update: my overpaid coworker is rude, rarely here, and calls us “uptight” and “slaves” for caring about our jobs

Remember the letter-writer whose overpaid coworker is rude, rarely here, and called colleagues “uptight” and “slaves” for caring about their jobs? Here’s the update.

A few readers asked for an update, so…TL;DR Cersei is gone!

Some things that transpired after I sent in the letter were that Cersei asked to be moved to part-time, and they let her do 4 days a week instead of 5, with the agreement she would come in for the afternoon shift as per the conditions she was hired on. This went on for about 3 weeks, with an increased amount of call-outs for various reasons and her complaints about how “pissed” she was. When she did show up, continued to leave early each day. Some background that I didn’t mention, her commute is over an hour and a half, which was initially met with a lot of sympathy when she first started. This ended when she stopped apartment hunting in the area, opted to move in with her “long distance” boyfriend, and call-outs were exclusively weekends.

One of Cersei’s partners and I brought it up separately to another supervisor (who oversees the actual work rather than the manager who she just reports to) on a Friday. I brought our company’s attendance policy with me as support, which stated more than 6 days of unexcused absence in a 6-month period was subject to disciplinary action. I was informed that she was not on a PIP but the topic would be brought up in the next management meeting, as our manager was currently traveling out of state for work to our other site. I would have liked to assume that they were waiting for the 6-month mark to make a move, but in hindsight they probably wanted to let her quit on her own to avoid having to go through the tedious process of write-ups and ultimately firing. We were also in a hiring freeze, so losing her would not have opened up a position immediately. Some were conflicted whether bad help was better or worse than no help.

Cersei put in her 2 weeks on the following Monday. It was purely coincidental, however the supervisor I spoke to did mention my concerns to our manager. I never had the chance to speak to my manager directly about it. Her “last day” happened to be the day after her 6 months, which probably was strategically done so she only had to pay back part of her sign-on bonus. Of those last 2 weeks, she called out EVERY SINGLE DAY. There was a pot going around betting how many days she would actually show up, no one guessed 0. The coworker that kept a tally eventually counted 60+ days of absence in those 6 months, including vacation time. The last text she sent to her partner at work said, “I hope you’re happy, you never get to see me again! :)” From word of mouth, she took a job slightly closer to her boyfriend’s place with a drop in salary, actually putting her at market rate for her experience level, working full-time and some weekends.

I guess the problem resolved itself. As many pointed out, my manager having 50+ reports was ridiculous. I mentioned this in the comments, but we had Cersei’s supervisor resign and another fired (ironic) at the same time, which led to my manager inheriting 30+ people for a few months. Shortly after Cersei’s departure, some promotions and hirings happened, so now my manager only oversees 15 people and the reports are evenly distributed among a full management staff. Part of me hoped to have seen how my manager would have taken action, but in the end the department got what we wanted. We now have an inside joke about referring to call-outs as “pulling a Cersei.” Winter has passed.

{ 48 comments… read them below }

  1. Wanderer*

    Unfortunately, this seems to be how many managers solve their problems with an employee – just wait until they leave on their own and it will be much easier!

  2. Nea*

    I realize how cathartic it would be to have Cersei perp-walked after a firing, but if you think about it, Cersei did a lot of damage to herself on the way out.
    – She went down in salary
    – She had to pay back part of her signing bonus, so she’s out even more money
    – She’s bound to have a terrible reference from this company
    – She has a 6-month job on her resume, which won’t look good unless she really sticks it out on the new job – which means she can’t pull any of her tricks there

    1. Del*

      That last line, that Cersei can’t pull any of her tricks at the new job, makes me wonder if she was trying to get fired… I mean, she went from part-time and refusing to work weekends to full-time with some weekend work. It feels like she decided early on that this wasn’t going to work and she had no intention of trying to make it work.

      In any case, fired or not, Cersei definitely did herself a lot of damage here. And at least she’s gone!

      1. Robin*

        Which is just bizarre, because from everything we were told, Cersei got whatever she wanted. She was paid more than everyone else, she called out with minimal repercussions, she was given part time when she asked for it. Why all the nastiness? Why try to get fired? She could have just planned to resign when she found something better, which is what she ended up doing anyway, and saved herself the drama.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I think some of the “she got whatever she wanted” was because due to the management reshuffle the manager she had was badly overloaded – so Cersei and her outrageous behavior was falling thru the cracks to a degree (referencing only the callouts on this part).

