my new employee is getting bad advice from my older employee

A reader writes:

I have a question about a team of people that I am managing. I recently got moved to a new department after their manager was let go. In general, my job involves managing a small (but growing) team of people and delegating work to make sure that our organization is reaching its goals and internal processes are being improved/done efficiently.

I am onboarding a new employee, Kate, who I feel has the potential to do a great job within the organization. She has a positive and upbeat attitude and is generally very responsive to feedback. The problem is, she keeps getting advice from an older employee who seems pretty close to being fired or at least moved in her role (Linda) and I am struggling to think of a diplomatic way to tell her that she needs to get her advice from different people. I have set up trainings between Kate and other employees and offered to train her on things myself, and have tried to make it clear to her and the other members of our team what my expectations are for their work. Linda has been been sent to a lot of trainings alongside Kate, with the intention of showing her (Linda) what the actual expectations of her role are. Linda has been told this, but seemingly views these trainings as, “I am being let in on these meetings as a formality or to offer my perspective.”

Kate is now showing some similar behaviors to Linda, and occasionally takes a lack of ownership for making mistakes or for what would generally be regarded as her own slip-up. When I think about why this could be happening, it could be (1) that Linda has been here a long time, and so people sometimes mistakenly think that the way she behaves/works is the acceptable norm within our workplace (it is not, and she stands out in a negative way) and/or (2) poor judgment from Kate, who I think should know better. A lot of Linda’s advice is along the lines of, “Just keep trying, it’ll be fine, they’ll back off eventually, just stand your ground and don’t let it get to you,” which … no. The last employee who kept going to Linda for advice was let go, for things that I view both as their own fault as well as Linda’s fault for offering poor advice to someone who genuinely didn’t know better.

I understand Kate’s desire to work with people on her level and not have her manager over her shoulder all the time. At the same time, I feel the need to be clear about my expectations for the team going forward, and part of this includes that Kate needs to get the final say from me and not from an employee who is notably underperforming. For Linda, I want to make it clear that even if she got away with things in the past, some of her work is not acceptable and isn’t going to be tolerated going forward. I want to intervene and hopefully prevent anyone from getting fired without being given the chance to work properly.

Any advice on how to manage the Kate’s behavior, as well as Linda’s, who I think is misunderstanding/overstepping her role?

You’re going to have to be a lot more direct with both of them.

It’s not fair to hint to Kate and expect her to read between the lines; things like setting up trainings for her with other people or offering to train her yourself aren’t sending clear enough messages. You’re going to need to say something like, “As you’re learning your role, please don’t consult with Linda; I’ve found the guidance she’s giving you isn’t accurate. That’s something I’ll talk to her about separately, but from now on please talk with Jane, Cecil, or me when you have questions.” You might add, “If you’re finding we aren’t accessible enough when you need us, please let me know that so I can make sure you get what you need.” (Because who knows, part of Linda’s appeal may be that she’s always around and willing, whereas other people are busier.)

Make sure, too, that you’re giving Kate enough coaching. Her mistakes may or may not be the result of Linda’s influence — but she’s making them, and you should coach her as closely as you think will be needed to course-correct whatever’s leading her there.

And then you’ve got to have a clearer conversation with Linda too — most importantly because as her manager you owe her a frank assessment of her performance, but also because you really don’t want your conversation with Kate to get back to Linda without Linda already having heard from you that you have serious concerns with her work. The conversation with Linda needs to be explicit that you have serious concerns with her work. Provide clear specifics of what she needs to do differently, and be up-front that your concerns are serious enough that her job will be in jeopardy if you don’t see significant and sustained changes. It sounds like you also need to tell her that you are sending her to those trainings in the hopes of improving her performance, not so that she can simply offer her perspective to others who are there.

When you know someone is close to being fired, they deserve to know that too.

If Linda bristles because this is different from how she’s been managed in the past, you can say, “I can’t speak to how the team was managed before I got here. But I can tell you what the needs of your role are now — which are XYZ.”

I’m torn on whether you need to tell Linda to stop offering guidance to Kate. The most important thing there is that Kate knows not to take guidance from Linda, even if it’s offered. But there’s potentially value in saying to Linda, “I appreciate the efforts you’ve been making to mentor Kate, but while you and I are working on your own performance, I’d like Kate to get her guidance from Cecil and me instead.” It’s not strictly necessary, but it might nudge Linda toward realizing where her focus needs to be. On the other hand, if it’s important to her to see herself as the experienced old-timer doling out advice for newcomers, this risks blowing up her self-image in a way that could make this all more contentious. So that part is a judgment call based on what you know of Linda and the dynamics on your team.

{ 224 comments… read them below }

  1. Manchmal*

    It seems really unfair to Linda to send her to trainings but not explain that she’s going because she’s doing things wrong. It is unkind to let her labor under the impression that she’s going to those trainings to add her two cents when the opposite is true. There seems to be much unnecessary pussyfooting in this letter! And I think there is a way of warning Kate off without giving too much detail about Linda’s shortcomings. Something like, “Kate we want you to have the best possible training and mentorship. When you have questions, come to me or X person. We’re working with Linda on some performance issues, so she’s a less-than-optimum source of information.”

    1. Anonys*

      to be fair OP does say ” Linda has been told this” with regards to why she is actually going to the trainings. It might be that OP wasnt in fact straightforward enough when explaining to Linda why she has to do trainings, but it might also just be that Linda is willfully misinterpreting or just portraying her attendance differently to coworkers to save face.

      I don’t know it it’s wise to spell out to Kate directly that Linda has performance issues. Stuff like that should be handles more privately between the employee with the issue and the manager. I think Allisons wording about Linda’s advice not being accurate is better suited to the situation and provides the facts Kate needs.

      1. Fran Fine*

        + 1 to your last paragraph

        Please do not mention Linda’s performance issues with Kate, OP.

      2. chewingle*

        That last paragraph is what I get the impression is going on in OP’s head. I can see where they would wonder, “Is it mentoring or is it shit-talking an employee if I say this to Kate?” I would totally wonder the same thing, because it does ride the line. Honestly, I’m completely stumped here and will be monitoring this post….

    2. Kevin Sours*

      While correcting Linda’s misapprehensions more bluntly is definitely in order, I would not assume that it was not explained to her at least once.

    3. Maybe Try Communicating*

      99% of this blog is “you should probably speak to this directly” – and this is no exception.

    4. OP*

      Linda has been informed that this is why she’s in she’s in the new trainings. As in, “I understand the process was in the past way, but I would like you to attend to learn about the new process that we are implementing.”

      Personally, I don’t think it’s appropriate to share that an employee is having performance issues with any staff who aren’t managers. I have made it clear to Kate that because we are making so many changes, a lot of what Linda is sharing doesn’t apply and that is why we are looping both into the training. But you are correct in that it didn’t stop until that conversation happened.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        I can see how that wasn’t clear enough for Linda understand. Telling her it’s about implementing a new process doesn’t give her the indication that there are performance concerns. If my manager told me “hey Grumpy, we’re launching a new process and want you to go to training,” I wouldn’t assume there were any concerns about my performance. Just that there were changes and that we all need to learn about them.

      2. Adereterial*

        If she’s close to being fired, this is so far away from being the right way to tell her why she’s being sent on training as it’s possible to get.

        You’re sending her because she’s making mistakes, in what appears to be a close-to-last-ditch to bring her performance up to an acceptable level. You’re not sending her to ‘learn a new process’ at all.

        You need to be far, far more blunt with her than that. You need to tell her honestly why she’s going. Stop tiptoeing around it and tell her!

        1. OP*

          She seemed close to being fired when I was brought on. For clarification, this was sent a couple of weeks after I was brought in and this was the impression I got from senior management and the past reviews that I have looked at since becoming her manager.

          In these cases, these literally were new processes that she just had to learn for the first time. For example, a report that was made a decade ago was finally updated so she had to learn how to update the new report. These were old contracts/forms, these are the new ones and here is how to fill it out. And then it required a lot of follow-up of, “I know that you like using the old ones but we are no longer using them as an organization. Please use the updated forms.”

          I agree that I need to be more blunt in my communication with my team going forward.

          1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

            Definitely need to be more blunt. Even what you just said here about the new forms seems too soft. Don’t say “I know you like this but pretty please do this instead”. It should be more like “starting today you have to use the new forms. There will be training on it next week” or whatever.

          2. chewingle*

            OP — do you happen to know why the last person Linda mentored was let go when Linda was not also let go? Just stuck out as a bit odd and would love clarification.

      3. Anonym*

        I think your guidance to Kate as stated in this comment is very clear. If I was told that, I’d understand that Linda doesn’t have the expertise for me to rely on, and would probably low key file it as “Linda might be full of crap, TBD but be on the lookout.”

      4. e271828*

        “I understand the process was in the past way, but I would like you to attend to learn about the new process that we are implementing.”

        This is a very deferential way of telling someone to stop using the old forms and process and to use only the new ones. If your language to Linda has been this softened and indirect, you need to shift to telling rather than indicating, suggesting, advising, or requesting sweetly.

      5. This is Artemesia*

        Why is Linda an experienced old timer in the same onboarding training as Kate? It is humiliating to her and begs to have her invent a face saving reason for it. A person who needs remedial training should not be in onboarding with new hires. She needs to be managed separately.

