where you are,” because that’s a common complaint and it gets the point across without saying “because this is what they literally said.”

      4. WorkingMom*

        I really like this wording.

        Reading the responses here, it seems many are assuming that Sammy doesn’t see this and is not looking. I have been in Sammy’s position before and took my time to look for something that I was really excited about. I knew exactly why I was not getting the transfer/promotion I wanted for a long time. In the end, I gave my notice when I found the right new job, and the current employer countered with the transfer/promotion they knew I had been after with a significant pay increase (above what my new job was offering). I stayed and accepted the promotion but I would have been equally happy to leave and move to the new job. In my case, I knew the biggest roadblock was my direct supervisor so I had no concerns over history repeating in a new division. That might not be the case in Sammy’s situation as there seems to be the whole management team stuck on this. But it seems to me that Sammy is a very intelligent, well educated person, and I imagine she already knows what what is going on and I suspect she is already looking.

        1. Lab Boss*

          Sammy’s visible disappointment and phrasing it as “being f**ed over” means she sees the problem, whether or not she understands the exact motivations behind it. Definitely agree that this proposed wording is good- it doesn’t need to be super explicit because OP would almost certainly just be giving Sammy the confirmation of what she already suspects.

          1. Clever Alias*

            Sammy could very well think she’s not getting the promotions because she’s not good enough and if she just. tried. *harder*… Some people don’t realize how good they are, and people just assume they do because how could they not? (Source: LOL the amount of therapy I needed after being raised by my mother).

            disclaimer: sure, I’m reaching and projecting. But I don’t see a negative to considering this angle. Worst case scenario, telling her she needs to go just confirms what she already knows – duh, she’s amazing. Best case, it’s a HUGE kindness.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              People who think they didn’t deserve a promotion don’t generally say they got “f-ed over” when it doesn’t happen.

      5. WantonSeedStitch*

        This is a good way of putting it. Some of the other wording people have suggested could be interpreted as “you’re not going to get promoted because no one thinks you’re good enough to promote.” Your wording, hbc, makes it clear that Sammy’s performance is NOT a problem.

      6. Pomegranate*

        “Hi Sally, I am sorry you didn’t get chosen for the promotion again. That must be hard to hear and maybe makes you consider your long-term future. We would love it if you stayed here since you do so much in your role, doing the work of three people!. But if you are looking for growth opportunities outside here, I would be happy to be a resource for you.”

    9. WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot*

      I’m a Sammy. In fact, this letter hits so close to home, I had to wonder if I am THE Sammy, except my office is still in work from home and I did not get “right back to work” after the announcement was made. I took a few days off due to an unusual headache that would not go away.

      When I came back, I worked the rest of the week and then gave my notice on Friday. My own manager was not surprised, but very clearly disappointed he could not keep me. The rest of our management was shocked (shocked!) that I left. Our staff was cheering the fact that my departure was so soon after the announcement, but they are all railing against management for their (collective) decision. Since i left, management keeps bringing me up in staff meetings and talking about what a wonderful contributor I was. All they do is stir the pot because the staff blames them, correctly, for my departure. It’s coming at a bad time for them because their engagement survey results recently came out and our office continues to trend downward.

      OP – trust me, she knows and she WILL leave. You will have egg on your face for being part of it. I’d start sending her job postings (internal, external, anywhere) and make it clear you support her growth. My own manager was wonderful and he’s the only member of management I have positive feelings for. I’m pretty bitter and salty with the rest of them. I’m hoping over time it will fade, but right now it’s a pretty rough topic for me.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        Please don’t assume she knows. Many people think if they only try harder they’ll get what they want. Please make sure she understands it’s coming from management and not her.

    10. Green Goose*

      I’m friends with a Sammy and she is finally leaving his company after more than ten years. After she was finally burnt out and ready to leave the company noticed and started trying to offer her promotions and perks that they have not tried to give her the previous decade and it was too little too late and now they are guilt tripping her to extend her leave. But at least she will be out of there soon!

    11. Sam Quentin*

      I feel like she deserves to know what is being said about her in the managers meeting. I know a lot of companies do this, but it’s a really lousy way to treat employees by withholding real feedback from her and taking advantage of her competence.

  2. Heidi*

    Re: Letter 3, if the boss didn’t care about you seeing all the typos, they probably won’t care about all the other managers seeing them. If there is something that is really unclear, you might ask the boss for clarification, but if the message comes across as intended, there’s probably little to be gained from unsolicited copyediting of work emails.

    1. Mockingjay*

      I’ve posted about this before. As a technical writer, I care about typos. I also know there aren’t enough hours in the day to correct everything. I also know that most coworkers and bosses don’t have my typing skills, because they never took a class, type with two fingers, or rely upon autocorrect (which is nothing more than a cheap, purchased word list shoved into the software with an algorithm attached). Some people don’t know spelling or grammar well because their focus is on other skills. Even I mistype, especially in emails which are composed quickly and voluminously.

      For emails, the information being conveyed is usually more important than any typos. OP3, you have a good eye; can you use that in other areas to assist your boss? Offer to proofread reports, announcements, newsletters if that interests you.

      1. joanne*

        Thank you so much for your kind perspective on this. I am one of those people who never took typing. I work in senior leadership in an academic-adjacent field and spend much of my work life in frenized email-triage mode. I pay as close attention as a I can but am often sending emails to colleagues with typos or missing words. I am learning to stop being so hard on myself about it and your message helps.

        1. LittleMarshmallow*

          I used to care so much about grammatical accuracy and spelling… and now, I just don’t care. I don’t even use proper grammar anymore and find the grammar/ spelling police to be way more annoying that I ever found actual errors to be (do I know what it’s supposed to be? Sure… do I care? Nope). I don’t know when I stopped caring but I do think the world would be a slightly better place if people didn’t nitpick about stuff that doesn’t matter so much.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      For me it depends. If you’re forwarding an email under your boss’s signature don’t change it; It’s misleading that he wrote the corrected version. Plus what if you inadvertantly change the meaning?

      If he sent you something to send out under your own signature, make the corrections. In that case, it’s your words, not his.

      1. ThatsEnoughTalking*

        This was my thinking too. If I’m going to be sharing it with MY signature, I’ll update the wording.

    3. Hiring Mgr*

      I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong in correcting a typo/misspelling…. but why not just ask. “Hey boss, I noticed a typo in that email…want me to fix these or just send as is?”

      1. pancakes*

        I do think it’s inherently wrong to make edits to someone else’s email before forwarding it without revealing that it’s been edited, particularly in a work context. My understanding is that everyone else receiving these emails thinks they’re reading words the boss wrote themself, but they’re not.

        1. Hiring Mgr*

          Not sure what you mean about revealing it had been edited.. It would seem strange to me to forward an email with a note saying “here’s the email from boss on the Westhead account. BTW boss’s original email said ‘morths’ but I corrected it to ‘months’ ”

          Anyway, I would still ask the boss if they have a preference or even care at all.

          1. Indubitably Delicious*

            I agree, I would check with the boss about their preferences; I work with folks who are thrilled to have their typos fixed, and those who would rather not.

            Also, I personally feel that if there is an obvious typo in a person’s name within an email, and I know for sure that it’s wrong, it’s okay to fix that.

          2. pancakes*

            That would seem strange to me as well! Simply leaving the typo in place wouldn’t. Neither would writing a summary of the email, if it was so messy that the meaning wasn’t clear. Making changes surreptitiously is what’s strange to me.

            I agree they should probably ask the boss for clarification, but it would also be appropriate to simply stop making surreptitious edits.

        2. Lydia*

          Usually, edits aren’t that big a deal if it in no way changes the message. However, as has been mentioned, it’s always better to ask if it’s okay than to just do it.

  3. Inexact Science*

    RE #5: Talk to Jane NOW. Before the hiring decision is made. You owe it to yourself and your company not to let them make a bad hire for a leadership role.

    Some phrases you might consider using in that discussion,
    – exhibited biased behavior against her reports based on her/their religious beliefs
    – was unable to retain key employees and was eventually fired for incompetence
    – I would have to reconsider my future at this company if Kara were hired into a leadership role

    1. Language Lover*

      Talking to Jane in advance is a good idea if there’s nothing improper about how the lw saw that Kara was a finalist. But if they were accidentally given permissions they shouldn’t have been or they dug further than they should have since they’re not part of the hiring committee, talking to Jane in advance might invite more questions than they want to answer.

      But assuming everything is on the up-and-up, then definitely talk to Jane in advance. But I disagree that they should talk about things the lw “heard” after they left. The lw can’t speak directly to those experiences the way they can about what it was like to be managed by Kara.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        Letter writer sort of glossed over it, but this sounds like a data protection issue to me too. I know that in our hiring system, I can only see applicants for positions that I am personally hiring for, and that’s how it should be.

        LW will have to determine if they can plausibly say they came across this accidentally, or maybe say they heard it through the grapevine.

        1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

          I didn’t get the feeling that the OP was digging around and that there was a violation of data protection. It sounds like the OP was in the System for an unrelated reason and saw Kara’s name. We don’t have any reason to believe that the OP was doing anything nefarious. Being she is a senior position at the company it could very well be that she has access to this information.

          1. kitryan*

            Agreed, there are lots of ways OP might have run across the info. One place I’ve worked, the calendar where conference rooms were booked was generally visible, so you could check the info for your meeting or see what was available, and the meetings were named with client names or interviewee names (like ‘Client Name Deposition’ or ‘Jane Doe interview’) so anyone booking a room or checking availability could easily see the name.

      2. MK*

        They can, however, mention the hearsay as hearsay. As in, “I was surprised to see Kara as a finalist for the role, as I have been hearing a lot of negative things about her”.

        1. Office Lobster DJ*

          Sure, it’s definitely good to flag when information is secondhand, but I’d suggest OP lead with their own experience, definitely mentioning that other senior team members used words like “grudge.” If necessary, transition into something like “I’ve also heard from other team members that there are larger concerns about her behavior regarding X and Y.”

          OP, my advice would be to focus on what is in your power and what is your desired outcome. There’s an unknown risk in setting yourself up against your company’s (potential) shiny new upper level hire, and I’d hate to see you go all out, Kara gets hired anyway, and you’re the one ending up in a tough spot. Are you in a position to block Kara’s hiring altogether? Would you want to? Then go all out. Do you realistically only have the clout to say you can’t be managed by her? Focus on your own past experience and how that would impact the relationship, even if everyone swears that she’s changed or would be managed closely.

        2. Temperance*

          I don’t think this is the best course of action. I think explaining what OP’s experience was – and that her colleagues saw it as well – is much more valuable. The phrase “hearsay” makes it sound like mere gossip when it’s actual, lived experience.

          If Kara gets hired at her current org, it puts OP’s career in danger. Kara’s personal bias caused her to mess with OP’s career. She ACTIVELY kept OP from a job and was so obvious in doing so that others caught it.

          1. Lydia*

            Exactly. People are confused by what hearsay is. It’s not hearsay if they say it to your face and it’s about you.

          2. MK*

            The issue with the OP’s own expierience is that it’s pretty old and basically feedback from a very junior worker towards their (first?) supervisor, and less easy to check. If Kara has made a good impression during the hiring process, the OP’s manager might think the OP was too hard on her or that she has improved with time or both, and she might not find it easy to get in touch with people who can back the OP up. While “I heard that she was fired from X role for poor perfromance” is a hard fact that can be verified by contacting Kara’s former manager and asking her point blank.

          3. Karia*

            Not just OP, but anyone Kara happens to disapprove of. Any minority could be at risk in this situation.

    2. JSPA*

      Exactly this! The hiring committee are in a position to ask further questions, to assess if she’s changed… but if he entire team left, and then she was managed out, giving her full benefit of the doubt is overblown.

      Do not mention her religion; do not mention your non-standard relationship. Don’t even mention (for now) that she told you you were likely unfit for the industry. “Without going into details, she was terribly demoralizing to work for, other managers commiserated with her reports, all her reports left, I’d strongly consider quitting if placed under her” is very relevant information.

        1. Lady Pomona*

          Yes, don’t mention religion – the LW does NOT want to come across as biased against Kara’s faith (which I’m guessing is a conservative form of a mainstream religion.) It’s terribly easy for that to get passed along and distorted into “LW is prejudiced against Christians / Jews / Muslims!” And now it’s the LW who looks bigoted!

          If the “non-traditional family arrangement” (say, LGBTQ) is one that’s now accepted to the point that LW’s company is supportive of it, they might want to mention to Jane that Kara has shown herself to be prejudiced against members of that group and that this has manifested itself in her professional relationships and supervisory decisions. I doubt that many companies today really want the negative publicity that would come with a pattern of supervisory prejudice against LGBTQ employees.

      1. Rose*

        The point isn’t that Kara is religious, or that LW is in a non-standard relationship – it is that Kara was likely discriminatory because of it. That definitely should be brought up.

        1. TheRain'sSmallHands*

          “I have heard Kara is a finalist for the manager position and I have information I’d like to share. I interned under Kara at the start of my career and witnessed discriminatory behavior in how she treated her employees which affected opportunities for advancement. Additionally Kara did not think I was well cut out for the industry and advised I leave it, of course, I stuck with it, thanks in part to other people at that company who gave me encouragement and I think I’ve done quite well. Should Kara be hired, I would prefer to continue to work for you as I don’t think Kara is the type of person to revise her previous opinions.”

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          I agree, I think “Kara didn’t like me” is underselling it! Something more like “Based on my experience with Kara as a manager and with other senior people in the company, I honestly believe that her treatment of me was rooted in religious discrimination” shows that hiring Kara would be a genuine legal liability.

          If they have other good candidates, in my opinion that should be enough to take her out of the running entirely. Jane shouldn’t want to take that risk.

        3. JSPA*

          1. Not if it risks making OP potentially sound intolerant on the basis of faith. “I suspect her faith was motivating her attitude towards me” is a supposition, not a fact! Pushing hard on that is its own flavor of discrimination. And if the old boss had instead been a sex-negative atheist, the judgementalism would be no more and no less likely to have persisted.

          Let’s all say this together: we CANNOT–by law!–treat someone differently because their particular intolerance happens to be connected (in their mind or in ours) with their religion. The problem is THEIR own, EXPRESSED intolerance. Not their connextion to a faith; even if that faith is somehow officially intolerant. (Surely we’ve all met pro-choice Catholics, gay Mormons etc, and know not to conflate the stance of the organization with the philosophy of individual members of the faith community.)

          2. Not if the relationship might still be taken to reflect badly on OP. Especially if there’s no protected class in play. Plenty of companies and managers would still be uncomfortable with, say, polyamory, or a sugar-daddy/sugar-baby situation, or an acknowledged dom-sub or S/M relationship, or being a married person’s “outside interest” (in a non-poly context) or simply having some acknowledged FWBs / F-buddies.

          “This is someone who brings drama and distress in her wake” should be PLENTY to put the bug in their ear, without OP putting their own image on the line. It’s then on the company to enquire further.

          1. pancakes*

            It doesn’t have to be a slam dunk discrimination case for the letter writer to find it worth talking about. “This is someone who brings drama” is unhelpfully vague and seems like it could be an attempt to bring drama in itself.

      2. Elenna*

        Agreed, don’t mention her religion, since then it might seem like LW’s company is rejecting her based on religion. And probably don’t mention your non-standard relationship either, there’s no reason to speculate to Jane on *why* Kira disliked you, the important information is that she acted as if she was prejudiced against you for some reason.

        1. Clorinda*

          With respect, I disagree. OP has a specific piece of information that shows Kara exhibited discriminatory speech and possibly actions against a member of a protected class. The details matter. “For some reason” could be personal or even a misconstrued RBF sort of situation. What OP knows about Kara goes way beyond that.

          1. Rose*

            Agree 100%. They aren’t rejecting her because she is religious, they are rejecting her because she is a discriminatory a-hole.