          1. Robin*

            Oh absolutely, but from Cersei’s perspective, it seems this job was a cake walk. So if the suggestion that she was trying to get herself fired is true, the question is, why?

            If she decided this was not the job for her, again, why heap the extra nastiness on when the reality already was that she could basically do as she liked? I understand not meshing with the job and discarding it as viable. I see how that can translate to not showing up and asking for reduced hours, etc. But that does not necessarily translate to talking the way she did. Was she just projecting her hatred for the job on everyone else?

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              Money – I remember in the comments on the original letter OP let us know there was a signing bonus – and if she was fired Cersei got to keep all the bonus. If she left after six months what she had to pay back was pro-rated.

              1. Robin*

                Ah, that would do it. Good lord though, imagine spending so much energy on getting fired from a new job that you do not even plan to stay in long-term.

                1. Tracer Bullet*

                  Considering how much time she spent not working, she didn’t expend all that much energy.

                2. Dawn*

                  I’d imagine this job funded her big move, which was always the plan in the first place.

                  Cersei gets the money for a deposit to move in with her long-distance boyfriend from a job that she never cared about or intended to stay in, but took due to the signing bonus. I myself would put money on there being a mortgage in her and/or her partner’s name moments after that deposit hit her account.

              2. fhqwhgads*

                I didn’t understand the timing of the last day either. If she called out her entire notice, then her last day was actually before the 6 month mark, so shouldn’t she have to pay back the whole thing?

                1. MigraineMonth*

                  I imagine the contract wasn’t written to be Cersei-proof. It probably referred to things like “resignation date” rather than “the day before the employee just stops showing up”.

                2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                  Predicting that the policies may get some tweaking unfortunately after this incident.

                  But, yeah I get the feeling that Cersei played the situation, didn’t really plan on keeping the job, and was just more successful because of management chaos.

            2. The OTHER other*

              It’s a good question, and I believe it’s partly BECAUSE she was overpaid and given free rein that she became so much nastier.

              Steve Martin once said that early in his career when he hired writers and assistants etc he made the mistake of paying them extravagantly, and almost invariably they seemed to take it for granted and did poorly. He since pays people just a bit more than average and has high expectations and people get some bonuses for exceeding them and he’s rarely disappointed.

              This was a huge management failure, on so many levels. Who hired her? Who checked her references? Who was responsible for managing her? Why was that person saddled with FIFTY (!) reports? That is nuts even on a very temporary basis–as in, a planeload of managers crashed.

              Even in this update, there’s another wrinkle in the management issue–One person is supervising her, another her work.

              And she had to leave on her own accord, she was never even on a PIP?! If she hadn’t resigned, she’d still be there. Astonishing.

            3. Cool Tina, Train Conductress*

              I wonder if she actually just hated her commute and immaturely blamed that on the job itself.

        2. Snow Globe*

          I remember reading the original letter and being a little skeptical that Cersei was really making what she said she was. She’s not a person that I would trust to be telling the truth.

        3. MigraineMonth*

          What about her behavior makes you think she was trying to avoid drama? Pretty sure that was her favorite part of the job, and she may have been disappointed her manager was so overburdened that she never got in trouble and couldn’t play the persecuted victim.

      2. Vio*

        I’m always baffled by the way that works with jobs in the US, getting fired being something that can work to your advantage. I understand the system behind it, the awful lack of worker protections and everything but it’s also so very strange that the same term, “fired”, is used for a punitive termination as well as an unfortunately necessary parting on good terms.
        Over here if you’re fired then your chances of getting any kind of decent employment again are extremely low. That’s because you can only be fired with cause and following a series of warnings (most jobs will give at least one verbal warning, then at least one written warning before termination unless it’s something extremely serious).
        I suppose it’s a trade off for the fact that employers in the US can fire for little or no reason and without warning but it’s a shame that it’s really only the bad employees who benefit from it (and likely make it worse for the good ones in the meantime!) when all suffer from the lack of protections.

