I’m about to inherit a bad employee who’s a jerk to our good employee

A reader writes:

I’m an assistant manager at a medium retail store. Corporate gives us so many full-time/part-time slots we can fill and we have a number of part-time employees. Let’s call two of them Dwight and Lucy.

Dwight has been in the store for a very long time, but unfortunately he is very limited in the scope of work that he’s able and willing to do. He wants to work in one part of the store, doing a handful of behind-the-scenes things that don’t necessarily need to get done. He will do anything to avoid interacting with customers, will stand next to a ringing phone and not pick it up, and generally doesn’t accomplish much during a shift. Dwight went on medical leave last year, was out for about eight months, and has recently returned.

We hired Lucy while Dwight was gone and she’s been a dream. She’s willing to really go above and beyond and take extra duties off of my and my manager’s plate, and she’s wonderful with customers. She also has had some really wonderful input to improve the store.

Since Dwight returned, he has been icy to Lucy, to say the least. He’s made remarks like he doesn’t understand why we had to hire anyone new (we had a slot open from another employee leaving and needed help!) and he’s taken the printed schedules from the wall in the break area and copied them and has been tallying up hours that all the part-time employees get, with a focus on Lucy because he doesn’t think the schedules are fair. Not only is there no guarantee that every part-time employee gets the same number of hours, but he gets more than every other employee and his and Lucy’s hours are very comparable. She may get a shift more than Dwight does in a pay period, but she also gets more accomplished and is willing to work in areas of the store that he has refused.

My manager is set to retire in a few months and I’m in line to become the store manager. It isn’t set in stone but it’s more than reasonable to assume that, barring something truly bonkers occurring, I’ll be moving up. This leaves an assistant manager position open and I think Lucy is ideal. She has expressed interest.

My main problem is this: I feel that my store manager is leaving me with a problem employee and is also refusing to deal with the fact that, when Lucy found out that Dwight is copying the schedule and keeping track of her hours, she expressed that she was very uncomfortable and asked the store manager if the schedules can be kept private. We do use a web-based schedule program so everyone has access to their personal schedule online. Posting a paper schedule is just for the convenience of the store manager to tell at a glance who’s working.

I guess in summation, I disagree with the way my store manager is handling the situation about the schedules and I’m afraid of what Dwight’s reaction will be when things shift in a few months and I promote Lucy. What can I do now, and what can I do then? I’d really love your input.

Yeah, your manager should be shutting down all this behavior from Dwight. Why isn’t she?

At a minimum, Dwight needs to be told to stop tracking other people’s schedules, that other people’s hours aren’t up for discussion and he needs to stop raising it, and that part of his job includes being civil to all of his coworkers, including Lucy. Your manager should also stop posting the paper schedule publicly, at least for now, so that there’s a bigger barrier to Dwight’s behavior.

Someone should also talk with Lucy to find out more about what’s been going on with Dwight. Is her discomfort with him tracking her hours simply because it’s obnoxious for him to be doing that (which it is) or is there something more going on? Does she have safety concerns about Dwight knowing when she’s working? If so, you need to take that very, very seriously. (I’m going to assume for the sake of this response that’s not the case, but if it is, you’d have a completely different situation on your hands. Hopefully it’s not, but ask her — don’t assume.)

Beyond that, I’m curious about why Dwight is still employed there at all. In addition to being a jerk to Lucy and a pain in the ass for you and your manager, he’s not willing to do the entire job, ignores customers, and “generally doesn’t accomplish much during a shift.” Each of those last three on their own would be a reason to fire him. I’m guessing he’s been allowed to stay for so long because your manager is passive to the point of negligence (based on the totality of your letter), but he shouldn’t have been — or at least it should have been made clear to him that he’d need to make and sustain significant changes in order to stay.

That’s what you should do yourself if become the store manager. Lay out clear and specific changes you need to see from Dwight and then hold him to those. If he doesn’t start working at the level you need (meaning doing the whole job, not just parts of it) or if he continues alienating other employees, at that point you really should let him go. (As for promoting Lucy, you have clear and compelling reasons for that choice. Explain them calmly and matter-of-factly. If Dwight explodes over that … well, see above. If he can’t behave professionally and non-disruptively, it doesn’t make sense to keep him on your team.)

However. The fact that Dwight has been allowed to behave this way for so long and just came back from medical leave complicates things — because it potentially would allow him to argue that what’s really going on is that you’re discriminating against him for medical reasons (which is illegal if the situation falls under the Americans with Disabilities Act). After all, none of his behavior was a problem for years and now, right after he returns from a medical leave, he’s being fired? You’ll likely be able to show that’s not your reason, but your manager’s negligence has created enough risk that it would be smart to consult with an employment attorney (or HR, if you have it) to make sure you navigate it correctly.

(This, by the way, is one of the many reasons managers need to deal with problems quickly and not drag their feet before doing it. It’s not the main reason, but if you wait there’s always a chance that something could happen that make the problem harder to address. For example, if the employee happens to ask for religious accommodations or announces she’s pregnant, then suddenly addressing the work problems that you hadn’t tackled previously risks looking a lot like discrimination or retaliation — to the employee, to their colleagues, and possibly to a jury — even when it’s not. Resolve to address issues as they come up and you’ll avoid that complication altogether.)

Read an update to this letter

{ 209 comments… read them below }

    1. Someone That You Used to Know*

      If it’s a retail job, ‘assistant manager’ is ‘glorified higher up customer service agent who can make decisions about general customer things’ more than ‘can manage and discipline employees’. It’s named that way because customers don’t want to talk to the ‘Head C/S Rep’ – they want to talk to a ‘manager’.

  1. I should really pick a name*

    Lay out clear and specific changes you need to see from Dwight and then hold him to those

    And make it a short timeline to see those changes. Don’t wait for months.

    1. hamsterpants*

      I’m surprised the advice isn’t to simply fire Dwight on your first day, or at least at the earliest date your legal/HR counsel signs off on it.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        If the current manager hasn’t documented anything, it’s good to clearly document that he’s been given instructions and hasn’t been following them before going to HR.

      2. Kevin Sours*

        It’s good practice to tell somebody in explicit terms that their behavior is unacceptable and give a chance to correct before taking action. Given how long the behavior has been tolerated it’s pretty clear this has not effectively been done. Stepping into the role, changing the rules, and axing somebody isn’t a good look. Dwight might not deserve it, but you’re also sending a message to the others. That said I would be very clear to Dwight that he’s used up all of his second chances already and keep the timeline for improvement *very* short.

        I want to repeat the caveat from the post that if there is a safety issue everything is different.

        1. Artemesia*

          I had to fire someone like Dwight and I wish previous management had documented the problems. As it was he felt blindsided because he was a ‘top worker’ for years and ‘now this.’ Given the medical leave, this needs careful thought and legal advice. DO require him to do the job but don’t move to fire without taking clear transparent steps.

          1. Michelle Smith*

            Exactly. Alison’s advice was very well thought out and minimizes the risks. My gut reaction was also “fire immediately” but she explained very convincingly why that’s a bad idea. Can you even imagine having to give him his job back because he sued and won? On top of giving him back pay. Ugh, no. He should not be rewarded for this behavior.

            1. Kevin Sours*

              Even without the legal issues having the first thing you do as a manager be firing somebody sets a tone. One you probably don’t want to set.

              1. The OTHER Other*

                I disagree. We are talking about a terrible employee here,who should have been fired long ago. All the coworkers are undoubtedly wondering why Dwight has been untouchable for so long while he avoids customers, ignores the ringing phone, and does little. Firing Dwight and promoting the excellent newer coworker signals that the LW is capable of actually deciding things.

                1. Kevin Sours*

                  It needs to be a addressed ASAP and shouldn’t linger. But I really think a “these are the new rules” meeting followed by a short period to see if it takes sets a better tone. Certainly if Dwight does not show a good attitude towards potential improvement that’s a different conversation (and a real possibility). But a couple of weeks to see if he shapes up isn’t going to break anything.

                  And certain nothing should stand in the way of promotion of the de servings.

          2. INeedANap*

            A good friend of mine is dealing with that now. She was hired as a manager from outside and is realizing that she has several poor performers under her, but the previous manager had a spine made of tissue paper and was a people pleaser, so all those poor performers have years of stellar performance reviews. She is having a hard time not just getting rid of them, but getting them to improve their performance. They don’t see why they need to improve. It’s a mess.

