my employee won’t stop pushing for a job she’s not qualified for

A reader writes:

An employee I manage, Elizabeth, wants a job that’s open on another team. She has no experience and doesn’t have the education or certification required for it. If she were given the job it would be like hiring a person who never went to law school, never passed the bar exam, and never set foot in a law firm to be a lawyer. HR explained to her why she wouldn’t be considered, but she has responded that she disagrees and asked to be reconsidered. She thinks showing initiative and being a quick learner is enough when it isn’t. Besides an internship, this is her first job.

I’ve tried explaining to Elizabeth why she can’t have the job but she still wants it and is arguing her case to anyone who will listen. It may seem obvious but I am out of ideas.

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

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • I think I hurt my assistant’s feelings
  • I cried on a call with a client

{ 163 comments… read them below }

  1. Cara*

    Unless the LW is leaving out details this does NOT sound like badgering. Plenty of jobs ask for experience and degrees/certifications that are not actually necessary for the job, or have a list of “requirements” that are actually a wish list. HR departments often screen using those lists as a checklist and rule out people who would actually be great in the job but have a less fit-the-boxes background, often because they don’t have the same subject/job knowledge as the hiring manager. And plenty of people get hired for jobs where they are incompetent, often rising in the ranks over time (although historically this happens more often with males, and I do wonder how the LW and the boss might have responded in this situation if Elizabeth was male).

    I think it’s legit that Elizabeth applied for the job, asked HR to reconsider, and asked the boss directly to consider.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Even if you consider that legit, once the boss has said no, the part where she “is arguing her case to anyone who will listen” is a problem.

      1. Loulou*

        Right! Asking once to be reconsidered or for feedback is not badgering, but arguing your case repeatedly (to what sounds like unrelated parties?) definitely is.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          And taking the OP at their word (always important here) it sounds like HR gave Elizabeth really clear and actionable feedback about why they will not be moving her candidacy forward. Now Elizabeth needs to show some discretion and stop arguing a decision that will not change.

    2. Raboot*

      > If she were given the job it would be like hiring a person who never went to law school, never passed the bar exam, and never set foot in a law firm to be a lawyer. HR explained to her why she wouldn’t be considered, but she has responded that she disagrees and asked to be reconsidered

      Pretty obviously not missing just nice-to-haves.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        This is where I come down as well. Elizabeth sounds very early in her career, and is not yet practiced in the art of differentiating “would be nice” from “required to do the job.”

        Personally I would give her one last firm this will not be happening conversation, and then offer some lessons on reading job postings with an eye towards determining the difference between nice and required. May help her as her career continues.

        1. Cait*

          For some reason I thought she would be older and of the “you just need to barge in there and demand they give you a job!” generation. But hearing she’s only had intern experience, which suggests she’s probably pretty young, makes me think she really just needs a “come to Jesus” talk about professionalism.

          Submitting an application for a job you’re clearly unqualified for (and not only somewhat unqualified but GLARINGLY unqualified) sends a bad message because it suggests you’re either delusional or don’t mind wasting people’s time on a hail Mary. To push the matter further gives the impression that, not only are you delusional, but you’re aggressively delusional. And to continue to argue about it to anyone who will listen while insisting your ability to “show initiative” and “learn quickly” are the only qualifications you need will almost certainly get you labeled as a deranged trouble-maker. Of course the conversation would need to be worded much more gently than this but, as a manager, I would consider it imperative that it be addressed if only so she doesn’t start her professional career on the wrong foot.

      2. bamcheeks*

        genuinely, not everyone knows this! There are lots of roles where there’s a required qualification, roles where there’s a preferred qualification, and roles where a qualification is unnecessary but lots of people doing the job will have it. And there can often be non-regulated versions of roles which will attract lots of people with the formal qualification until the regulated version comes up. If you’re, say, someone hired as a Customer Service Assistant in a llama salon, and you work with lots of Grooming Assistants who have an Masters in Grooming Arts and some who don’t, and lots of Grooms who *have* to have an MLS, it’s not immediately obvious that you absolutely definitely can’t become a Groom or a Trainee Groom without that qualification, or that, “you can’t be considered for this job because you don’t have an MGA” means “you absolutely 100% legally have to MGA, we cannot give this job to someone without one” instead of “we really prefer people to have the MGA”. Nobody is born knowing the difference between regulated and non-regulated professions.

        Hopefully HR or the LW has fully explained this to Elizabeth– in which case she is being *extremely* obtuse, and it’s fair enough for LW to have a, “Your refusal to understand this is making me question your judgment” conversation. But if there’s any chance they have told Elizabeth, “no, this is necessary”, but not explained that it’s COMPLETELY necessary, the way you can’t practice as a nurse without a nursing qualification and up-to-date registration, not the way it’s hard to get a job as an Editor without a Masters in Editing and Publishing, that would be a kind and useful thing to do.

        1. I'm just here for the cats!*

          yes, I commented below before reading your comment but I agree. If it is a regulated position, such as real estate agent, counselor, or paralegal, I wonder if HR and/or OP could sit down with the employee and show her the state requirement page explaining how much additional education and explain what she would need to do. Maybe she just doesn’t get it that this isn’t something that the company had decided but it is illegal to have someone do X without the specific education.

            1. bamcheeks*

              The letter about leaving teaching on the earlier post today that suggested that it is in some states and not in others!

            2. Jam today*

              Paralegal requirements vary by state in the US. In my state, the law outlines exactly what is needed for a person to hold a paralegal title.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      Applying just in case the requirements are a wishlist rather than requirements: I get this, though the degree to which it’s reasonable or delusional varies, and from OP’s description it’s toward the latter. “Self-identifies as honest” and “is a certified notary public” are quite different things, after all.

      Trying to relitigate it to HR, to OP, and to anyone who will listen? That’s failing to read the room. And an inability to take feedback is a poor quality in someone hoping to be promoted.

    4. JSPA*

      When a job actually REQUIRES a certification–as in, it’s illegal for someone to hold the title without having the certification–it makes anyone uncertified who nevertheless tries to get the job through “gumption,” look pig-ignorant.

      “Look at me, I’m being clueless!” is bad enough, when it’s a momentary lapse. But to double down on it???

      1. AcademiaNut*

        I would be pretty understanding if someone new to the field and job didn’t realize that the certification was an absolute requirement – there’s a lot of variation in how this works from job to job, even in the same field. It’s the doubling down on it and not accepting the answer that’s more of a problem.

        I see this a lot in letters about inexperienced employees doing boneheaded things through ignorance. If, when corrected, they listen to the answer, apologize and move on having learned something, they’re someone who is showing the potential to grow into a capable employee and worth spending time on. If they double down and insist that they’re right, they’re much more likely to end up getting fired for it.

        1. Anonymousfriend*

          I sometimes feel inexperience is used as an excuse for entitlement or for people who think the rules don’t apply to them. I have known plenty of fresh grads or new to the industry teammates who pick up on work structures through observation and inquire about moving into different roles without being assuming. Or if there are any faux pas it is usually rooted in not understanding how a specific process works and not “I was told i couldn’t do this but I’m going to push through with it anyway.”