          2. JSPA*

            Unless I missed an update, where does it say that OP or the others were discriminated against on the basis of what is now a protected descriptor? (“More sexually active than I would like” is not a protected class, for example.)

            For that matter, sexual orientation and trans status have only been construed as a protected class (federally) under title VII for under two years!

            “She discriminated against a class of people back when the courts recognized that as legal” doesn’t carry the same weight as “discrimination against a then-protected class.”

            1. Beany*

              Agreed. I went back and looked, and “non-traditional family arrangement” is too vague to tie to a protected class. Indeed, apart from the history of Title VII, we’re not even told that OP is working in the U.S., are we?

      3. Librarian of SHIELD*

        If one of the abusive behaviors Kara was engaged in was religious discrimination, OP does need to bring that up. They don’t need to say what the religion was, but they do need to say “Kara allowed her religious beliefs to impact the way she treated staff whose beliefs were different.”

    3. Seal*

      Agreed. A bullying coworker from many years ago was a finalist for a leadership role at my institution. I made a point of providing explicit feedback about my extremely negative experience working with them, including how their bullying ruined several coworkers’ careers. To my relief, they weren’t hired.

    4. Writer of the Erotica*

      I would avoid the second one here. That’s watercooler gossip from the LW.

      1. Antilles*

        I think it’s fine since OP has other direct experience with Kara as a manager. This isn’t “she’s perfect except for this one wild rumor”, this is something that fits right in line with OP’s own lived experience. It’s not firm evidence that would pass muster with a court of law, but as a jigsaw puzzle piece that matches right in, it seems reasonable enough to include as part of the discussion.

        1. Lexi Lynn*

          And sometimes companies do listen when feedback is provided. Once my company was looking to hire the head of my department and all the leaders koved him. His future direct reports were asked to do the final interview. We walked out of it and informed the C-level that they could consider his day 1 as the day we were giving notice (and it wasn’t a bluff.) He was not offered the job.

      2. Lydia*

        It is not gossip if it’s something the OP experienced first hand and can speak to.

  4. Fikly*

    LW1: Your company is entirely willing to screw employees over. People have a tendency to look at situations at work (and other places) and go, this is terrible, but it’s not harming me, so I guess I can tolerate it. What they forget is that people who are willing to behave in such ways are willing to behave in other harmful ways, which means it’s typically just a matter of time until it harms you.

    Tell her, and then start looking elsewhere yourself. And stop identifying with your employer. They aren’t loyal to you, and won’t hesitate to cause you all manner of problems when it’s easier for them.

    1. Poopsie*

      Also I’d say that in the next promo meeting if they can it might be worth pointing out that denying people promotions that they deserve is only going to bring about the same issue anyway, as most people will eventually realise and leave for an employer who will help them develop their career.

      1. Hekko*

        It will bring the same issue (the person not being in that particular job anymore), but in a more inconvenient iteration: surely if the company still employs the person in a higher position, they can ask them to help with training (assuming there is no one else/equally skilled to train the replacement) and generally plan for a transition longer than two weeks.

    2. WoodswomanWrites*

      What LW1’s management peers are doing is exploitation. Calling it anything less minimizes their impact. Seriously, they are deliberately taking advantage of a stellar employee who deserves better because they can, and that is just awful.

      LW1, don’t become like these people. You clearly are questioning the right way to move forward, which is a good thing. Do what you can aligning with Alison’s advice to help Sammy. And from there, I hope you’ll get yourself away from this heartless company, too.

    3. Sean*

      I’m sure it used to be the case that working hard and diligently was the way to secure a promotion and improve one’s lot in life.

      Nowadays it seems to be that working well, and going above and beyond, acts like a ball and chain, anchoring you to the spot. The management of your company appears to be doing this as policy, as well as intentionally concealing it from Sammy. I assume Sammy has not been told this during any of the annual reviews she’s had over the past six years, and that, in place of honesty, the company has offered some other excuse any time Sammy has brought it up, dangling the carrot in front of her, but always just out of reach. Sammy’s dejected response to the email implied that, this time, she possibly held out hope of finally getting promoted, only to see it snatched away once again.

      1. bamcheeks*

        I’m sure it used to be the case that working hard and diligently was the way to secure a promotion and improve one’s lot in life.

        Oh come on, it was never, ever true for everyone.

        1. BigHairNoHeart*

          I don’t think Sean was saying it was true for everyone? Just that working your way up the ladder at one company was more common once upon a time.

          1. pancakes*

            Saying “I’m sure it used to be the case” that meritocracy was reliable is pretty much saying that.

              1. pancakes*

                It isn’t nitpicking to say that someone who makes a statement like that seems to have a very different idea of how meritocracy historically functioned than many of the rest of us.

          2. bamcheeks*

            I’d be sceptical about that too, to be honest! I think that was the myth, but I don’t think it ever applied to a much larger group than it does today.

            1. BigHairNoHeart*

              I’m actually skeptical about that as well! I suspect that longevity at one company was slightly more valued a few decades ago, both by employees and the company (just one tiny data point, obviously, but my parents both have pensions due to working at one place pretty much their whole lives, and that kind of thing is much rarer now).

              So that probably made it easier for some people to rise in the ranks at one organization–but I don’t think it was ever super common. It’s just even less common in today’s environment.

              And now that I’m writing this, I’m seeing that “THE way” is probably the part of the original phrasing that you were taking issue with. For some reason, I was interpreting that as something more along the lines of “A way” which colored my response. Basically, I see your point now, sorry for the detour!

              1. PotatoEngineer*

                I suspect that *pensions* are a huge source of those old traditions. Workers were more loyal in order to earn their pensions, and to keep them, even if their managers were terrible or the practices were bad. And with everyone sticking to the same job for decades, promotion from within was the obvious way to pick people, because there was less job-hopping leaving people available.

                But pensions went away once we started getting laws on the books that enforced those pensions. It used to be somewhat-common for a company’s pension to fail due to being insufficiently funded — so those workers put in their 20 years and then got almost nothing out of it. And with companies being forced to fund pensions sufficiently, they decided to move to fixed-contribution plans (like 401k) instead of fixed-benefit plans (like pensions).

                And there’s a bit less tendency to say “my company right or wrong”, because if there’s any retirement benefits at all, they’re 401k, usually with vesting shorter than 5 years — so there’s none of this “I need to stick around for 20 years in order to survive retirement.” There are a few sectors with pensions or long vesting periods, but they’re dwindling.

                So now, with people changing jobs much more often, there’s always someone competent you can hire instead of promoting from within.

    4. The Prettiest Curse*

      This situation is exactly why I don’t go out of my way to go above and beyond at work any more. I’m efficient and do a good job, but I’m not going to do the work of 3 people, because at most employers, that’s just a fast track to burnout and resentment, not to promotion.

      1. MK*

        For me, going above and beyond is performing my own job to an unusual standard of excellence and going beyond my job duties in an emergency/special circumstances. I am not going to take on more work as a matter of course to benefit an understaffed company or underperforming coworkers.

        1. Fran Fine*

          This is my exact philosophy and it has led to my promotion (twice in the last nine months in fact).

    5. Fran Fine*

      Your company is entirely willing to screw employees over. People have a tendency to look at situations at work (and other places) and go, this is terrible, but it’s not harming me, so I guess I can tolerate it. What they forget is that people who are willing to behave in such ways are willing to behave in other harmful ways, which means it’s typically just a matter of time until it harms you.

      This is the realest thing said on this thread and OP needs to take heed. I’ve seen exactly this play out in various situations at work (it even ended up happening to me at one point), so anytime I see a company or especially direct managers behaving in such blatantly shitty ways, I leave, even if their behavior hasn’t impacted me yet because I know that at some point, it will.

  5. still bitter*

    #1: I had a similar situation. I requested a raise based on my workload increasingly steadily each year. The reason for denying the raise was banal: they didn’t feel they could justify it to the higher-ups at a time of cost cutting. But my supervisor, direct manager and the director of the department didn’t tell me. Instead they kept telling me it was being reviewed, “these things take time”, etc. They had me believing it was just a matter of time. Finally I got frustrated enough to confront them directly. “Oh that? We put that to rest six months ago”. My supervisor told me later that because I was on a two week vacation at the time, she thought it was kinder to just hope I forgot about it/stopped asking (yes, really).

    I was angry about the raise, but it was the deception that really destroyed any and all trust I had in the department and in the people I reported to. I literally couldn’t look my supervisor in the eye after that. Any and all respect I had for these people was gone. I started showing signs of burnout, having anxiety attacks at work (although it was more bubbling rage and tear-inducing frustration than anxiety). I took time off, started getting my ducks in a row, and got the heck out. They were surprised when I quit.

    Sammy is going to figure this out eventually. And you’ll probably lose her. But if you keep pretending everything is hunky-dory, you’re going to lose her respect too.

    1. Kipi*

      It happened to a manager of mine too. She was a deputy director of a division, but it was widely known that she was actually the one keeping things humming behind the scenes. When the director resigned, she applied for the position and wasn’t even interviewed. It came out later that the board figured she was so effective, they might as well hire an external candidate. If the new director was effective, they’d have 2 directors for the price of one, and if he was ineffective, my manager would be there to fix it.
      Well that plan didn’t quite come to fruition. The day after being told she hasn’t been selected to interview she submitted her resignation to a very shocked board chairperson.

      1. Avi?*

        Why is management that f’s around like that always so surprised to find out what the consequences of their actions are?

        1. bamcheeks*

          Cos anyone who can understand “reasonable consequences of our actions” wouldn’t do it?

          1. MK*

            I don’t know. An employer can make any number of decisions that they know will displease an employee, and still do it, for good or bad reasons. Those who are not divorced from reality know that it might lead to the employee leaving and accept it.

            1. bamcheeks*

              Hmm– by “it” I meant the kind of egregious situation that Kipi is describing, where a business actively makes the short-term decision to screw an employee over. I think making a sensible business-focussed decision that not all employees are going to like and accepting that some of them might leave over it is a different thing!

        2. Shiba Dad*

          A lot of these folks have been able to blame the bad consequences of their actions on other people.

        3. NotRealAnonForThis*

          They didn’t listen to punk. That’s the only logical reason I’ve got.

        4. Kes*

          It’s just such short-sighted thinking, which unfortunately does prevail at a lot of companies these days. Because yes, you can take advantage of your best, hardest-working employees – for a while. But longer term, they are more likely to become disillusioned/burn out/leave as a result. You’re better off actually paying your employees what they deserve/promoting them into that higher position/not expecting them to carry all their underperforming coworkers if you want to retain them and continue benefitting from their great work.
          But it seems like in a lot of places, the thinking is just about what will create the most value now/in the short term, without regard for the longer term consequences of those choices.

          1. kiki*

            Yes! I feel like there’s been a heightened push in a lot of industries to achieve goals on short-term basis, like quarterly, without taking stock of long-term consequences. The person who recommends a big cut-back in employee educational resources gets a bonus for saving $$ in quarter 1, but then leadership is scratching their head about lower employee performance and lack of innovation the next year.

        5. Kay*

          The sad thing is that it works a lot of times. I know a LOT of people who get stuck in jobs that mistreat them because they won’t leave. Often it’s because they have a family to provide for and can’t take the risk of the next job being even worse. Or they are just afraid of the unknown.

    2. Cabubbles*

      I have a friend who was intentionally kept at a pt position as a sub/aid because she was the only person at the facility certified to work in any room (pre-school infants to 4yrs). They were shocked when she left after a 2 years of getting passed over.

    3. BB*

      “They were surprised when I quit.”

      Seems to be the punch line to all of these stories.

  6. araminty*

    Re: OP2. *vomits in Australian* What a disgrace. Americans, you gotta negotiate for more time off, and take it. In whatever sized chunks work for YOU.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      Well…here that’s kinda easier said than done. I only take two weeks of vacation during December break and that’s because that’s the slowest time of the year. I last took 2 weeks in summer in…I dunno, 2008 or so? and it was just too freaking hard to make up the 2 weeks of being out for the next 4 weeks. I wouldn’t be surprised if that sort of thing is why OP’s boss wants to discourage that.

      But, technically, they’re eligible, so….good luck.

      1. Cat Lover*

        Agreed, it’s such a pain in the ass to catch up if I take more then 7 or 8 consecutive business days off. It’s not that I can’t.

      2. Kiwiapple*

        That’s a management problem. There should be adequate cover for a range of annual leave from 1 day to 3 weeks.

      1. allathian*

        Most readers and people who submit questions live and work in the US. Most others are somewhere in Europe, or Australia/New Zealand, where vacations tend to be longer.

        I work for a governmental agency in Finland. According to our collective agreement, we are OBLIGATED to take two consecutive weeks off at some point during the year. But this only means that employers are forced to provide cross-training to the point that a two-week absence doesn’t cause an undue burden. And let’s face it, nothing much gets done during vacation season (mid-July to mid-August in Scandinavia, August in Southern Europe) that isn’t absolutely essential, and that’s just the way things work here.

        I have tenure (more than 15 years working for the government or in the private sector (including non-profits) gaining experience in my own field), which means that I have nearly 2 months of annual vacation. I take 4 or 5 weeks consecutively in the summer, and the rest in shorter chunks during the remainder of the year.

        1. Eric*

          Mandatory 2 week vacations are a thing for some banking/ finance positions in the US. It helps to catch fraud if the person has to be home for two weeks, and isn’t around to cover their tracks.

      1. Bluegrass*

        To me it reads as general social commentary on the lack of benefits in America, rather than an attack pointed at American workers.

    2. TransmascJourno*

      Every time this subject comes up (i.e. PTO/sick leave/etc.)— and the OP is perceived as an American querying about it—a comment like this seems to inevitably pop up. The thing is, we know! There’s a pretty great chance that’s exactly why the OP is writing in. And it’s an incredibly difficult thing to negotiate; re: AAM.

    3. Fulana del Tal*

      WE GET IT! Every single time a question about the American healthcare, maternity leave and vacations, non-Americans have to leave a comment like this even if Alison asked people in the past not to because they are not helpful. Its like you people can’t help yourselves.
      So posting about “cringing”, “vomiting”, “gasping”, “shaking” or whatever else gets really tiring.

  7. staceyizme*

    LW1- you have more than a passing obligation to Sammy. It’s not just that she’s losing out on money and on valuable time in a dead-end role, it’s also that your company is telling you something very tangible about its values. Your management is really “sketch”. They’re willing to literally rob an employee of a promotion because she’s too good at what she does. And not just for a quarter or a year. But for as many years as they can get away with. That’s not a stance that you or anyone else should be willing to give them a pass on.

    1. cubone*

      Yeah I would really encourage OP to understand that the management at their company is BAD. Like, not good at their jobs bad (beyond the obvious moral failing of keeping someone talented away from earning more money just because you think it’ll cost the business too much to replace them!!)

      Most managers know the stat that it costs much more to hire than retain an employee. They know EXACTLY what they need to retain Sammy and they are choosing not to. That’s just plain ol run of the mill poor management skills.

      I hope OP realizes that whatever they want to say to Sammy about leaving that job, everyone here wants to say to them.

  8. Mark Roth*

    We could solve the problems faced by OP1 if we just accepted that sometimes it is okay to want, for yourself or your employees, to become really specialized and not seek promotion.

    We just have to pay people locked into frontline roles what they are worth and what they’d lose by being denied promotions.

    1. TransmascJourno*

      Sure, but per the OP, Sammy does not want to stay in her position. She’s gone above and beyond to get out of her entry-level role; there’s no indication that Sammy’s current role is niche or that it can be specialized, only that she is basically the work of two to three people. That’s an entirely different scenario than what you’re proposing.

      1. Alternative Person*

        Yeah, it seems like management wants to get what they can out of Sammy without giving Sammy a reason to stay. I do think there’s something to be said for keeping up on pay and benefits for basic and necessary roles but too many bosses forget that a lot of those roles aren’t all that stimulating and especially in a company like OP’s that does seem to have a clear path of upward mobility you can’t keep passing over good employees on the basis that they’re needed where they are.