        2. Hydrangea*

          Yeah, you’re sending a message that they could be axed for things no one ever told them were a problem. What do you think the potential impact of that will be on the people OP wants to keep?

      3. Yellow+Flotsam*

        That’s not fair to Dwight. You can’t just suddenly move the goal post and fire someone. Right now, he is doing his job to the expectations he’s been told are ok. And doing so for years!

        If Dwight had never been instructed/trained/managed to answer phones, work with customers etc then the bosses have to take the blame. He shouldn’t lose his job without any chance to rectify to what the new boss wants – old boss has (from his perspective) been fine with what he does.

        And the fact that he’s just returned from medical leave will make it look punitive, especially if there are medical reasons (temporary even) for not being able to do some tasks. If he’s lost hours between before and after, that could also make him think this is retaliation (took extended medical leave, new boss hires someone they’re chummy with and now his hours are going to her).

        LW needs to train Dwight, make expectations clear, provide coaching and feedback, and give him a chance to demonstrate that he can do the job now being asked of him. By the sounds of it, nobody has bothered to tell him what he currently does is not ok.

        1. Kevin Sours*

          This is an overreach. While the fact that the prior manager allowed things to fester is an issue, Dwight is, presumably, a grown ass adult. He should know that his behavior is not okay. He should be able to realize that he’s not doing the same things other people in his role are doing and reach out to see if he should be doing them. Instead he’s complaining that he’s not being treated like the very top performer.

          The tone of the conversion should not be “you poor dear nobody told you”. It should be “shape the f up or move on”. And the leash needs to be tight. LW’s focus needs to be on retaining the people Dwight is alienating not on keeping him around.

          1. flowers*

            This. Dwight is getting away with his high-level BS and he knows it. Frankly, I’d be angrier at your head-in-the-sand “manager.”

          2. ecnaseener*

            No one said the tone should be “you poor dear.” It should be “here’s what I need going forward from you, the fact that old boss never held you to this standard doesn’t change that this is the standard from now on.”

          3. Yellow+Flotsam*

            I’m not suggesting LW needs to feel sorry for Dwight – but it is not at all unseasonable to expect a manager to tell their direct report that you need them to do their job differently and this is what they must do in future. At worst Dwight responds to coaching and starts meeting expectations, at best he walks. The company has accepted Dwight’s performance for years. A couple weeks more to provide opportunities to improve is no real loss for them. And if it is – well chalk that up to the cost of gaining experience in how to manage your staff.

            I am fundamentally opposed to the concept of “at will” employment. Employers hold so much power over their employees. Sacking someone without first providing feedback and coaching should be reserved for serious offences (eg fraud, theft, violence).

            This is even more important if Dwight’s health care is tied up with his employment, especially given recent medical leave (and potentially ongoing treatment that could be disrupted or stopped off health insurance disappeared).

        2. Some Bunny Once Told Me*

          I’m sorry, but as someone who spent two decades working in retail let me just say that nobody should have to instruct you that “interact with customers” very literally is your job.

    2. Curmudgeon in California*

      Yeah, Dwight needs a PIP ASAP. You need to document all the crap you have observed up to this point, and then if you get the manager spot you need to keep documenting it, and put him on a formal improvement plan.

      Being nasty to a coworker over schedules and tracking their hours is pretty PIP-worthy, IMO.

  2. curmudgeon*

    Sounds like Dwight needs to go.

    At the very least, monitoring other people’s schedules that closely is really creepy and needs to be shut down ASAP.

    1. CharlieBrown*

      That was my immediate thought. He only wants to do work that doesn’t need to be done, won’t interact with customers, won’t answer a ringing phone. What purpose is he serving? He’s not doing what he was hired to do. And he’s doing stuff that he shouldn’t be doing.

      Show Dwight the door. Pronto.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Yeah, I’d get fired as a *volunteer* if I did that. I can’t imagine why the store is giving him a paycheck.

      2. DyneinWalking*

        The most basic rule of thumb for evaluating employee performance: Less things should be getting done if they’re not there.

        Obviously you want to make sure that things don’t fall apart if someone leaves but, overall, you should see a drop in productivity with some parts of work piling up and some parts getting done with less quality, or with other team members having to work extra.
        After all, that’s the core idea of employment: I pay you, and you do this stuff that I need getting done.

    2. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

      It does need to stop. We used to keep our timesheets pinned to the bulletin board. Then we hired Bad Worker who started tracking peoples’ hours and questioning them about their timesheets. So the sheets were filed away, Bad Worker simple snooped through the files. The sheets were then locked up and Bad Worker complained because they could no longer see other people’s work hours. A convenience for everyone was lost because someone couldn’t resist being the timesheet police.

  3. Lapis Lazuli*

    Also illegal under FMLA if that applied, although Dwight was gone for 8 months and that surely would have exhausted by the end of the absence.

  4. Eldritch Office Worker*

    I find an ADA case unlikely – when management changes, things change! However OP it might be worth it to start documenting the behavior now so you have a log to refer to when it’s your turn to correct it.

    1. Sara without an H*

      +1. Start documenting now, OP (if you haven’t already, and include evidence that you briefed the store manager about the situation.

      1. The one who wears too much black*

        +1 to documenting now. Even personal notes from what you see now could be useful later on.

    2. Dawn*

      Dwight sounds like the exact kind of person who cries discrimination when you try to hold him accountable in any way.

      1. The OTHER Other*

        Maybe, but so what? Discrimination cases are notoriously difficult to prove even when they are true. Let him cry all he wants, at home, away from the business.

    3. And yet*

      Document ALL employee issues – not just Dwight’s. The problem with firing for cause is if the employee argues “cause” was a pretext and that other employees are not disciplined/fired for doing the same things he does.

      1. Rosalind Franklin*

        We had an employee that was committing blatant timecard fraud. He tried to argue that we were being racist against him – HR very shyly asked me if I was, in fact, documenting concerns on anyone else on my team.

        It was a great feeling to be able to say “ABSOLUTELY! You wanna see my file?? You were involved in the last major escalation, but I’ve got documentation on at least half of these kids from some time or another!” (Time stretching seemed to go in a cycle – notice extra long breaks/reset expectations/problem gets better/notice extra long breaks…)

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          I had another timecard fraudster who told us that she’d never been instructed to enter the actual hours she worked rather than the hours of the business. She sure was surprised when her supervisor hauled out a pile of emails and meeting notes where she’d been apprised of this multiple times (as well as told that she needed to arrive on time on a regular basis).

        2. The OTHER Other*

          Well, what if you have only one problem employee?

          I feel like this kind of advice is what generates the impulse to send out the memo to everyone/have a team meeting to complain about a single person. The person who is actually the problem is often too dense to think it was about them and everyone else resents having their time wasted by a manager to chicken to say anything to Dwight.

          1. Office Gumby*

            All managers should be documenting all things about their employees. Some managers don’t realise they should be documenting the good as well as the bad.
            Does an employee go above and beyond their usual duty? Document this. Are they showing a good work ethic, been extra nice, had someone praise them for a job well done? This needs to be remembered and recorded.
            When it comes time for raises/promotions/bonuses, this documentation helps justify it.
            It’s not just about documenting the bad for when a PIP or a firing is required. If anyone questions that one particular employee may have been “targeted”, you have a paper trail that shows that no, you weren’t just writing down all the bad stuff of the one bad employee, but you were keeping records of all employees, and this one just happened to have more bad than good recorded, thus, the disciplinary measures.

      2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        Yeah, ideally the response is something like “yes, my records show that in the last 6 months, I’ve had informal conversations with 7 employees about [specific issue]. Of those, 4 changed their behavior after that conversation and three, including Dwight, continued to struggle, at which point they got a written warning/coaching/whatever. After that intervention, the other two employees turned things around but Dwight continued to struggle with [issue] even after those interventions, which is why he was fired.”

        Show the funnel, that it’s an expectation that everyone is held to but most people meet without repeated issues, and that those same warnings worked in other cases but not this one.

      3. Worldwalker*

        The impression I get from the letter is that no other employee could get away with doing the same things he does, or doesn’t do.

    4. Anon4This*

      Having just been through nearly this exact scenario – difficult long-time employee recently returned from medical leave with a new supervisor to whom they were absolutely awful – I can say all of Alison’s concerns affected our termination process (and not just out of abundance of caution from HR, this was contentious and there was counsel involved).