        1. OP*

          A lot of what Linda had told me when I moved into this department was surrounding not knowing how to use new documents or internal processes that are the norm in other departments. Most of the training is centered around “I know this isn’t how you’ve done things in the past, but this is how we do things now.” She was in these trainings with other tenured employees who also needed to be caught up. Her performance issues were managed in separate meetings.

          Very onboarding training is a self-guided module that the new employees do through our HR’s system. It really has nothing to do with these meetings.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            And how much of this is because Linda somehow hasn’t been trained, and how much is Linda not being bothered? Because it doesn’t seem like anyone else is having problems like this…

      6. MsClaw*

        Yeah, I see this sort of thing a lot and I realize it’s kindly meant but it’s one of those situations where it’s ultimately kinder to be blunt. Because it really isn’t ‘I would like you to attend to learn about the new process’. It is ‘you are required to use the new process starting on august 1st; this training is to prepare you for that change’, for example.

        Don’t suggest, don’t hint, *tell*. Yes, she may not like it. She may bristle. But if you don’t lay it out clearly then she can factually say ‘well, you never actually *said* I had to do it this way.’ Don’t leave that option out there.

    5. pancakes*

      “It is unkind to let her labor under the impression that she’s going to those trainings to add her two cents when the opposite is true.”

      It to be addressed, yes, but Linda seems to have made up that aspect on her own, and contrary to what she was told. It doesn’t appear that anyone actually said or suggested Linda was meant to be there as an observer instead of a participant. To the contrary, look at that part of the letter again: “Linda has been told this . . .”

      1. This is Artemesia*

        How else is she to explain to peers why she is doing on boarding training this far into her tenure?

        1. pancakes*

          She could say she wanted a refresher, or any other number of things besides a silly lie.

      2. OP*

        I agree with This is Artemesia that this was probably Linda’s way of saving face in these meetings. There were other tenured employees in these meetings, but it could have come across as humiliating/condescending for a new (in their eyes) team member to come in and tell them how to do their job.

        There are team members leading these trainings, so it was not appropriate for Linda to be interjecting with inaccurate advice (e.g., “That part of the report is optional,” “XYZ report requires you to do X,” “Don’t worry about sending ABC to clients”). I’ve come to realize that as long as you pull her in to ask for her feedback on stuff she truly knows about, the irrelevant comments really lessen.

        1. Deanna Troi*

          I would also tell her that when she was in the training, she gave inaccurate advice, list them for her as you have done here, and tell her to stop contributing information about the old process during the trainings. It needs to be said flat out to her that she is being sent to the trainings because she is doing things incorrectly (not just that the process has changed), and that she must stop providing her opinion during the trainings.

        2. pancakes*

          It sounds like the training did more harm than good, if she was giving everyone present incorrect information. I don’t come from a culture where saving face is considered to outweigh every other need in a social interaction, and it doesn’t seem entirely appropriate to worry about how she feels about having to have additional training if she truly needs it. If she finds it embarrassing to not be performing well at work, I think she should be putting energy into that rather than in trying to conceal it from her coworkers, or trying to depict herself as the person who’s there to train the rest of them. That seems to go beyond the idea of what I think of as “saving face” and into delusion. It’s not just a little spin on the situation, it’s a total misrepresentation of it.

          1. OP*

            From the team members who have led the trainings, it does seem like they don’t feel comfortable interjecting with a firm answer. If I’m in the meeting as well they will turn and say, “OP, is that correct or is that something we’ve changed?” I’m not sure how they redirect these comments when I am not present, but I think it brings up a point that I should plan on sitting in on more informational meetings where Linda is present to make sure that this is not still happening.

            1. pancakes*

              Ohhhh, that is not good! It sounds like you’re on the right track in terms of trying to turn things around with this team, but that is pretty weird behavior and I don’t know what to make of it. I’m inclined to think there’s been too much face-saving going on around Linda if no one is even comfortable disagreeing with her on factual questions about how things are done. Good luck with all this!

              1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                They may have had run-ins with Linda insisting her way is right, so needed to have the boss back them up.

        3. CM*

          If she’s interjecting during the actual training with incorrect advice, the team members leading the training need to stop and say, “No, that’s not correct. This part of the report is not optional. You need to complete it.” Every time, regardless of Linda’s ego. I understand this can be awkward in the moment, but if you expect it to happen, then you can train the trainers to handle this situation.

          1. calonkat*

            I think sometimes a balance has to be struck between making sure things are accurate and getting the meeting/training finished. Sometimes “I’m not sure that’s correct, but I’ll check into that, thank you for bringing it up” is the only way to get through to the finish.

    6. fhqwhgads*

      Sounds like Linda has been told she’s going to trainings because she’s doing things wrong, but she’s too full of herself to believe it.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Sounds to me like a combination of too soft initial delivery and way, way too much confidence on Linda’s part. From follow up comments it sounds like OP is getting firmer with Linda about what needs to change though.

  2. Escapee from Corporate Management*

    OP, please follow-through on Alison’s advice. You seem to be trying to be nice. That’s not your job as a manager. You need to tell both Kate and Linda how they are doing with great clarity. You may hurt some feelings and make someone feel bad. That, unfortunately, what you need to do.

    1. ducki3x*

      It was interesting reading this letter, because until the last paragraph, I had assumed Linda was someone at the same level as Kate, but on a different team. There was so much uncertainty and kind of hands-off description, I assumed the writer didn’t actually have direct influence over Linda, but then the final paragraph makes it seem like, no, the writer manage both workers. If that’s the case, then absolutely, offer more direction and clarity to both of them.

      1. Heidi*

        The way the OP said that Linda “seems pretty close to being fired” kind of pointed to Linda not being a direct report. If OP was managing Linda directly, I’d think she would know whether Linda was about to be fired.

        If changing their behavior is the only way Kate and Linda can save their jobs, the actual nice thing to do is to make them aware of it while they still have time to improve. Otherwise, they’re just being set up to fail.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          I took it as the LW has just taken over the team and thinks Linda was “pretty close to being fired” by the previous manager but that the information was not passed on to her properly as the previous manager was let go and, understandably, wasn’t in much mood for making things easier for the company by organising a smooth handover.

          1. Fluffyfish*

            This. They are a new manager and still assessing.

            Linda seems close to being fired, but they need to fully evaluate her work as well as her ability to improve – hence the trainings.

            If an employee is terrible but their previous managers never addressed it, it would be cruel and rather unfair to just roll in as a new manager and fire them without giving them a chance. Especially a long tenured employee.

            That said, Alison is as usual spot on that you must make it clear to an employee what they are doing wrong, what they need to do instead and that this is serious enough that unless xyz, termination is the end result.

          2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            This was my impression as well – the former manager never managed Linda, so while it seems like she will probably be fired the OP as the new manager has to do all the formal evaluations and remedial work with Linda first before the firing can happen.

            OP – may I recommend a very blunt conversation with Linda, with everything laid out in writing for her so that there are no misunderstandings? Or at least any misunderstanding is a willful one where the other person is burying their head in the sand.

      2. SweetestCin*

        I’ve re-read the letter four times and I’m still not 100% certain that Linda is managed by the LW.

        In any case, clearer communication is definitely needed here!

        1. OP*

          OP here. Yes, these are two members of a team I’m managing. I sent in this post a couple of weeks after moving into this department because the situation seemed pretty bad. I was actually not able to meet the previous supervisor as she had been let go, which is also why I was pretty easy on the tenured employee as it seems like the team was already in a bad place. And I definitely wasn’t in the place to be firing people at the time.

          I did end up being a lot clearer and firm, especially in my daily communications. But for right now, I have seen a lot of improvement by both employees after clarifying what my expectations are, and being blunt and open that I wouldn’t accept what the previous supervisor did.

          Honestly, I am still working on getting informed as to what habits are still in place and trying to change them. I think there is a way to be empathetic about their previous situation (having a bad manager and poor follow through on their job duties) and still hold them accountable for their position.

          1. Anonym*

            Great to hear that there’s already been progress! And very reasonable to offer people some grace as they adjust to new expectations. Good luck getting them all the way to where they need to be – sounds like you’re on the right (direct) track.

          2. SweetestCin*

            Thank you for your clarifications :)

            It sounds as though you’re making progress at your new position which is great to hear!

  3. Falling Diphthong*

    Just keep trying, it’ll be fine, they’ll back off eventually, just stand your ground and don’t let it get to you.”

    As an outside observer, it sure looks like Linda is accurate about this. I would imagine to her coworkers, this looks accurate.

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

      Why hasn’t Linda already been fired?
      How was another employee hired and fired while Linda has stuck around?

      1. ACL*

        I’d love to see a follow-up responding to these questions.

        I suspect it has to do with the previous manager since the OP is new to managing this team. But OP needs to address this pronto, clearly and directly.

      2. The OTHER Other*

        This! Somehow Linda is bad at her job, yet is looked to as a figure to emulate. Her advice is so poor that least one person has been fired for following it, yet Linda continues on indefinitely?

        I am hoping LW is new to managing this team and not responsible for this legacy albatross. I sympathize if that’s the case, it stinks to have to deal with a prior manager’s failure to manage, but LW needs to deal with this, NOW. I echo what Falling Diphthong said, that Linda’s “Don’t worry, they’ll back off” has so far proven accurate.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          She said she got moved to a new department after a manager was let go, so I was interpreting it as the manager who was let go was managing the team and was possibly let go due to handling things badly and the LW possibly took over at short notice and is trying to figure out the lay of the land.