          This situation reads more as being unable to admit that your initial readings of the situation (being qualified for the job) could be incorrect.

      2. Antilles*

        Exactly. If there’s a state licensing requirement (like the “lawyer without passing the bar” mentioned by OP), that’s cut-and-dry: You either satisfy the legal requirements to practice law in the state or you don’t. If you don’t, that’s that – no degree of cajoling or pushing changes that answer; it just makes you seem dumb.

    5. Lilo*

      She’s arguing back when she was told no and she’s doing it repeatedly. This is badgering. She could lose her job over this and needs to stop.

    6. mcfizzle*

      I suppose more details on the exact nature of the role would help, but based on the lawyer analogy, I tend to disagree with your assessment, at least for this one. Though I agree that there are generally too many “requirements” that aren’t really requirements.

      But regardless, the continued insistence is a definite problem, especially given that HR is involved already.

    7. The OTHER other*

      …And there are plenty of jobs where the qualifications are NOT just “nice to have” but essential to the job. The OP likens the situation to someone with no law degree, never been to law school, or set foot in a law firm expecting to be a lawyer. This is Elizabeth’s first job after an internship, she has nowhere near the experience or qualifications needed, and worse than that, she is not listening. She is putting her current job in jeopardy.

    8. NYC Taxi*

      Can we please stop weaponizing gender? Not every job rejection is because of being a woman. It sounds like this person is wholly unqualified, applied and was already rejected, and is now pleading her case to anyone who will listen. That is badgering.

      1. Lilo*

        Yes, if there’s a legal requirement for the job, that’s a firm stop, no question. Social workers, CPAs, lawyers, nurses, doctors, for instance, all have strict licensing requirements.

        1. Susannah*

          But… not just legal requirements. Let’s say a cub reporter started working at a daily newspaper and applied for the job of city editor after being there 6 months. It’s not about some legal entity saying the applicant isn’t qualified. It’s that the individual couldn’t possibly have the experience or skills needed to do that job. And telling HR and her boss that SHE knows more about what the jib requires than they do? She’s just showing even more why she’s not ready for that job yet.

    9. SarahKay*

      I think Alison has said the articles for Inc. are sometimes cut down for length from the original question in the past, and this seems to be the case here. I found the original question from July 2018, and Elizabeth was definitely badgering, especially since (as she was clearly told) there is a genuine specific qualification required.

      1. Sara without an H*

        Bingo! From the original letter:

        I’ve tried explaining to Elizabeth why she can’t have the job but she still wants it. My boss is getting fed up with her badgering him and he wants me to make her stop it. I don’t know how since she won’t listen to anyone who says she can’t have the job. It may seem obvious but I am out of ideas.

        When you look at the original letter, it’s clear that this has gone way, way beyond the case of an employee who would be otherwise qualified but lacks a few “nice to have” skills. This is someone who is absolutely not qualified, has had the situation thoroughly explained to her, and is still refusing to take no for an answer. Alison’s original answer required the manager to be very, very blunt and explicit.

        Wish the OP had sent us an update. I would have liked to know how this worked out.

        1. to varying degrees*

          There were a couple of responses from her (the boss had said no a few times as well) in the comments and unless there’s a glitch in the site the comment from Cara is literally word-for-word the same comment they made from before. I wonder if it copied over.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            That is extremely odd. It did not copy over on its own (or at least that would be a behavior WordPress has never done before and has no way of doing; it has no way of associating the two posts).

          2. MCMonkeyBean*

            Lol wow that is so weird, did they feel that strongly that they copied their comment even though it had already been thoroughly rebutted the first time around?

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Could be that she’s oblivious to the fact she’s about to be fired.

            She may not be all bad, but this sounds like a case of a young employee who has read way, way too many stories of “GUMPTION” working……and won’t hear anything to the contrary. Hopefully if they did get fired they behaved better in their next job.

            1. Performative Gumption*

              I do wonder if she’s gotten some terrible advice from someone or read a book or similar on ‘just go for it!’
              ‘Turn no into yes!’
              And other trying and tiring guff

              1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                Agreed. Young can excuse trying this ONCE, as long as you will accept NO being the answer.

                You would think after the second NO, most people would accept that’s the answer and drop it. Which is what Elizabeth needs to do if she wants to keep the current job.

        2. The Rules are Made Up*

          If nothing else has worked it probably won’t stop until someone else is literally hired for that position and there’s no more role to badger about

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Unless the employee then turned to badgering the successful candidate about taking “her” job.

            Unfortunately I’ve seen that one, and that Elizabeth ended up demoted then fired because of the badgering. The hired candidate was on the verge of quitting because of the harassment, boss was just barely able to keep them because they made it evident to newer employee that that person was not listening to any corrective attempts, but that the disciplinary process was in motion. From what we heard later – sadly that Elizabeth didn’t learn a thing and told anybody who would listen that she was fired for being right and the rest of us were jealous (but she was unemployed for a long time). It was a small town and a niche field, word got around to all in the field what she was saying.

    10. MuseumGal*

      From what the OP described and their comparison to it being like hiring a lawyer without a law degree though it doesn’t sound like a situation where there’s room for any compromise. With some jobs you can get away with hiring someone this way but there are also many where there are either legal requirements for what qualifications someone must have or it would put the company at considerable risk to hire someone who wasn’t properly trained ( an accountant, for example). There’s no reason to assume the OP or their HR person would feel differently about that if this employee were a man.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        The LW responds in the original posting under “Sara LW 1”. She clarified that being qualified for the position would require a second university degree, working under a certified person for a period of time, then passing a professional exam. So really like hiring someone with a computer science degree as a lawyer, or someone with an English degree as a certified engineer. No amount of gumption is going to make it work, no matter what their gender is.

        I’d like an update as to whether Elizabeth calmed down or flamed out.

    11. NerdyKris*

      I think you missed “and is arguing her case to anyone who will listen.”. That’s implying it’s a lot more than just HR and the hiring manager. Otherwise LW wouldn’t be asking how to stop behavior that’s already stopped.

    12. Lilo*

      This is strange, but I was looking through the old letter and this completely exact response was posted 4 years ago under the same username despite the LW coming in and explaining this was a strict requirement. Like copy/pasted.

      What’s up with that?

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        That is really intriguing. I so want to know. This is a strange battle to take on: is “OP misrepresenting her employee’s action due to gender?” and to rehash it four years later? THAT is dying on a hill.

      2. to varying degrees*

        I saw this as well! Weird, like the site went wonky.

        Or it’s Elizabeth… dun, dun, dun!!!

        1. Sara without an H*

          Yeah, I wondered about that. “Cara” posted several times under the original letter, and her posts really could have been plausibly written by “Elizabeth.”

          Of course, that would never, never happen in real life.