        Note: Not trying to make an anti-US post here, there’s many great things about the country and many bad things about here. It’s also possible I’ve misunderstood something and this issue isn’t as bad as it seems.

    2. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      I actually think she will try to pull the same stuff at the new job. She kinda did get away with it once. Until she actually does get fired and can’t find another job, there’s little motivation to change. Especially if she’s targeting places with sign on bonuses. Get the bonus and then bounce.

      1. Meep*

        I suspect this too.

        My Cersei was recently let go on August 8th. She managed to skate by for five years before she was ultimately told to hit the road and be allowed to graciously resign. (I actually wonder if Cersei was told she could resign to save face and maybe even keep the bonus since she wanted to be fired to keep it.) Prior, her past 40 years of employment, with the exception of 1 job where she worked as a commercial real estate agent, she lasted on average 14 months at her job.

        She had claimed to be (unfairly) fired once prior but told three different stories around it and I suspect she has been fired from every job she has ever worked*.

        The only reason she managed to last this long at this one was an inattentive boss who let her be in charge because she seemed component enough without any actual experience.

        *Funny enough, two weeks before she was fired, I met her former boss at the real estate agency she worked at for 4 years prior to this one. He didn’t seem to like her much either and I got the feeling he also let her go based on our brief conversation.

        1. soontoberetired*

          I just got an update on a former co worker who averages 18 months at jobs (she was here for 1 y ear, then back for 5 and gone again), she switched jobs yet again so this is like the 15th company she’s been at this area. Lucky for her, she recently married a man with a lot of money. She has now burned bridges almost at any place that would hire her so we expect to hear about her early retirement two years from now.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            Huh, in my industry 18 months would be a very normal tenure and not something that would raise any red flags. It’s also very common in my industry to switch to another company and back again a year or two later; the fact that the company is willing to hire the person again would be an endorsement.

          2. martyr*

            I have a friend-of-a-friend who was simply unstable as an employee—would just have crazy weekends and show up late for work, eventually slip and miss deadlines, etc.—and was getting fired from jobs every few months. But she still kept getting new ones. In some fields and markets (this was the DC area and project proposal writers, so every contractor/group doing business with the government was churning these out) I guess it’s easy to find someone else to take a chance and you realistically can go a long time burning every bridge you pass over.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I suspect the signing bonus played heavily into the wanting to be fired versus resigning. If you resign most places want all or part of the bonus back – but if you’re fired or laid off you get to keep the bonus money.

      3. WellRed*

        Yeah I think Cersei is just one of those people that have the rest of us scratching our heads…

    3. the wall of creativity*

      Six month job on the resume? I doubt that very much.

      She’ll leave this job off and move the starting date of her new one back six months.

  3. Antilles*

    We were also in a hiring freeze, so losing her would not have opened up a position immediately. Some were conflicted whether bad help was better or worse than no help.
    My vote: Cersei is worse than no help.

    First off, it’s impossible to plan around an employee who’s sometimes there and sometimes not. If you have a known opening, then you can at least try to plan for it, adjust the workload, attempt to manage expectations, etc – if nothing else, you can at least mentally prepare ahead of time.

    Secondly, Cersei sounds like she’s actively making everybody less productive and more miserable. So whatever gains you have from having an extra person gets counter-balanced by everybody else being less productive.

    1. ferrina*

      Yes! Bad help is often worse that no help.

      Mediocre help is usually better than no help- we’ll keep them while we need to and expect regular mediocrity.

  4. Clobberin' Time*

    Sounds like you found out a lot of things about how your company is managed, none of them good.

    1. Sara without an H*

      I was just coming here to say this. I can’t guess what industry the OP is in, but this does NOT sound like a well-run firm.

    2. Voldemort's cousin*

      Exactly. This isn’t a story about Cersei, this is a story about an all-around failure to manage on multiple levels.

  5. Goody*

    If I were management, I would pursue the remainder of that sign on bonus. She may have given a date of x as her last day, but she effectively terminated as of x-14 by calling off every single day of that 2-week period. Which would have put her inside the 6 month clawback, if I’m reading correctly.

    Yep, it’s petty. I fully admit that.