      3. Dark Macadamia*

        Seriously, someone newer got fired partly for emulating Linda, but Linda herself is still there??

        1. OP*

          Not sure of the specifics surrounding the employee’s performance as I was brought onto the team pretty late, but a major factor was the previous employee failing to complete several tasks on time or correctly to the point where senior management was way more involved than they should have been in trying to get this employee to do their basic job duties. Linda’s advice for that situation was to not worry about it and they will let up.

          Really poor judgment on everyone’s parts, but I’m not really sure if giving extremely bad advice is terms for firing. Linda’s previous supervisor failed to hold her to appropriate standards of work, which is also probably what led to her giving this advice.

          1. Heffalump*

            I’d be concerned about the attitude underlying the bad advice. If I wanted to be really blunt with her, I’d say, “There’s a new sheriff in town.”

          2. Who Plays Backgammon?*

            If Linda was getting poor or mealy-mouthed direction, that’s not her fault. Of course she should be expected to do her job properly but she needs to be managed properly too.

            Years ago I was hired by a new department head who let me go after 6 months. (She canned my predecessor after 3 months.) DH said, among other reasons, it was because I was doing an online form incorrectly. When I asked, “Why didn’t you tell me?” she pruned up her mouth and said, “I thought that was your preference.” Like yeah, I was just bad at my job and you as manager have no responsibility for letting me know I need to correct something.

    2. Nathan*

      To be fair, it sounds like Linda is NOT accurate — another worker who received this advice ended up being let go.

    3. OP*

      Linda wasn’t fired due to her previous supervisor being pretty uninvolved with her team and, in my opinion, not managing Linda in a way that was conducive to good work. The previous manager was fired and I was brought in basically to bring this specific department up to speed with the rest of our organization.

      I understand where she’s coming from in trying to comfort somebody, but she was giving this advice after the now-fired employee was being chewed out by senior management for failing to complete several tasks on time or correctly. They had to be re-walked through completing their tasks and were also asked why they didn’t bother to start certain projects.

      That’s why I say, they should know better as adults in the working world to take being chewed out by their supervisors seriously and to not take the route of “Wow, I just got told I need to fix this. I will… continue to not do things on time or at all.” I didn’t fire this employee as this was before I started, but I’m not surprised as it demonstrated a serious lack of good judgement on the employee’s part.

  4. Antilles*

    “poor judgment from Kate, who I think should know better.”
    How would Kate know better? She’s a new employee!
    Kate hasn’t been around enough to observe how much Linda is struggling. And Kate doesn’t have the knowledge base about the job to realize where Linda’s advice doesn’t fit the role/company either.

    1. JAM*

      That part got me too! As a new employee, why would I ever assume a coworker who seems to have been there a while would be wrong in the advice they give me?

      1. WomEngineer*

        Yeah… Linda is experienced and gives what Kate thinks is constructive feedback. Also, depending on how balanced the team is, if there aren’t a lot of women, that’s another reason Kate might seek advice from Linda.

      2. KRM*

        Kate doesn’t know Linda is in those trainings as a remedial step for Linda, and Linda isn’t treating them as such. Of course Kate is listening to Linda. From Kate’s perspective that seems logical!

        1. Books and Cooks*

          Yes! I mentioned lower down that if I was Kate, I’d assume Linda was in those trainings specifically so she could keep track of what I was told, offer feedback/input on same, and follow up with me afterward. It would never occur to me that she’s there to be trained, as well. And even worse, it seems that when Linda “corrects” or offers input to the trainer, neither the trainer nor the LW actually stops her, or corrects her right back, or even addresses it with Kate later–so Kate is seeing Linda being allowed to contradict or ignore the trainer, thus again confirming for her that Linda is the expert and the one to whom she should be listening.

          1. Cj*

            I went back and looked for it in a letter, but I can’t find where it ever says that Linda is contradicting the trainer while in the meeting. What am I missing?

            1. New Jack Karyn*

              It might be this line: Linda has been told this, but seemingly views these trainings as, “I am being let in on these meetings as a formality or to offer my perspective.”

              1. Books and Cooks*

                Yes, thank you! That was the bit to which I was referring. I put “‘corrects’ or offers input,” and “contradict or ignore,” because I assumed if Linda was giving bad or incorrect advice outside of the trainings, and was offering her own “perspective” in them often enough for the LW to mention it, then that likely meant she was offering that same bad or incorrect perspective in the trainings (so ignoring the trainer or contradicting them, either directly or implicitly). I assumed she did so without being stopped or corrected herself because LW didn’t mention any of them doing so, and because it sounded like it was happening in all or most of the training sessions. Either way, it seemed to me that Linda wasn’t just silently agreeing with the trainer(s), because if she was, we wouldn’t have a letter.

                (My use of quotation marks around “corrects” wasn’t to denote a quote from the letter, it was to say that Linda might think she was correcting the trainer, but she actually was not. Sorry I wasn’t more clear!)

      3. MsM*

        I feel like even as a newbie, I’d have been suspicious of “just make as many mistakes as you want, and feel free to double down if anyone challenges you; it’ll be fine!” as advice.

        1. Fitz*

          I agree. I’m bringing my own past experiences with bad employees to this, so maybe I’m reading something into this that’s not there. But OP’s letter sounds to me like Kate is internalizing advice that fails even the most basic smell test, like “Don’t listen to what your supervisor is telling you and they’ll go away.”

      4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        To me it depends on what the advice is – I would like to think even fairly new to the working world employees would disregard advice to just wear whatever, even your old ripped workout gear in contradiction of a written out business casual dress code.

        Sadly yes, I did see/hear this. Fortunately the rest of us were able to grab the new employee and let the know that our Linda’s advice was rubbish. Our new manager was in the process of managing our Linda out after a prior manager who seemed to like watching the chaos that our Linda caused.

      5. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        If her advice, as to the person who got fired, is “just keep doing it wrong and they’ll leave you alone eventually”, Kate should be able to work out that it’s not the best attitude to work. True, she may not know about the other person getting fired, and it’s obvious that Linda’s attitude has not led to Linda being fired, but if you are being trained to use paint that’s suitable for firing clay while Linda’s always used gouache, it’s easy to see that Linda is wrong.

    2. Jellyfish*

      Yeah, this reminds me of my first office job. The person who trained me got fired shortly after I started, and then I got in trouble for doing things the way he’d showed me.

      No one told me *why* he was fired (poor performance, being late, stealing money? I didn’t know), no one provided alternate training, and I didn’t have the background experience to magically know better. Some things were easy enough to sort out, like not taking personal phone calls. How was I to know that the boss didn’t like the former employee’s filing system though? I’d never filed in an office before and had no basis for comparison.

      Even responsive and upbeat employees aren’t mind readers, and Kate will take cues from the people around her. Be more clear in what you want and don’t want from her – including which other employees to emulate.

    3. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Yes. OP, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t on one hand see a brand new employee being advices by crap employee, act in kind and think, “i should guide her, “ but follow it with, “I shouldn’t have to guide my new employee. She should know that Linda is wrong and should not be her example.”

      1. OP*

        I sent this in when I was new to the team. I agree that I assumed too much about how Linda came across to me vs. how she would come across to new team members. I have not tried to create distance between them, but have followed up with specific people they should be going to for these problems instead of Linda. I have also realized that a lot of our internal processes can be confusing and need to be broken down a lot more when they are communicated to new members.

        Some of these things I really should have not had to clarify, which more speaks to the environment that they were previously working in, which had unacceptable standards in a professional context. For clarification, some of these expectations were things like: show up to meetings with clients that you scheduled; show up on time; dress appropriately for a business setting; when I tell you a deadline, I expect things to be done by that deadline. I wrongly assumed that these were the norm of this department when that was not the case and the previous supervisor would not have followed up.

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          You walked into a shit show. I hope you can create a functional department. Good luck!

        2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          So my example above was actually relevant to one of the problems. While the full breadth of what is and is not business professional can be confusing for new employees – one would like to think the basics of clean, not ripped, and covering everything that should be covered are basic enough that all employees new or old should know them…..but then you read this site.

    4. bamcheeks*

      I don’t know, unless Kate’s extremely inexperienced, like first-job inexperienced, she ought to have some caution around anyone who says, “keep doing on what you’re doing and [management] will back off eventually”.

      There’s some wriggle room here if it’s the kind of job where there’s always some level of antagonism between the front-line professionals and people viewed as “management”, but even then any seasoned worker ought to recognise “ignore management and they’ll back off” as … non-optimal advice.

      1. bamcheeks*

        To add: I don’t think this absolves LW from the responsibility to be more explicit, but if you start a new job and you meet someone who’s taking an overtly antagonist position against management, definitely consider *not* looking to that person for guidance.

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

        I myself have given very similar advice. New coworker “Ned” was being closely watched and guided by our mutual manager “Marge”. Ned was really bugged by this, especially when Marge reminded him of the same thing more than once. I told Ned not to take it personally, that eventually they would trust him and stop managing him so closely. I was relatively new myself, so I may have been wrong; there may have been aspects of Ned’s performance that warranted closer monitoring than I had gotten when I was a new employee. We’ll never know, because Ned couldn’t take it and quit with no notice after only a month.