          1. Ellen Ripley*

            It’s funny, in Alison’s original response she wrote “Also, how’s her work and her judgment aside from this? This behavior is weird enough that I suspect this isn’t the only sign of trouble with her”

            If Elizabeth is actually posting on here four years after the fact (and quick enough to post the first comment), then her strange behavior certainly isn’t limited to badgering people for a job she is under qualified for…

      3. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Confirmed–it’s exact enough to turn up as the top Google search result.

      4. The modern major general*

        And in the original comment section when the OP questioned Cara as to why she thought the company would let a man do the job without being licensed or legally certified, Cara didn’t answer the question.

    13. Fluffy Fish*

      Hard disagree.

      One this has nothing to do with gender. OP was very clear the level of requirement. OP was very clear they have explained why Elizabeth isn’t qualified. Are you really suggesting that if Elizabeth was a man, OP would suddenly decide that those pesky qualifications weren’t really necessary?

      I’ll give Elizabeth a pass on applying. I’ll give her a pass on asking HR. And maybe if HR didn’t explain the very very required part, I’ll giver her a pass at asking her boss. Once.

      And thats being generous because honestly it’s concerning that someone who is quite literally in their first ever job thinks they are remotely qualified for a high level position that also has some very specific requirements.

      But the fact that she’s still going on and on about this job does not get a pass.

      Elizabeth is a walking talking bad judgement with a gross misunderstanding of her skills and experience.

      1. Amy*

        America is very different to England. People can be fired for any reason unless it is a protected class relevant to the case. She should be fired.

            1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

              But what does that have to do with what Fluffy Fish was saying?

          1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

            I think that “Amy” was talking about the US in her statement. What I don’t understand is how that has anything to do with the comment Amy responded to, which mentioned neither firing nor country.

    14. The Cosmic Avenger*

      “And plenty of people get hired for jobs where they are incompetent, often rising in the ranks over time…”

      So because some companies do something dysfunctional, that should be the standard rather than doing the more practical thing? That is not a convincing argument, that’s more of a straw man. I hope you’re seeing that most people find this kind of behavior unacceptable, and it will endanger both Elizabeth’s reputation and probably her career.

    15. KRM*

      Borderline legit is her applying for the job (it wasn’t posted internally because NOBODY had the proper qualifications. Actual qualifications). Asking HR AND the boss to reconsider? Not legit. Not even a little. If you’re told you’re not qualified for a job, your next step should be to sit down with your boss, tell them that you realize you’re interested in Job X, and how would you go about working towards that. NOT badgering anyone who will listen to you about how you want Job X so bad and they’re not just giving it to you for some reason.
      Also, it’s pretty important here that Elizabeth is in her first job, and only has an internship previously. I know a lot of people that age who like to think they’re more qualified (because they’ve worked for a year/also done an internship, therefore they know all), but it’s unlikely that she’s going to be qualified for any sort of promotion or step up or job with certification for years. She needs to listen to HR and her boss and stay in her lane for the time being.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        This part is golden : “…sit down with your boss, tell them that you realize you’re interested in Job X, and how would you go about working towards that.”
        Which would have given OP the chance to say if the company offers tuition reimbursement, etc. to people who earn this required certification.

    16. Observer*

      I think it’s legit that Elizabeth applied for the job, asked HR to reconsider, and asked the boss directly to consider.

      Actually, it’s often NOT “legit” to go to this length. But, more importantly, what the OP describes goes much further than that. “arguing to anyone who will listen” is not a legitimate strategy. It sounds like someone who has never grown up.

      Also, you are really going into fanfic territory. I think that absent any other indicators, it’s quite reasonable to believe the OP when they say that she doesn’t have the most basic background needed for the position.

    17. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      The first follow-up was not badgering but she’s been told twice by two different people that she is not qualified for the job and she continues to argue about it. That is most certainly badgering.

      1. NYC Taxi*

        One follow up to get an understanding of the situation is fine – learning what they need do to reach that level would be a great item for the follow up, but that should be the end of the discussion.

    18. This is Artemesia*

      She asked. She was answered. She asked for reconsideration and was clearly told no and why. She continues to push. This is bad judgment and annoying behavior. I’d be wondering what other poor judgment she displays on the job.

    19. Kevin Sours*

      Applying for the job might be legit. People don’t always write the descriptions well, sometimes realize after the fact that something they thought wasn’t negotiable could be, or that something they don’t want to be negotiable has to be based on the candidates they can get. And sometimes you misjudge and apply end up applying it turns out the mismatch is kind of absurd. But no harm no foul.
      But a stretch is one thing not having any of the requisite experience is another. Applying for a lifeguard job because you’re really sure you can learn how to swim just calls your judgement into question.

      Asking for reconsideration? Honestly, no. Telling people they’ve made a mistake usually don’t go well even when it’s true. At that point you’d better not only meet the criteria but have a pretty compelling reason point by point for how you do but also a reasonable explanation for you why you think it’s going to be overlooked. Pulling that when you aren’t qualified exhibits poor judgement — you were *told* you didn’t meet the criteria.

      Pushing it further after your reconsideration was rejected? All you are accomplishing is making it abundantly clear to all and sundry that you have no ability to read a room. If they are wrong the only option is to shut up and find somebody else who thinks differently.

    20. JP*

      It sounds like the requirements may include some sort of professional licensure. If that’s the case, then there may be aspects of this position she simply is not legally capable of performing.

    21. I'm just here for the cats!*

      Yes many jobs list experiences or preferred certifications. But the OP says that it is needed in this job. Both the OP and HR have explained that but the employee is not listening and is arguing with them. She is also arguing her point with other people at work, and I’m assuming by when the OP says “Anyone who will listens” this includes coworkers and people who are not involved with the decision.

      She has been told why she is not qualified. The only thing I could add is if their are specific state requirements that the OP can give her and also to tell her how she could go and get qualified, but explaining it would not be for the position available now.

    22. NotAnotherManager!*

      I’m fine with Elizabeth applying for the job, but the requests for reconsideration are not a good look. The question should be, “What could I do to be eligible for this position in the future?”, not an insistence that the criteria are wrong and she can do the job without any of that education/experience.

      And my Elizabeth was John, and I didn’t view John’s multiple requests for reconsideration any more kindly because he’s a man. This is not self-advocacy or gumption, it’s not reading the room or the job description. It’s also a bit tone deaf to insist that your employer wrote a crappy job description and doesn’t know what they want/need from the position.

    23. Ellie*

      Getting hired for a job you’re not certified for is a much bigger deal though than just being incompetent. If that hasn’t been explained to her properly I’d start with that. But beyond that, she needs to stop asking.

      Maybe if the OP explained to her exactly what it would take to get that job (qualifications, timelines, etc.), that might make it sink in?

  2. KHB*

    Why not just let Elizabeth throw her hat into the ring and submit an application? It’s not hurting anybody, and presumably she’s not the only unqualified person who’d be applying for the position. Let the selection process run its course, and then tell her, “No, we’re not hiring you. We’re hiring Lucinda instead.”