      We ended up having to buy the employee out to avoid being sued and were explicitly told that the organization (not me or the new supervisor personally) allowing the behavior to go on unchecked (not unchecked, they were counseled repeatedly, but no hard consequences like termination were imposed) and the proximity to medical leave put us at substantial risk at not only being sued but losing.

      When you are in a larger organization, what your predecessor did doesn’t just go away when they quit/retire. New boss, new rules has its own dangers, including the employee thinking the new boss is “out to get them” and holding them to standards that have never been a condition of employment.

      My advice to LW is to get their retiring boss to start progressive discipline proceedings on Dwight NOW.

        1. Michelle Smith*

          At will employment means that you can be let go for any reason or not reason at all at any time AS LONG AS that reason isn’t discriminatory. It’s not and has never been a free pass to fire people for racist, sexist, ableist, etc. reasons.

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

            Wellactually, according to some surface-level google results, at-will employment was invented all the way back in 1877, but the Civil Rights Act wasn’t until 1964, and the ADA 1990 (!). But certainly your point is true today.

        2. DyneinWalking*

          Just because something is legal doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Firing bad employees is only part of good management – the other part is keeping the good employees by making them want to stay (after all, the best ones tend to have options). This involves tangible things like raises, but also things like office climate and how safe employees feel. And for the latter, it is important to be transparent about firings and making it clear that employees are told if they’re about to be fired and that they get a chance to shape up.

          You could fire employees left and right just because you feel like it (so long as the reason isn’t race etc) – but then no-one would want to work for you and everyone who started work with you would be looking for a way out. Of course that doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of businesses in the US that make use of their right to fire anyone they want – but that’s usually more expensive in the long run (work left undone, finding a new hire, training the new hire), besides leaving you with the bottom of the barrel, skill-wise. So this is not something that reasonable employers do.

    5. Quinalla*

      It’s unlikely, but still a risk. We had an employee who had some serious issues that weren’t being addressed because leadership kept changing so leaders didn’t really know about the issues or weren’t around long enough to really address them. Then he went on FMLA for a medical issue and leadership figured out what a drain this dude was because of his high salary, low output (which was worse with his medical stuff but was low before that), and bad attitude that was pissing off good employees. They had to have an airtight case to be able to fire him and still worried he would sue and to build that case they kept him on probably 6 months longer than they wanted to and well past when he should have been fired before that. It was awful :(

        1. Michelle Smith*

          Please look up what at will employment actually means, because you don’t understand the term.

        2. New Jack Karyn*

          ‘At will’ means that one can be fired because of a screw-up, because they’re a Yankees fan, or because it’s Tuesday. You can get unemployment for the last two, but you can’t sue.

          However, there are protections under the law; if an employer violates those, a person can sue (or make a claim with the state employment board, depending on the state and the specific violation). Discrimination based on gender, race, religion, ethnicity, etc., all qualify.

          Discipline or firing based on use of FMLA is also against the law. Someone can say they were fired after coming back from FMLA, and sue/make a claim. That’s when an employer needs a solid paper trail–AND be able to say they treated other employees similarly for similar infractions. Dot the i’s and cross the t’s!

  5. Doctor What*

    Yeah, my first thought about Dwight before reaching the end of the 2nd paragraph was, why does he still have a job there?!

    1. The New Wanderer*

      Not just that, but apparently he gets more hours than any other PT worker except Lucy. AND he’s complaining about that, no doubt because it has worked for him in the past.

      The store was able to hire a really good employee, no doubt they could do it again to fill the upcoming vacancy. He sounds terrible and as a PT employee I’m not sure why anyone would bother with a performance conversation at this point before just letting him go. I thought PT employees generally don’t have the employment protections or the expectation of performance counseling before they’re let go.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        “I thought PT employees generally don’t have the employment protections or the expectation of performance counseling before they’re let go.”

        Why not?

        In the US, many jobs are “employment at will” meaning people can be fired at any time for any reason unless it involves discrimination against protected classes. (and people can also quit their jobs with no notice at anytime for any reasons)

        But good management practices are good management practices, whether one is managing full time or part time employees or volunteers or contractors.

      2. Yellow+Flotsam*

        I’m not American so PT might mean something different to you.

        But doctors, lawyers, and department chiefs are all jobs that you might have a PT position for where I live. Here PT employees have the same legal rights as FT employees.

        The fact that LW is talking about hours makes me suspect it is a PT work included overtime at base rates or casual contact in the language we use. Casuals have limited workplace rights in terms of shifts, but you still can’t legally discriminate.

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      Both because he’s terrible at it, and seems to actively despise the basic tenets of the job!

    3. Cat Tree*

      Yeah, I was expecting OP to say that they’d have trouble finding a replacement, or their company policy doesn’t allow firing except for extreme cases, or Dwight will be retiring in a year so not worth it, or OP isn’t the person with firing ability and never will be. But it seems like firing just never occurred to OP as an option.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        It’s unclear to me if OP (as an assistant manager) has the authority to fire him, and it’s clear the actual manager checked out ages ago.

        I agree that OP should put “manage Dwight’s performance and collegiality issues” at the top of their to-do list, with the expectation that they’re probably going to need to fire him.

    4. Worldwalker*

      And why has he had a job there for years?

      He’s not doing the work he’s being paid to do *and* he’s making it harder for other employees (including the OP) from doing the work *they’re* being paid to do. I have fired employees for less.

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        I’m imagining this as like a store and am like ” dude, just give his hours to some of the more eager part timers” I bet they’d do a better job. I hate to be cold but the job market is tight. He could find someplace

    5. Magenta Sky*

      When I read the title, I thought “the bad employee isn’t the problem, the manager who puts up with him is.”

      I was right.

  6. Cafe au Lait*

    Can you start taking on more people management since your manager is retiring? This way you can start the performance documentation with Dwight, and show your other employees that you won’t allowing bullying when you become store manager.

    An idea: can you assign all the areas in your store points, and base hours on how many points people have mastered? Employees that have mastered more points get more hours on the schedule. Even as I write this, I see pros, cons and potential problem areas with my idea. I’m throwing it out there in case it’s a good idea for you, and could work.

    1. linger*

      One obvious refinement: employees that have mastered more points will become eligible for more hours on the schedule, if they want and are available for them. And, conversely, employees wanting to specialize only in one area will not have as many hours available, because some hours in that area must be allotted to those seeking to diversify their roles. This is a change to rostering policy that promotes cross-training, and would be beneficial for the store anyway, without being directed at any one employee.
      But there is one very important caveat: this policy shouldn’t override any reasonable accommodations in place that limit the range of duties performed by some staff. In particular, OP would need to check that lower-stress duties were not assigned as an accommodation to Dwight’s medical status. OP may not have been originally privy to any such arrangement.

  7. Richard Hershberger*

    Based on my extremely dated experience working in a WalMart, here’s what you do. You meet with Dwight at the beginning of his shift. Bring a yellow pad with you. Walk with him through his area of responsibility, making notes on the pad of tasks that need to be performed. Make a copy, and give it to him. Then leave him alone until the end of the shift. Then repeat the walk through with him, checking off the tasks that were completed. If, as expected, he has not made a reasonable dent in the list, give him a verbal warning. Then repeat the process a week later, and write him up if appropriate. Repeat as necessary. I am morally certain that the home office has some variant of this procedure. They won’t care about you firing a part timer, so long as the documentation is in order.

    Funny story: the manager that did this with me was in fact a great boss. I loved the guy. The list would have a bunch of piddly little items, and one or two big ones. I took the big items as being the important bits, so I would concentrate on completing them then fill in the little stuff in the time available. Ollie patiently explained to me that this was not the WalMart Way. My performance was evaluated on the number of items completed. So I should do all the little ones, then if I had time take on the big ones. He cheerfully agreed that this didn’t make a lick of sense, and assured me that he would tell me when a big item was actually important.

    1. Chirpy*

      Here’s the problem with this: one very time consuming customer or several phone calls can throw a list completely out the window, because at least for my store, customer service is supposed to take top priority. I’ve had many, many shifts where my department head came back the next day upset that not everything on a list was stocked, when the manager who was actually there with me saw how busy we were and had no problem with my work.

      1. GingerApple*

        You have to manage performance in some capacity, so as long as the actual job conditions are kept in mind (re: interruptions), this solution is better than no solution.

        Given that one of the tasks is interacting with customers, he would get a check for those.

        1. Chirpy*

          Customer service should definitely be more heavily weighted on the list than other things, it’s just a lot harder to quantify than a shelf that’s obviously empty or full.