        That said, I never told Ned to ignore Marge or stand his ground.

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          But you kept your advice at the noncommittal, general moral support, like “Hang in there. Things will get better when you prove yourself.”
          You did not overstep and tell him what to do/not to do.

      3. ScruffyInternHerder*

        Exactly. I’ve had to provide context before that “you’ll have to provide the TPS reports to management because they honestly believe that they are accurate reflections of ABC. They aren’t. Don’t try to explain it to them, they will not understand. Just provide them reports, its literally a single click function.” to new interns regarding upper levels of management who had basically been promoted out of roles where they could cause problems to general upper level management.

        Because believe me, if there was any chance of our explaining that the TPS reports were absolutely useless, we’d have done it already.

        Nope. No longer work there. The upper levels became bloated by ambitious managerial types who couldn’t manage their way out of a paper bag.

        1. Anti social socialite*

          I’ve had to train people and gave them a similar disclaimer. “The software is really dumb so we have to enter this information three different times. It’s annoying but that’s the way things have to be done.” Or “now X is particular about the way things are entered so you need to include Y even if it seems pretty obvious” type thing.

        2. OP*

          I think that advice like this or the one anti social socialite said is fine, and that it is probably being shared to new employees whether I agree with it or not. The advice that Linda gives out is more like “Just don’t send the TPS reports” after management above Linda has asked for them multiple times, which is why I think the new employees should be more skeptical of her. But it does speak to her being approachable/friendly enough to ask questions to.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            OP – maybe you need to make a more codified training structure for new employees, that explicitly tells them who to ask for help – and also blatantly leaves Linda out of the training process. May help clarity who your Kates should go to, and make it obvious to Linda she’s not part of the training/onboarding for new staff.

            She’s welcome to be friendly, but for now needs to tend to her own knitting.

            1. Boof*

              If it’s really just Linda doing this, we’re getting into “all staff email for single staff problems” territory (meaning, don’t do it, address it with the staffer directly). Though it’s probably helpful to generally point out to new people who is considered very good at [whatever thing new person is supposed to be doing], and who they should direct questions to (and make sure those staff are aware too).

          2. ScruffyInternHerder*

            Oh sweet heavens, that is (was) awful advice and is just setting Kate up to fail.

      4. Books and Cooks*

        I’m missing the part where the LW says Kate was told this wrt management, specifically? I read it as bad advice in dealing with co-workers or other departments (“stand your ground”), where it could be or still is not great advice, but could be somewhat legitimate in some contexts–we’ve seen enough letters here advising to push back or stand one’s ground against unreasonable or excessive expectations or requests–like “Accounting wants our TPS reports on Wednesday afternoons so they can leave early on Fridays, but we would have to change half of our system to accomplish that.”

        I could certainly be wrong, but I’m not seeing where Linda was advising Kate specifically to take this attitude toward management.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          OP has said elsewhere in comments that Linda was telling Kate not to bother sending reports that management had repeatedly asked for.

    5. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, the OP is way too passive and assume-y here. (Is she new at managing? She seems very hands-off and unsure of herself.)

      She’s the manager now. She needs to manage. That starts with taking Kate aside and telling her that Linda’s advice is bogus and then laying out what Kate should be doing. She doesn’t have to demonize Linda to do this, but she does need to set the record straight and not sorta-blame Kate for not knowing things that a new employee can’t really be expected to know.

      1. ferrina*

        Yeah. As manager you are uniquely positioned to say “This is how we do it; the way Linda showed you was incorrect and I’ll chat with her about that.” “I want you to talk to myself or Cecil.” The follow it up with checking in with her regularly as she’s onboarding (which you should be doing anyways).
        You are supposed to tell your employees what you want from them!

      2. OP*

        This post was sent a while ago, a couple of weeks after I had joined the department. I really don’t believe that new management should make judgement calls before they understand the environment people are working with, but I definitely didn’t see any improvement until I started communicating extremely directly with both Kate and Linda about my expectations.

        1. Worker Bee*

          OP, I sure wish more managers had this perspective. Making changes before you know how and why the problems happened in the first place often just creates a whole new set of problems.

          Also, kudos to you for hanging in there despite all the “OP’s being too nice/not direct enough” comments.

          I definitely respect a new manager who takes this approach. Take a little time to see what *was* happening before deciding what *needs* to happen.

    6. starfox*

      Yes, this! It sounds like sending Linda to trainings with Kate has backfired because no one made it clear to Kate that Linda is in these trainings to improve her own performance. Even though they told this to Linda, Linda has chosen to interpret it as being asked to mentor Kate.

      How is Kate supposed to know that she’s not supposed to listen to Linda when she’s likely under the assumption that Linda is attending trainings with her specifically to mentor her?

      1. OP*

        This was sent in a couple of weeks after I had been moved to this department. Unfortunately, I was not aware that it was an issue until Kate had mentioned to me that she was enjoying being trained by Linda, which prompted me to ask more questions about the situation and send this in. This point was clarified to Kate eventually (probably in the same week I sent this in because I was seriously panicking about this team), but I definitely agree that it should have been brought up a lot sooner.

    7. CommanderBanana*

      OP, you’re the manager! You should know better! Why are you holding Kate to a higher standard than both yourself and her more established coworker??

      1. OP*

        I do not think that I am/was holding Kate to a higher standard of myself or her coworker. For clarification, this was sent a couple of weeks after I had joined this department and was not as familiar to the environment they are used to working in. I think that things like dress codes and deadlines are pretty normal expectations for women in their 30’s to be held by, and I hold myself to the same expectations. I would be suspicious if someone in a corporate environment told me it would be okay to show up to work in gym clothes when no one else was doing it. I do think that taking that advice to heart would reflect poorly on me.

        That being said, I would say that I shouldn’t have expected Kate to realize the full extent of Linda’s performance issues, especially when I would purposely avoid name-dropping her when speaking about unacceptable standards or changes being made to the department. I think that I could have been more empathetic to how Kate felt stepping into the new team, and that I was not portraying myself or other team members as available and reputable sources of advice, whereas Linda was.

    8. Cj*

      The specific thing the OP said they thought Kate should know was taking ownership of her mistakes. Unless Kate is new to the working world, they probably figured she would have learned this by now.

      1. The Bat*

        Unfortunately, OP is about to learn the hard way that you really can’t make assumptions about this of anyone (including seasoned employees).

    9. OP*

      For context, I work in a corporate environment and this is surrounding things such as dress codes, etiquette, deadlines, etc. that are pretty straightforward. If you see one person out of twenty show up to a meeting wearing a tank top and no bra (yes this happened and Linda had a word with management), to me it doesn’t make sense to assume it’s the norm, especially when we have a written dress code.

      I think for our internal processes, it wasn’t fair to expect Kate to go to other team members who weren’t as available, or to know that was Linda was saying was fishy. We’ve since moved things around so both other team members and I are more available to Kate. We haven’t really had a problem since communicating with both employees, but yes, I view situations like the one mentioned above as poor judgement on the employee’s part.

      1. Nelliebelle1197*

        What do you mean “Linda had a word with management”? She showed up that way or she turned in the tank top lady?

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I’m guessing that management probably read Linda the written dress code and asked lots of questions along the lines of “do you understand this? Are you confused about any of what I just said?” And then had the “this better not be repeated” admonishment added for good measure.

  5. Pony Puff*

    “The last employee who kept going to Linda for advice was let go, for things that I view both as their own fault as well as Linda’s fault for offering poor advice to someone who genuinely didn’t know better.”

    This really stood out to me. If Linda has such a negative influence on younger employees then why hasn’t this been dealt with before? I don’t know what the story was with this other person but yikes.

    1. soontoberetired*

      When I joined my company 30 plus years ago, someone said to me “we don’t fire people” as a positive. Some people need to be corrected directly, disciplined, fired, or otherwise they do influence co workers negatively. what would frequently happen is managers would encourage someone to switch teams so they’d be someone else’s problem. I wonder if that’s what happened to Linda. All of the people at my company who switched teams because managers were getting rid of them never learned a damn thing. Eventually culture changed at the company, and bad employees started getting put on PIP, and then fired if their work didn’t improve. Managers really need to manage people.

    2. ACL*

      I agree. If the new hire who got fired because she/he took advice from Linda, why is Linda still there? Why was she not put on a PIP plan, or let go as well?

      Unless that happened before OP was the manager. But Op can put Linda on a plan right now, tell her she is not in a position to offer advice to anyone at the moment.

      Kate should be told specifically who she can turn to for assistance. When I started my current job (almost 22 years ago!) a co-worker was stationed near me because she did know the ins and outs and the firm and was asked to mentor me, and I was encouraged to learn from her.

      1. ferrina*

        This is a good point. Why isn’t Linda on a PIP? If attending trainings was part of her PIP (in addition to performance/professionalism goals), that might drive it home a little more that she’s there to learn, not to try to teach.

        1. Fran Fine*

          OP said above the prior manager didn’t bother supervising Linda, which is partly why she was let go from the company herself.