      2. Batgirl*

        It is a different issue, but the suggestion would solve OP’s problem too. People who want to stay at the same level would be rewarded with more pay if their workloads grow over time. If you remove the rule that only promotions are rewarded with payrises, it would also remove the motive to keep people down, and deny promotions just because they can do the work of three worker bees for the price of one.

    2. JK78*

      agreed, I have NO desire to move up in my workplace. I’d rather be in the background keeping everything humming, but the thought that I could go almost anywhere else and get paid MORE is disheartening. I’m not sure if that’s worth leaving though, is chasing more money always the goal? yet that’s a different thread I think.

      For the Op, I’d vote there has to be SOME way to encourage Sammy to go ask “wtf” she didn’t get the promotion (since she’s willing/wanting it), what could she be doing MORE of??? When my dad asked his boss why someone UNDER him got passed OVER him, he was told “you are where we need you to be” and Dad was PISSED and left, because HE needed more money. HE realized he wasn’t ever going to get somewhere there.

      Seriously, someone who had ONLY been there a year, Op? By having Sammy ask her boss, it takes YOU out of the realm of getting in trouble? Yet Sammy needs to be told somehow and honestly, if they can pass over Sammy for that long, how long will they pass YOU over for?!?

      1. MK*

        If you can go anywhere else and get more money for the same schedule and level of responsibility, then of course it’s worth leaving. It’s not about chasing money, it’s looking out for your interests. If a higher salary means increased hours and/or more responsibility, then it’s your choice if you don’t want to make the trade off. But in that case I am not sure what the argument is for the company to keep increasing your salary for the same work. Even assuming that you keep getting better at it, not all requires exceptional performance or specialized skill.

        1. Not Today, Friends*

          But also there’s absolutely nothing wrong with “chasing money”. We work to make money. Satisfaction etc. is nice, but we work for money. Wanting more money is not a bad thing.

          1. JK78*

            The story I always think about is the co-worker who wanted a transfer. He was given two new locations. One paid a fair bit more but the commute was a 1/2 hour on a GOOD day. The other one was the same rate as what we paid him but it was 5-10 minutes from his house, his kid’s school and everything else that meant something to him.

            He chose the one with the same pay as us because he said he valued the time spent with HIS FAMILY versus the extra pay. Our winters can be brutal, my boss has been stuck in traffic for HOURS sometimes. He was potentially looking at an hour’s drive every single day, at least. So that’s 5 hrs away from his family he’d never get back, if not MORE. Plus, he had a special needs child who occasionally needed him to be there for him for medical/personal reasons at a near drop of a hat. The short drive was “worth more” to him, he explained.

            Additionally, he told me, while the further away place would pay him more, he’d probably end up spending it on the car via gas/repairs anyway! So yeah, he’d “make more” in a year, but he might just end up SPENDING more too. Quality of life vs quantity of pay was what he told me.

            On a personal note, I barely remember my Dad in my childhood. He worked so much overtime and worked all the hours that no one else wanted and that paid more, so I barely ever saw him. When I did see him, he was sleeping and I had to be quiet.

        2. JK78*

          Okay, so if I started working at $12/hr in 2000, it’d be understandable to still get $12/hr TODAY? in 2022?? I don’t think I understand that argument. Places that have succeeded on the backs of their workers shouldn’t be paying them the same amount as when they started. Isn’t that why everyone is rooting for the Op to tell Sammy??? Sammy deserves more! She should have gotten that promotion! Or maybe as soon as she didn’t promoted, she should have jumped ship? She should have chosen her interests over familiarity? Thankfully, she’s only been there six years!

          Granted, I’m NOT doing the exact same thing I was in 2000, but the position I’m in now was declassified and I am told to do what I used to do in 2000 at a moments’ notice. Otoh, I can spend weeks doing what I love and not do the y2k tasks. I’m not saying I should get $50/hr since I have history, but when the latest hire gets a dollar less than I do an hour, it kinda stinks. I’d be happy with $2 more, it’d put me above first day pay somewhere else. But the trade off of driving further to get paid more and do things that I have never done before with people that are unfamiliar to me is the stuff of nightmares, imho.

        3. New Jack Karyn*

          “I am not sure what the argument is for the company to keep increasing your salary for the same work”

          Cost of living adjustments are necessary.

        4. Kit*

          > But in that case I am not sure what the argument is for the company to keep increasing your salary for the same work. Even assuming that you keep getting better at it, not all requires exceptional performance or specialized skill.

          In theory, raises (rather than bonuses) reward not just increased competence over time, but less-tangible benefits like not having to train a new employee (or two, or three) to fill that role, institutional knowledge (knowing who to call about hiccups in workflow, or crosstraining, for example), and basic CoL adjustment. It’s retention – which a lot of places don’t seem to grasp, but if you value employees enough to want to keep them, you have to reflect that value in their paychecks.

      2. EPLawyer*

        It’s not just current money, its future money. If your employer has a retirement match, you are losing out on that money by staying at your current salary. Which means less money for retirement which you kinda need to LIVE when you are not bringing in a paycheck to pay your bills.

        There is a lot that goes into a decision to leave. But if Sammy WANTS to be promoted, well leaving may be the only option.

    3. cubone*

      I 100% agree with this but it isn’t really the issue in this case is it? Sammy wants the promotion.

    4. Rusty Shackelford*

      I don’t see how this would solve the Sammy problem, which is that she *wants* a promotion and is being denied.

    5. Lydia*

      You can’t “want for your employees” without being incredibly paternalistic and gross. You can make that decision for yourself, but as soon as you start deciding for your employees how their career path should go, you have overstepped your bounds and aren’t fit to manage.

      Sammy wants a promotion and she’s being blocked from it specifically because the management team thinks it knows best. Fuck that.

      1. Wendy*

        I worked for a manager like this.

        This was for my last employer.

        This happened in 2013. I was working for Central Parking at that time. I was working 40 hours a week, but I was not getting health care benefits because I was classified as part-time. The reason why I was classified as part-time was because the manager I reported to at that time, I also reported to him when I worked at a client location in 2011 that my former employer had a contract with. I worked there from 2007 to 2012. In August 2011 that manager told me he was going to have a meeting with the client regarding renewing the contract. He had to contract proposals… The first contract proposal was for 1 full-time employee, me, and 1 part-time employee, who was at that time the current part-time employee… The second contract proposal was for 2 part-time employees. He told me that if the client chose the second contract proposal, I would lose my health care benefits because I would be working less than 35 hours a week. At that time you had to consistently work 35 hours a week to be considered full-time. The client chose the second contract proposal.

        The client ended the contract in August 2012. I went to work for the same manager. I was classified as part-time, but I was given more than 35 hours a week every week. So I still was not eligible for health care benefits. I was also working split shifts, and I worked at several locations to get as many hours as possible.

        In 2013 that manager told me that a previous manager I worked under called him regarding a full-time job that offered benefits in 90 days. That manager specifically wanted me for that job. I would also eventually get a pay raise. The manager I was reporting to at the time told me the following “I do not think you would be happy in that job because the Senior manager, whom the manager who specifically wanted me for that job, is difficult to work for. It would be best to stay where you are.” He did not ask me my feelings or opinion about that job. He just unilaterally made that decision for me.

        I took that job anyway because 1) I would get the health insurance benefits I needed, 2) I worked at one location and 3) I worked a specific shift Monday through Friday.

        1. Wendy*

          “I do not think you would be happy in that job because the Senior manager, whom the manager who specifically wanted me for that job reports to, is difficult to work for. ”

          Correction was needed.

    6. Lydia*

      It is absolutely not okay to decide for your employees that they become specialized and not move out of a role. You can 100% decide that for yourself, but if you’re making that call for someone else without having discussed with them, you’re not fit to be in management.

  9. Iron Chef Boyardee*

    “upper management blocked her promotion. Why? Because they would have to hire two to three more people to cover what she does, and they didn’t budget for that. They need her ‘where she is’ because she’s so good at what she does.”

    I think we have a nominee for Worst Boss Of The Year.

    1. Dinwar*

      That’s not being a bad boss, though. The manager’s loyalty is to the company first. A good manager tries to do what’s best for the company by doing what’s best for the workers, sure, but there are times when the two come into conflict and the manager needs to side with the company. Sucks when you’re the employee (trust me, I know!), but at the end of the day the manager’s not your personal career councilor.

      Again, such conflicts are rare. Usually what’s best for the employee is what’s best for the company–after all, the company is nothing but the employees when you boil it all down. But to be surprised that a manager sides with the company when such conflicts arise demonstrates a misunderstanding of the relationship.

      1. OtterB*

        In my opinion it’s a short-term vs. a long-term decision, though, not a benefit-of-the-company vs. a benefit-of-the-employee question. For the short term, keeping Sammy in her current position is saving the company money. But it’s doing it by (a) risking losing Sammy anyway at some time out of the company’s control, with no chance for a smooth transition, and therefore also losing the extra training and certifications Sammy has already acquired, (b) losing the trust of other employees, and so encouraging them to leave, or at least not to work any harder than strictly necessary, and (c) developing a reputation among current and prospective employees as an organization that doesn’t treat people right. So even without taking into account a preference for treating people right, the managers can still be working in the company’s best interest by taking the long-term view.

        1. Dinwar*

          Agreed. If they’re blocking her promotion because of a short- or mid-term issue that’s actively being resolved, it’s one thing; if they’re blocking promotion because they want to save money and have no backup plan, that makes Sammy a bottleneck in the work-delivery supply line; any time someone is indispensable it’s a giant red flag that something’s going wrong.

          If Sammy was being denied a promotion because they were waiting until they hire her replacements, that’s one thing. If it’s just “Nah, we like you there” it can make sense, but makes the business fragile.

          1. pancakes*

            We know why her promotions have been blocked. The letter is quite clear about that.

      2. pancakes*

        Encouraging poor retention by way of treating the best workers poorly isn’t an expression of loyalty to the company. It’s widely known to be a good way to waste a lot of money training new hires, and a good way to lose institutional knowledge.

        1. Dinwar*

          I acknowledge that it’s not ideal. I’m arguing two things. First, it’s hardly “Worst Boss of the Year” territory. Second, surprise at this behavior and belief that it qualifies as “Worst Boss of the Year” demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the relationship between managers and direct reports. The boss is short-sighted and almost certain to lose a valuable employee, but that’s nowhere near worst.

      3. Rusty Shackelford*

        Losing a really, really good employee because you refuse to promote her, in the misguided belief that you can chain her to her current position forever, IS being a bad boss.

      4. Observer*

        A good manager tries to do what’s best for the company by doing what’s best for the workers, sure, but there are times when the two come into conflict and the manager needs to side with the company.

        This is not one of those cases. Refusing to promote someone because they are “too good” at their current position is not in the best interests of the company. Only management that ignores the fact that those good employees (and OTHER good employees) have agency and can go elsewhere thinks it is.

        Also, this is not about two legitimate issues conflicting. This is an unethical and exploitative decision. It is NOT ok or “just business” to do unethical things in the name of minding the interests of the business.

      5. Excel-sior*

        I don’t see this as being for the benefit of the company in anything but the short term. This is a worker who who has shown themselves to be highly capable and eager to progress to the next chapter of their career. All this is doing is ensuring that that chapter will be written elsewhere, with the company losing the very things they hope to retain, whilst losing ball the benefits of keeping the person with them.

      6. BB*

        Strongly disagree. This is not an example of “what’s best for the company.” As many others have mentioned, the unethical behavior, exploitation, and mistreatment of the employee is incredibly destructive to the company in the long term.

        High-performing organizations are INVARIABLY places where people trust each other and work together to achieve the best results. This has been proven in everything from restaurants to the Navy SEALS. Places where people feel threatened and mistrustful are consistently LESS effective in the long term.

    2. Cruciatus*

      I think Alison stopped the Worst Boss awards and there hasn’t been one since 2020.

      1. Purple Cat*

        Worst Boss for 2021 started but then it got pulled because Alison accidentally nominated a letter writer and she doesn’t want to dissuade people from writing in.

        1. Observer*

          Yes. But in the post where she explained her reason for pulling it, she also said that she’s rethinking the whole thing.

  10. CalT*

    Alison, can you put the blue box to remind everybody that people in the US are fully aware they have fewer vacation days than in Europe, and that fake surprise and bragging don’t bring anything new to discussion and don’t help? What can the LW do with the knowledge that across the Atlantic things are different, when their reality and context are in USA?

      1. GythaOgden*

        It’s not even about the length of vacation. We have nearly six weeks off a year and still have to give notice of two week vacation so management can sort out coverage and schedules in advance. (I work in Facilities for an organisation with a focus on maintenance of healthcare properties, so that’s the important part of taking a longer holiday than normal.)

    1. Learn Something New Every Day*

      Removed. It’s exhausting and not helpful. Please move from the topic, all!

    2. KelseyCorvo*

      There is no normal, for anything. Things are just different in different places, different industries, etc. and some are more common than others. We all acclimate to whatever our situation is. In Europe, months of vacation is “normal” and anything less is seen as pathetically short. In America, 2-3 weeks is seen as “normal” (and much will go unused by most Americans) and anything else is seen as extravagant.

      1. anonymous73*

        Actually as an American, we’re “conditioned” to see 2-3 weeks as normal. It’s not and it sucks.

        1. KelseyCorvo*

          Yes that’s my point. We see that as normal as Americans. Europeans see 2-3 months as normal. Neither is across-the-board normal. It’s all dependent on your situation.

        2. Dinwar*

          Yes. That’s how culture works: You’re conditioned to treat the values, norms, and conditions of the culture you were brought up in as normal. You could literally say “Actually as [insert culture here] we’re “conditioned” to see [insert thing here] as normal” and the sentence would be the same.

          There are even practical applications of this–attempts to delivery food as part of relief packages, for example, often run into this issue. Each culture is conditioned to view its food as normal; after all, it’s what you grew up eating, what everyone around you eats, what almost everyone you know likes. Why wouldn’t the other person enjoy it? But to the person receiving the food it’s a weird, disgusting, inedible monstrosity.

      2. Elder Millennial*

        Actually in Europe even the most generous countries have legal minimum leaves (including public holidays) that are less than 40 days a year. I think this might not include sick leave and other special type of leaves like parental leaves, so if you need to use those you can be off more in one year.

        But in general people are not on vacation for months per year. I’m not saying us Europeans don’t act completely arrogant about the amount of PTO we have, but I think that has maybe given a distorted view.

        (Of course there might be companies that offer more time off. In my country that will rarely be more that one or two weeks though. Maybe it’s different in other countries, but even in Europe people do sometimes, in fact, need to actually do some work. ;-) )

        1. doreen*

          I think there is often a difference between how Americans and those from other countries talk about time off. As you mention, in some countries the legal minimum leave includes public holidays and in at least some of them , any days your employer closes for pubic holidays and pays you can be deducted from that allotment. So if you are entitled to 30 days of paid leave and your employer closes and pays you for 12 public holidays , you have 18 days to take when you want to. Americans don’t tend to talk about it the same way. Most of us don’t have a legal entitlement to paid time off ( which is the first difference) but the second difference is that when we say we have a particular amount of vacation time/PTO , we are not generally including holidays when the employer is closed and employees are paid. And sometimes that means it appears that there is more of a difference than there really is – 30 days of paid leave
          including 12 holidays when the office is closed is not that different from 15 days vacation plus 13 holidays when the office is closed.

      3. Aggretsuko*

        Hahahaha, 2 weeks isn’t even “normal” here, because of the reasons mentioned above.