      1. Heidi*

        Yes, the original letter explained that Elizabeth sent in an application and cover letter, and HR rejected it because she didn’t have the qualifications for the job. She’s trying to appeal this rejection, which doesn’t sound like a real option.

        1. SarahKay*

          Worse – Elizabeth sent in an application and cover letter despite the job not being offered internally! and it wasn’t offered internally because no-one had the required qualification.

        2. Lilo*

          The idea that a rejection can be appealed is pretty odd behavior. Especially when someone doesn’t meet minimum requirements.

          1. Ana Gram*

            Appealing isn’t a particularly odd thing to try. I once had a temporary employee get rejected for a permanent position…for the job he was currently doing. Something glitched in either his application or the ATS and he was rejected. I’m glad he brought it up and we ended up converting him to permanent.

            But in this specific scenario, Elizabeth has no grounds for an appeal and is not behaving professionally.

            1. Kevin Sours*

              You really want to be sure of your ground before you make the claim that people made a mistake deciding you didn’t have the qualifications for the position. Taking a shot at a stretch position doesn’t really reflect badly on someone even if you roll your eyes a little at how far they are stretching. Doubling down after being told no kinda does.

          2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Asking for feedback is one thing – but generally speaking most job application processes are not like a court case where you can appeal.

            1. APS employee*

              Depends on the workplace. It can happen in government work, at least in Australia where I am – there are some pretty strict rules about how promotion applications can be assessed, and candidates can appeal if they believe those rules weren’t followed. It’s very rare that those appeals result in overturning a decision (typically about 1-4 successful appeals across the entire Australian Public Service) but when I was working on recruitment, we were expected to keep very thorough records of the decision-making process to make sure it stayed that way.

      2. Lilo*

        Exactly. It sounds like HR was being kind to her and she’s arguing back.

        I highly suspect Elizabeth didn’t work out at this job. Alison questioned in the response whether Elizabeth is like this on other issues, and I also suspect this.

      3. KHB*

        It’s the “HR explained to her why she wouldn’t be considered” part that makes me think that both HR and OP are spending a whole lot of effort trying to convince her not to even submit to the job selection process – otherwise, it would be more like “We considered you, and the answer is no.”

        But even if she already applied in the usual way and was rejected, it seems like all you have to do is hold out until somebody else gets hired for the position, and then you can say “You can’t have the position because it’s not open anymore.” Then it’s not about her and her inadequacies – it’s about this other person that you hired instead who’s better.

        1. Lilo*

          There is additional context in the original post:

          “My boss is looking externally since no one who works here is qualified. The job wasn’t posted internally but Elizabeth still applied for it and she also emailed her resume and cover letter to my boss and HR. She was immediately rejected since she isn’t qualified. HR explained why she wouldn’t be considered for the job.”

          1. to varying degrees*

            Also this (honestly I would have just fired her after this):
            “He has explained to her more than once why she can’t have the job.”

        2. BRR*

          That seems like a really indirect and passive way of handling this. She needs to learn that if she’s told that she’s lacking essential qualifications, then she isn’t a match for that job. It seems like a pretty clear message to me.

    1. Amy*

      That’s ridiculous. You can’t ignore how dense Elizabeth is. I would look very carefully at her performance in her current role. I bet there would be issues if someone looked at it. She isn’t very clever and instead of focussing on qualifying for the role, she focuses on badgering.

  3. Keymaster of Gozer*

    Had a run in with someone applying to my team (think 3rd line tech support – you need a lot of knowledge and skill) once who had no experience in IT beyond using a computer at work to do basic MS Office stuff and one at home to help her kids learn. She just really wanted to go into IT but wanted our kind of salary instead of the basic helpdesk one.

    It would have been an internal company transfer so we couldn’t block her from emailing us, or questioning us in the corridor. I’m glad Alison has a good answer for this because I just ended up utterly ignoring her.

    1. Mid*

      It’s always difficult to transition into a new career path if you can’t afford a pay cut or additional schooling (or both), even if it’s something you know you’ll be able to do with a bit of time.

      I wish more companies had more robust internal cross-training programs to facilitate things like that. Not that someone can go from “can make a PowerPoint” to “3rd line tech support” without some serious skills and training, but what if there was a program for someone to get trained on 1st line tech support as part of their job, while maintaining their current duties and pay. Because maybe this internal person would have been great at it, with a few months of support and training. (Or maybe they would have been terrible, and a month of cross training would have made that clear to them and they could reinvest their time in something else.)

      And to be clear, this is not a criticism of you, Keymaster, just more general wishful thinking, because it’s hard feeling stuck in a career and not having the resources to make a change.

      1. Angstrom*

        I’m fortunate — my company has a small “internal internship” program for people who want to try lateral moves. It’s worked well. Participants have the opportunity to try a new position part-time.

      2. AsPerElaine*

        While I also wish companies were better at internal training, if Keymaster’s “3rd line” is my “tier 3,” this particular example just isn’t feasible. Jane may be a great employee, but it takes YEARS to go from tier 1 level support to tier 3 level support, especially if you have no experience in tech support at all.* At many companies this is a five-year career progression. Depending on the precise levels of support in question, and how good Jane actually is at tech support, it could be a ten-year career progression, assuming Jane is tier 3 tech material at all.

        It simply doesn’t make any sense for the company to continue paying Jane at her current level of pay when they could hire someone at perhaps 20 or 30k less (depending on what they’re actually paying Jane) who has more experience and will probably get to a senior level more quickly.

        *and while I have no evidence that this is the case for Keymaster’s person (aside from the fact that she clearly doesn’t understand the levels of work involved), I’ve seen a lot of people who can make a powerpoint and are sure tech support wouldn’t be that hard, who would not be at all good at tech support.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          Internal training works best when someone wants to add a specific skill to their current job, or do a side-step to something similar to what they are already proficient at. If you want to change field completely, you’re likely to need to start back at entry level and work your way up while learning on the side. If you want to, say, go from front desk reception to back-end development, you’re going to have to go off and get some training on your own, because expecting your employee to pay you a full time salary while you spend a couple of years training for a completely new career is not particularly realistic or practical.

      3. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I changed careers from virologist to IT years ago and absolutely I started at the bottom and learnt my skills on the job, working my way up the ranks. To train someone to go from her level of knowledge to IT Helpdesk would have been possible (although still would have taken months) and she would be paid the same as anyone else on helpdesk.

        But to go to our level, and salary like she wanted would have taken the decade it took me to learn. And there are no companies going to offer that or 3rd tier pay for a first tier job. We do offer cross training but there are limits.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          So, are you saying no one ever sat down with her to explain what you explained here in an effort to make her understand? I really hope they did since that would have been the kind thing to do. If not, then maybe that’s why she was emailing people and cornering them in the halls.