    3. Irish Teacher*

      To be fair, the LW says she took over from a manager that was let go, so it’s quite possible the previous manager was not effective at her job (and that was the reason she was let go). This could have included failing to manage Linda. It sounds like the LW has just taken over and hasn’t had time to affect change yet (and if the previous manager was let go, it’s possible there wasn’t a smooth handover and she didn’t get all the necessary information).

    4. PollyQ*

      Yes, and that’s why unlike Alison, I’m entirely positive that LW should be telling Linda to stop giving advice to Kate, or anyone else. I get the sense that the subjects aren’t technical, but imagine if they were. If Linda were telling Kate the wrong way to draw blood or use a drill-press machine, I hope it would be clear that for safety’s sake, Linda would need to be stopped. Even if the stakes aren’t as high, Linda’s behavior is making other employees do their job worse. Shut it down.

    5. Risha*

      I really think companies need to provide trainings for people who want to become managers. Too many times, people are put into these positions and have no idea how to actually manage people. There are too many managers that allow bad workers to flourish, or allow bullying, or allow similar things to this LW. It really frustrates me that managers don’t really need to have great manager skills at most jobs, they simply need to have the right qualifications/experience/length of employment.

      OP, you need to manage both Kate and Linda appropriately and directly. How in the world is Kate supposed to know she shouldn’t listen to Linda if you as the manager never addressed it with her? Maybe some of the things are common sense, but as the manager it is your job to ensure your employees have all the knowledge they need and to also clarify things that aren’t true/useful. I’m also wondering why that other employee was fired but Linda stayed on. Why is she now being allowed to do this to yet another younger employee who will be wrongfully punished for following the advice? Sorry LW, as the manager you cannot be soft. You need to step up and be an actual manager. Have that convo with Linda asap. If you think she’ll be belligerent or difficult or whatever, then have someone from HR sit in on the meeting.

      1. The Bat*

        I am in my last few days of a management position. Before taking this job, I’d been a supervisor for at least half of my career on and off. I have always known (and advocated for) trainings for people who want to become, or are thrust into being, managers.

        That said, I didn’t know that I wasn’t that good of a manager until this job. My employees have… challenging ….. personalities. Up until this point, I’ve had pretty self-directed employees that just needed mentorship, not correction. I’ve made many, many mistakes thinking I could mentor someone into correcting firmly held (negative) beliefs. OP could be experiencing something similar. You’d like to think you can gently steer someone in the right direction and they’ll roll on along. Some people really need you to build the train tracks. I’m moving on because while I love mentoring, I do NOT love managing.

      2. OP*

        This was sent in a couple of weeks after moving into this department, while I was still getting a handle on this situation. I had just been informed by the new employee that Linda had been “training” her, which surprised me as I had been sending Kate purposely to other members for trainings. I was not aware that Linda was trying to train people at all or putting herself in a position where employees thought that she was onboarding them. I had a discussion with both Kate and Linda (separately) and have no longer run into this issue.

        I agree that companies should provide more trainings for managers, and have also been regularly going to leadership conferences and workshops since being moved to this department because I have run into a lot of new issues.

        I go back and forth on if the employee was “wrongfully punished” for following the advice. To my understanding and from what has been shared with me, that was not the only issue with the fired employee. If someone’s advice is “Ignore your supervisor who told you you need to fix this ASAP, and just ignore it” and they take it, to me that is a lack of judgment on their part. Again, I have just been brought onto this team, so I have no clue of the full extent of the fired employee’s performance.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          OP, the more you comment, the more I think the manager who was let go did nothing more than collect a paycheck from your company. All the best in getting everybody in your department in harness and pulling in the same direction.

          1. OP*

            Yes, that is accurate. we are still finding projects that are overdue (some by an actual year). So I’m trying to be empathetic to the fact that this was their reality for a while, without going crazy because this just isn’t what I expect from working professionals.

            1. CM*

              I hope all the commenters going, “OP, what were you thinking??” will read this because it puts it all into perspective! When you walk into a situation where everyone’s habits are wildly different from what you consider very basic professional norms, it’s going to take a little time to sort it out, and you’ll probably make mistakes along the way. I can see why you gave everyone the benefit of the doubt at first, but it sounds like with a firmer and clearer approach, the team is working better. And setting very clear expectations with newer employees like Kate is an opportunity to fix the team culture.

          2. Fran Fine*

            That’s exactly what the fired manager did, that’s why she was let go, lol. OP’s gonna have a hard task of trying to impose direction on this team moving forward since it sounds like they pretty much managed themselves for so long and may resist structure.

  6. animaniactoo*

    It would also be useful to say to Kate that it IS true that what Linda advises used to be true within the company – however, the company has recognized these things to be a problem and is actively working to address them and therefore Linda’s advice is not good for the current mindset of the company and the way it is trying to progress forward from these issues.

    Which says two things to Kate: Yes, Linda’s history here does give her a basis for saying these things. And that history/experience is no longer useful to Kate for growing with the company.

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      I’d add to that to be even more direct with Kate. “Therefore Linda’s advice is not good …” And that means taking Linda’s advice could put your job at risk.

    2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      I really like this. It’s a good way of getting the message across, but without saying – even implicitly – “oh, by the way, Linda SUCKS.” It’s that change is happening that everyone needs to adjust to.

    3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I think this is really helpful framing – it allows Linda to save face if she can turn her processes around and keep the job. It also gives context to Kate for why Linda is saying what she is, and also why she should be asking other people for advice/help.

    4. OP*

      I really wish that I took a more diplomatic and less critical approach like this when I addressed this with Kate and Linda. I think this is really something that I could improve going forward.

      1. Polly Hedron*

        From OP’s comments above:
        5:47 pm

        I agree that I need to be more blunt in my communication with my team going forward.

        7:19 pm

        I really wish that I took a more diplomatic and less critical approach like this when I addressed this with Kate and Linda.

        Now I want to know how OP is going to be both “more blunt” and “more diplomatic”.

        1. CM*

          @Polly Hedron, not sure if you were trying to be snarky, but it’s a skill! You can be clear and kind at the same time by expressing your expectations in a straightforward but non-judgmental way. Instead of focusing on what the person is doing wrong, you can say, “I expect X and Y. To achieve that, you’ll need to switch from using the old form to the new form. Are you able to do that or do you need some training on that? What changes do we need to make to ensure that X and Y are done going forward?”

          1. Polly Hedron*

            No, I wasn’t trying to be snarky. I’m genuinely curious what OP meant.
            CM, your script does sound diplomatic, but does not sound blunt enough to have gotten the point across to Linda.

            1. CM*

              That’s a first conversation. It needs to be paired with followup — “Last week I explained X and Y are requirements. X and Y did not happen. Was there a problem? How will you make sure this doesn’t happen again?” and then, “I’ve explained several times that X and Y are required, and have tried to work with you to remove any obstacles. If this continues, we will most likely need a performance improvement plan.”

        2. OP*

          RE: Being Diplomatic
          The way I went about the situation was very problem-focused, and not strengths-based. I did not frame the department in a positive light, and while I didn’t agree with the policies and practices, these are people that Kate will be working with going forward and part of my role as a manager is to build a strong team that can rely on each other to do their job, and well. I feel bad about the fact that Linda was framed in such a negative light, especially considering her behavior (which was built over the course of years and was reinforced by poor management) changed rather quickly.

          It would have made for a stronger working relationship between Kate, Linda, and I if I had focused on what we were working towards (creating an environment where Kate has the best resources to go to for advice/information, and Linda knows the expectations of her job) vs. what we were working against (poor advice from Linda). Things are fine the way they are now, and both are surprisingly interested in doing team building activities and seem to want to meet more than I expected. But this was a missed opportunity.

          RE: Being Blunt
          The fact that a lot of commenters couldn’t tell what I was dealing with from a pretty lengthy post demonstrates that I tend towards talking around issues rather than being upfront. It would do my team a service to be specific and upfront with criticism (“It is unacceptable to show up to a meeting with clients in gym clothes”), vs. alluding to an issue (“We want to create an environment where our clients view us as professionals, and I need you to show up to work that way”).

          1. Polly Hedron*

            Thanks, OP, for another outstanding clarification; and I don’t think you should worry about your “missed opportunity”—whatever you said, it worked!

          2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Also – sometimes you have to be incredibly blunt, almost to the point of rude, to get through to really entrenched in bad habits that just because that is the way things have worked in the past doesn’t mean they can stay the same going forward.

            It is also possible to be much softer and more diplomatic after the bad habits/practices have been squashed.

  7. LemmingCity*

    I’m stuck on the part where previous teammates were let go for underperforming because they were following Linda’s advice, but yet Linda is still around, not only underperforming herself but still passing along her bad advice. Other workers are following Linda’s advice because they see that she hasn’t faced consequences for her own underperformance. Until she is held to the same standard, what incentive do her teammates have for doing things the right way (presumably more work) and not Linda’s way (presumably less work)?

    1. Observer*

      I’m stuck on the part where previous teammates were let go for underperforming because they were following Linda’s advice, but yet Linda is still around, not only underperforming herself but still passing along her bad advice.

      This is an excellent point. You really do need to address this.

    2. Meep*

      This stuck out to me as someone who was managed by a Linda. Mine would be too busy dealing with perceived bad employee behavior to do her actual job. When that bad employee was fired? She would move onto the next sucker.

      Kindly, OP, you are being obtuse here.