          1. Hannah Lee*

            ” this was not the WalMart Way”

            OC mentioned that the “weight” of a task on the list wasn’t considered when grading the task lists, simply the number of check marks showing a task was completed.

            Should and Is are sometimes not the same thing.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        I think the OP established that he doesn’t talk to customers or answer the phone if at all possible, so this is a less good excuse for him than it might be for someone else. But in any case, the logical conclusion to the argument is that no one can be held accountable for anything.

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        You can also get custom 2-part or 3-part carbon copy forms printed. This would be Extreme Overkill if it’s just for Dwight, but a great way to show that you’re holding everyone to whatever checklist expectation as part of showing that you’re firing him for performance reasons rather than discriminatory ones. (“As you can see by this big binder of forms, all employees were given daily checklists. 12 out of 14 of them completed their checklists on at least 9 out of their last 10 shifts, so met their goal. Two did not, so were coached on [whatever]. Only Dwight continued to have a record of completing his checklist on fewer than 5 out of 10 attempts after coaching, which is why he was fired.”)

        However, if this store is a chain, they almost certainly already have this thing in some form! Perhaps it is electronic, perhaps it is paper and can be ordered, but it probably already exists in some form.

        1. whingedrinking*

          This would also make great documentation for staffing in general. If Dwight is the only one not completing his tasks, that can be chalked up to Dwight being a bad worker, but if nobody gets 100% of their tasks done in a shift, that might indicate that you need more people.

  8. Not teenage but still ninja turtle*

    I really hope we get an update on this. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for your promotion, OP!

  9. idwtpaun*

    Yeah, I don’t think I’m the kind of person to jump to firing someone as a solution, but like most, I’m puzzled as to why not only that hasn’t happened, but doesn’t seem to be an option the OP is considering once they have the manager job. As much as I’m happy to see a shift in old-fashioned attitudes that required employees to be grateful to the employer for the job, employees do have an obligation to do the job for which they’re paid. It sounds like Dwight isn’t doing that and has been allowed not to do that.

    Is it possible the job market is so in the job-seekers’ favour where OP is that they worry about filling the position? But even if that were true, it sounds like Dwight not being there wouldn’t have much of an effect on productivity.

    1. Boof*

      Once dwight chases off lucy + any other good employees he will have a big negative impact on productivity (beyond taking up a slot for a normally productive employee as they are currently doing)

      1. Johanna Cabal*

        A bad employee can also attract other bad employees in addition to bringing other staff down to their levels (“why should I answer the phone when Dwight doesn’t?”).

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          I’m having flashbacks to my last summer in retail, in a store with 4 staff and a manager. Every year, the manager took a month-long vacation. Although one of the other managers was around about once a week, my one colleague and I were basically in charge, just with no power. One of the other two staff was a Dwight. If it was just “Dwight” and the fourth guy, he would go all Dwight, too. Like, full-on chilling, looking down at their phones.

          And the only thing I could really do about it was try to schedule them with as little overlap as possible, because it was made clear that my colleague and I had no actual authority.

        2. kiki*

          Yes! I think a lot of retail/fast-food/coverage-based jobs end up keeping bad employees around because they think having a bad employee who reliably shows up is better than none, but bad employees make it harder to hire and keep good employees.

          1. Junior Assistant Peon*

            Exactly. Dwight is a problem employee, but he’s worked at your store a long time and is probably trained on every task there is. In the current job market, you’re unlikely to find someone much better who’s willing to take a part-time retail position. That was also my experience in youthful summer jobs – it was worth keeping problem employees because a replacement either had to be trained from scratch, or had experience but got himself fired from a competitor.

            1. New Jack Karyn*

              He might be *trained* to do every task. But he isn’t doing them! He refuses to work outside his niche, and won’t help customers. Dwight needs a PIP.

            2. Worldwalker*

              It doesn’t matter if he’s *trained* on every task there is when he refuses to do most of them!

              For example, I don’t do tech support for my family because it’s bad for my blood pressure and my mental health. It doesn’t matter *how* much I know about their computer problems if I refuse to deal with them.

              Someone who won’t do the job is no better than someone who can’t do the job.

    2. Dawn*

      There’s a lot of managers out there who just don’t want to deal with firing anyone.

      Which is terrible management but it’s also really common.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        If there’s anything I’ve learned from this site, it’s that there are a lot of managers out there who just don’t want to manage.

      2. The OTHER Other*

        True, and we’ve definitely seen many comments here of the “but he might sue” variety. Too many employers seem to live in fear of ever getting rid of a terrible employee due to the boogie man of lawsuits. Sure, document the issues, but if Dwight can’t turn things around quickly, he needs to go. I predict that, when called on his crap, Dwight will either quit or get worse and finally get fired rather than improve.

    3. Worldwalker*

      It’s reasonable to expect a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay — and, conversely, a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. A remarkable number of letters to AAM involve a failure of one half of that or the other.

    4. Worldwalker*

      If this continues, the OP will have to replace either Dwight or Lucy.

      Which one do they want to keep? Because “both” is not an option, not in this market.

  10. Gnome*

    While this goes on, you risk alienating Lucy, any other halfway decent employees, and Customers! I have definitely taken all future business Elsewhere when I’ve encountered a Dwight.

    1. Kyrielle*

      I mean, it does sound like a customer encountering this Dwight would be unlikely. He appears to not want them to know he exists either. But otherwise, agreed.

    2. goddessoftransitory*

      I still remember a stationary store I went into where the counter staff was so actively rude I walked out again in about thirty seconds. Funnily enough they went out of business quite rapidly.

  11. Chirpy*

    To anyone asking why this guy hasn’t been fired: it’s retail. The only reasons I’ve seen anyone get fired for at my store were theft, death threats (because openly carrying a knife wasn’t enough! ) and fighting a shoplifter. The Dwights of my store are allowed to just be since they’re a warm body and it would be actual work to manage or fire them, and at least one could claim discrimination based on health issues similar to the LW’s employee.

      1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

        In my retail experience no one was ever fired they just stopped getting scheduled until they quit.

        1. Aphrodite*

          This is what I was going to say. Start cutting Dwight’s hours right now. If he works 30 hours cut him to 24. Wait, then cut him again to 20 until he sees that he cannot live on that number of hours. It seems you could as you said you have a number of part-time people. Simply shift the hours around.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            Reducing someone’s hours until they quit is a jerk move and seems like a dodge around actually, you know, managing him. If he’s a problem at 30 hours, he’s still a problem at 16 hours, and he’s going to continue to do a poor job and bully/creep out his colleagues.

            If OP is allowed to hold him to high standards and fire him if he doesn’t meet them, that’s what they should do.

            1. Gnome*

              Yes. I worked retail in HS and my boss did this. I still have nightmares decades later that I missed a shift because I didn’t come in one week (because I wasn’t scheduled) and then didn’t know I was on the calendar. This never happened to me, but I saw other “just not get scheduled” and it wigged me out.

            2. EL*

              Agreed. Manage him or chuck him (or, most likely given his record, manage him and THEN chuck him when it doesn’t work). Don’t dance around the issue.

          2. whingedrinking*

            This is literally the worst possible option.
            Apart from being ethically grotesque as other folks have pointed out, it’s just a bad idea. If you’re willing to do this, you should just rip the bandaid off and fire him outright. It would be faster, probably better for optics and morale (I’m guessing plenty of Dwight’s coworkers are sick of his shirt too, but they’re not going to respect passive aggression either), and could at least potentially be defended, if it became necessary, as termination for cause rather than constructive dismissal.

        2. Chirpy*

          My store only rarely does that, mostly to high school students. I think they’re afraid to do it to adults who might question it (or knife guy, who was legitimately scary)

        3. WellRed*

          Ha! I was an excellent retail employee for five years. We folded ( borders), acquired by books a million (yeah, I’ll name names). After several months they just…stopped…scheduling my experienced and helpful self. Their loss, especially these days. Eff you!

        4. Junior Assistant Peon*

          My experience (not retail but outdoor grounds maintenance) was that my bosses seldom needed to fire someone because the lazy ones would just stop coming in.

        5. fine tipped pen aficionado*

          To be clear I was not trying to imply this was a good thing for LW to do, just explain that it’s SOP in the industry.

    1. Melanie Cavill*

      Back in my Wal-Mart days, I once had a fellow employee hold a knife against my abdomen in the lunchroom. He was not fired for it.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*


        It’s one thing to carry a pocket knife for cutting food or boxes. It’s entirely another to brandish it at people or threaten they with it.