    I would also absolutely have Legal revise the terms on those bonuses. Maybe change it to x days worked where call-offs and PTO are not included?

    1. Sara without an H*

      I’m not a lawyer, but I agree the policy on sign-on bonuses needs to be reviewed. Yesterday.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      They might consider it to have been a small price to pay to get rid of her.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Sometimes you gotta pay for your mistakes. They hired this person at a higher salary than anyone else PLUS gave her a sign on bonus. Sure they expected it to work out. but it didn’t, so sometimes you just gotta move on.

      2. EmmaPoet*

        Agreed. Fighting this unpleasant person to get the money back means they have to keep on dealing with her in some fashion. Now she’s gone and she’s not their problem anymore.

    3. Wilbur*

      Split it up, rather than a sign on bonus of $Z, have it be a sign on bonus of $X, and retention bonuses of $Y at 6/12 months. You don’t need to try to get back money you never gave someone. Then fix your “hiring freeze” issue so positions filled less than 6 months don’t count.

  6. Trek*

    Manufacturing has experiences like this and it’s not easy to get managers to understand how it impact morale. When my manager complained how hard it was to fire someone even someone not performing. I told him he can do what he wants including doing nothing but don’t ever think he’s going to hold me to a higher standard than he’s holding the current employee to. That caught him by surprise but made an impact.
    I wish OP and team had started calling out on weekends too so the company couldn’t ignore it.

  7. John*

    Why would the supervisor tell LW that Cersei wasn’t on a PIP?

    No co-worker needs to know that, and it should be confidential, regardless of the employee’s behavior.

  8. ferrina*

    LW, congrats on a happy(ish) ending to this saga! So glad that Cersei is gone and that the manager had the supervisor positions filled to make it harder for a Cersei to fall through the cracks again. And kudos to you and your coworkers for being in such good humor about this! Sounds like you all handled it really professionally!

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Honestly it sounded a bit like a comedy of bad timing errors that let Cersei get away with what she did in the first place. From reading between the lines on comments on the first letter, I think both the other supervisors left (in different ways) at exactly the same time, which was completely unexpected.

  9. Bizhiki*

    She said “I hope you’re happy, you never get to see me again! :)” ??

    Uhh, they weren’t even seeing you before, when you call out that much!

  10. Troublemaker*

    After carefully reading both letters, I think that LW’s employer is incompetent, and Cersei was a standard senior employee with an anti-work sentiment. This isn’t to excuse Cersei’s behavior, but to fill in the missing gaps where things were left unsaid, as well as to provide perspective: aside from the potluck incident, literally none of Cersei’s behavior has been unacceptable, and most of it is completely understandable if their industry is pointless and their management is clueless.

    A commute of 90min, on its own, can drive a skilled employee to madness. Combine that with a boss who is more distracted than a kindergarten teacher (who usually only has 20-30 direct reports, not 50!) and a trivial workload which is more burdened by management processes than by required labor. I would think a manager who cares about this is “uptight”, I would think that my underpaid coworkers are “wage slaves”, and I would be “pissed” that I have to bother with the job, even though it is “easy” and “[could] be done in an hour” instead of taking longer. (Days? Weeks? I’ve had to wait months sometimes!)

    One of the strains of thought that LW should consider is exactly why they are so offended by Cersei’s blunt acknowledgement of their bullshit job. Cersei did not call out for their final 2w just for fun, but as an explicit message to their employer. Cersei’s anti-work attitude is a direct response to bullshit management. PIPs are a symptom of weak and ineffective managers who are not capable of defining the business’s workload on their own; because they do not understand how much labor is required to operate the business, they guess that they need to “improve performance” and extract more labor from employees who critique their processes.

    Of course, at the end of the day, anybody who takes from a potluck without contributing is not actually a leftist; can’t have that “to each, their own need” without “from each, according to their ability.” Cersei might have tried to practice anti-work, but they also practiced being a dick to coworkers.

  11. Eric the Red*

    My take away from this post is that this is a highly dysfunctional work environment, and that Cersei may be way more savvy than the person who wrote this or the manager. People may be frustrated with Cersei because she is able to practice some agency in a bad situation and they are not.

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