    3. Madeleine Matilda*

      OP says she is the new manager for the team Linda is part of. It sounds as if the previous manager failed to manage Linda and now OP is having to clean up the mess.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I also caught the “new to managing this team” and wonder if the fired former manager is the one who let the other new employee who was following Linda’s advice go. And OP gave us that information for context of just how bad some of Linda’s advice really is.

        1. OP*

          This is correct. For context of when the advice was given: the fired employee was (somewhat publicly) chewed out by senior management for not having completed several important tasks that the rest of the team had to compensate for and help out with last-minute.

          I thought the advice of “Don’t worry about it and just keep doing what you’re doing” was a poor response, but also thought that the employee should have thought at some point, “Hm, I just got told that I need to do this. Maybe I should take my supervisor’s advice over this team member’s.” But I get that some workplaces really don’t care, and it sounds like this advice would have worked with their old manager.

      1. OP*

        Correct that this department is a mess, but this isn’t the standard for my workplace, which is why I was moved into this department to manage and basically get the team in the loop with what everyone else expects to get done. I think a lot of it can be attribute to the previous supervisor letting people get away with too much for too long, and now they’re not used to working in a way that’s acceptable/expected in a corporate environment.

    4. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      …and for that matter – why is it that Linda wasn’t fired/reprimanded while others were (so it isn’t just a case of previous management being too passive to take action). I almost wondered if there’s some political reason Linda is untouchable that OP hasn’t discovered yet.

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*

        Honestly, I wondered who in the org chart Linda is related to. (Been there, done that.)

      2. OP*

        At least for the previous employee, their mistake involved senior management in a way that was public and inconvenienced several colleagues in major ways. So the amount of complaints circling around + face time just meant that it put them under a lens by HR. I can’t speak fully to their performance as I wasn’t managing them at that time.

        I used to wonder if there was a political reason, but honestly she is the type of person who is a great person who is fun to be around, until you have to work directly with her and get very frustrated. I think because her previous supervisor was slacking, it wasn’t brought up.

    5. OP*

      This was before I was moved, so I can’t fully speak to the previous employee’s performance. But this was surrounding projects/tasks that the fired teammate had failed to do correctly or complete, and it was revealed at a meeting that a lot of important tasks were not being done. This involved senior management and a lot of team members who shouldn’t have been working on these tasks being looped in as it was out of control.

      Linda’s advice of “Don’t worry about it and they will get off your back” probably applied to her previous supervisor, but was really inappropriate for the situation and the employee probably should have realized that at the time. I think the issue was that the teammate was incentivized by “less work” and made the choice of doing what Linda said vs. what the people who hire/fire said.

  8. WomEngineer*

    I agree with Alison. LW can’t address XYZ with Kate while letting Linda continue. The root of the problem is Linda’s behavior, and her relationship to Kate is an effect.

    I’d also make sure whomever is appointed to mentor Kate is accessible to her and prepared to offer help. Maybe Kate just needs to be introduced to more people on the team… whenever I’m new, I tend to keep going back to the first few people I worked with (and know what they’re doing) for questions.

    1. Books and Cooks*

      Yes, it seemed to me that it’s not only possible that Kate thinks she was “assigned” to Linda, and these other trainings are for specific tasks or items, but also Linda specifically seems like one of those people who is delighted to advise new people, and probably–due to her not-great advice–seems like just the sort of supportive, caring, always-there-to-help people that I, as a new employee, would feel most comfortable going to. It’s intimidating to start a new job, not knowing the people, the relationships, and/or possibly the work itself, and it’s easy to grab the hand that’s being offered to you and hold on to it, without realizing that it’s pulling you down instead of up.

      The LW seems to be assuming that Kate should join her in seeing Linda as an unprofessional poor performer, but what Kate probably sees is an experienced employee who’s got her back and is telling her “how things really work” there. Kate has no way of knowing that’s not the case, because LW hasn’t come right out and told her.

      Putting Linda in the same training sessions as Kate actually *strengthens* the impression that Linda should be Kate’s go-to and mentor, rather than making it clear that Linda needs this training, too; it looks like Linda is there to keep an eye on what Kate’s being told, clarify things later, and help her learn it. That’s certainly what I would assume, in Kate’s position.

  9. Nonny Mouse*

    I saw this situation many times when my job was to intervene with/help teachers who were on the verge of being fired. Inevitably they had picked up unofficial mentees. Inevitably the mentees would be headed down that road with them. OP, I hope you’re able to be blunt and get this across to both of them or you’re likely to lose Kate.

    1. hamsterpants*

      Ugh, I have been marked as a mentee target by these failing old timers. When I politely but firmly chose to not take their bad advice, they get really nasty, to the point where HR got involved. Please stop coddling these people!

    2. Happy Lurker*

      I also was once one of these mentees. I wish my supervisors were direct with me, instead of veiled hints. It was much later that I realized what the comments meant leading up to the position being terminated.
      My situation did not have a direct supervisor. I was the entry level person, below everyone else and had to take direction from them. Nothing like having 6 bosses and 5 supervisors, none of which would manage me!
      OP it seems like you are taking this situation under control. I hope it continues to work out well for you.

  10. CheesePlease*

    Please just be direct with Kate about expectations, and make it clear that you are the manager, so direction about how to get work done should come from you. I struggle a lot with indirect communication, especially from managers. A long weird look after I say something in a meeting – what am I supposed to do with that? Even statements like “try to work with Henry more often” are vague if the expectation is really “learn to complete the monthly financial reports and weekly budget analysis from Henry, his work is most concise and clear on this topic”

  11. Meep*

    As a former Kate, it sounds like what Linda is doing is working for her. Rather than dealing with Linda, you are too busy dealing with the person she is influencing (Kate and the former employee). She is misdirecting her bad behavior onto others and you are letting her.

    1. OP*

      This is a fair point I haven’t considered. The other employee was fired before I was moved into this department, so it made me very focused on the new employee instead of focusing on the tenured one.

  12. RJ*

    You can arrange all the trainings in the world, but until you speak directly to both Linda and Kate that the way things worked are not the way they will work in the future, you’re managing in circles, OP. Employee development requires more than trainings. As Alison has stated, direct communication is key. And you owe it to Linda to let her know that her performance, based on the outdated standards you are looking to eliminate, is grounds for either reprieve or termination.

    1. OP*

      This was a couple of weeks after I had been moved into this department. My comment about “seems like she is close to being fired” was in reference to how my supervisor had spoken about them prior to me moving into this department.

      The changes mostly happened with me moving in, so I haven’t been holding her up to standards that she hasn’t had practice doing in the years she’s been in this position. Mostly I have kept updating her on the changes I’m making, seeking her out when I want to know about how processes have gone/operated in the past so that she can speak to something she knows and feel heard without undermining what the current standards are. Since then I haven’t had nearly as many issues.

  13. hamsterpants*

    I’m not a new employee. But I’m the only woman on my team, and so I’m always the target of insecure old timers trying to boost their own image by putting me down or giving me bad advice. PLEASE address shut it down with Linda. When Kate stops taking Linda’s advice, Linda may well take it out on Kate.

    1. Pony Puff*

      Yes! Often there is an insecure/underperforming person on a team who needs to boost themselves by latching on to newbies. That could be exactly what Linda is doing.

    2. OP*

      This was a couple of weeks after I had started. I think it’s more Linda’s way of trying to be useful/help out and I don’t think it was necessarily malicious. Because I’ve been pretty clear since then that the standards have changed, we haven’t had this issue. I was pretty intentional about not putting the blame on her specifically though, as it wasn’t really her fault if her previous supervisors didn’t hold her to any standards.

      1. Trawna*

        …Linda’s advice was probably pretty good if the previous manager was ineffective and expectations weren’t clear or were changeable or the atmosphere was chaotic. Just because you know you’re going to change that, OP, doesn’t mean your staff know it yet, and long-term staff might feel especially worn down and/or sceptical for obvious reasons.

        1. OP*

          This is true and a point I hadn’t considered. I understand being worn down by poor management and if the effects of that are this present currently, then I can’t imagine what the actual environment was like while their supervisor was still there.

  14. Sparkles McFadden*

    Yup. Tell Kate that Linda is not a good source for information. You don’t have to go into detail as to why. Just say “It can be confusing to get information from multiple sources, so please use the following people as training resources…” I wouldn’t bring up anything regarding Kate to Linda. I’d say to focus on what Linda needs to do to improve her own performance. I think it’s always best to leave the mention of someone’s peers out of a performance discussion.

    1. Stevie*

      I agree with keeping it as free from the specifics of Linda’s behavior as possible. To me, it can seem kind of shady if you tell one employee not to listen to (or possibly associate with) another employee, especially if the former has no real frame of reference for the situation. I’d be wondering if there’s some sort of personal politics or drama going on – else, why is she working there if she’s such a problem, is it really Linda who’s the problem, etc.

      1. OP*

        Yes, I’m in agreement. I like another commenter’s suggestion of focusing on the strengths of the new employee and saying that they got this role because we want THEIR specific input/view/strengths and will implement this more in my communication. This post was from a while ago, but I wish I would have gone this route instead of the more critical route that I took.