        I carry a knife in my pocket. You would never know it unless I was cutting food or a box.

    2. CharlieBrown*

      As someone else has said earlier, n=1.

      I’ve worked in retail before, and we had no issues letting people like Dwight go. Carry your weight or find some other way to occupy your time.

    3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      That was my experience, too, in 6 years of working retail. I have had many coworkers who kinda sucked and a few that were really bad. Nothing ever happened to them. With at least one manager, it was that he did not want to have those conversations with staff. It was extremely frustrating.

    4. L Dub*

      Ehhhh, I currently work in a corporate org we have the exact same situation happening. It’s much more about poor management than this being a retail environment.

    5. Irish Teacher*

      I wonder if part of it too is the training for managers in some retail settings. Now, the retail company I worked for makes a point of doing things as cheaply as possible and manages on minimal staff so other retail settings may be different but…some of the managers were in their early 20s. I will add that the best manager we had was in her early 20s, but the fact that she was just brilliant doesn’t change the fact that most people in their early 20s both have limited experience and may be intimidated at trying to manage people who have been working since before they were born. It is quite hard for a 23 year old who is only in their second job, may have had limited training on managing people to fire somebody significantly older than them, who may be way more knowledgeable about workers’ rights (given their longer time in the workforce).

      It was also hard enough to GET managers. OK, this was partly because of the ridiculous hours those managers were expected to work and the fact that they were salaried so didn’t get paid overtime for all the extra hours they worked, while positions up to supervisor were hourly. So that may be unique to that store, but really, if you were reasonably competent (did your minimum wage job efficiently, were punctual and reliable, were polite to customers, etc) and you were planning to stay with the company and work full-time hours (a lot of us were college students or people on “gap years” between school and college or college and post-grad or parents of young children who were only available to go part-time hours), you would probably be promoted, possibly even within weeks or months of joining the company.

      Many people are not suited to managing people and at least in the company I worked for, there seemed to be no evaluation to see if somebody was willing to make the hard decisions before promoting them. We had a manager from another branch covering in ours for a couple of weeks when one of our managers was on holiday (two managers in our branch – the manager and an assistant manager – so obviously, not possible to manage with one for their time off and so on). The guy was probably in his early 20s and was only covering our branch for two weeks. Lovely guy, but of course it was difficult for him to exert authority in those circumstances. I remember being quite irritated when he was in charge because some staff members were doing the bare minimum and he wasn’t managing them so we ended up working an extra half hour or an hour after the store closed to get finished up.

  12. Michelle*

    One thing you can do right now is start documenting Dwight’s behavior, I think. Even if you never use it, just to keep it straight in your own head, and so that when you do go to Dwight telling him what improvements you need to see from him, you’ll have receipts and not just vibes.

  13. raincoaster*

    Dwight is in retail sales. How much, exactly, is Dwight selling per hour? It seems like a pretty easy way to either turn him around or replace him if you make $/hr a thing he needs to improve. And speaking as a retail employee, we are not irreplaceable.

    1. Autumn*

      I lost a part time retail position to this very thing in the early 1990s. I worked weekday mornings and the store was largely empty. When the minimum wage went up I was pushed out the door because my hourly sales stank. I can’t sell to air after all.

      I’m sure, if Dwight is allergic to customers his per hour sales also stink. Can he be put on a PIP to push those numbers up? Can part times be given shifts based on sales per hour?

    2. MigraineMonth*

      If he refuses to speak to customers, it seems likely that it’s $0/hr.

      Just make sure you aren’t penalizing workers who support the best salespeople. I was on a team where one person didn’t have great numbers, but their support work was critical; as soon as they were let go based on their numbers, the entire team performed worse.

  14. Anonynony*

    We have the same situation where I work, one employee joined the organization with a huge chip on his shoulder and has always been the lowest performer on a busy team. He was put on a PIP multiple times and then he got sick and was out for 6 months. His illness is ongoing and he’s the only one from the team not being mandated to come into the office 3 days a week. His work product is still poor, he avoids answering the phone, is always asking for coverage, and yet does not cover for others. I put the blame squarely on our former manager who was able to escape our team and now only manages one person and a remote consultant. She was a terrible manager and I’m glad to be rid of her, but the next two managers haven’t done much with him. I have decided to change the way I work and not be so proactive and overly helpful any longer. My workload has become unwieldy, I was made promises that were not kept, and I’m fed up. If you are made the manager, please do whatever you can to either change this guy or get rid of him.

  15. animaniactoo*

    My actual first thought here is that if Dwight doesn’t like customer interaction, why is there not a focus on moving him into a role that does not involve or require customer interaction?

    Give him the choice of switching roles, OR coming up to par on the parts of his job that he doesn’t like but must perform if he is going to remain in the current role as they are integral to the role?

    1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      It seemed to me like there wasn’t enough of the kind of work Dwight is willing to do to justify his entire position. I pictured him organizing the backstock while the floor is a disaster and the line was 20 heads deep at the register.

      I did the stock team in my Old Navy days and it was the best because it was the least customer-involved work, but a lot of retail places don’t have enough restocking or frequent enough floor sets to justify that being a whole shift of work.

      1. Dawn*

        Not necessarily. There are a number of retail businesses out there who specifically hire people to stock, do merchandising, clean, etc. There’s enough larger retail businesses out there which need that because it can be impossible for your floor employees to handle that while also helping customers.

        1. Ev*

          Yeah – the last time I worked retail, my entire job was stocking the store after/before open hours. I barely even *saw* a customer. If Dwight can be switched to something like that, it might be better for everyone.

    2. Aggretsuko*

      In my experience as someone who’s stuck doing service work and doesn’t like customer interaction, no job is going to move you out of customer interaction, “because that’s the job” and that’s the most important thing about ANY job is that you smile and serve.

      1. very anon*

        Can confirm. My partner & I, both in our 50s and not too keen on job hunting, know we have relatively stable employment because we’re both good at customer interaction in our own ways. It sucks because I HATE dealing with people but had to take it on as part of the non-public work I do.

    3. Education Mike*

      LW says that the work he wants to do isn’t what’s needed. But why cater to an awful employee who is rude and doesn’t do the basics of his job either way?

  16. ThisIsNotADuplicateComment*

    Obligatory IMNAL, but the fact that you’re going to be a new manager should work to your advantage if Dwight starts complaining. You can be diplomatic and say something like: “We’re all human and can only deal with so many things. Old Manager felt these didn’t have to be addressed but I do because ” or you can be blunter about how your old manager should have dealt with this but didn’t.
    You may feel like you’re throwing your old (current) manager under the bus but you wouldn’t be! This is a scenario with two bad employees who are refusing to do their jobs, Dwight should have been told his behaviour was unacceptable a long time ago.

    1. FrenchCusser*

      It reminds me of when I was a nanny and one of the kids would argue, ‘Mommy lets me do it!’ and I’d reply, ‘I’m not your mommy!’

      New manager is not the old manager and doesn’t have to apply the old manager’s rules or procedures.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Agreed. Getting promoted would be the perfect time for a re-set of expectations. If/when that happens, I’d advise coming in and starting fresh with everyone. Tell everyone off the bat what you want to see change and what your expectations are. You can let everyone start with a blank slate from that time.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Blank slate, but clear expectations and a short timeline for meeting them. Do not let Dwight drag this out for 3 months if he’s not showing consistent improvement.

  17. Marna Nightingale*

    Are you able to ask your manager what the deal is with Dwight? Presumably they have a reason for putting up with him. I have trouble imagining that it’s a good, or good enough, reason, but there’s probably SOME sort of explanation.

    I can’t imagine you finding out anything that would cause you to lean towards keeping him on the current terms, but there might be something that you need to know in order to figure out exactly how to go about getting him to shape up or ship out.

    1. Sara without an H*

      This is a good suggestion. Is Dwight, possibly, under the protection of Someone Higher Up? Did somebody try to discipline him earlier and he threatened to sue? (Not a good reason, but wimpy managers sometimes cave to it.)

      It’s more likely, though, that the store manager either feels sorry for Dwight for some reason, or hates hiring, or doesn’t want to do the necessary documentation to let him go. But the OP needs to find out.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Or hates firing. It doesn’t sound fun for anyone involved. I’m sure lots of managers avoid doing it because it’s unpleasant. Just like Dwight avoids the parts of his job that he doesn’t want to do.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Yeah, firing someone is unpleasant and it should be unpleasant. If you find yourself enjoying depriving someone of their livelihood (absent truly egregious behavior), that’s a bad sign. On the other hand, taking on the unpleasant tasks that come with managing is part of why managers are paid more.