    2. Anon for this one*

      I have a similar situation, except that the person (Jake) does actually have the ‘3rd line’ level job, due to a misjudgement by the manager in recruiting him. As you can imagine he’s struggling as he doesn’t even have the fundamentals down and despite many attempts by me and others to ‘coach’ him.. he just doesn’t have what it takes. It seems clear to me that it’s a PIP situation but his manager doesn’t understand that (e.g.) 3rd line is so much more involved than entry level help desk and requires years of experience. The manager is saying to me things like “Jake just needs to level up his knowledge a bit, can you make a list of things for him to study up on?” I’ve tried many times to explain why you can’t just give someone a book and they can somehow absorb years of experience. Aaargh!

  4. Esmeralda*

    The problem isn’t that she wants to apply — she can do that, and get rejected.

    The problems are 1. She seems to be talking about it /arguing her case with everyone and his dog. and 2. She’s discounting her manager’s advice. 3. You may get some side-eye as her manager if she does apply. 4. She needs guidance on professional behavior and on how hiring and promotion work at your office.

    Do you have 1-on-1’s with her? I’d make this a specific topic for the next meeting. Let her know the topic is professionalism and promotion. Don’t focus just on this job she wants to apply for now. Help her understand how to plan for her career, what are one-year goals, three year goals, five year goals, long term goals. I’d even ask her to write these out and bring them for discussion at a 1-1 in a couple of weeks.

    When talking about the job she wants to apply for, I’d describe it just as you did here: Applying to be a lawyer without attending law school etc. Explain how her insistence on applying for this position affects how she is viewed by others at work.

    If there’s someone she could work with as a mentor, that would be really helpful. If you identify such a person, please ask them first if they have the time to do it….

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      1a: she did apply, resume and cover letter. She received a rejection from HR explaining that she lacks the qualification.
      I’m sure 100s of people will receive a blanket “thanks but no thanks letter.” Elizabeth got a reason, a meet and feedback from HR, her boss and boss’s boss. This is the end of the process and she needs to accept it.

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      > Help her understand how to plan for her career

      Presumably in another company, because there’s very little chance most managers would consider having her on a promotion track after this episode…

    3. Caroline Daykin*

      It sounds like the goal in your first answer is to instill fear into the employee rather than seeking to understand why she is pushing for the promotion she isn’t qualified for. Maybe she isn’t being challenged enough in her current role or feels that she isn’t being paid fairly. It would be far more productive to work with her on how she can develop the skills she needs for the promotion rather than try to intimidate her into submission.

      1. Esmeralda*

        ? I don’t see that? Could you explain?

        If anything, I think my answer shows a way for OP to be supportive and help a new to the work world employee think about her career big picture.

  5. Lilo*

    I want to day for LW3 that it’s really really normal to have a delayed stress reaction to something like a car accident. My sister was once rear ended at a red light (I was the passenger) and she kept everything together great until she got home. Then she got very shaky.

    1. soontoberetired*

      So true. And if you are in the situation Lw3 is in, take the rest of the day off. Shock can show up later, you need to take care of yourself. I’ve been thru it myself, and I know a couple of other people who have had accidents on workdays. You need to take the time to recover.

    2. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      Yep, very much agree. I was in an accident in high school, and kept it together to talk to the police, convinced the ambulance that I was fine, was calm and collected until my mom was able to get there from her work which was an hour away. I knew I needed to be responsible until there was an “adultier adult” I could depend on and then I just fell apart.

      1. Grace Poole*

        Heck, that happens to me now. Sometimes, as a grown-ass adult, I will call my mom after a rough day. As soon as I hear her voice, I lose it.

    3. Hen in a Windstorm*

      Yep, I’m great in a crisis and can keep it together and make sure everyone/everything is taken care of… until it’s all over. Then I cry and shake and freak out.

  6. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    I’ve been that employee. Elizabeth has two options–give up on the position or pursue the same position with another company.

    I would advise LW to tell Elizabeth point blank “That decision is final and I cannot change it. Continuing to dwell on it will only alienate further those recruiting for the position in the future.”

    Ultimately, if she’s willing to get herself fired over it, there’s little anyone can do to stop her.

    1. Lilo*

      Based on the details it sounds like Elizabeth isn’t going to get the job anywhere. Hiring someone who isn’t a lawyer to do a lawyer’s job will get you into a heap of legal trouble. I imagine they may have been talking about something like a CPA or something else with strict licensing requirements.

      1. Observer*

        Yes, the requirements the OP outlined there are very similar to what is required for a CPA license.

        And, yes, if a position legally requires a CPA (or the the equivalent level in a different profession), “I don’t agree” is a signal that even if they did have the technical qualification, they are not fit for the role. Because “I don’t agree that you have to follow the legal requirements” is never a good idea.

      2. Amy*

        Even if it was possible to hire someone without qualifications, why would they when there are always applicants who do have them? The same applies to the work experience requirements outlined by the OP In the original letter. It would never be possible to look at the person and think they are intelligent again.

    2. Fluffy Fish*

      I would go a little beyond your statement. Instead of “I cannot change it”, I’d leave it as the decision is final.

      Based on her behavior if OP says “I cannot change it” Elizabeth will take that to mean someone can change it.

  7. learnedthehardway*

    I think that if she’s not listening to the feedback that she is not qualified, and has taken to advocating for her candidacy inappropriately, it’s time to tell her that her insistence on being considered is coming across as tone deaf and as proof that she doesn’t understand the role.

    I say “tone deaf” because someone who thinks they are qualified for a role that they are NOT at all qualified for is demonstrating that they don’t recognize the qualifications of other people relative to themselves. Perhaps a better word for it is “arrogant”.

    You might also point out that being inappropriate about how she pursues the role will create a negative impression of her with decision makers. Everyone understands that she is interested, but she has to accept that the hiring manager understands what they are looking for better than she does.

    Given that she’s very junior, it’s important that she learns how to advocate for herself. You might provide some instruction about that – eg. “It’s fine for you to have expressed interest and for you to have applied. XYZ Corp. wants to develop and advance people’s careers. It was also fine for you to mention to your manager and HR that you were interested. But going to other stakeholders and/or the hiring manager after being told you are not qualified is crossing a line. Continuing to pursue this is raising questions about your judgment and professionalism. Sometimes, we will think we are qualified for a role when we are not. Accepting rejection with grace is an important part of being professional.”

    1. Anonym*

      Yep, there’s something important in her rejecting the company or hiring manager’s right to set the qualifications for the role (which may actually be legally required or at least industry standard based on the lawyer analogy). It’s one thing to point out how your skills may in fact translate being able to do the job successfully despite being an unconventional candidate, but entirely another to tell the people hiring that they’re wrong about what they’re looking for. It’s a concerning flag for either arrogance, ignorance, or most likely both.

  8. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    Elizabeth needs a one-on-one that clearly goes over her career path options — including the relevant education/training/certifications that would be required for each step up. Information can be provided about where she can get training, and whether the company will help her do that with time and/or money.