    3. Virginia Plain*

      I do agree and try not to do so myself even if I have made the mistake in the past.
      What I did note in the OP’s post was that they said they have 20 days – that seems pretty good by US standards – in the U.K. you’d expect 21 so only one day difference. So quite apart from unhelpful comments, the message I get from this is not “Americans get very little vacation time” but that, for whatever reasons, this particular company/manager seems to have something against taking two weeks together. Which is half the allowance – they’d still have ten more days to take whenever throughout the year!
      I mean to say, this is not a shortage of leave question; it’s a weird manager question.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I appreciated the part of the letter that asked how to point out to your boss that a “rule” is something they obviously made up just this minute, since it didn’t apply to anyone else’s vacation requests.

        (And I agree with CalT that “Gosh, why don’t you change the entire system used in your country?” or “Hey, if you moved to another country and got citizenship this wouldn’t be a problem” are not helpful as advice.)

      2. Loulou*

        Yes, I’m completely baffled by the reflexive “Americans need more vacation time!” when the letter is clearly from someone who has a reasonable amount of vacation time but is being discouraged from using it… It sort of seems like people didn’t actually read the question :) but just spotted an opportunity to discuss a favorite subject of theirs :)

        1. doreen*

          Not only does the LW have a reasonable amount of vacation , it doesn’t seem that they are actually being discouraged from using it at all. Discouraged from using two weeks consecutively , yes – but there is nothing to suggest that there would have been any issue with the LW taking all of their vacation time in four one week vacations. When I was working, a vacation longer than two weeks needed approval by a specified level of management – but it there was no issue at all with people taking all of their time off , the only issue was with people taking three or four ( or more) weeks at a time.

          1. Loulou*

            But OP doesn’t want three or more weeks at a time — they want two weeks and the boss is suggesting that this amount of time is too much for a normal vacation.

            1. doreen*

              It was an example – setting a limit on the amount that can be taken consecutively ( whether it’s one week or two weeks or more) doesn’t mean that the employer is discouraging people from using their time off at all.

      3. queenbee*

        At a previous job, my coworker asked for 2 weeks off to go visit his sister in Cameroon, where she was in the Peace Corps. Our Evil Boss told him that “in a professional position it isn’t done” to take more than a week off in the first two years of employment. Coworker tipped me of as we were hired at the same time, so I wouldn’t also end up on the shit list. (Coworker got special permission and was able to visit his sister, and neither of us work for Evil Boss anymore.)

        In the years since I have conducted an intensive survey and no one agrees that it “isn’t done” so much as in my industry it’s common to have 6 months to a year where vacation time is prohibited entirely, and then only 15 days a year to start with, so it’s not typical for someone to choose to use their limited time that way. We also need coverage so have to take turns. But there’s no taboo against it!

      4. Momma Bear*

        Agreed. It’s not about how much time OP has, but the inability to use it the way they want. I would say that no, a 2 week trip is not out of line and OP should press forward if there’s no written guideline against it. Denying people the use of their PTO is a quick way to cause burnout. If the company/department is doing so poorly that one person taking 2 weeks off is impossible, then that’s not OP’s fault, either. I had a former coworker tell me that his boss (my former boss) denied him time off for his child’s wedding. That’s when I would have turned my vacation request into a resignation. Some bosses are miserable people.

      1. KelseyCorvo*

        It isn’t common at all in America. It just isn’t. It may *happen* but I can literally count on one hand the number of co-workers I’ve known in the past almost 30 years of working who’ve taken more than a week and a half of vacation time consecutively aside from wedding/honeymoon and winter holidays when business is slow.

    4. pancakes*

      I don’t see any particular reason to believe this is a matter of “fake surprise,” and never have. I have lived in the US all my life and in my mid-40s I still find it remarkable that so many people here have such warped ideas about work that a 2 week vacation seems like it might be an unrealistic extravagance.

    5. Sylvan*


      It comes off as privileged one-upping. “You have only a mere two weeks of PTO, but look at me, I have five!” It doesn’t add anything worthwhile to the conversation.

      And two weeks of PTO isn’t super unusual for office workers in the US, anyway.

        1. pancakes*

          No, not really. The reason they wrote in for advice is that they don’t know whether taking two at a time is considered normal.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I mean, they kinda do, since they note that multiple people before them at this very company took two-week vacations.

            The literal question might be “is this unusual” but the implicit question is “how do I push back against my boss making up a fake rule about how my vacation request can’t be processed.”

            1. pancakes*

              Right, but how does one answer that question without talking about what’s normal? Alison didn’t.

              1. I should really pick a name*

                Isn’t the entire first paragraph of the answer talking about what’s normal?

                1. pancakes*

                  Yes, what I meant and didn’t spell out is “Alison didn’t; that is what she led with.” I didn’t think that needed saying but I can see how it’s a little unclear.

                2. I should really pick a name*

                  It’s also Monday and my brain isn’t working properly yet :P

          2. Aggresuko*

            It’s probably not normal at that company, specifically. How often does anyone there take longer than a week?

            1. I should really pick a name*

              other people in the group took two-week vacations on an annual basis

              Apparently it’s at least somewhat normal.

  11. Megan*

    For #4, I use something like ‘Contributed to xyz initiative with ideas for process improvements that led to [benefits]’. But I realize now that I probably use ‘Contributed’ too much and should replace it!

    1. Imprudence*

      A wording I have used is “Was part of a team to [big project]: my contribution was [specific thing that I did that is relevant to j0ob I am applying for]”

  12. David*

    And now you’ve sat in the room where it’s happening; if you had a voice in that meeting and didn’t speak up, you’re now complicit in it.

    In letter #1, I thought it sounded like the letter writer *did* speak up in the meeting in favor of promoting Sammy and was overruled. Granted, it wasn’t totally clear, but the letter did say “We brought her up, we discussed her favorably.” So I was kind of surprised to see the response saying that the writer is, in fact, the real asshole here. (I would think upper management should get the largest share of the blame for this situation.)

    1. Freelance Anything*

      Alison specifically said that LW could be the AH if she doesn’t tell Sammy to move on.

      Not that it is LW’s fault that Sammy was passed over.

    2. WellRed*

      It’s unclear from the letter what OPs role is and whether they spoke up but I got the impression they didn’t because they admitted they too, would suffer if Peggy left.

    3. pancakes*

      I wouldn’t take “we discussed her favorably” as synonymous with “we discussed the reasons why she won’t be promoted even though her work is excellent and I said the budget issue is unfair and unsustainable.”

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      OP is an asshole in this situation yet, but if they choose not to tell Sammy and if that choice is driven by the fact that they acknowledge here their own job would be harder if she left, *then* they would be.

      I think they’re not though. Letters like this read to me that they already know what they need to do and are just looking for someone to give them a little push! So I think they’ll do the right thing. OP–we’re rooting for you and Sammy! I hope you both end up at companies with management who treat their employees with more appreciation and respect.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Ugh, I always go back and make an edit to a sentence in a way that results in a weird typo. That is supposed to start with “OP is *NOT* an asshole in this situation yet” lol

        1. Mr. Shark*

          haha, I was wondering why you were being so harsh to the OP when they were asking this question and seriously concerned about Sammy.

  13. learnedthehardway*

    OP#5 – You should talk to Jane NOW about your experience with Kara – Don’t wait until she’s hired to let your manager know that you’d prefer not to report to Kara. Do what you can to make sure she’s not hired at all. In fact, take your letter and put it in front of Jane. The hiring committee needs to know that Kara treated someone badly because of her biases about their family situation, and someone should be looking into why her entire team left, and whether she was fired or left voluntarily.

    It’s possible that Kara might get hired anyway, but at least your manager will understand why you don’t want to report to her. I don’t see that you would be worse off by saying something now, vs. saying nothing at all. So you might as well say something.

    1. All The Sammys Unite*


      I was my offices Sammy, and I am forever grateful to the senior colleague who took me to lunch one day specifically to tell me.

      I didn’t believe him, but when I was later denied the *fourth* promotion after doing the work for months, and I heard a manager say they “couldn’t promote a rainbow” you best believe my company was on the hook for a lot more money than just the $1 an hour raise I would have gotten for being a team lead

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*

        Similarly. Was the office “Sammy”. Was led to believe, both in action and word, that I was getting experience across all the things in order to achieve a promotion and partial ownership.

        1. I owned a mistake. My bad. Literal mistake. Multiple people looked at it and did not find the error, including the owners, but it was my work and I owned it (theory being “own it up front so if there’s a way to mitigate it, its easier to mitigate up front”) This was from this point held against me. Coworkers who were nepotism hires were not held to this standard, btw. My error was statistically insignificant by comparison, FTW.
        2. The company legal team was reviewing a job offer for someone in a similar position by title, who wouldn’t be in charge of the little things I did (that added up to nearly a second full time position), but was not a woman. Legal basically told the bosses that they had two options – give me a 33% raise, or lower his offer by a very significant percentage.
        3. I dug in my heels with boundaries. No 60 hour in-office weeks plus weekends plus bringing home work every single night. I simply refused to do it, and if things weren’t complete, their staffing issues were not my personal problem.

        Guess what? They either changed their minds about why I was getting experience in all the things OR they were lying to my face. Either way, I was out the door. Funny thing that, they’ve had to “right size” their annual workload as a result of this. 33% less annual volume. Me? Bigger and better with actual opportunities AND compensation.

      2. Manchmal*

        What do you mean by rainbow? Like, a unicorn, an amazing worker? Or someone gay?? How did you leverage what you heard to get more money?

        1. Observer*

          Sounds like they found a new job and noped out of there with the bare minimum of notice. Standard two weeks is not a lot of time to get a new person in and up to speed. It’s an especially big problem for the employer if the person leaving is really good.

    2. Happy*

      Yes! Don’t wait until they make a bad decision to bring this up! Please tell them about your experiences with her immediately.

  14. StellaBella*

    For number 2, I would separately check your policies and check in with HR on this consecutive days thing. I would hope others in your firm have taken two weeks off before, see if you can find out if there is precedent. And work with your boss to ensure everything is done, updated etc before you go – to avoid retaliation when you get back. Make a list with your manager of all tasks needed to be final and then a list of who covers what while gone, and also what your email out of office message should say. This way, there is no room for retaliation when you get back. Also, if ok, you may want to bring back some food or treats from where you went upon returning to share, and to thank those who covered for you.

    1. EPLawyer*

      They should most DEFINITELY NOT make a list of who covers what and what tasks need to be finalized while they are gone. If they get 2 weeks, they get 2 weeks. They are going on vacation, not resigning.

      It’s the boss’ job to know how coverage works while someone is on vacation, not the employee’s job to run around and wear themselves out before going on vacation. Having to do all this is a good way to encourage people to NOT take vacation because its not worth the hassle.

      1. Antilles*

        This must be YMMV, because this is the standard in every company I’ve ever worked at. It’s not really preparing a detailed list, more like a group status update email. Your boss doesn’t know every aspect of your projects, other team members might not be aware of all the ins-and-outs, etc. So you write up a bulleted list summarizing where everything stands and who’s going to jump in if something comes up.
        And honestly, I’ve found it makes me *more* likely to take vacations because I know everything is handled. I don’t have to worry about coming back to a desk filled with fires, I don’t have to worry about getting a panicked call while on vacation because nobody knows what’s happening with something, I don’t have to worry about anything slipping through the cracks while I’m gone because nobody knew about a task that needed to get handled.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          That’s what I do. It isn’t hard and I copy everyone I mention in the e-mail.
          “Hey all,
          I’m out from DAY 1 to DAY 14 with no access to voice or e-mail. Here is the status update for my projects
          * Guillermo, the Daylight Safety Plan is under review by the Council. If you haven’t heard back by DATE, talk to Secretary Darcul
          * Nandor, all the files for the Bat-Flying Fox project can be found here: LINK if you need them
          * Nadia, I saved all the virgin blood donation social media campaign drafts in the Project Cherry file. Could you review them and get me your edits by the time I get back?
          * Lazlo, the edits to your proposal to reboot some of your films are here: LINK. Once you make the changes, please send to Guillermo for final approval
          * Master, I sent you the final Draft of the Vampire-Werewolf relations communique. Your offerings are in the staff refrigerator with your name on them
          If there is an emergency, Please talk to Guillermo and The Master,


          1. Antilles*

            Yes, this is exactly what they look like. An email that takes 5 to 10 minutes or so to write, bullet points the key items, and is enough to. And like I said, it just makes the vacation run so much smoother for me for all the reasons I said that I’m happy to spend the 10 minutes doing this.
            I also appreciate the show reference and love this particular list.

      2. sofar*

        Agreed. This “make sure you have coverage” mindset is often toxic.

        I used to try to make sure 100% of my responsibilities chugged along while I was out, and that entailed long hours the two weeks BEFORE my vacation, a “secret” work day when I was “still on vacation” but actually catching up on email, The Day From Hell when I returned back to office officially, and then also massive putting-out-of-fires after. Because, sometimes, you make the detailed Vacation Coverage doc, but the person you assign coverage to has to be out for an emergency while you’re also out. Or the person you trained to cover for you doesn’t have the experience to make the RIGHT decision.

        I am an entire employee. Things should NOT function 100% while I’m out. If they can, am I even necessary?

        Also, with most corporate jobs many things aren’t emergencies that can’t wait for 10 days until I’m back. If they are, the company needs to HIRE for better coverage.

        Now, I pick like one or two business-critical things that are easy enough to hand off to someone. And I send my boss an email saying, “Here’s who’s taking care of Thing A and Thing B. Thing C and D will pause during that week until I’m back. I’ve let everyone know. For anything else that requires decision-making, could you step in? Curtis is covering, but he’s still rather new. Otherwise, I will jump on decisions the moment I’m back!”

  15. Tin Cormorant*

    LW1: I was in a similar position to your coworker, for years at a previous job. I was coming up on my 5th year there, was respected in my department but essentially the only way to move up in the company was to get promoted into a different department with totally different duties that I had no interest in or skill at — but my manager had been telling me he was in the process of creating a new individual contributor position within our department that would be perfect for me, use my skills well, and formalize a lot of the side work I was already doing for our department. So I stuck around despite feeling like I was really underpaid there.

    Then a coworker of mine (who was also a friend that I occasionally saw outside of work) got promoted to be my new manager (as a new level between myself and my former boss). In our first one-on-one meeting, he leveled with me that that new position was never going to happen and I needed to improve at all those social skills that I’m not good at in order to move up to management if I ever wanted to get promoted.

    I put in my two-week notice the next day. It was a great decision for me, as I moved on to a much better situation almost immediately, while a coworker of mine in a similar situation stayed for another two or three years without anything changing before he got laid off along with half the department.

  16. Alan*

    I’ve seen LW #1’s situation a number of times at work and it’s always frustrating. Some people are just super productive to the point where they can’t really be replaced with a single regular person. Sometimes people leave, but more often they just continue frustrated. After *much* insistence from their supervisors I have seen them get moved to their desired positions but it typically takes years. And I would say my employer is generally very good to their employees, but we’re non- profit, don’t have the budget to do a lot of cross-training, and in a field where good people are hard to find, so too often management looks at the short-term needs of the company rather than the person…

    1. misspiggy*

      All good points, but management need to be honest with the person concerned. Especially at a nonprofit, where part of the deal is that you take lower pay to work with people who have good values.

      1. comityoferrors*

        Totally agree about being honest and realistic with the employees, but nonprofits should look hard at whether that “deal” is fair or not. My partner works at a non-profit (food bank) and he constantly hears that cost is not a concern for sourcing materials or machinery, and “we have plenty of money”…until review time, when the company line is, “We’re a non-profit, we really have to keep costs low, we can offer a slightly-below-COL raise this year but nothing more since you were just performing duties as part of your role.”

        My partner is proud to work there, and I try to remind him that his benefits are much better than his last job. But even then, he’s one of the highest paid staff and he could not survive in our HCOL area on his own – not even close. His coworkers bust their butts and make barely above minimum wage. Strangely, the directors don’t seem to share in the culture of suffering financially for the work and company values, even as rent and inflation are chasing people out of the company and leaving every team short-staffed. It’s really ridiculous to watch from the outside.