      2. learnedthehardway*

        It’s a very good idea for the OP to get the lay of the land here, because higher management favourites in retail aren’t always obvious. Case in point, it took someone I know 2 years to fire their Dwight, because the president of their company thought he walked on water. It turned out that the president and Dwight’s father were personal friends. In the end, his manager couldn’t fire him despite multiple write-ups, and finally ended up engineering a situation where the employee quit (I think primarily by giving him shifts he didn’t want, but maintaining his number of hours). They accepted his resignation and then refused to rehire him when the president told them to. They had to threaten to resign if forced to rehire the guy to make the president give up on the idea.

        1. Worldwalker*

          Consider Braxton Bragg, the Confederate general during the US Civil War. Yes, the guy they named Fort Bragg for, for some unaccountable reason. He couldn’t attack. He couldn’t even retreat in good order. He couldn’t fight. He got his men killed for nothing. He was called the most hated officer in the Confederate Army. But … you knew there was a but … he was buddies with Jefferson Davis, who thought he highly of him. It’s reasonable to say that his bad generalship was a major contributor to the defeat of the Confederacy. Cronyism can get you everywhere.

          Military history is full of “X was a good friend of Y, so he wasn’t cashiered, and as a result his side lost the battle/campaign/war.”

      3. Leandra*

        If Dwight is being protected, another possibility is he has dirt on Someone Higher Up.

        I heard much later that may have been the case at ExEmployer, where the office manager let certain employees get away with murder to the day she retired.

        1. Hannah Lee*

          This may be a cases of letting natural consequences ensue.

          If Someone Higher Up wants to prioritize keeping a clearly bad employee for *reasons* they may find themselves having to replace good workers like Lucy and OP, who would be justified in finding a new job if she’s not allowed to actually manage when she’s promoted to manager.

  18. turquoisecow*

    My first thought is that if Dwight is complaining that Lucy is working preferred shifts or getting more hours, say, “We need someone to work the X department (that he doesn’t like). Will you do that?” If he grumbles that he’d rather do Y task then you can point out you need someone to do X and Lucy is good at X and fine at doing X.

    I mean, aside from all the other issues, has the manager ever taken Dwight aside and explained why the behavior isn’t good, or even that it is bad? “We need you to answer the phone because…” “You have to do X and Y when you’re in the X department because…” They might seem like intuitive tasks but if you spell out that he needs to do X and not do Y and then he doesn’t do X and he does do Y then he has no excuse for his behavior. Has that happened at all? It sounds like he’s doing his own thing and making people uncomfortable but it doesn’t sound like anyone has had a direct conversation explaining that there are issues with him. Or that there are consequences for his behavior, because there haven’t been.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      This is a great point. As a general rule, management has to make it extremely clear when an employee isn’t doing what’s needed in the role. This is people’s livelihood we’re talking about.

      I know we’d all hope that people would already know that refusing/being unable to do core tasks, being rude/unkind to coworkers, etc. is a problem. And yes, many people do and are happy to take advantage of situations where there are no consequences for doing whatever they want. But there’s gonna be some people who legit do not grasp that the problem is them. Maybe they’ve never had to care about not being a jerk because everyone has just treated them as a missing stair. Regardless, starting the conversation about what you’re seeing and being clear is the first, best way to figure out which type you’re dealing with.

  19. I would prefer not to*

    The worst problem with Dwights is that they demoralise good employees, or even drive them away. The Lucys will get other jobs with development opportunities elsewhere, and rightly so. You’ll be left with nothing but Dwights.

    It isn’t your fault LW, but your manager’s choices are so maddening. It communicates to people that you do not value good work, or team spirit, or collaborative behaviours towards colleagues, or good customer service or anything else.

  20. Problem with advice*

    The NLRA protects employees’ rights to discuss terms and conditions of employment. This advice is likely unlawful: “…Dwight needs to be told to stop tracking other people’s schedules, that other people’s hours aren’t up for discussion and he needs to stop raising it.”

    1. Six for the Truth*

      As I understand it, employees have a right to discuss terms and conditions of employment with one another. For instance, Lucy and Dwight are permitted to swap tips about getting more hours or qualifying for medical leave. I am permitted to talk with my colleagues about our pay, benefits, tasks, and schedules, and our manager can’t tell me to stop.

      Employees don’t have a right to complain about other employees’ terms and conditions to specific employees who have indicated those complaints are unwelcome, or to their managers. If I were being a pest to an employee who got assigned tasks that I considered better than mine, that employee and our manager would be within their rights to tell me to shut it.

    2. fine tipped pen aficionado*

      I interpreted that advice to mean he cannot complain to management about other workers’ hours, not that workers could not talk amongst themselves.

    3. M&M*

      Yes, but he’s not discussing with Lucy. He has a right to discuss hours and schedules with her, but not to creepily stalk her schedule.

    4. Marna Nightingale*

      I am ALSo not a lawyer, nevermind a specialist in labour law, but if the NLRA covers “repeatedly bitching to all and sundry about the hours someone else is getting whether they want to talk about it or not and without adding any actual new information”, as opposed to “discussing peoples’ hours with other employees with the mutual goal of working out if the schedule is fair”, I’ll be fairly startled.

    5. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      Do you think he’s discussing conditions of employment with Lucy????? I can’t imagine telling a non-management employee to stop tracking other employees schedules is illegal; he’s practically stalking Lucy, and he should be fired for that.

    6. Tired academic*

      IANAL, but find it hard to believe that an employee complaining to a manager about the schedules/hours of other employees would be considered “concerted activity” for the mutual benefit of employees.

    7. unionize ur workplace*

      Folks have (I think correctly, but I’m also not a lawyer, just involved with unions) pointed out that copying schedules in itself doesn’t seem to meet the criteria for protection under the NLRA, but I want to flag for this discussion that collecting paper schedules is a very common organizing tactic. As a union-oriented person, my very first thought at that part was that he is organizing either with coworkers or an established union. That doesn’t mean he can’t be fired for incompetence, but it does make it more complicated (a union would probably file a charge alleging he was fired for organizing). It’s also possible he’s *trying* to organize on his own but hasn’t gotten any coworkers or a union on board, and firing him would get a union’s attention.

      I was hesitant to post this in case he is trying to organize but frankly it doesn’t seem like he is a good choice for an organizer, so if there’s a campaign there they might need a regroup anyway.

      1. Myrin*

        I honestly don’t see anything at all in the letter supporting this assumption – there’s a clear reason for his copying the schedules (he’s a busybody who wants to make sure he’s got the best deal out of everyone but especially Lucy) so I don’t think we have to speculate.

    8. Worldwalker*

      That covers things like discussing schedules and pay with co-workers who are willing to discuss them — not tracking co-workers’ hours, whining to the manager about co-workers getting too many hours (!!!), etc.

    9. Kit*

      As others have noted, the NLRA is specifically about protecting employees’ rights to collectively bargain (and to discuss issues related to pay equity). Harassing a fellow employee over how many hours she is scheduled for isn’t protected activity under the NLRA, and Dwight can absolutely be told to knock it off.

    10. whingedrinking*

      At least where I live, the “right to discuss terms and conditions of employment” means that the employer could not forbid Dwight from asking Lucy about her hours or forbid her from telling him. It doesn’t mean that Dwight has a right to know Lucy’s hours if she doesn’t want to tell him.

  21. AcademiaCat*

    As someone who was in retail management for about a decade, there are two tactics you can take here to get this moving before your manager leaves, but both of them involve your store manager’s buy in. Start with a meeting with the store manager about Dwight’s special treatment. This might inform everything else.

    Approach 1, you also have a payroll problem here: you only have x amount of employee positions, and having Dwight on the team means you’re really working with x-1 salespeople. Dwight has a choice: work on the floor with customers, or have fewer hours to reflect the amount of hours the back room would need from someone competent. I bet you money corporate has those numbers if you want them. Make it a formal sit-down about budgetary priorities that came to your attention recently. When he says no, follow through and cut his hours. Watch him leave.