    If she’s whining about it to co-workers, there’s an extremely good chance that they also know that there is a credential gap, so either they’ll correct her or she will be making some not-great professional impressions. Unless it’s a distraction to them or to you, you can decide to let her complain until her tantrum fades. Or you can take some time in a staff meeting to address the professional credentials required for the career ladder, and encourage staff to come to you to discuss next steps if they’d like. That may give the coworkers some language to use when she goes to them.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Why go to all the trouble for someone who’s been so disruptive and isn’t likely to change, though?

      Her behaviour is insubordination. Treat it the way you’d treat any other case of insubordination.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      The thing is, I think a lot of that has actually already been done. I went back and found the original letter and comments, and it sounds like there have been conversations with Elizabeth that she doesn’t want to hear that tell her why she can have that job, and what she’d need to do if she really wanted the job.

      At this point, it sounds like Elizabeth needs a blunt “stop this now” chat because her unwillingness to listen may well cost her the job she has, much less prevent her from getting the job she wants in the future.

  9. yokozbornak*

    At my former workplace, we had many jobs that required licensure (MDs, social workers, RNs). I had unqualified people apply all the time that wanted to argue about why they could do the job. I remember telling one such person that while I was sure she would be a fine Clinical Director even though she only had a high school diploma versus the medical degree and license that was required, our facility would lose our license for hiring her. As someone in HR, I expect weird stuff like this from outside candidates, but I would be giving an internal person a serious side-eye if they persisted down this path. Frankly, it shows lack of good judgment and an inability to follow instructions.

    1. irene adler*

      But isn’t there more to being a Clinical Director than holding the degree and license? Like making informed judgments regarding the medical or regulatory issues involved in any given case?

      A long time ago we had a CFO who, it seemed, read the daily newspaper for the majority of the day. Yet he commanded a huge 6 figure salary. It’s easy to observe this and think, hey, I can do that. But I knew not to kid myself. There’s an education/license behind this that comes into play that justifies that big salary (a CPA, for example).

      1. Temperance*

        The degree and license is a basic requirement, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t – or don’t – include other things when evaluating candidates. Just that someone who didn’t go to college and only finished high school is supremely unqualified for the job.

        1. yokoznornak*

          Exactly. I medical degree and current license was an absolute requirement with no wiggle room. I am sure she had lot of great skills, but she couldn’t be a Clinical Director without that degree. There is no room for discussion.

    2. Storm in a teacup*

      We used to get a lot of unqualified applicants to our NHS hospital. People thinking of course they can work as a dietician or speech therapist or pharmacist as they had no idea of the qualifications required.
      We got around this by introducing a mandatory field in our online application for professional jobs where you had to enter your professional regulator and registration number to proceed with the application. There were of course the odd, determined few who managed to bypass this and still apply. It feels like she is very dogged in her approach and doesn’t understand professional norms for her company. I too would be given internal candidates like this some serious side eye ( >_>)

    3. Manders*

      In Spring 2020 I was a general manager of a Covid PCR diagnostic lab. Despite having 21 years of experience in laboratory science and a Master’s degree in Pharmacology, the licensing board had a very hard time okaying me for the role, simply because I didn’t have any experience handling clinical samples. I was put through because we were in a pandemic, but they let me know that the guy I supervised was MUCH more qualified to run the lab because he had previously worked in the public health lab and had handled clinical samples. Had they said no to me, I would not have fought it at all, because… I didn’t have the (fairly ridiculous) proper requirement.

      And I have to say, we had a very successful lab that served the community at a time when it was hard to get a PCR test. But I’m SO glad I don’t do that work anymore, LOL.

  10. Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves*

    I worked with someone like this at a university and it was an absolute nightmare. She misled our manager about her qualifications so he hired her on at a level and pay much higher than she should have been. She then proceeded to throw literal adult tantrums when we wouldn’t give her the same training and instruction as the professional students we worked with and actually complained that since she went to school for 7 years she had the same qualifications. She took 7 years to finish a BS full time, she did not attend graduate school like these students and could not comprehend the difference.

    Management refused to do anything about her and she wouldn’t do half her job as she thought it was beneath her. She was repeatedly told she needed to demonstrate competence with basic tasks before we could let her near patients, but that just resulted in more tantrums. Her parents thanked us for employing her because every job she had ever had fired her. I left and she became everyone else’s problem. She did eventually get her basic certification by the skin of her teeth via an online school which was pretty questionable to begin with.

    1. Sir Nose d'Voidoffunk*

      And now all I can think of is Tommy Boy.

      “You know, a lot of people go to college for seven years.”
      “I know. They’re called doctors.”

      1. Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves*

        I think it was exactly like that. My head almost exploded when she started that argument with me! I know she had limits and challenges that the students we worked with were fortunate not to face, but you absolutely had to have the degree and license to do the things she thought we should teach her or it would put MY license on the line.

    2. Meep*

      We just fired someone like this.

      In her case, she left high school at 17 years old and worked in data entry at a hospital. (At the time, it was the 70’s were a degree wasn’t too important.) Eventually, she got her GED and attempted to get her Bachelor’s for 7 years. She didn’t and now thinks anyone who has a college degree is a spoiled brat. She somehow ended up as VP of Business Development despite not knowing basic excel.

      The annoying part is she IS smart. Just extremely lazy and entitled.

    3. Heffalump*

      Kris Kristofferson would sometimes tell music-biz people, “You don’t have 10 years of experience. You have a year of experience 10 times.”

  11. FormerInternalRecruiter*

    I used to face situations similar to LW1 and it was frustrating trying to explain to internal candidates who wouldnt listen that they are not qualified for the role. For example, I’d have employees who don’t have their P.Eng applying for roles where it was a must have.

    There is no harm in applying but I don’t understand people who try and argue that they should be considered when its clear that they don’t meet the qualifications.

    1. irene adler*

      They probably don’t have the appreciation the education behind the degree or license brings to the job. Sure, some of the tasks involved in the position may not actually utilize the special knowledge. It’s easy to point to that and say “Hey I can do that too!”. But those tasks that DO require that special knowledge -we’re not appreciating how the special knowledge is applied.

    2. Angstrom*

      I can see that being confusing for some folks — there are lot of positions with “engineer” in the title that don’t require an engineering degree or a PE. And a lot of folks don’t know how big the step is to Professional Engineer.
      But once explained, the candidate should move on. Continuing to complain and argue is unprofessional.

    3. Orange+You+Glad*

      I’m currently hiring for a specialized role (doesn’t require a certain degree/licensing but it’s preferred and most have that or equivalent work history). We have a lot of internal applicants that “just want to see what this department is about”. We’re required to interview all internal applicants so we usually just use the time to explain what we do and walk the person through the steps they can take to eventually qualify. No one has had a problem with this approach so far, but also no one has taken our advice to pursue the education/experience we recommend.

  12. Eldritch Office Worker*

    My heart hurts for LW3 – what a terrible day. Alison’s advice is correct but I would be mortified on several levels.

  13. She of Many Hats*

    LW1 – It would be a one-last discussion about her behaviors to “No” and warn her it would become a write-up or job review issue if she continued badgering others about the move. A carrot could be encouraging her to get the needed certifications as part of her professional development goals and point her toward any company resources like tuition reimbursement to aid her on her way so she Could be considered for similar roles.