  15. Wants Green Things*

    The amount of passivity expressed in this letter is troubling for anyone, but especially for a manager. You definitely need to take Alison’s advice, because all this hands-off and “expect to know better” has done is create a talent void. If Linda is giving such bad advice that people are being fired, why exactly is *she* still with the company? Why has she not been steered away from new employees? Why do you expect a brand-new employee to “know better” when you have her receive direction from a problem employee?

    This is all completely within your ability to fix. You just have to take control instead letting things happen around you.

    1. OP*

      This was sent in a couple of weeks after I was moved to this position. I think that I misunderstood what setting I was walking into, and did end up having a conversation with my supervisor after this about how things were before I was brought on.

      When I say, “know better,” I was referring to things I thought were common sense or etiquette in the workplace. More like dress codes, meeting deadlines, etiquette, etc. when working with clients. So if the fired employee’s supervisor said, “this is a report with a deadline of x,” it didn’t make sense to me why they would go to the tenured employee and ask if it really had to be turned in, then be told they could ignore it/turn it in late, then be surprised when it wasn’t the case. But it seems like that’s the situation they were previously working in, so it makes sense now that they were acting that way.

      I agree that I was being too passive in my communication with both employees and have since taken a more direct approach with both. I was trying to be more hands off as the tenured employee was very unhappy with the managerial change/workplace cultural shift, but since becoming a lot more firm (in my opinion bordering on strict) with my approach, she seems happier and has since stopped giving weird/bad advice.

      1. Former Young Lady*

        Thanks so much for this update! It takes guts to be firm with the Lindas of this world, especially when you’ve inherited one from someone so hands-off. Sounds like you’ve got what it takes.

      2. Nanani*

        Great to hear!
        But what about Kate? It’s not really fair if you had to be firm about her failing to read minds as a new employee about who can and can’t offer good guidance, so I hope you haven’t held Lindaisms against her.

        1. OP*

          I think it’s been pretty clear from both Kate and a lot of commenters on this post that I have to be more upfront and blunt in my communication with my team. She’s been wanting to meet more often than I thought she would, but I have made myself open to meeting weekly (and sometimes a lot more than that) to go over any questions she has.

          The team is still growing, but at this point I have identified several members on my team and told them that I want them to help with onboarding new members. If we end up adding new staff in the future, I plan on directing them to these employees so that they have non-managerial staff to go to for questions. I can’t really blame new employees for going to the one person who was offering them regular support/advice.

      3. Renata Ricotta*

        Sounds like it worked out well! From your initial post it seemed clear you knew the direction to go in, but Alison’s advice was wise about how to implement it. Also, thanks for chiming in for the comments — I know it can be tough to do as an OP if some of the commenters sound negative/critical. I assumed that when you said Kate should “know better” it was related to something she should, in fact, know as a matter of common sense or professionalism. :)

        1. OP*

          Yes, a lesson that has been hammered into me as of late is that common sense isn’t as common as I thought. I think my communication has a ways to go in regards to being upfront/blunt about things I assume are the norm or commonplace, and this situation has really shown me that.

          1. ferrina*

            Yay! Thanks for the update already!

            I’m a big fan about being clear on expectations, even if you think it should be “the norm”. I’m neurodiverse + a weird background (the junior “training” that usually happens in my industry never happened for me, and I was mid/senior level before I was in a normal environment), so there’s some things folks assume that I’ve been taught/are “commonsense” that I actually had no way of knowing!

            Sounds like you’re doing the right things and that your team is already doing better!

      4. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Sounds like you made a lot of good choices in the intervening time :)

    2. linger*

      It could even be worse: Linda’s advice could be deliberately bad, as her experience to date supports the conclusion that she can retain her own job security as long as new hires keep failing within their probation period.
      Linda needs to be very firmly steered away from any influence on new hires, and new hires need to be explicitly warned about taking her advice.

      1. OP*

        That’s fair and I hadn’t considered that. To be honest, I am not sure if this is her intention vs. is a product of her being talkative and regularly oversharing information that I think she doesn’t realize is inappropriate/inaccurate. But that is a good point as she has probably been in this department the longest and clearly has gotten away with a lot of strange behavior.

        I think a lot of the comments on this post have emphasized for me that I could stand to be more communicative and direct with my team. We don’t have any onboarding members at the moment, but I would agree with you. If you have some suggestions on what I could say to both Linda and the new hires, I would love to hear it as this is an area that I have struggled with in this department.

        1. Fran Fine*

          For what it’s worth, I like that you assumed positive intent with Linda instead of jumping to the conclusion that she was giving bad advice with a malicious intent. I know I tend to assume the latter in my personal life with people who seemingly do or advise dumb ish, and that’s something I have to work really hard at changing so it doesn’t spill over into my work life and how I approach others I collaborate with and/or directly manage. Sometimes people can be asshole saboteurs, yes, but sometimes they can also genuinely be trying to help and going about it the exact wrong way.

        2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I posted this above, but I think codifying the training process will be a big help, as well as identifying other peers that you can have help with the training process.

          But also, I think you need to be kind but blunt with Linda that while she may be a friendly font of information on how things used to work, the information is no longer current and you need her to concentrate on getting fully up to date on all the new procedures and expectations before she tries to advise any new employees again.

  16. MsM*

    Honestly, I’m not seeing a good reason not to be frank with Linda that not only does she not set Kate’s performance standards, she’s giving Kate an inaccurate and even damaging impression of what she needs to succeed in her role, and that she needs to leave those conversations to you, senior leadership, and/or Kate’s designated mentor. Which also seems like a good opportunity to segue into your concerns as to why Linda’s under the impression this is helpful guidance in the first place.

    1. OP*

      Yes, this was when I first moved into the role (probably within a week or two of managing this team). So far it’s just been a repeat of “I know that’s how things have been done, but we’re not doing things that way anymore” and then having larger meetings where that idea is reinforced by my supervisors and theirs. Since then we have not had a problem.

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        So, OP, how long ago did you write in? And is Linda still with you?

        1. OP*

          This was a few months ago. Both Kate and Linda are still with us, but we are still finding old ways of doing things that really don’t serve anyone or our business.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Given what your saying about how long the old manager didn’t manager – it may be a year (though hopefully not) before you finally hit the bottom of all the wonky or old processes and get them up to date.

  17. ABCYaBye*

    I’d take all of Alison’s advice and would absolutely let Linda know that she needs to stop giving guidance to Kate. The passive nature of this workplace has led to this point. You have to be direct with both Kate and Linda, LW. Tell Kate from whom she should be getting her training and answers and from whom she should not be getting answers. Let Linda know she needs to be hands off with Kate, that Kate’s training is coming from (fill in the names of those providing training), and that the training they were sent to together was as much for Linda as it was for Kate. And then let Linda know that based on your evaluation as the new manager, she’s on the doorstep of a PIP or being let go.
    Both deserve the directness of those conversations… and frankly, you do too LW.

    1. ABCYaBye*

      And I mean that last statement in a positive way. You need the direct conversation so that you can put this to bed and not have to focus your energy on it.

    2. OP*

      This post was from when I had just joined this department. I think that you are absolutely write, and that direct communication (and to be honest, being far more blunt than I feel comfortable with) is/was key in onboarding the new employee and re-training the older one. I would no longer say that I think that Linda is in danger of being let go, at least by me– she has since made the changes to her work that I asked for, and the situation is significantly less frustrating than it was.

      1. J.B.*

        I’m glad there has been progress, and it certainly argues that direct communication is needed here. I hope that others at your firm can learn from you.

  18. RC+Rascal*

    I have been Kate in this situation. I backfilled Linda, who had moved on to another role. In my situation Linda was a very competent employee but had rigid opinions and was vocal about my role; some of what she thought wasn’t correct.

    When I was a new hire and mentioned to my boss things like “Linda thinks this…” he cut in and firmly told me I was hired because I was a problem solver and self starter. He wanted my outside, fresh eyes to solve the problems and not consult with someone who already had an opinion.

    I got the message–he didn’t want Linda’s input. If he wanted her input, he would have asked for it.

    1. OP*

      I think that focusing on what the new employee brings to the table would have been a better way of phrasing this.

  19. New Jack Karyn*

    I wonder if the previous manager being let go is connected to their not getting Linda under control. We know that this company *will* fire people, so that’s an arrow in OP’s quiver for Linda.

    It sounds like OP needs to have that conversation with Linda, and have the talk with Kate very shortly thereafter–like, same day. Not necessarily back-to-back, but not let there be a long gap, to get them to rev each other up.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I wondered that too, then the other possibility that occurred to me is that perhaps Linda is “unfireable” for some reason (as I alluded to above and others have picked up on) and the old manager’s departure is related to trying to get rid of her!

      OPs boss ought to have had a conversation with her about the history and politics of this team. I feel like there’s some context missing (from the OPs knowledge, not just from the letter).

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        It sounds like OP had that conversation about team history after they sent Alison the letter (based upon their comments in the post). It also sounds like the fired manager basically never managed, so everybody was kind of coming up with their own approach to what their job description and duties were – which is almost always a disaster in the making. Now OP is there trying to clean out the Augean Stables and get everybody in harness – it’s just Linda who may have been there the longest seems to be taking the most effort to get redirected.

        But good on OP for being direct and working on turning it all around.

      2. OP*

        I don’t think Linda is unfireable, but I think the organization recognizes a lot of her behavior as being the “norm” for that department while the previous supervisor was doing a poor job of managing the team.