    Approach 2, write-ups. You’ll have to be consistent, and this is something where you might want to make a general reminder of policy before you start doing it, but a simple “we’ve been having a problem with [x] and it’s impacting [store reviews, revenue, staffing]. As a reminder, company policy is [y]. If we don’t see improvement we will need to begin following policy [z] on page # of the employee handbook.” It takes a little longer, but will lead to a solid case to terminate him.

  22. Job Hunter*

    LW, I think if you don’t deal with Dwight, Lucy may find somewhere else to work. It sounds like any employer would be thrilled to hire her.

  23. RJ*

    Dwight has been coasting and has taken advantage of your manager’s lack of response to do so. Action needs to be taken now before he demoralizes Lucy to the point she leaves before your promotion. Put him on a PIP, make him do the things he’s been avoiding in the store and reduce his hours until he steps up or is terminated.

    Good luck, OP and I hope your get your promotion!

  24. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    OP, do you have standing to have a serious chat with the manager about what you see going on right now? I’m not sure what authority you have to take steps on your own as an assistant manager. Make it extremely clear what issues you’re seeing and what you’d recommend as next steps.

    It sounds from your letter that you’re focused on what may happen in a few months when you’ll be in charge. I’d also be thinking about what can/should be happening right now. Can *you* be supervising Dwight closely and providing real-time feedback? Things like “hey Dwight, the backroom shelves don’t need dusting, please go do [important stuff] instead” and “Dwight, when the phone rings and you’re right next to it, I need you to pick it up” and “Dwight, how you just spoke to Lucy is inappropriate,” etc. You don’t need to threaten or impose any consequences (and maybe you can’t!), but I hope there’s some stuff you can start doing today to make the environment better for everyone.

  25. Alex*

    The current retail employment situation (at least in my area) is that even bad employees are kept because replacements can’t be found.

    1. Worldwalker*

      The OP can either lose Dwight or lose Lucy. Exactly because the job market is so much in workers’ favor, there is no option that includes keeping both of them. Lucy can walk into a job elsewhere any time she wants, and if Dwight keeps behaving as he is, she’s going to do exactly that.

    2. Random Bystander*

      Quite frankly, though, it sounds as though if Dwight were let go, no one would really notice.

  26. Dawn*

    I am so upset on behalf of your other employees that this has been allowed to go on unchecked for so long.

    If I were you, I’d also be checking in with Lucy right now, because if I were in her shoes here I wouldn’t still be around in a few months to promote, because I’d be being harassed (not in the legal sense, at least from what you’ve written, but still under the meaning of the word) at work and my manager was doing nothing about it.

  27. learnedthehardway*

    Make sure that whatever you do now, that you have your manager’s backing for it. You’re looking at a promotion, and it doesn’t make sense to put that in jeopardy. You really can’t tell Lucy that you’re expecting things to change or that you’re expecting this promotion, but you can tell her that you understand the issues, and you can do what is within your scope of authority today to help. Anything beyond that, you need to get your manager to deal with it.

    WRT getting your manager to do anything, it might help if you set things up so he/she doesn’t have to do any legwork. Get their approval for example, to hold Dwight to performance standards, and then document and bring all the issues to the manager’s attention, together with a suggestion that he be written up. Offer to do the documentation – for your own career development. Etc.

  28. Pidgeot*

    I’d also be careful because people like Dwight usually think they’re the ones who are going to get promoted – and can turn nasty if they feel like they’ve been passed over, especially for someone newer, younger, or otherwise different than them.

  29. H3llifIknow*

    I am curious why the OP is waiting on the Manager to leave to take action. If the OP is an Assistant Store Manager, I’d argue that it is her job to take care of it first before it escalates to needing higher up action. Maybe because I support the military I’m a firm believer in chain of command, and as Dwight’s first line of authority the OP is herself slacking off and allowing this behavior to continue!

    1. Worldwalker*

      Retail doesn’t work like the military.

      An assistant store manager generally doesn’t actually have authority over much more than schedules and paperwork.

    2. Myrin*

      An assistant store managers is the store manager’s second-in-command but that doesn’t mean they’re “first line of authority” in the sense that the assistant store manager is the boss while the store manager is the grandboss – store manager is the boss and their second is there to stand in for them if they are absent and to maybe give input on personnel/financial/scheduling matters, but they really can’t just take disciplinary action on their own.

  30. irene adler*

    We have the full-time version of Dwight.

    Management will not fire him- no matter how bad he gets.

    Reason: they cannot fire him -even with of his objectionable behaviors fully documented -because Dwight can sue the company. Dwight has been employed for a long time (>20 years); thus, it is assumed management is accepting of these objectionable behaviors and cannot now terminate him for these behaviors.

    Is this ignorance on the part of management?
    (in the USA; however less than 13 employees)

    1. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

      Anyone can sue, for more or less anything. The question is, if the claimant has a valid cause of action – and what you’re suggesting as this person’s claim is, at best, a huge stretch vis a vis actual employment law in most if not all states. Not taking action that’s clearly needed because “someone might sue” is a grave mistake.

        1. I should really pick a name*

          Yes, but they may not even have to fight it. That’s why talking to a lawyer is the first step.

    2. Bexy Bexerson*

      What management needs to do with your Dwight is set clear expectations, explain consequences for not meeting those expectations (eg. first offense = verbal warning, second offense = written warning, third offense = termination), document everything, and then follow through.

      The fact that they’ve done nothing about it for 20 years doesn’t mean they can’t do it now. They just don’t want to. Could Dwight try to sue if he gets shitcanned? Sure. Would he win if the company has good documentation? Unlikely.

  31. OP*

    Hi everyone! OP here with a minor update since sending in my letter.

    I did get the promotion! My first official week as store manager was last week. I’m looking at putting Dwight on some kind of PIP in the next week and moving Lucy into the ASM role.

    To answer the most commonly asked questions: as ASM I didn’t have firing power or really any power to do anything discipline-related.

    Why Dwight still had a job was, I think, mostly due to the previous store manager. He was the first employee she hired on here and she always had rose colored glasses about him, despite acknowledging his downfalls.

    Dwight did apply for the ASM role and I’ll be telling him on Friday that he didn’t get it. (I’m currently out of the state and Lucy is running things flawlessly in my absence.) We’ll see how that goes!

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Congratulations on your promotion! Please send an update to Alison when you have more details, I think we’re all very invested.

    2. Heffalump*

      I’m virtually high-fiving you! Best to you and Lucy, and keep us posted. I’ll be especially curious about Dwight’s reaction when he learns that he won’t be ASM.

      I suspect Dwight wasn’t missed when he was out on medical leave. If he applied for the ASM role, he really is a case of Dunning-Kruger effect.

      Oh, and tell Dwight I said he’s an asshole. j/k

    3. Hydrangea*

      A PIP should be the last step after a series of performance discussions. I would spend 4-6 weeks discussing and documenting his performance and reviewing where he needs to make changes before starting the official PIP. A pre-PIP, if you will, during which you provide unambiguous standards that he needs to meet to avoid a PIP.

      I recommend this bc he obviously has no idea he is underperforming. You should acknowledge that and make clear that he will be held to the standards you outline even though he was not held to those standards in the past.

      1. Heffalump*

        I’d be sorely tempted to say, “There’s a new sheriff in town.”

        Some years ago I had a coworker who was hands down the most toxic person I’ve ever met. Within a month of taking the job I was sending out resumes again. Another coworker went so far as to say she was evil. While I wouldn’t go quite that far, her ethos was, “I do what I want, right and wrong be damned.”

        I had a talk with the manager about her, and he used the “she has union protection” excuse. Alison has written elsewhere about why that’s bogus.

        1. Hydrangea*

          “There’s a new sheriff in town.”

          Which is just a more confrontational and less specific way of saying, “I know you were not expected to pick up a ringing phone in the past. Be that as it may, you will be expected to answer phones going forward. If you do not regularly answer the phone, you will be placed on a PIP, which will result in termination if you do not complete it successfully.”

          Rather than escalating the situation with pithy snark, be direct and clear about expectations and consequences.

      2. Kevin Sours*

        Nah. Unless legal has a different opinion based on the medical leave that’s too much rope. Given the history you need to see some substantial improvement by four weeks or show him the door. The issues are serious, the chances of improvement are too low, and the potential impact on the people you want to keep are too high.

      3. Graeme*

        No disrespect to the OP, but I can’t help wondering what your ASM responsibilities were previously? You may not have had firing or PIP powers before, but if you’re expected to run shifts and train employees, it shouldn’t be news to Dwight that you’re not his biggest fan.