  14. Risha*

    For the bday LW, I am the same. For many reasons, I hate my bday being celebrated at all, but especially at work. I know many, many people will disagree and even argue with me, but bday celebrations do not belong in the workplace. They aren’t your family/friends and don’t need to acknowledge the day you were born. However, from this letter, it doesn’t seem like LW told the assistant prior that they didn’t like bday celebrations.

    I know this is an old letter, but here’s my advice if LW happens to read this or if anyone else finds themselves in this situation. Pull the assistant aside and tell her that while you appreciate what she did, you don’t like celebrating your bday at all. Don’t give any reason. You not wanting it is the reason. If this isn’t something your office does in general, tell her that too. After you tell her, if she does it again, then you will have to be more blunt. It’s not a nice gesture if you already said you don’t want it. Boundary violators hide under the “well, I was just being niiiice”.

    At my last job, right after both my parents died, I made it very crystal clear to the office admin and my manager that I DID NOT want anything for my bday (they loved celebrating in that place). They said they understood then proceeded to bring me a cake with candles, a card, and sang happy bday to me. I hate being the center of attention anyway, and I was still mourning my parents (it was only a month), so I just froze and didn’t acknowledge it at all. My manager said that my parents would have wanted me to celebrate my bday. She didn’t even know my parents at all to make such a statement. They were offended that I didn’t like what they did, but who cares? I said I didn’t want anything.

    And for those who like celebrating bdays at work, if someone says they don’t want it, then you need to respect their wishes. It’s not about you and what you want. They could be Jehovah’s Witness, they could be in mourning and not in the mood, they may just not want it. Listen to them and don’t stomp all over their boundaries.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      “My manager said that my parents would have wanted me to celebrate my bday. She didn’t even know my parents at all to make such a statement. They were offended…”
      I can’t type more because my moms passed away in June and thinking about a colleague using her memory to manipulate me would result in a post that would violate AAM terms and possibly the Geneva Convention.
      You have my sympathy.

      1. Anonym*

        That part made me stop in my tracks and think F*CK. OFF. I’m sorry that happened to you, Risha. And my condolences to you Not Tom, and Risha, and everyone else who’s lost loved ones. I got through the loss of a parent a shade more easily because my team at work left me the hell alone those first few months and took my cues that I didn’t want to talk about it. They were kind, and knew I was struggling, and paid attention to what I wanted. Basic sensitivity to those who are grieving – just f*cking listen to them.

      2. Risha*

        I’m so so sorry for your loss of your mom. Of course, the hurt never goes away, but it does become more manageable as time goes on.

        I really needed that job at the time and I knew anything I said would have came out really wrong. I was so angry that I would have made a scene if I were to open my mouth, so I just shut up and took a 15 minute break. I have no tolerance or patience for people who don’t listen when someone says they don’t want something. It’s really not that hard to respect people’s wishes.

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          Thank you. And mad respect to your ability to control the blurt rant. That is superhuman.

    2. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      Holy crap. That is all kinds of terrible. I’m so sorry you had to deal with that, Risha.

      Respecting boundaries, especially when someone is grieving, but really all the time, should be just the standard. While I am a person who would very much enjoy a birthday celebration, I know better than to think that EVERYONE wants the same thing I want.

    3. Buni*

      ugh, there’s a tradition of singing Happy Birthday at my church, just before the last hymn, and most people love it. It’s taken me about 5 years to hammer in the message that I am not one of those people. One vicar tried to tell me it “wasn’t necessarily about me” and that people liked to have something to celebrate (!), but I replied that if anyone sings at me, I will get up and walk out.

      As I’m the organist, she took the hint…

  15. Aspiring Great Manager*

    LW3 – I feel for you, I have had situations where life and work collide and it’s hard to compartmentalise. I get from your message that you are a dedicated and thorough employee. You are probably also very good at what you do! What I think you should also consider is giving yourself more grace. You were in a car accident! this is BIG, it will rattle anyone! And in what I think should be a normal situation (but what is normal anymore) you should be able to say, whoa, I have this big appointment and it feels terrible to postpone it again but I just went through something big, so sadly I need to postpone again so I can take care of myself and process. It’s not clear what are the circumstances of your job, so if you manage your own schedule, then it’s a fight against yourself which can be the hardest, but if you have a manager, then I would hope your manager has some humanity to understand that a good employee cannot do well in terrible circumstances. I think you did your best in the circumstances, and in the future (but I hope there is not another accident!) you will do better if you can collect yourself and then get to the work part when you are in better shape to do so. For now, just accept it wasn’t great, give yourself permission to take more time as you can in another difficult moment and move along. You’re doing great!

  16. Cube Farmer*

    Other than the principle of it, is there a problem with letting Elizabeth apply and be rejected–for all the reasons LW describes? Seems like she’s not going to take “no” for an answer.

    1. Lilo*

      There’s some context in the original letter and comments. Apparently she did apply, got told no, and complained enough that LW’s boss told LW to talk to her.

  17. Richard Hershberger*

    LW2: “now she feels … maybe even embarrassed.” She should be embarrassed. She should be mortified. This should be the starting point from which the relationship moves forward. This will do wonders to ensure she doesn’t do something like this again. At the very least not with the LW, and if she is capable of abstract thought not with anyone else, either.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      This feels harsh but honestly…100% agree. This is so invasive and presumptive. I want to give her a little grace that her heart was in the right place – and actually I will, it wasn’t a bad impulse. But this better be a lesson learned, however harshly.

    2. Amy*

      It’s best to clear the air straight away. Ideally, the LW should not have got a card and gift for the employee (to set the standard). They should have just said happy birthday. They should sit the employee down and say, ‘we’re not big on birthdays here, and I don’t want any kind of celebrations for mine. It would be best to cut down on festivities at work.’
      Then, never buy a card or gift on her birthday again.

    3. Clisby*

      Yes, I would be furious if anyone had the gall to DECORATE MY OFFICE ??? for my birthday? What kind of idiot takes it on themselves to do that? Oh, let’s don’t speculate on that.

      I don’t mean she needs to be fired, but she needs to be told never to repeat this kind of behavior.

    4. marvin*

      Yeah, I think this is a case where the embarrassment is constructive and will hopefully remind her to read the room better next time. I think most of us have had these unfortunate moments where we were forcefully acquainted with the reality that other people don’t always feel the same way we do.

  18. Wintermute*

    If there’s an actual, legal reason (like in your lawyer example) I think it’s best to lead with that. It’s something she can’t really argue with “if we let someone do this without a law degree they would go to jail” If it’s not a matter of legal disqualification then things are a bit tougher.

    I think a good potential route would be to see if you can lay out a path that WOULD get her there, involved as it may be. sometimes people feel better if they know they have a route to their goal even if privately everyone knows it’s too long and involved to be practical– especially if there’s a possibility of tuition reimbursement or assistance to get her there.