    2. Fran Fine*

      Sometimes people leave, but more often they just continue frustrated.

      This is my mother. She’s been passed over for promotions and/or internal transfers for years and still hasn’t left her company, even after finding out her former manager was actively blocking her moves. Now she’s coming up on year 14 or 15 at this place, still in the same spot she was hired into, and still very bitter about it, but despite all this, she still won’t leave. I think they’ve crushed her spirit so she doesn’t believe she can do better.

  17. Repton*

    At my org a two week vacation every year is mandatory. They say it’s for work life balance (which is true) but it’s also about combatting internal fraud (if you’re fiddling the books every day to hide your theft), and making sure you don’t have critical dependencies on any single person.

    1. A.N. O'Nyme*

      Yeah, the last point is what I would emphasise if boss continues to be weird about this. I probably wouldn’t use the fraud detection argument (don’t want to put any ideas in boss’s head), but the “I could get hit by a bus” argument would frame this as being good for the business. (I also wouldn’t use “I might win the lottery tomorrow” because you probably don’t want to put the “LW might leave at any moment voluntarily” idea in boss’s head)

      1. Irish Teacher*

        Absolutely. The head of my department and I have pretty much divided up the core duties of the department between us (we have very different strengths and interests, so they divided up pretty naturally), but we try to ensure we both KNOW how to do the other’s duties for that very reason. We have a “you get trained on X issue and then train me; I won’t have the official training, but I’ll be able to cover if anything unexpected happens to you” thing going on. We also tend to tell each other stuff like “if I get hit by a bus, the llama grooming file is in such a place.”

        Anything can happen and having a situation where the company needs one specific person is…risky. I once worked in a company where the manager didn’t bother to learn a minor duty because the deputy manager always covered it and if a problem happened when she was out, he’d just say “oh, just put in the price by hand and the deputy manager will fix it when she gets in.” Then…the deputy manager was asked to cover for two weeks in another branch and there was a problem and the manager had to phone up the district manager and ask him to help with a minor issue that he should have known how to deal with. It wasn’t a big deal, but…he’d have saved himself some embarrassment if he’d just asked the deputy manager to show him how to do it some time. How many issues like this would come up if Sammy left unexpectedly?

      2. ScruffyInternHerder*

        So random thought: should we maybe START putting the “shoot my employee might leave voluntarily (if I don’t treat them reasonably)” thought into manager’s heads? Not individual cases, obviously, but maybe if this thought process became the norm, employees would start being treated as employees not serfs?

        1. A.N. O'Nyme*

          Probably, yes, but I’d wager the majority of all good managers already knows this.

    2. Johanna Cabal*

      If I remember that comptroller who was stealing all the money from her town or county was found out when she was out of the office at one of her horse shows (she spent the money she stole from the town on horses, a fancy horse trailer, and all kinds of over the top horse accessories).

  18. Varthema*

    Resume language: I wonder about this too when something is a truly collaborative project. The items I do tend to be kind of granular, technical, and specific to my company, whereas the project’s main goal is interesting and much more translatable. I generally want to front the more eye-catching info towards the front of the sentence, rather than the back. So between the two, which is better?

    Fargled x, mankled y, doggoroled z as part of Project Supercool.

    Collaborated on Project Supercool by fargling, mankling y, doggoroling z.

    1. ECHM*

      I like #1 because you are leading with the skills that will be transferable to the new company. Z

    2. Yorick*

      Definitely #1. It’s shorter and more action-oriented and still gets across that you were part of a team.

      1. Indubitably Delicious*

        #1, but “collaborated” is another good verb if you’re trying to avoid “help” but your role was admittedly secondary, like a member of a committee.

    3. Roscoe da Cat*

      I also like “provided expertise in llama grooming to company-wide project on accounting”

  19. ceiswyn*

    LW1, here are your management’s choices: a) lose Sammy entirely when she leaves, or b) keep her but in a more senior role.

    You have all just chosen option A. Proceed on that basis.

    1. Wilbur*

      The smart thing would be to promote Sammy, and work with her to figure out what’s different about her process/workflow that makes her better at the role. Or maybe she would be able to help identify a good replacement in the interview process. That would require DOING something, and the first rule of bad management seems to be “Do less”.

  20. WoodswomanWrites*

    For #4, you would do well by explaining in your resume what you said here: “Assigned (or maybe selected?) by management to co-develop workflow procedures and quality assurance.” That includes the fact that you were part of a process with others but elevates the fact that management picked you for this task.

  21. Glitterati*

    LW 1 Having been in Sammy’s position twice and realising it very late, my faith in people, my confidence and my mental health was ruined. I had to have therapy. It still hurts. I was so angry at myself for being so stupid as to believe the people who said I’d get the raise/promotion. I felt utterly humiliated and pathetic and furious about the opportunities and money I’d lost out on while I was waiting and working for the job that never came. Please, please, please tell Sammy what you know so she can leave on her terms with some dignity. If it were me I wouldn’t tell a soul you told me, I’d just leave and enjoy the dumpster fire I left behind. Oh, and you should leave too. Your employer is beyond arrogant and lacking in morals.

    1. Dunne*

      I totally agree! I’m currently like Sammy and it chips away at your confidence and over time your work ethic. I’m sure there’s a way for LW1 to let Sammy know that she may wish to take the hint of keep being passed over for promotion without breaking any confidences. Sammy will eventually figure it out but the damage in the meantime is irreparable.

  22. Agent Diane*

    OP5 – you should only raise this with Jane now if you had a legit reason to be in the hiring system and seeing that information. Or if the shortlist is subject to a rumour mill. Everywhere I’ve worked, the hiring process is confidential and someone saying “oh, hey, I just happened to see…” about a shortlist would be a bad reflection on them even if they are bringing valuable info about a candidate to light.

    If shortlists are often part of the rumour mill in your industry, or your org, then you can totally act like you heard it as a rumour. “So I picked up a rumour the other day that Kara might be in the running…”

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      I wonder if there is a way that the LW could express appreciation about how her current company works in comparison to the one she interned at. And casually mention the woman’s name.

      1. TheRain'sSmallHands*

        I’d just state it right out. In any industry, there will be rumors, you simply state “I have heard that….” Maybe you weren’t supposed to know, but you did hear. Perhaps from a former coworker you and Kara have in common that Kara talks to. Perhaps from someone in your company. Perhaps because you saw a piece of paper you shouldn’t, or saw Kara being walked through the office for an interview. And then state right out that Kara, not the previous company, was the problem. (Because after all, your understanding is that the previous company eventually got rid of the problematic manager).

  23. Bagpuss*

    LW#1 I agree that you should tell Sammy if you can. IF you feel you can’t (because the meeting was confidential) then I thin that you should be actively encouraging her to look for roles outside your company, make clear that you will be happy to provide her with a reference 9assuming that’s permitted by your company’s policies) and do whatever else you can do to make it clear to her that the situation is unlikely to change.

    I also think that you should, if possible, be very explicit with management – say that you believe that the result of their refusal to promote Sammy (or others like her) isn’t that you get to keep her in her current role but that you will lose her entirely, both in her current role and as a potential higher level employee, and that it will damage morale as it shows oher employees that people don’t get promoted on merit.

    I would also be considering dusting off your own resume and looking for alternative options, because your employer has just demonstrated how little respect they have for their employees.

  24. SleepyKitten*

    LW1, I think you know that telling Sammy is the right thing to do and just need a nudge.

    If you have any standing to do so, point out to management that you’re going to lose Sammy at some point, via promotion, quitting, or accident. Promotion will be by far the least painful of those options.

  25. Intent to Flounce*

    #3 I completely get the impulse. If you have a good relationship with your boss, why not check in quickly with them if it’s OK to do a quick proof/tidy up before you send them on? They may take your arm off (I always get my professional documents proofed since I read what I intended to write rather than what I actually wrote). Something like “would you like me to do a quick proof before I send them on? I know how hard it is to spot typos in my own work, and a fresh pair of eyes might just pick something up”. But however fits you.

    1. Katie Impact*

      This is what I was going to suggest. Many reasonable and intelligent people understand that they can’t spell worth a damn and will be happy for the help, but it’s better not to do it without express permission.

  26. GythaOgden*

    The rationale buried in the boss’s assumptions here is that maybe the LW is leaving a team that has needs in the lurch. I’m assuming they’re not making these plans too shortly before going away, as from experience people have work plans booked that a vacation might have an impact on.

    For holidays over a week in my role we have to notify people well in advance. I made that mistake one year, and still got it, but with a warning that my supervisor needed a heads up next time. She also said that she’d run aground on the same policy. They certainly don’t like people bouncing them into approval of time off by booking everything beforehand and thus assuming it would be granted.

    I had no real grounds to complain because the trip had been booked for a year already and I was telling my supervisor only when the leave year started again in April. (The trip was in late June so it was also short notice.) I heard colleagues complaining about someone in the maintenance team doing it at the last minute and leaving them suddenly shorthanded and scrambling to cover their schedule. So that is definitely something to take into account when booking time off and requesting longer periods.

    After our department changed hands (Facilities was taken over by another organisation within the NHS), we now have it written more explicitly into the leave policy. I think it’s OK to book something — it’s just that they ask you don’t do it last minute and let people know in plenty of time (8 weeks is the minimum notice, but I’d kinda think that was an absolute minimum in our field because of the need for actual coverage). The time this happened to me, my supervisor had been booked on off-site training while I was away and we need two out of three people onsite at all times to provide service continuity (reception and facilities). So that upset her because she now had to rearrange. Post pandemic we’re a bit more flexible but our new agency could put a bit of rigidity back into the situation if it desired.

    This is independent of any AL days — of which we have plenty. Of course, it wouldn’t apply to sickness, which is a separate bucket entirely over here and has different rules.

    I’d assume also OP was giving plenty of notice since they don’t say that it’s last minute — this is just the perspective from the other side of the desk as to why two weeks might be more complicated for a team than it appears.

    1. anonymous73*

      If your team falls apart because one person takes a 2 week vacation, you have a management problem. What if someone leaves permanently or needs to take extended medical leave suddenly? Managers needs to prepare for any one person to be out for an extended period of time. That’s their job.

      1. GythaOgden*

        That’s why we have to give them notice. They’re able to do that sort of thing much easier if they’re told a month or two out rather than on the eve of the two week holiday.

        1. anonymous73*

          You’re missing my point. Management needs to be prepared for any type of immediate leave, not just vacation time. I can’t give you notice if I need sudden emergent surgery and am out for a week or more.

          1. GythaOgden*

            I’m not missing any points here. My team does not fall apart when we take long holidays (before the pandemic, my supervisor took three weeks every autumn that we all knew about well in advance). I actually like it when my colleagues have time off because as part time, I get additional hours in order for there to be adequate coverage. The times my supervisor took her three weeks in September paid for Christmas.

            It’s that we are a team of three running a whole building for other departments, and we work as a team and divvy up the year between us as far as leave goes. We’ve done this for eight years together, two of them under very strange circumstances.

            I’m sorry if you think I’m missing the point or being flippant, but this is how management actually ensure coverage and plan for known absences. No-one is denied holiday — we just know that we have to warn people well in advance if we plan to take a long time off and make sure others on the team aren’t going to be absent /to give management that time to plan around our plans/. It’s a part of helping management do their job and extending that courtesy to others means that when we really need time off unexpectedly (like an injury I had last year that meant I had to take six weeks off) then the same grace is extended to us. It’s part of teamwork.

            It may be a factor of my job, which is very focused on maintenance and hence needs that coverage, but the idea that that can be done at the last minute or whatever with no regard for how management is actually going to plan that coverage is strange.

      2. sofar*

        Yep. Two-week vacations are a great stress test. I do what I can to make sure I have “enough” coverage when I’m out, but, at the end of the day, someone covering for me might suddenly get sick. Or something unexpected might come up. The team needs to see the consequences of having too much responsibility on one person.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Yup. I’ve had two periods of sick leave over the past two years, plus a month of bereavement in mid-2019. Sickness is inevitable at some point and because of that, it’s not a problem if there’s only one person — or none! — in the office, so long as arranged absences are covered. (As Facilities we had to go in during the pandemic. Not a lot to do apart from post, deliveries and switchboard, but the one big part of our job is water flushing to make sure nothing gets stagnant and starts to breed legionella.)

          On the flip side, that makes this OK for me is that we can still take our booked holiday even if someone is off sick. We have had occasions when there’s been no-one on reception, most recently when I dodged the Covid bullet and took a long weekend, and it was expected that I could stay off even if both my other colleagues were out. I might have gone in anyway and taken the day at another time, but I had £60 of online groceries to receive in the middle of the afternoon, so I stayed put.

      3. Aggresuko*

        Hahahahaha, my work is always scrambling like heck when this happens. This is how I ended up being the only team member left for a month. There’s no extra slack around here.

    2. EPLawyer*

      Telling in April for a late June trip is short notice? No there is a problem with your company, not with you telling them late. If they can’t figure it out in almost 3 months, then they just don’t want people taking vacations.

      Sure if someone shows up and says “oh yeah I booked a flight for next week, I will be gone the whole week” that’s a problem. But anything more than a couple weeks notice and you have a company problem.

      1. GythaOgden*

        Yeah — though in reality, the training had already been booked, and so maybe they needed a bit more notice than that. I mean, we’d both run afoul of that policy, and I think my supervisor may have learned why the company (public sector healthcare) asked for more notice when she had issues with it herself.

        What /should/ happen isn’t always what does happen. We can’t always know what other people need or what their plans are but in our case coverage is essential and schedules are planned well enough in advance for this to have been an issue. I’m happy enough working with my team that I’ve been here 8 years and honestly, this is the kind of ‘make sure it doesn’t happen again’ thing that gets sorted out.

        It’s not an adversarial thing and as facilities and maintenance, some things do need to be known in advance. We don’t always know what sort of timescales other people are working to and what their needs are. It might not be disorganisation; it might be the opposite, where they have arranged something essential in advance and now they have to reschedule because of something they didn’t know.

        I may be incredibly lucky to be working for a team like this and I definitely feel I am. It’s evidently not the case for everyone. But it’s been worth it to understand the rule and work with it because it makes the whole team’s lives easier.

        I also have a holiday booked at about a year’s notice right now. I did it because it was a quiet time of year both from our perspective and that of the resort I’ve booked for. So my holiday can go on the calendar well in advance and everyone’s happy.

  27. bamcheeks*

    LW1, stop thinking about this in terms of “right” and “wrong”. The thing about framing it as a moral dilemma is that you put, “doing right by Sammy” and “doing my job properly” as opposites, and you are handwringing about whether this makes you a bad person whilst also telling yourself that you have to make this Hard Decision because of the budgets and the company.

    What you are doing is not just “fucking Sammy over”– although, let’s be clear, it’s definitely doing that! — it’s bad, short-term, thoughtless and careless management. Your company is choosing to lose Sammy completely with two weeks’ notice, at a time that you do not choose, and find temporary cover for all the incredibly valuable work she does and scrabble round to find three people to replace her with no opportunity for her to train them. It could take you months to get back to where you are once she goes. This is something that you could plan for and manage carefully, and instead you’re choosing the high-risk gamble option.

  28. Turingtested*

    LW 1: Can you advocate for Sammy to get a substantial raise and better title? If it will truly take 2 people to replace her, paying Sammy 1.5 salaries is a substantial cost savings. Not sure what her current title is, but something with senior or manager in it might go a long way.

    And explain it to her! She probably thinks she’s unappreciated.

    Whether the company tries to keep her or not, there will be money spent when she leaves.

  29. Jenga*

    Re #1:

    Perhaps it’s time to have a conversation with upper management to point out that an employee who has been doing the work of 2-3 people may not stick around long enough to get passed over for a yet another promotion.

    1. Sylvan*


      And keeping an employee like that (by treating her well and paying her what she’s worth) is probably easier and less expensive than hiring two to three replacements.