        That is basically what ended up happening, although there was a bit of a gap when these messages were delivered.

  20. OfOtherWorlds*

    I noted that you (the LW) said that Linda is “pretty close to being fired or at least moved in her role”. So it seems like she may be shuffled of to be another departmnent’s problem rather than actually being fired. I am wondering if Linda has or had some sort of political or social leverage within the wider organization that has protected her from being fired, even though someone who followed her advice and acted like her was?

    1. Nanani*

      Maybe, or maybe it’s just the type of place where firings take a really long time for whatever reason.

    2. OP*

      I think that this can probably be attributed to a few things: she’s not new, and to be honest tenured employees are usually not under as close of a lens as new ones; poor standards by her old managers who were let go; it can be hard to learn all of the tasks involved with this job so previous management thought it was easier to just keep someone in the same role and try to work with them.

  21. Just Me*

    First job out of college–I was young and eager to learn, and as a young person I still viewed every employee who was older/more experienced than me as an authority figure. Once, an older employee told me it would be “perfectly fine” to accompany them to an off-site event. (This person wasn’t my manager, but I was young and dumb and went, Older Employee Says This is Fine So It Must Be Fine.) When I returned to the office, my manager sat me down and told me on no uncertain terms that I was expected to be on-site doing my job at all times and that I shouldn’t be listening to other employees other than my manager for guidance. At the time I was mortified, but it ended up being so crucial for my development as a professional.

    If Kate is new to work (not sure if that’s the case, but some of this letter makes it sound like she might be) I would say that OP doesn’t need to be tactful about this–they will be doing Kate a favor in the long-run by saying, “Do not follow the advice of this employee. We have our own performance expectations of each employee. Your job is to do _____.”

    1. Dust Bunny*

      At my first real job I left a bit early at the behest of an older employee (this was a job where you did not leave until all the work was done unless you had a very special reason). Once. My boss did not speak to me directly about it but I was so mortified the next day when I thought about it that he could probably tell I would never do it again. I *still* cannot imagine why I listened to this person! Augh!

  22. OyHiOh*

    When I was interviewing for NewJob, I asked about the history of the role (was it being created new, where is the person who was previously in the role?) and learned that my predecessor had been promoted into a new role. Yay! I have someone with institutional knowledge to rely on as I come up to speed. Great!

    Only to realize over the course of about 3 workdays that my predecessor comes from a very different professional background and, while they do know what’s been going on in my role for the past six months, they do not have the depth of industry or admin experience that I have. They’re also coming from a much more relaxed professional background and are (still) openly struggling with the presentation and appearance expectations here, despite having been here considerably longer. So absolutely, I go to them when I have specific questions about the context or history of a project that’s been transferred to me. Anything else, I take with a gigantic grain of salt and ask my manager about.

  23. A Simple Narwhal*

    If I was Kate I would be sooooo pissed if I ended up getting in trouble or fired(!!) because the person who trained me did it wrong. And if my manager/others saw it happening and did nothing, I’d be even more pissed! Heck, I’d still be frustrated if I had to be completely retrained and essentially start my whole job over, even if it was without any detriment to my career/reputation – it’s just a waste of time and effort that someone let me go through unnecessarily.

    So for Kate’s sake, definitely nip this in the bud, don’t let it go on any further!

  24. Nanani*

    Kate is NEW.
    She does not know that Linda is close to being fired, and if Linda is the most available role model, as she seems to be, Kate has NO possible way to know that she is a bad example.

    TELL HER. Do not let this bad mentorship forment and somehow blame the new person for not magically knowing it was bad mentorship when, this is key, they were -new-.

    It is super not ok to just be like “welp” about this. Trying to emulate a person whose been here longer is a good thing for Kate to be doing, and you are doing her a disservice by not letting her know she’s emulating the wrong person. A new person. Cannot. Know. That.

    1. OP*

      This post is from when I was a couple of weeks into this position. For clarification, I was not the one who fired the previous staff member. I agree that Linda was the most available staff member, and have since made both myself and other team members more available to onboarding new staff. We really haven’t had a problem with Linda trying to train new staff since then, so you are right on the money.

      Kate was told not to go to Linda for advice as we are changing so much that it isn’t applicable anymore, and that Linda is in on these meetings to learn too.

      I thought most people would ignore advice like “Don’t listen to what your supervisor just said and do what I say instead,” but that was what the department used to be like. I’ve had to follow up a lot to make it clear that we’re working by my standards and not Linda’s (or her previous supervisor’s). I was unfair in assuming that Kate would see Linda how I see Linda at times.

  25. Hiring Mgr*

    Agree with all the advice, but there’s one part I wouldn’t let Kate off the hook for completely. Even as a new employee I think it’s common sense to know that “don’t listen to the boss, just do what you want and eventually they’ll stop bothering you” isn’t a good approach.

    1. OP*

      It was the previous environment, so it made sense then. But yes, that’s not the standard I hold people to and I will have to make that point extremely clear for a while to truly change that POV from Linda.

      1. Polly Hedron*

        OP, you are being extremely
        • gracious in responding to some harsh criticism
        • informative in your clarifications
        • immediate and inspiring in your updates (we usually have to wait months for such satisfaction, if we ever get it at all)
        Thank you!

        1. Somebody Call A Lawyer*

          +1,000,000! Very even-keeled and thorough and self-reflective, especially in the face of some insulting language.

          1. Polly Hedron*

            This commentariat often comes down hard on managers, but OP has been replying coolly, extracting the value in the comments and learning from her mistakes.

            Even before seeing our comments, OP had turned around a dysfunctional department and salvaged a difficult employee. OP started as a good manager and is becoming an excellent one.

  26. Heather*

    I recently started a new role a few months ago and was assigned a mentor by manager who is in my role but been there longer. So I was told go to my mentor and have some training time but I also have 1:1 time with my boss. It has worked well. Might consider assigning a specific staff member as mentor and make it clear that they are her go to as well as you.

  27. HufferWare*

    If I were Kate, I would WANT this conversation. I would want to know where I’m failing and especially would want to know who is and and who isn’t a good resource for me to tap. I think Linda is a harder situation, but if I were her and valued my job, I would also want a clear picture of where I’m at and have a chance to either course correct or start polishing my resume.

  28. tiny*

    oh man, I was Katie, I had a sense that my Linda was wrong about things, and I felt crazy and like I was “just being nitpicky” until months in when one person finally told me that everyone thought Linda was bad at her job and that they felt bad for me that I was put in this position. DO NOT STOP AT HINTING!!!!

  29. Whirligig*

    Now why does this have anything to do with age? I’m a 70 year old HR pro. How would you address it if Linda was 35?

    1. Professional Cat Lady*

      OP says elsewhere that they’re both in their 30’s , and “older” just means longer-term.

  30. learnedthehardway*

    Having read your response, OP, it sounds like you have been successful in making it clear to Kate that she needs to look to other staff for direction, and also that you’ve managed to raise Linda’s performance level as well. Congratulations!

    I can imagine that Linda felt she was helping by giving the context, but after the prior employee was fired, it should have occurred to her to NOT give the advice she did give to new employees, particularly not when her prior manager was also fired. You’d think she would have realized that perhaps she needed to improve her own performance, as well.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Honestly, after reading everything it sounds like what happened in the past was the managers wouldn’t manage, so everybody got left to their own devices and Linda in an attempt to help was trying to train, when it sounds like she wasn’t fully trained herself (but because of managers not managing she didn’t know she wasn’t fully trained). Now after a long time of no management at all – and the prior new employee fired for following Linda’s advice may have been the wake up call for the upper management folks – OP has been brought in to tame the whole mess.
      Sounds like, slowly that is happening. I don’t know that Linda is really bad – she was just in need of way more support than she was receiving.

  31. Sabrina Spellman*

    We had this issue recently with a long time employee who dropped to part-time hours while we searched for her replacement. Even though Fergus was told multiple times that he should follow our directives, not Jane’s, he still fell back on the information she provided to him on multiple occasions. We’re still seeing the repercussions of allowing Jane to train Fergus on some standard, basic office practices.

  32. "Older" Employee*

    I don’t like the use of “older” in the post title. Age is irrelevant here. Maybe saying “long-time employee” would have been better, since age discrimination is so rampant and the stereotype of of older, inflexible dinosaur employees still roaming the workplace is alive and well. A an “older” employee myself, I hate how this site so easily descends into casual ageism.

    1. OP*

      Just because it’s come up a few times: “older” means tenured here, and does not refer to Linda’s age. They are both in their 30’s and seem close enough in age that they could have gone to school together.

      Older was not the best word to use here and I agree that age discrimination is a serious problem in the workplace and work culture as a whole.

  33. Workerbee*

    I’ve worked with Linda types. Lindas have no reason to change until and unless they get a manager who can dispassionately give concrete examples of what they need to work on, be clear on what is no longer tolerated, state what the consequences are, and issue what the timeframe is for these changes (in behavior, habits, work, etc.) to occur. And stick to all of the above.

    Another commenter said Linda was “too full of herself,” and I’m thinking, well, yeah, everyone just soft-foots around her and allows her to be a Linda! Why wouldn’t she be? Linda has learned that even if someone tells her to do something, all she has to do is not-do it, and nothing happens to her.

Comments are closed.