    1. Abby*

      The LW clarified in her original post about relevant qualifications and experience. It was things like a second degree, high-level placements, etc. It also includes more information about the degree of badgering by Elizabeth (even worse than this letter). Some commentators above have included information from the original letter.

      Basically, it would be impossible for her to be in the role she is badgering them about.

      1. Wintermute*

        Yeah, I understand that but why not soften the blow by talking about “ifs” not “nos”, “if you were to get this degree, and that certification, and were able to leave for x years to work in this field… Even if you know they’ll never get to the end of that road why not at least lay out what the road looks like?

  19. KofSharp*

    It sounds like it would’ve been OK if Elizabeth applied, got rejected, and asked for feedback before dropping the issue. Or to point out that she realized she IS interested in this, how does she achieve it?
    You can shoot your shot, and I’d encourage applying to things you’re not fully qualified for on the off chance that the listing is full of “wishlist” requirements.
    Once you find out that you’re not qualified, though, you need to either figure out how to become qualified, or drop it, not harass people about the decision.

  20. LGBTQIA+ from the Trenches*

    Is this the role she wants right this moment, or the real role she wants period? I always assume the latter. “OK, you want the Head of Interesting Stuff job, but you aren’t ready for it today. When do you want it? We will put together a plan to get you there. You may or may not like what you need to do to get there, but deciding to follow the plan or not is on you, not me. “

  21. Amy*

    ‘Employee pushing for a job she is not qualified for’.

    I would sit her down 1 more time and explain it is not showing ‘initiative’ and use the example of a lawyer. I don’t know if putting her on a PIP for this issue is possible, so I would progress to being fired. Say to her, ‘I’ve explained this to you. HR has explained this to you. We’ve spent a lot of company time on it. If we can’t resolve this issue you are no longer a good fit for your existing role (never mind the one she is chasing)’.

  22. bamcheeks*

    I’ve tried explaining to Elizabeth why she can’t have the job but she still wants it and is arguing her case to anyone who will listen. It may seem obvious but I am out of ideas.

    This is a little bit, “we’ve tried nothing and we’re all out of ideas”!

    You’re the manager here, and you are allowed to do more than try to explain. You’re allowed to explain AND then state the behaviour you want to see going forward, and set consequences if that doesn’t happen.

    “Elizabeth, I need to speak to you very seriously about your desire to become a Chartered Llama Groom. Let me explain to you how this career works. Llama grooms have a legal responsibility, and it’s what’s called a licensed profession. When a Llama groom signs off on a llama, that’s a legal signature– if there’s anything wrong with that llama, they can be personally sued. To be in that role, you need a state licence and to be a member of the American Llama Grooms Association in good standing. To get either of those things, you need your MSc in Grooming Arts and a full year working under the supervision of a CLG. Our company doesn’t make those rules, the state government does.

    I don’t know if anyone has explained that to you yet. If you already know that, and you’re still trying to persuade people that you can do the job, that doesn’t say good things about your judgment or your professionalism. I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you didn’t know it! But if I hear from anyone else that you’re still asking to be allowed to apply for the role, we will need to have a serious talk because this is very disruptive behaviour and it’s damaging your professional relationships.”

    If you’re feeling very generous– or you just want to dangle a carrot as well as wave a stick– you can ask her whether she’s interested in pursuing Chartered Llama Groom status and, if so, thinking about how you could facilitate that– maybe by asking one of the Llama Grooms to offer her an informational interview, or let her shadow for a few hours or something. That would be a great experience for her! But I don’t think you have to do that until she’s demonstrated she has the required level of understanding and professionalism.

    1. kiki*

      I also really like your last paragraph about asking if she’d like any guidance pursuing the proper credentials for the role. That way if Elizabeth wants to complain about not getting that role, she really can’t honestly say, “Oh, they’re shooting me down without giving me a chance!” The truth would be more like, “They say they’ll help me pursue the credentials but I don’t want to do that!”

  23. Dark Macadamia*

    #2 I don’t really like the idea of giving her “appreciation flowers” just because it hurts her feelings that LW isn’t a birthday person. They could definitely assess whether they’ve made her feel appreciated in general and maybe start doing that kind of thing for her work anniversary or some other milestone… but if LW has never done anything like that and it’s not typical of their office environment, suddenly being like “hey you’ve been sad since I didn’t jump for joy about the balloons oh and also totally unrelated I’ve started giving you gifts for doing your job!” feels weird and over-the-top, even if this specific employee wouldn’t take it that way.

  24. kiki*

    Since Elizabeth is new to the professional world, it would be a kindness to talk to her one last time and explicitly tell her that her persistence has crossed into badgering and that initiative can’t replace certifications and schooling for a lot of jobs. If Elizabeth is ordinarily a great employee and just seems really out of touch on this, it may be kind to discuss routes and resources for pursuing the necessary education and certifications, especially if your company does tuition reimbursement or any other programs like that. Talking a little bit more about how to get the required credentials may also help her brain process “Oh, getting this job will take YEARS, not weeks of messages to my boss.”

    I could totally see Elizabeth writing into mortification week in a few years. “I bugged my grandboss endlessly to let me take over an opening in another department that sounded interesting to me. Being naive and just a year out of school, I thought my ambition was more important than a literal degree and certification in the field. I totally went on about it to everyone I encountered. What was I thinking?”

  25. Uncle Boner*

    In my first engineering gig, an opening for a Director of Marketing opened up right as I was finishing my MBA (think: ink still wet on diploma) . . .the prior folks had all had 20+ years of experience + all of the education I had. The position managed the entire sales force (through a Sales Manager system of 10 regional managers) and a marketing staff of about 30. I had, to that point, partially managed one engineering technician in our department.

    I “pushed” just like the problem child in this letter. I eventually got to meet with the company president and state my case for the position (they didn’t say “you won’t be considered”…they just kindly pointed out what I was lacking). At the time, my response was “I’m the ideal candidate – I’m not burdened by experience!”

    I didn’t get the position and the frustration I felt led me to start my own consulting business. I was gone within a year and a half. 20+ years later, I’m happy and still successfully self-employed. I don’t work for assholes – I AM the asshole.

    Point of my comment: This isn’t a good thing or a bad thing for this employee to be doing. It might just help her figure out the path in this company isn’t for her. That’s ok.

  26. Susannah*

    It’s true that some job descriptions call for things that aren’t really necessary, which is why it’s good to shoot a bit higher sometimes, applying for jobs where you might not meet 100% of the written requirements.

    But that doesn’t sound like what’s happening here at all. According to LW, Elizabeth is missing key requirements. And after being told so, says she “disagrees!” And then keeps making her case to anyone who will listen.

    This isn’t a situation where her view of the requirements for the job are equal to the views of the people doing the hiring and paying. HR and her boss are under no obligation to convince Elizabeth they are right about what the job demands.

    Since she’s new to the workforce, I’d cut her more slack than someone else. But I’d have a very serious talk with her abut her expectations, an maybe using that time to gain the qualifications for the job instead of complaining until someone gives in to her.

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