      It’s nice when the right thing to do is also the path of least resistance.

  30. DE*

    OP 1: TELL HER. Something close to this happened to me at work and thankfully I figured it out for myself and did the work to get out. But if there’s any risk she will try and stick around, please make it obvious for her that she needs to get out, even if you don’t tell her exactly what was sad.

  31. Testerbert*

    I feel sorry for Sammy in LW1. I hate the fact that in so many organisations, pay is hierachical with the only way to meaningfully advance ones earnings is to progress into management, which is what we are seeing here. If they aren’t going to promote her, they need to give her a substantial pay rise to reflect her mastery of her role. After all, they’ve said it themselves, she’s worth three people. They can claim they haven’t the budget for such a pay rise, but they can make a new budget. That’s their job.

    However, we all know that will never happen, so tell her the truth and let the organisation deal with the fallout of their decisions.

    1. Shiba Dad*

      I think the budgeting process at my old employer, where I heard “we didn’t budget for that”, was to add 2% to labor, decide how many service tech vans may need replaced and assume all other expenses would remain the same. I assume LW’s employer does something similar for the labor portion of their budget.

  32. Gloucesterina*

    Hi LW 1! Do you and/or Sammy know colleagues in your field but outside your company whom you know Sammy to trust (or who are generally trusted) as far as career mentoring/peer mentoring and all-around professional good judgment?

    However you opt to communicate with Sammy about the massive roadblocks to advancing at the current company, you may find that Sammy is too demoralized to make an fast and triumphant departure for another company. After years of poor treatment, she may even believe that something is wrong with her work or herself that she should not even try to look elsewhere. To be clear, I am speculating about possible scenarios to game out in planning your communications, not concocting a backstory for a person I don’t know.

    Depending on the above, I wonder if it may be a kindness to ask if she would like to connect with someone outside the company for mentoring and to facilitate that connection if she is interested—someone who can send the message that her skills and experience are special and valuable.

    What do you think? How connected are you and Sammy to people in your field who don’t suck (unlike this current company’s leadership)? How useful for Sammy might either activating or cultivating those connections be?

    1. Gloucesterina*

      And to be clear, I offer these questions not in the spirit of “make Sammy’s success your sustained personal project” but instead thinking about offering one thing that may help her figure out what to do with the information you are giving her, and then backing off.

  33. 653-CXK*

    OP#1: Sammy is the rare gem that all business yearn to have. The “we like Sammy where she is” train of thought is selfish and cruel, yet there are some bosses and upper management who see that as a feature, not as a bug. They figure that people like Sammy will come through for them each and every time, and that any movement upward will be a giant loss for them and will cost them more money in hiring and training, so they interfere with that movement by making that path more difficult or outright denying it.

    I should know – when I was at ExJob, it happened to me several times. I was a subject matter expert and generally well-liked, but I wanted to move on…but upper management wanted me to stay. Only when I began to speak up and speak out did they change their mind…and decided to manage me out.

    I would tell Sammy what happened. Should Sammy decide to chuck it all in, she will do herself a favor, not just in terms of salary, but respect. I also would dust off my resume and get out of that malignant Dodge myself.

  34. WellRed*

    OP 1 I’m not clear what your role in hiring is. During the meeting did you speak up to how unfair this is? Did you point out that she is very likely to leave over this and then they’ll have to hire anyway. Do you think your company won’t eventually screw you over at some point?

  35. Asenath*

    For letter 1 – there’s probably a way to let Sammy know what she needs to know without saying “At the promotion meeting, they said….” Sammy will figure it out if LW just says something like “You know, sometimes people are so good at their current job that they make themselves indispensable in the eyes of the company, which can make it hard to get promoted”. Or, if that’s too direct and too much like repeating what was said in a confidential meeting, “Sometimes people have to change companies to get a good promotion” or “Have you considered looking elsewhere? Many workers nowadays find that’s the way to get ahead.”

  36. Burningbrightly*

    I’ve been Sammie twice. Both times, I will admit some joyous spite, left at the worst possible time for my employer to move to a new position. I know they lost significant revenue because of it.

    Notable that my current employer has promoted me twice, despite the fact that each time they have had to hire two people to take over my old role. I wasn’t thrilled by the fact I had been doing 2 people’s work for half the pay for several years, but they did at least promote me.

    If you give her a heads up, she may be nice enough to do the same for you when she leaves.

    1. I Hate Holidays*

      Serious question…why would you agree to do the work of multiple people without additional compensation?

      1. Mockingjay*

        Frog in boiling pot scenario. Starts off slow and increases. You’re hired, you work accurately and efficiently, boss adds a task, you handle that easily, boss adds another task, you still handle it…

        Boss throws in appreciation and thanks, which makes you feel good. But before you can reflect on how much you are actually doing, here comes the next task and you switch your focus to that.

        I take time once a year to write up everything I’ve done, even to the number of meetings I attend. It shows how much work and areas of responsibility have crept in on top of my regularly scheduled tasks. (Not so much the last two years; we were assigned a new manager and she is fantastic about task review and spreading things out.)

        1. Lana Kane*

          Yep – scope creep is slow and insidious. Before you know it you’re doing work that was never supposed to be on your plate. When I was managing, I was always on the lookout for scope creep on my team because I’d been on the receiving end too many times, and by the time you notice the expectation is that all those tasks are your job. You can course correct, or at least try to, but it takes persistence.

      2. Sylvan*

        I’ve done that before. I had enough experience to make both jobs easy. The compensation was, in retrospect, low, but it was more than I had ever earned before. I was excited to earn that much money and proud of being able to handle both roles.

      3. Shiba Dad*

        It’s possible Burningbrightly didn’t realize they were doing the work of two people until they were replaced by two people. The scenario Mockingjay is quite possible as well.

        When this happened to me, I didn’t feel like I had a choice. I was trying to do my job, cover any IT issues that arose and deal with stuff that my boss f’ed up or didn’t want to do. The boss in this case co-owned the company. If it wasn’t me picking up the slack it wasn’t going to be anybody. I felt like I would let customers or coworkers down if I couldn’t help them.

      4. Not Today, Friends*

        Also this is typically the company line about what you have to do to advance. They talk about rewarding “high performers” and “team players”. They say the need to see you doing work above and beyond your current role before they can promote you. We’re told this is the game, and it takes some of us a while to understand that it’s a lie.

  37. RetailInducedTrauma*

    I don’t understand the mindset behind the manager’s of LW1’s letter. Not that I don’t believe it–I totally do!–but it’s so shortsighted. Yes, losing your star employee sucks. Yes, losing someone who does the job of three people sucks. The star employee is going to leave without growth opportunities! But wouldn’t it be better to retain the star employee by promoting them (assuming they can bring that same energy/work ethic to upper level positions). Or barring that, why not reevaluate your pay structure so you can pay the star employee what they are worth if they really are doing three job’s worth of work.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      The shortsightedness of management confuses me too, for exactly the reason you stated. Yes, the company will have to hire two or three people to replace Sammy in the lower-level position. But then they will have Sammy’s excellent skills and work ethic in a higher-level position, where surely Sammy can bring more benefit to the company than Peggy can.

      OP1, did you or anyone else on the management team consider how beneficial it would be to promote Sammy, or did you all just stop at “don’t have the budget to hire new people/cannot conceive of Sammy in a different role”?

    2. Temperance*

      I was in Sammy’s shoes at my job pre-law school. They kneecapped me on purpose because they weren’t going to find someone with my tech skills and writing skills who was willing to work a crappy assistant job that paid horribly. My grandboss liked that I did a bunch of her sales-related tasks for her, so they were locking me down.

  38. Roscoe da Cat*

    #1 – So, if someone is really good, then they don’t get promoted? That means that all the people in management were not that good, doesn’t it?

    1. Sean*

      ….as evidenced by the aforementioned managers locking Sammy in place while fast-tracking the newbies. That part is just rubbing Sammy’s face in it for good measure.

    2. Oakwood*

      I’ve seen plenty of people promoted to management, even though they weren’t good at the hard skills of their non-management job, because it was thought they had the soft skills associated with being a manager.

      I’ve also seen plenty of head-scratcher management promotions. I usually attribute it to the candidate being better connected, but I suspect the “we can’t afford to promote Sammy” situation is more common than we think.

      1. SnappinTerrapin*

        I’ve seen people promoted because they were a problem where they were, and TPTB thought it was a genius move to bring them closer to senior management “so they could be watched more closely.”

        Spoiler alert: the geniuses who came up with this bright idea were the ones “watching” to see how they performed.

        1. VP of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*

          That is called the Dilbert Principle: Upper management exists only to be a “holding area” for the least competent employees, so they can be kept out of the way of those doing the actual work.

    3. Aggresuko*

      Yeah, pretty much. This is why I scorn leaders and leadership in general (though some are better than others). Just because you’re in charge doesn’t mean you’re always good/worth those big bucks.

  39. Excel-sior*

    For LW1, it could be tricky to let her know why she keeps being passed over (I worry it getting out that LW1 was the person who told her). But LW1 can/should go back to those people making decisions and say something along the lines of “If she’s deserving of the promotion, give it to her. She’s not stupid and she’ll figure it out sooner rather than later and we’ll lose her completely, rather than retaining her skills”.

    1. Bagpuss*

      OP can also do other things such as encouraging Sammy to look at other openings, and offer to be a reference for her.
      I agree that OP should also speak to (pr even e-mail, for a record ) the management team to expressly state that she is aware that Sammy was very disappointed to be passed over again, and that while she understands how valuable she is, she believes that the likelihood is that is she isn’t given opportunities to progress in the current org she will go elsewhere, and they will then lose her experience and expertise as well as having to take on 2 or 3 new people to cover her current role.

    2. Elenna*

      If Sammy keeps getting passed over eventually she’ll figure out for herself that she’s not getting promoted here, whether or not she figures out why. I think LW can reasonably hint at “hey, you’ve seen this pattern of never getting promoted, you should probably believe what the pattern is telling you” without it being too obvious that LW said something.

  40. Hiring Mgr*

    #5 sounds like a tough one…I wonder if you could bring this up to Jane now, but not sure if LW was supposed to be looking at the candidate list so there might be hesitation to speak up?

  41. Me (I think)*

    Re, LW1, I’ve been asking for help for ten+ years to no avail, but now that I am retiring, the boss says they’ll likely hire two people to replace me. Like, sure, let me work a million hours a week to get the job done with no help. Gee, I wonder if that contributed to me wanting to retire early? Huh.

    Re, LW2, this is America, buddy. You shouldn’t be taking two full weekend days off in a row. You owe your employer at least one of them.

    (Yes, I know the OP might not be in the US, but let’s be real here. Of course they are. Also, this is obvious sarcasm, and also it’s obviously related to LW1 in many ways.)

    1. Purple Cat*

      You shouldn’t be taking two full weekend days off in a row. You owe your employer at least one of them.

      This made me laugh, and then I cried because it’s shamefully true.

  42. irene adler*

    OP#1: so why not create a training position for Sammy where she imparts her skills to new hires (and those currently holding the entry level position) as a segue into a promotion once others are trained to the performance level equal to Sammy?

    Not enough funds in the budget to hire Sammy’s replacement(s) should she be promoted doesn’t wash. It won’t cost any less to replace Sammy should she quit. Either management is woefully short-sighted here. Stellar employees can and do quit for greener pastures-all the time- if they are not recognized for their talents. Or, management holds some kind of grudge against Sammy and are exercising this by repeatedly passing her over for promotion.

  43. anonymous73*

    #1 I was with you until you said that you would hate to lose her because you need her where she is too, which means YOU are part of the problem. Encourage her to look elsewhere without coming out and saying why. That’s the least you could do. She needs to be at a company who not only appreciates what she can do now, but supports her in advancing her career.
    #2 As Alison said, 2 weeks is not at all unusual and even if there was a policy, your boss is being a jerk about it. We have a policy that you can’t take more than 2 weeks at a time. One of my team members wanted to take a month to go to her native country and my manager worked with her to get her 3 weeks (she would have allowed 4 weeks but she didn’t have that much time to take). Most reasonable managers will make an exception under certain circumstances.

  44. Hmmm*

    OP is in a catch 22 on how to handle the situation. Since Sammy is so early in her career she may not realize the politics behind managements decision. She may think it’s “her merits”. I know it puts op in a hard situation but as Sammy I’d like to know the reason why even if off the record.

    1. ScruffyInternHerder*

      This here? It points out how utterly exploitive this situation is on the part of the employer who behaves this way.

    2. pancakes*

      I don’t think it does put the letter writer in a hard situation if they’re clear on where they stand regarding exploitation.

  45. I Hate Holidays*

    I hope everyone reading this today gets the message to NOT OVERPERFORM. Refuse to do the work of two or three people unless you have seen that such performance has lead to promotions for others. Otherwise you will just be exploited.

    OP, tell your coworker to leave now or stop overworking. Your ompany sucks by the way. What a poor way to manage.

    1. Cat Tree*

      Not every place works like this though. Remember that this as an advice column and places that function well have little incentive to write in.

      1. bamcheeks*

        Honestly, a functional place wouldn’t let you do the work of two or three people. It’s not good for anyone.

  46. Stitch*

    FWIW having been a Sammy, I’d bet Sammy already knows and has sent out her resume. The comment she nade suggests she already knows.

    Your organization is definitely about to lose her.

  47. Buttercup*

    LW1, my mom was in a similar position to Sammy. She’d worked in her same job for almost 25 years, and was so good, they’d need multiple people to cover her if she moved up or left. Her boss got fired and she worked 16-18 hour days to cover both of their work, and to a higher standard than her boss had done anything. They hired someone from outside the company to replace her boss instead of promoting her. She put her head down and worked. When COVID hit and layoffs came, she got the axe instead of her shiny new boss, and now that things are “back to normal”, we heard through the grapevine that they hired four people to do the work she had been doing alone for almost 25 years. Sammy will be the one on the chopping block when times get tough, because she’s actively expendable to upper management. If they really wanted to keep her, they’d be giving her the raise and the promotion, but they’re not, and she deserves to know that.

  48. eveningsummerbreeze*

    OP #1: I really don’t understand managers like this. Do they think she won’t eventually leave anyway?

    Years ago, I worked at an insurance company through a temp agency. There were a few of us temps in the office and most of us were hired by the insurance company. There was one who wasn’t. She had actually created a system for sorting mail that helped the department a lot and management was grateful for. We were still using it years after she left.

    I don’t know exactly why she wasn’t hired, but management wanted her to stay on as a temp. She understandably felt slighted and left to take a permanent job elsewhere within a few weeks. And management had the nerve to get mad at her about leaving!

    What exactly do managers like this expect to happen? OP #1 should find a way to tell her, but I don’t think Sammy will stick around much longer no matter what you do. Your company is cutting off its nose to spite its face.

    1. Lana Kane*

      “What exactly do managers like this expect to happen?”

      These kinds of people are entitled (among other things), so they expect that employees will behave the way they want and expect them to. It’s mind boggling, but that’s what happens with mediocre managers – they don’t have the critical thinking skills that would otherwise tell them that their cunning plans are all terrible.

      1. GreyjoyGardens*

        It’s entitlement of several kinds, and I also think some companies are still living in 2008 when workers were lucky to have ANY job. Newsflash: the Great Recession is over. While it’s very much YMMV how many jobs are out there (I remember Alison asking about a month ago and the answers were all over the map), with a very few exceptions (academia, libraries) Sammy will have a much easier time finding a new job than she would have ten years ago.

        LW1, I do think you have a duty to speak up to Sammy somehow. Let her know she has no future at your company. Also think long and hard about how this company treats people and whether YOU want a future there.

  49. CharChar*

    #1 Do *you* want to stay at a company where people like Sammy are not rewarded?