        And yet, he’s applied to be your ASM, so must to some extent imagine that you would think you work well together and like him enough to give him that role? And therefore, will be shocked and surprised to be hit with warnings, PIP’s etc.

        I’m not saying you should have gone as far as to set him up to be out the door on your first day. But in an ideal world, you wouldn’t even need to speak to him for him to think that he needs to buck up his ideas – your previous interactions as ASM should have made him realise that as soon as you moved up. The fact this isn’t the case might be something to think about in terms of how you run low-level discipline in future, as well as what powers you do want to delegate to Lucy.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          It could be that Dwight thinks that simple seniority/time in role should count for something. I get the impression that Dwight has been there a long time (not being managed/actively being mismanaged due to the now retired manager refusing to, you know, actually manage him), and because he’s been there a while thinks he’s due a promotion “just because.”

          It’s crappy, but pretty much everyone has seen the “promote the person who has been there forever” promotion happen – whether that was a good thing depends on the person who got promoted.

    4. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

      Congratulations on your promotion and I hope you can resolve the situation with Dwight.

  32. The Other Lucy*

    You are going to lose Lucy and get stuck with Dwight.

    I’m a Lucy, but not the one in the letter. I kept getting scheduled with an unreliable coworker. He kept blowing off shifts without warning, leaving me alone in the department and it was too late to get anyone else. Management refused to do anything about it so I quit. If they had at least tried to deal with it, I would have given it more time before quitting.

    They were left with someone who didn’t want to work even when he did bother to show up and nobody wanted to be scheduled with him.

  33. She of Many Hats*

    I would now start the process of moving Dwight out now: Documenting issues and steps taken to remedy or correct them (refusal to do core tasks of job description, treatment of co-workers, attitude, corrective actions taken & expected) and know exactly what corporate’s processes for termination and the definitions of protected classes and reasonable accommodations so you are ready when these arguments arise as they will. You are preparing the way for when whoever is made store manager to handle the problem quickly.

  34. ASW*

    Start documenting everything now. I had an employee that was put on a PIP, was out on medical leave for several weeks, came back and was let go at the end of the PIP because her performance didn’t improve. She tried to sue us. I gave HR my pages and pages of documentation which he then turned over to our attorney. Our attorney took one look at it and said there was no way she would win a case.

  35. Commentator*

    I can relate to the checking schedules thing. I worked at a unionized supermarket that required hours be assigned by seniority; however, our one scheduler was, to be frank, awful and she not only once gave me half the hours of people below me, but also would schedule me during school. My manager would always sort it out, but the same weekly song and dance got old.

    The rest of the stuff is messed up and management needs to shut it down.

  36. A. Tiskit & A. Taskit LLC*

    Document, document, document EVERYTHING!

    Dwight has never been held to clear, reasonable expectations; he needs to know what they are and what he must do to meet them. If those aren’t in writing (even though they seem like common sense to you!) then he can justly claim that he was never told that what he WAS doing was unacceptable or that this is what he SHOULD be doing instead. Make your list of expectations as precise and concrete as possible. There should be NO “wiggle room” for arguing on his part!

    And make the consequences for both meeting and failing to meet those expectations absolutely clear. Your first discussion with him should be a formal supervisory meeting; it too should be documented (as soon as possible after the meeting is held). Again, he needs to know exactly where he stands; he should never be able to claim “But nobody TOLD me that______ would happen!”

    You may indeed have to wait until his medical leave is far enough in the past so that neither he nor a slippery lawyer can claim that he’s being “picked on” for having had a medical problem. Please consult HR and/or an employment lawyer about this; the last thing you want to do is to have your well-documented case fall apart because he’s crying discrimination. Hopefully, your approach will either convince him to “straighten up and fly right” or will give you enough “ammo” to cut him loose (as his current manager should have long since done.)

  37. Jellyfish Catcher*

    There is one “new” behavior that Dwight is doing now, that didn’t occur before his medical leave.
    That is the poor treatment of Lucy:”icy, to say the least” suggests that it’s already pretty bad. This “new” issue since his return needs to be addressed NOW.

    This is possible harassment, gender bias and and/or just damn creepy. You may (get legal advice first ) be able to focus on the “new” behavior to get the ball rolling to a PIP.
    But you don’t let creepy drift to unsafe.
    If I were Lucy, I’d feel uncomfortable, under supported and be looking elsewhere, if this specific issue is not dealt with ASAP. Good luck.

  38. ABCYaBye*

    As Assistant Manager, I’d start documenting everything as well as have a conversation with Lucy. Make sure you’re aware of her feelings, but her feelings aren’t the ultimate deciding factor (short of her feeling unsafe). That isn’t to say that her feelings aren’t important, because they are, but that can’t be the only factor in any decision that is made about retaining Dwight or not. But if his performance problems can be documented, do so. Your manager isn’t helping matters because there’s been no coaching or clear feedback about expectations. If you’re going to assume the role of manager, though, you can definitely have some documentation in hand to have a meeting with your team when you move up. Give Dwight some clear expectations, let him know where things have not been good, and then go from there. I wouldn’t give him much time to make changes, as it sounds like he’s been a problem for quite some time.

  39. JK78*

    We used to have someone who compared his hours to other people’s. We had a bit of a seniority concept going on and had to abide by it. One of things my manager said to that person is that he could get more hours if he was willing to do the same work that others were doing. Dwight’s willingness to only work in ONE area, could count against him then. As soon as he starts whining “but Lucy…” bite right back that “Lucy does THIS” and “Lucy does THAT” and “Lucy is willing . . .” and he isn’t doing those things.

    Or maybe have Lucy step up a bit now, there’s other full time people, see if she’s willing to learn from them when you know Dwight isn’t. If they’re specialized, it’d probably be a good thing to have her learn how they do things anyway before she gets promoted. That way if any of them are sick or going on vacation, she could sub. Maybe it’d help to get her away from Dwight as well? If she’s more out of sight, maybe he won’t focus on her?

    Although, the holidays are coming up, it could be tempting to write up a list of expectations NOW of what you want from your “winter help” and apply THAT to everyone. Dwight especially. An example could be “get the phone calls before the 3rd ring.” I’m not sure if you should be calling the store yourself though, kinda like a spot check? Then when Dwight fails….. it’s because there’s going to be a new sheriff in town and the store needs to be run more effectively and get the store manager’s approval to take the reins a bit early? Are there corporate rules that you could blame changes on or use to your advantage?

  40. StarTrek Geek*

    My new supervisor ran into the same thing. Previous one had never even given S a below average review cause upper management would have expected remedial training. So 5 yrs later, S is still incompetent, given different easier duties she can’t do, and I’m fixing S’s work errors monthly. Once I started being very vocally resistant, old supervisor just fixs things herself if she thought state HQ would find out during random audits. We’re accounting responsible for a state facility’s multi million dollar monthly outlay – so this was a huge no-no and I’m seriously documenting to cover my ass and avoid the bus undercarriage.

    So new supervisor is promoted from ranks, after I refuse the promotion. Being aware of S’s work history, starts to crackdown. But knows with 5 yrs of ok reviews, it will be uphill battle. Eventually S is put on PIP, squeaks by minimally until 2 months later goes out on FMLA for stress. (S tells me it’s due to unfair PIP. I very bluntly tell her what I think about her work. S is shocked – very oblivious.) This delays PIP action, and this pattern repeats multiple times. The new supervisor wears out before S, so same-o same-o. I cave a few times and fix things, like yeah we need O2 delivered now or lots of residents will die so I plead/beg and push thru emergency vendor payment for 6 months S never paid. I discover S has ignored strong signs that our fuel bill has quadrupled starting 6 mons ago. If she had followed policy, another staff’s theft of 10,000 gals would have been stopped within 30 d.

    Eventually, I wear down, and because of the other crap I have to deal with (like Medicaid fraud), I quit & am gone with a 15-minute notice but enjoy full retirement benefits. Forgot to mention, I’m sole AR perso , responsible for $6M monthly revenue.

    Oh well. S remains on the job and new supervisor has forsaken all hope. And I relax, reading on my lovely patio.

  41. Essess*

    Big warning about wearing a costume on the first day… Unless it is a costume that you can take off (and no face makeup), don’t do it. Usually you get your id badge picture taken on the first day and you need to be able to take a professional photo that looks like you for security purposes.

    1. Essess*

      Nesting fail. Very strange… I clicked on the comments on one story, and it brought me to this story and I ended up putting the comment on the wrong story.

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