  50. Nuke*

    I worked at a place that actively undermined me trying to get a promotion. It was almost this exact situation, except nothing was directly said to me, and it was a half-retail place (medical office). I applied for a promotion for something that could become a very nice career. Management “forgot” to review my application, and told me I had applied after it was opened to outside candidates, so it “didn’t count”. My manager was evasive and pretended to be confused when I pressed her on it. Eventually I dropped it out of misery.

    Imagine my shock when a male employee who had been with us for a month and a half immediately got into the promotional position. My manager talked openly (mostly in front of me) about how GREAT he was at the job and how perfect it was for him. At that point I was a “front desk” person (all female staff.. the one promoted was the ONLY man working in that position), and any time I wasn’t at work the entire place fell into chaos. So, hmm. I wound up leaving ASAP and while my assistant manager told me he was happy for me, no one even gave me a card or anything after the been-here-for-3-months lab guy got that and a cake when he left (weeks prior). I’d been there for 3 years.

    I really feel for Sammy :(

  51. Hiring Mgr*

    Unfortunately the scenario in #1 is very common in my experience. The only thing I’ll add for LW is that whatever you say to Sammy there’s a good chance it’ll get back to management, even if innocuous, so make sure you’re ok with that

  52. tennisfan*

    OP1, as an extra bit of motivation to at least hint to Sammy what’s going on, there’s a possibility other employers will look at her long tenure in her role and wonder why she hasn’t been promoted. This could be industry specific, but at least in mine, this would be a definite question or concern. If asked in an interview, she can do her best to explain, but the longer this goes, the more difficult that gets.

  53. Nowwhat465*

    LW1: I was passed over a couple of times for an internal promotion on my old team. Finally, a colleague (who was on the decision team) pulled me aside and said “I agree with you that you’re ready for the next step. I have contacts all over the industry, and I’m happy to serve as a reference and help with interview prep.”

    I was able to read between the lines that I was considered over-qualified for my current position, but they would not be giving me the promotion now or anytime soon. It stung, but it was a kindness; and it was the wake up call needed for me to find greener pastures elsewhere.

  54. Person from the Resume*

    Is 2 weeks vacation excessive? Eh, I wouldn’t say “excessive,” but two weeks or more of being out of the office is in my experience on the unusually long end. I notice it. That’s quite a long vacation in a single go. In my experience, I’d say 95% of time out of office off is taken in shorter chunks than 2 weeks (this includes all those 1-2 days making for a long weekend).

    I know people tend to take these kinds of long vacation for weddings/honeymoons AND trips overseas where you have a really long or really expensive flight so you’re trying to get the most out of your tim and money. But your boss is being a clueless jerk acting like it never happened when you know of other employees who did do it or that in the past it was only for special events (which I bet would not be written in the employee handbook).

    Since you have the time saved up and you’re allowed, take it and enjoy.

  55. Manchmal*

    I think that LW1 could speak with Sammy offsite and convey the gist of the situation without necessarily breaking any expected confidentiality. I would start by saying that as management you can’t divulge any conversations that were had about her promotion. But has she thought about why her promotions keep getting denied? Ask a series of questions and let your facial expressions clue her in. Just maintain plausible deniability!

  56. Ari*

    LW1: Stop punishing your best employee for working hard! I see this over and over again…it’s happened to me, in fact…and it absolutely stinks. Someone gets hired, does an excellent job, is highly praised by everyone, but instead of being rewarded for with a promotion, they get more work assigned to them without having the additional salary and other benefits that come with a promotion. I can’t stress this enough. Excellent employees will eventually leave if you don’t treat them well.

  57. Just Me*

    #5 I 100% agree that you should bring this up to Jane. I had a similar-but-different situation a few years ago–my boyfriend was hiring at his job and someone we had gone to college with applied. He didn’t know the woman that well in college, but I did…and I told him she would be a dramatic, weird, unprofessional, and not invested in the job. This was based on my interactions with her in college, although on paper I’m sure she looked great. My boyfriend didn’t listen and hired her. Lo and behold, she ended up being dramatic, weird, unprofessional and not invested in the job. Hiring managers are taking a big gamble when they hire someone and any extra feedback about a candidate from someone who knows or has worked with them is invaluable.

  58. ijustworkhere*

    LW #1 I don’t understand why Sammi can’t get a promotion, extra pay, and keep doing what’s she doing? Sounds like her job warrants a reclassification and additional pay. Why is it that we think people have to be promoted into a different role? Why can’t we promote the role itself and acknowledge that the person’s skills and contributions have morphed the role into a higher value for the company?

    1. moonstone*

      I think this company is just being thoughtless. They haven’t tried to think of any options beyond “Sammy needs to continue doing what she is doing or get promoted, nothing in between.”

    2. Person from the Resume*

      #1 Sammy needs to ask for it. Unless her supervisor is willing to go to bat for her (not likely), Sammy needs to ask.

      #2 It will most likely get rejected because “they didn’t budget for pay increases.” Management is trying to cheap out by paying Sammy less than her value. They are trying to get to most for the small amount they pay her and aren’t interested in her best interest or the long term interest of the company which is to promote her and keep her happy and having the rock star perform higher level work.

      1. Aggresuko*

        Nobody cares about “rock stars.” Heck, *I* used to be one, and see how that’s gone :P

        They don’t care. They will use Sammy until she’s gone. Then hire one replacement for 3 jobs for cheaper.

    3. ArtK*

      It could be that there’s no higher level on the “individual contributor” track. In fact, there may only be one promotion track. As a technical person, I’ve seen that many times; the only way to get promoted after a certain point is to go into management.

      1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        We know there is a promotion track from there, because the LW tells us that management gave that promotion to someone less qualified who hadn’t been there as long. LW also tells us the people making that decision explicitly said that Sammy was too valuable in the lower position to be promoted..

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      It does seem like a smart middle ground to at least attempt to keep her would be to increase her pay and title for her current role at least if they don’t want to move her to the other job. But they are clearly not trying to make smart decisions I guess.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        (Also beginning to increase the cost for that role now would allow them to potentially get the budget to hire multiple people for that role when it will clearly be needed at some point in the future)

    5. Aggresuko*

      That sort of thing never works at my office, unfortunately. Reclassing is an excruciating process that HR (and my union) resists.

  59. Fully Licensed Llama Groomer*

    Having been in Sammy’s position, I really wish someone had just told me that I would never get promoted no matter what I did. However, if LW1 can’t actually say those words, they could just tell Sammy, “I’m sorry that this hasn’t worked out for you here. However, whatever you decide to do, feel free to put me down as a reference if you need one.” Sammy will figure out what to do from there.

    1. Oakwood*

      This is good advice as long has he emphasizes she is a good employee.

      High achievers often underrate themselves and poor performers often overrate their ability.

  60. BeenThatDoneThere*

    As to poster #5, is there anything you can do to make sure Kara doesn’t get the job? If she is only a finalist, are there people you can talk to and give them examples of her incompetence, and try to make sure she doesn’t get hired? If she does, yes, you can certainly go to HR and ask to have a different manager. In today’s hyper-competitive employment space, employees have a lot of leverage.

    But before you do that, I’d see if I could try to keep her from getting hired in the first place. If you don’t feel comfortable doing it directly, maybe send HR an anonymous email about Kara’s incompetence (if it can’t be traced back to you)? See if you can burn Kara first before you have to move on to option #2 and find a way around being managed by her.

  61. El l*

    Look, LW1: Most industries are small worlds. Unless yours somehow isn’t, the long term play is:

    Bet on Sammy more than betting on your company. Build your relationship with her. Someday, in some unexpected circumstance, you may need her, and she is somebody who makes things happen. Your company by contrast is shortsighted.

    As for how you do it: I’d take her out for a drink. You can’t give her the play-by-play of the meeting, but just leave the message at: “You’re not moving up to the next level here, and it’s not because you don’t deserve it. Please don’t ask me how I know because I can’t tell you, but I am 100% certain on that. You’re destined to move up, but not here. Polish your resume and schedule some interviews…Keep in touch.” And after she leaves, consider how much longer you want to stay.

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      It would be quite easy to point out that two folks, the LW and the newest one, both got promoted while she was not.

      1. El l*

        Yeah, worth mentioning. Can’t give her concrete evidence, but this is more than just your say-so

  62. moonstone*

    #1: This happens a lot more often than people are willing to admit. I think some jobs just need to be upfront about the fact that some jobs may not have built in promotions but include merit salary increases on top of COL increases. What makes it frustrating is that companies promise promotions as a retention incentive but then get so dependent on good employees they don’t promote them.

  63. C in the Hood*

    OP1 – it’s really presumptuous of your company to assume that Sammy’s just going to stick around forever because they want her to. She’s eventually going to wise up & quit, and they’ll have to have several people to replace her anyway.

    The smart thing for them to do is start training people now to do all the things that Sammy’s doing and get her that promotion. Think about it: if she’s that great at where she is now, she could be an outstanding & beneficial higher-up!

    I’m so mad at this company.

    1. TiredAmoeba*

      I’ve had this happen to me years ago. I wanted to get promoted and I went out of my way to learn other people’s jobs. Every time a promotion came up, someone else got it and I was expected to help train them in the things they didn’t know. Several times, I would get a minor write up just before the job was posted so I wasn’t even eligible to apply. (My most memorable write up was dressing too nicely, my attire might make customers think I was a manager, rather than a floor associate.) Finally someone let it slip that they didn’t want to promote me because I was doing my job, plus supporting several other departments and doing some of their managers jobs every shift for basically the lowest wages they could pay and a lot of managers would have to do a lot more work if I was gone. I wish I could say I left, but I worked there a few more years.

  64. Purple Cat*

    LW1 – yes. You don’t have to tell her specifically that it was discussed in your meeting, but you do need to “clearly point out” that given the track record of her NOT getting a promotion, that it really seems unlikely and she should start thinking about herself.

    LW2 – It shouldn’t be, but given how frowned upon it is for us to ACTUALLY use our vacation time, it’s definitely outside the norm. I can’t believe a boss would actually attempt to say no and claim “it’s policy” though.

  65. TiredAmoeba*

    Vacation LW: A two week vacation isn’t excessive normally, but is it unusual for your org? I just took three weeks off and other than making sure I have the leave time available, my boss didn’t even blink or ask what the time was for. As it should be.

  66. J*

    LW#1: I was really grateful when a past colleague of mine gave me the heads up. It was delivered in a very empathetic and supportive way.

    “I can’t imagine how disappointed you must be. I know you’ve worked really hard and you are a huge asset to our team. I would gladly be a reference for you if you decide it would be better for your career to look for roles elsewhere.”

  67. Inigo Montoya.*

    As her manager, you sometimes need to fight for the members of your team. In the promotion meeting, you could have pointed out that the company was likely to lose her in that role in either case. Either she gets promoted (in which case her knowledge stays with the company and she trains / supervises her replacement(s)), or she will likely start looking elsewhere to improve her salary / career. Since it is too late for that, do you have any traction with upper management to create a custom, higher level role for Sammy, with a commensurate salary increase?

    In terms of what you can say to Sammy now: “I get your disappointment in not getting the promotion. It would be completely understandable if you felt that your best career move was to look elsewhere for another position. I would be sad to see you go, and it would be a big loss for the company, but I would be willing to provide an excellent reference.”

  68. I am a Sammi*

    They will lose Sammi anyways. I’m a Sammi. It took a while, way too long. But I eventually quit, started my own company, and now compete with my old one. And my old company is losing ground to me.

  69. The Castle is Captured*

    Re #1: my spouse is Sammy right now. His manager LOVES him exactly where he is. He relies very heavily on spouse and doesn’t have to worry about that department at all. Spouse just wants to grow and take on new projects.

    He talked to his manager last fall about applying for a senior director position but the manager said he’d need to be a director first. Then immediately afterwards, the manager HIRED a new director and didn’t even tell my spouse it was an open position. Spouse immediately started job searching, and is expecting an offer today. He doesn’t even need more money – just wants to match his current salary and benefits. It’s about opportunity and intellectual curiosity.

    He’s got 15-20 years left in the workforce and doesn’t want to be bored every day. His current organization could easily have kept him for the next 20 years if they just let him grow.

  70. Observer*

    OP, I want to echo everyone who is saying TELL HER SOMETHING. You don’t have to be specific about the information in the meeting. And, you probably shouldn’t, for your own protection. But finding a few minutes to have a discreet conversation with her outside of work where you lay out that you don’t think it’s an accident that she’s been passed over, and that you think that’s just not going to change would be the right thing to do.

    But it’s also something you should for yourself. For one thing, you do NOT want to become the kind of person who “goes along to get along” even when the behavior is shady as all get out. For another, there is very little doubt that your company is not committed to treating people well of fairly. You can be sure that the moment they think they can get more out of you by denying you opportunity, they will. If you wind up doing REALLY good stuff, instead of being reasonably good, they are going to hold you back the same way they are doing to Sammy. So, you want to improve your ability to leave your job when (not if) things stall out. Helping someone out is always useful that way.

    That’s cynical, and I hope that you help her because it’s the right thing to do. But knowing that it’s also a practical thing to do can’t hurt.

  71. WorkingMom*

    LW #2: Since you have already checked the policy, I would go back to the manager and ask them if there are any specific reasons why they won’t approve your vacation. I assume that the supervisor must approve vacation requests to ensure proper staffing. Are others on your team out at the same time? Is there an important project that is scheduled to go live during the time you are requesting? Are you giving sufficient notice? I can see many valid reasons for denying an employee’s vacation request…. but “two weeks seems excessive to me” is not one of them. If the supervisor cannot articulate a reason why they will not approve your two weeks off, I would then go to HR.

    We actually have a policy that states that each employee must take at least one week off all at once, you cannot take all your vacation in 1-2 day increments. (This is in the US.)

  72. I should really pick a name*

    LW1, another way that your company is awful is that Sammy discovered she didn’t get the job when the email blast about Peggy was sent out. She should have been informed directly.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yes, it’s definitely normal to have a meeting with internal candidates who aren’t getting a role and tell them privately first before making the announcement! That would have been the literal least they could do for this woman they are totally screwing over.

  73. TiredAmoeba*

    I’ve had this happen to me years ago. I wanted to get promoted and I went out of my way to learn other people’s jobs. Every time a promotion came up, someone else got it and I was expected to help train them in the things they didn’t know. Several times, I would get a minor write up just before the job was posted so I wasn’t even eligible to apply. (My most memorable write up was dressing too nicely, my attire might make customers think I was a manager, rather than a floor associate.) Finally someone let it slip that they didn’t want to promote me because I was doing my job, plus supporting several other departments and doing some of their managers jobs every shift for basically the lowest wages they could pay and a lot of managers would have to do a lot more work if I was gone. I wish I could say I left, but I worked there a few more years.

    1. Other Alice*

      The Internet loves a tale of a dramatic fallout but the reality is that sometimes people are stuck in terrible jobs for all sorts of reasons. Mortgages, bills, maybe the job is toxic but offers much needed flexibility. I hope in this case Sammy has other options and needs just a nudge to start looking elsewhere.

  74. Woah*

    Also, exception only for weddings/honeymoons would be so ridiculous and discriminatory (though likely legal). It would be such a crappy policy.

  75. BlueBelle*

    #1 you need to be advocating for her. This is unfair and how mediocre people fall up while the high performers are being forced out. This is bad for everyone involved and I don’t care if I was a leader or not, if I was included in the conversation it means I have some level of influence, and I would use every ounce of that influence to try and change this practice.

  76. I wonder...*

    I would love an update. I feel like at this point Sammy is going to connect the dots and leave sooner than later. I’m so curious as to how your company will handle this. I hope, even if indirectly, you tell them I told you so. In the meantime please keep being as supportive a mentor / sticking up for Sammy as you can be.

  77. Delta Delta*

    #5 – While I don’t disagree with the advice to talk to Jane, it stands out to me that the experience between LW and Kara was many years ago. Kara may still dislike LW or may have continued discriminatory views. But she also may have grown as an employee and a manager. She might not even remember LW and why she wasn’t offered a position, or may have an entirely different reason all together. I don’t doubt that LW had a bad interaction with Kara. I think, though, that any discussion with Jane ought to also take a larger view that time has passed and both LW and Kara are in different places than they were many years ago.

    1. Karia*

      This wasn’t a personality clash. Kara abused her authority in order to discriminate against a vulnerable and powerless intern. I don’t think she deserves the benefit of the doubt.

  78. El l*

    I think your best card to play when starting with Jane is, “I saw Kara is up for consideration for an executive position. I’ve seen her in action. My concerns are that I’m not sure about her judgment – she badly misjudged me – and whether she’s a great cultural fit. [Story]” Managers would love to hear personal experience of a job candidate and frankly I think you can do better than just ask that she not be your manager – you can ask that she not work with you again.

    And if Jane sounds skeptical and in love with hiring Kara, then you can say, “I have reason to believe she has a personal dislike for me.”

  79. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

    Re: #3

    Okay, so I agree with this in almost all situations, but I recently had to forward on an email from the head of my department where she had accidentally typed “shat” instead of “shut” and I definitely fixed it before sending it on. And yes, I still giggle like a 12 year old whenever I think of it, and yes, I only shared that here because I’m still tickled by the typo.

  80. just a thought*

    LW #1
    I worked for a long time in a place like this. I wasn’t Sammy, but someone that worked with a Sammy and was learning from her. When I saw how Sammy was treated and continually passed over, I left. A lot of good people that had options left or are working to leave. We were all so sick of seeing people that work hard get more work with no rewards and people that were terrible promoted up and out.

    With this type of system, you’re not just going to lose Sammy. You’re going to lose a lot of good people that work hard and want to grow.

  81. just a thought*

    LW #1
    I worked in a place like this. I wasn’t Sammy, but someone that worked with a Sammy and was learning from her. When I saw how Sammy was treated and continually passed over, I left. A lot of good people that had options left or are working to leave. We were all so sick of seeing people that work hard get more work with no rewards and people that were terrible promoted up and out.

    With this type of system, you’re not just going to lose Sammy. You’re going to lose a lot of good people that work hard and want to grow.

  82. TG*

    I really like you LW #1 – without sharing anything you shouldn’t I’d tell her. This is ridiculous she is getting passed over for less qualified people because she’s amazing in her current role and they’d need three people to fill her shoes – how backwards is that? Give her a glowing recommendation and encourage her to apply for much more senior positions and hopefully she scores a fantastic job at a company that wants to grow her!

  83. Old-Lady*

    LW1: I have been Sammy twice and I have been Sammy’s supervisor twice.
    I was so depressed the first time I was Sammy, that I started to doubt my skills and seriously burned out. What did these other guys have that I didn’t have? Maybe it’s like this everywhere?
    It does a real mind-F.
    And people do ask why you why you stayed so long and why didn’t you get promoted when you go for interviews?
    Usually stuff like this is systemic. Nepotism, old boys club, cheap and short sightedness are usually systemic.
    They really didn’t care if I had problems paying my bills, that working 70+ and being 7/24 on call was jacking up my family life and that I was physically and mentally wearing out.
    When I left the first job that did this to me, they first split my work between 6 employees but eventually replaced me with 3 fulltime people.
    Oh and wanted me to come back and train my replacements. When I quoted them my consultant fee, they acted offended that I wanted to be paid to train my replacements after I no longer worked for them.
    So the sooner Sammy goes after realizing that they are screwed there, the better not just for her.

    When I have been Sammy’s supervisor and I realized that they were not going to get the raise, promotion, job advancement that they wanted and that nothing I did was going to help them here. I did what I had wished that supervisors and managers who swore that they “loved me” would have done.
    1. I told them that in some companies, to be appreciated $$$ you needed to first leave and get money/experience somewhere else and then come back. New faces just seem to get more opportunities.
    2. I told them I would write al letter of recommendation.
    3. I started looking for another job myself. Nepotism, old boys club, cheap and short sightedness are usually systemic.

    It’s a small world.
    You get a rep as a jerk and other people start asking AM how to keep from working with you at the next ORG.

  84. VP of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*

    Re: #1…

    [She is so incredibly good that she has saved us thousands by catching errors, even mine. But upper management blocked her promotion. Why? Because they would have to hire two to three more people to cover what she does, and they didn’t budget for that. They need her “where she is” because she’s so good at what she does…..

    But I’m afraid to lose someone like her because I need her where she is too. I will definitely suffer along with everyone else if she up and quit, which she absolutely should.]

    Your fear of losing her has already caused you to lose her. She WILL up and quit, and then upper management WILL have to hire two to three more people to cover what she does. Since your superiors won’t give her either a promotion or a raise, a competitor WILL give her both.

  85. Mrs Fillmore*

    #5 – writing in agreement of all the suggestions to bring up the past experience with Kara, but adding a caveat about timing. The letter writer mentions seeing that Kara was a finalist for the position while in the hiring system for an unrelated reason. To the letter writer, if your employer’s hiring system is set up so poorly that, without taking any initiative to do so, you saw the list of final candidates for an exec role while doing other unrelated work in the hiring system, then I agree that you should raise the concern now. It’s possible that this is the case, and my next comment is moot! From my experience though, that scenario is unusual. If you took any initiative to see the list of finalists without being asked to do so, I’d recommend more caution. If you go ahead now, be prepared for questions about why you accessed the information in the system, and about your own judgement for doing so. It’s possible that your employer will not hire Kara, but if they do there is still an opportunity to raise these concerns to Jane before Kara starts and is assigned to be your manager.

  86. B.*

    As a manager, I have to make sure that vacation coverage is in place before I approve a greater-than-five-consecutive-days vacation. This is harder to do than it used to be with current staffing levels in the era of the great resignation. This has always been required of me. My authority is limited. I wonder if this might also be the case for the situation the letter writer is in.

    1. VP of Monitoring Employees’ LinkedIn and Indeed Profiles*

      What happens in late December when there are less than two weeks remaining in the year but some employees still have more than two weeks of PTO to get rid of because their leave requests were denied? Forcing people to forfeit their PTO just because the office is short-staffed (“You should have thought about such things before Sally and Fergus quit”) will just lead to more short-staffing problems.

    2. Observer*

      If that’s the problem the boss should just say so. Trying to claim that 2 weeks is inherently problematic and is “not normal” to cover for his inability to plan is, at best, dishonest.

  87. Becky*

    LW #2
    I started at my current company in 2013 and have made a point every year to take at least one 2 week vacation. The day I started work, I let my boss know I already had a vacation booked 4 months down the road which was 2 weeks long. His response “yeah that should be fine” and it was. For the past 8 years I have done the same. I usually let my boss know well in advance–and I do send out a status update for all my projects to those who need to be in the loop while I am gone.

    Last August, I transitioned to a different role that involves a lot more client interaction–I have already talked to my new boss and let her know I was likely going to be planning a 2 week vacation in the fall. She said that was fine, and to keep her updated. My roommate and I this weekend pinned down what we want to do and when so in my next one on one I’ll let her know.

    Right now both she and I are annoyed at a hiring freeze that is preventing us from back-filling a position that would provide coverage while I am on vacation–so I am hoping she can use this information to further pressure higher-ups (because a hiring freeze for a client-facing position with no redundancy currently is unsustainable–she knows it and thinks the freeze on the position is stupid in the first place). My vacation is in 6 months which should give plenty of time to train the person we already know we want to hire.

    We need to normalize taking 2 week vacations and we need to normalize disconnecting completely while on vacation. Most of these 2 week vacations I have been on have been to areas where I don’t have connectivity. Last year I went to Costa Rica for 2 weeks, in 2020 I took 2 weeks to go to Yellow Stone and Glacier National Park, in 2019 I took a Mediterranean Cruise. Even if I wanted to work, I couldn’t because I wouldn’t be able to do 2FA because I don’t have reception on my US cell number when in any of those places.

    Even if you can’t go to some exotic destination, even if it is just a staycation–we need to normalize not being reachable when on vacation.

  88. Karia*

    Re: Kara – ‘liked’ doesn’t really come into it. It sounds like Kara discriminated against you, either via religious beliefs or potentially due to your sexual orientation (wasn’t sure if ‘non traditional’ meant non heterosexual or polyamory?). I’m a little concerned that you lost out on a career opportunity due to this woman’s personal prejudices – and it does seem to be prejudice, given that other senior staff disagreed with her assessment of you.

  89. You know the right thing to do*

    LW1, There’s a plan B. Your company knows Sammy’s value. Sammy doesn’t know that the company knows. You need to tell her to go ask for it (and while she’s at it, she needs to ask for a position 2 level up that she’s qualified for considering the number of times she’s been passed over) in a confident manner and threaten to quit. Coach her mentor her – without breaking any confidences. If you do this, chances are she might get the right role in your company or elsewhere – and she might help with a great transition plan for her role. Good luck! And do the right thing. Do something about this. If you are asking here, you know this is not right. Stop taking advantage of that lady.

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

    What I don’t get about employers like in #1 that won’t employ someone because they’re doing the job of three people at their level: Imagine how much they could accomplish at a higher level. Streamline processes that make everyone 10% more efficient? Find a new business opportunity double or more the size of anything they’ve done before?

  91. Ed Williams*

    #2 Shaprio (HR Confidential, an excellent book) advises readers to avoid taking a vacation of more than one week, and NEVER [emphasis hers] more than two weeks.

    1. pancakes*

      I wasn’t familiar with this book and since it sounds terrible to me, I looked it up. A Publisher’s Weekly reviewer observed, “Though Shapiro’s this-is-war outlook may fit some workplaces, her mercenary advice won’t work for people whose number one job is to get a job that doesn’t require these sacrifices.”

    2. Observer*

      If this is typical of her advice, it is NOT an “excellent” book. And it’s one that I hope no decent manager ever reads.

  92. Lobsterman*

    OP1, start your job search. Eventually, Sammy will quit, one way or another, and you’ll be scapegoated. Better to leave before then with your head high.

  93. Pink Geek*

    LW1: This is incredibly short sighted. The organization could have Sammy out performing at a higher level or they can have no Sammy. Sammy is not going to sit and take this. If Sammy is indispensable moves need to be made to keep her!

  94. What Would I Say I Do Here*

    LW #4 — please don’t use “helped” or “collaborated” or similarly murky language ! When looking over resumes, my team and I get so frustrated by these vague bullet points for the reasons AG outlined in her response. Say what you actually did, and what the impact was, even if the impact was small. Otherwise, you risk people assuming you mean “I was in the same room as the people who carried out this project or accomplished this task”.

    Some examples, in case it’s helpful: instead of “helped review design drawings before beginning production,” try “reviewed design drawings for manufacturability and ease of assembly”. Instead of “collaborated across multifunctional teams for (XYZ) test campaign,” try “designed GSE and tooling to assemble test fixture for (XYZ) test campaign, which permitted us to test (with an inert gas) instead of (with water).” Or instead of “participated in critical pre-ship reviews”, try “prepared As-Designed / As-Built and tracked down calibrated equipment traceability information for review and buyoff by Quality, Design, Manufacturing, etc.”

  95. Database Developer Dude*

    Let’s call OP#1 Cat. Cat should look for a new job now. Once she’s got it, she should tell Sam everything. If upper management will do it to Sam, they’ll do it to anyone. Confidentiality be damned here, the reason they’re not promoting her is the very reason they’re requiring confidentiality. They’re hiding their bullshit. If what they were doing was above board, they wouldn’t NEED to hide it.

  96. BB*

    OP#1 – Effective teams with loyal, hardworking employees are invariably built on trust. People need to trust each other and know that the organization will help them and protect them. This is a necessary precondition for being an effective, high-performing organization. The opposite is also true. Organizations that don’t care for their employees, maliciously exploit them, and violate their trust will never reach their best performance.

    This organization will continue to be mediocre AT BEST as long as the unethical leadership continues.

  97. Hosta*

    LW 1:

    There’s a great book, “How Women Rise” that actually covers situations very similar to Sammy’s. You might want to recommend it to her. It talks about situations where a high performer is skipped for promotion and it talks about the trap of making yourself indispensable.

    LW 3:

    You should definitely bring it up, especially since you don’t want to be managed by her. I wouldn’t necessarily try to ruin her candidacy, just make it clear what you experienced, anything particularly damning that she said, and how you felt. I’d leave out “she was fired for mismanagement” because I think gossip lowers your credibility. A good manager will take your feedback into account. One phrase I’ve used with success is “based on our time working together I’m not sure would be successful on a team as diverse as this one.” Or “based on what I saw I think would struggle to manage a team with as many different backgrounds as we have here.”

  98. Luna*

    #1 sounds similar to a story I read elsewhere, where an employee was just that good and ‘needed’ in the job position they were in, that they were practically told in-so-many-words that there is no chance that they would get a promotion. And budget was claimed to be the reason they wouldn’t get a raise for the position they are in, to show how valuable (and appreciated) they are for their good and vital work.

    When said employee realized that they had no chance to improve beyond where they were, they left the job.
    They practically walked out and found a job somewhere else, somewhere, where the chance of improvement and furthering still existed.
    I believe the overall saying is, “If people cannot move up, they will move on”?
    The company may need Sammy.
    Sammy does not need the company.

    #3 should leave the emails untouched. If these were emails to go out to clients or otherwise be seen by the public outside of the company, I would say that proofreading and overall correcting minor things like typos is important — a badly written statement about the company can look bad (if not unprofessional) and do more harm than good. But if it’s more internal stuff (and your job really is to just forward the email to others), leave it.

  99. River*

    1. I was in a similar situation like this one recently. Someone I used to manage (let’s call him Ken) got promoted and moved to another department in my organization. We still kept in touch and eventually would get together outside of work once in a blue moon for drinks or an after-work dinner. When you get together with people that you work with outside of the workplace, you know you’re more than just workplace acquaintances to where you can have a less than PG conversation about work.
    Well one day, there was an opening for a different position within the organization that Ken applied for but didn’t get it. After a few weeks, I had a casual “any plans this weekend?” chat with the hiring manager of that position that Ken didn’t get and after a a few moments, the manager went on to the topic of how glad she was to have hired the person she selected even though there were a few internal candidates. (Ken was one of them but I knew that). She mentioned that although Ken is smart, good at what he does, she said she would never hire him because of his flareups with his attitude. Let’s just say Ken can be a little too honest about everything and you know when he’s in a bad mood. Ken isn’t that good at hiding it. So this hiring manager is aware of how his behavior can flare up. I’ve seen it myself. Ken doesn’t swear or get physical or violent, he just gets loud and gripes about whatever he’s dealing with even when people tell him it’s not a big deal and not to stress.
    So now that this information was revealed to me, I didn’t say anything to Ken or anyone because as a manager myself, I felt the obligation to keep this information in confidence in a professional way. She wouldn’t have disclosed this information to me if she knew I was going to gossip or spill the beans on it. She even knew that I would get together outside of work with Ken so she told me this even after she knew that both Ken and I are more than just work acquaintances. I felt trusted to the highest degree at that moment.
    So I have been living with this secretive information that Ken will never be promoted. Two years later, I haven’t mentioned it to Ken yet, though he doesn’t work for the organization anymore. He came to his own conclusion that he won’t be moving up anytime soon so why wait when he could find a new gig elsewhere. So at least he’s making more money and working more hours at his new job nowadays but I don’t know if I’ll ever mention that tidbit to Ken, even though he’s not in my organization anymore. He may not even care at this point. Then again he could benefit from knowing so he doesn’t flare up at his current job and tarnish his reputation if he hasn’t yet. Ethical dilemmas yes…..

  100. Amy*

    There’s a woman in my company who would regularly take 4 weeks of vacation every winter to visit a family member in Florida (we’re in the chilly Northeast). With enough notice so that coverage can be planned, 2 weeks doesn’t seem unreasonable at all.

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