my employee can’t handle even mildly negative feedback

A reader writes:

I’m a manager who recently hired a junior-level employee. I could tell she was sensitive during the interview, which was fine, but didn’t find out until she started working that she has awful, awful anxiety. I feel for her, but she’s struggling to get through her training without things like very mildly negative feedback sending her into emotional spirals that last for hours. The only way I’ve been able to get her to be able to work again is to spend a ton of time reassuring her, but I don’t feel comfortable having her rely on me for that, and I’m swamped as it is. She’s opened up to me about her difficult background, and I really do empathize, but I wasn’t prepared for how hard her anxiety would make balancing her with the other people I manage, let alone my own daily duties.

Her work so far is good, when she has the confidence or if I push her hard enough to get over her anxiety to at least give it a shot. I want her to do well and don’t want to let her go, but I need to find a way to do it in a way that doesn’t leave me this emotionally exhausted. I’m just tired.

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

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • Our office tradition is to make interns buy food for the rest of us
  • Can I talk to my husband’s boss about his unhappiness?
  • How much info should you include in rejection emails?

{ 225 comments… read them below }

  1. What's in a name?*

    I would try treating this as a disability. Ask her what reasonable accommodations would help her to be able to handle the feedback. It can’t be to never get negative feedback, but it might be to save it all until the end of the day or have it in written form for her to mull over privately.

    1. Barbarella*

      It is a disability, given that it is interfering with a major life activity, but disability identification is and should be on the disabled person to initiate.

      Asking the employee what would make it easier for her (eg, email vs face-to-face) is a good idea. Using the language and processes of the ADA without the request of the employee is a bad way to implement a good idea.

      1. Prospect Gone Bad*

        No, don’t do this. This is wrong and insulting, and these words mean things. You can’t “accommodate” someone who can’t handle being politely told they are wrong when they are wrong and need to know they are wrong. That slippery slope is really steep and leads very quickly to “why even have this position on the payroll at all”

        1. Katrina*

          Unless I’m misreading, it sounds like the employee has disclosed that she has been diagnosed with anxiety. In which case, she does have a disability, and using the language of the ADA is neither wrong nor insulting. It is, in fact, the appropriate thing to do. (Reasonable accommodations may not be possible without undue hardship, but there needs to be a conversation before that conclusion can be reached.)

        2. Observer*

          This is wrong and insulting, and these words mean things

          No, it’s legally required.

          Now, it does not mean that the employer will be able to accommodate the person. But they need to initiate a dialog and figure out what, if anything, can be reasonably done to enable this person to accomplish their tasks.

          I went back to the original, and it’s follow up, and that it essentially what the OP did. And it turned out that they could NOT *reasonably* accommodate this employee, so they had to let her go.

          1. Prospect Gone Bad*

            The OP wrote “they have anxiety” in the colloquial way people say “that’s an anxious person.” You’re making a leap they got a medical diagnosis.

            But instead of arguing over that, let me ask you, what would the accommodation be? Let’s say I managed someone who keyed in everything with extra zeroes and cried when I pointed it out. What would the accommodation be? Not give them work? That’s what I’d struggle with if I found out there was a medical diagnosis involved here

            1. Rex Libris*

              It could be as simple as finding another way to deliver the feedback, that works better for the employee. Maybe emailing the employee about the error, then giving them time to collect themselves before discussing it in person. Maybe different wording choices, maybe allowing a few minutes where they can exit the meeting and regroup then continue the discussion, maybe having a weekly check-in so it becomes part of the routine and doesn’t ramp their anxiety up as much. Part of being a manager is figuring out how to deliver feedback so it’s actually heard and absorbed by the recipient.

              1. Prospect Gone Bad*

                But there are only so many ways to give feedback. OK, in writing is OK in some cases (though that can get messy if you have to write essays to describe difficult situations).

                Maybe have someone else give feedback in place of you.

                but there are not endless ways to do this. That’s where the vague “this is a manager’s job” line of thought runs out of steam.

                It’s also the manager’s job to make sure revenue targets are hit, employees have concrete tools they need, that coverage exists for vacations, that people have advancement opportunities, and on and on. You can’t spent 40% of your free time on this one thing. One might say a case like this falls under “manager needs to identify employees who are bad fits for the role.” So just labeling something “management responsibility” doesn’t mean it will work out the way you want.

                I think people here are really dismissing how serious and disruptive and annoying to all (not just the manager) this is

                1. Grith*

                  And I think you’re dismissing the entire concept of trying to help this employee based on the idea that you’ve come up with one possible accommodation, decided it’s too much work and so the employee needs to be binned off. Your post is full of straw men.

                  No one has claimed that the LW must make this work at any cost. But there are reasonable accommodations that should be tried first. Feedback in writing rather than verbally is a far easier accommodation than you’re making out. As is the idea of seeing if another trusted co-worker is a better source of feedback than an authority figure, or perhaps giving the headline feedback and then building in a half hour break before coming back to discuss the detail, or building in a routine meeting so that it just becomes an automatic part of the process.

                  The LW should come up with some suggested accommodations that are acceptable to them and might work for the employee, try them and only then if they don’t have a functional employee, consider letting them go. Jumping straight to “well I might have to type a really long email once, so let’s just fire them” is a management failure on both a moral and legal level.

            2. Observer*

              The OP wrote “they have anxiety” in the colloquial way people say “that’s an anxious person.” You’re making a leap they got a medical diagnosis.

              No, the point is that the OP knew that their employee had a more that normal level of anxiety, thus making them aware that there might be a disability at play, and so the obligation to start a possible accommodation process kicks in.

              But instead of arguing over that, let me ask you, what would the accommodation be?

              That’s a reasonable question. And like I said, it’s possible that there is no reasonable accommodation. But the employer needs to check. Sometimes making some small changes works. As others mentioned, for some people sending email at the end of the day works, to take one example. So the OP would need to explore that.

              If it turns out that there is nothing that the OP can really do *realistically* to keep the employee from spiraling, then at that point they would need to let the employee go. But then would have documented that they TRIED to accommodate, but it didn’t work.

              1. Glazed Donut*

                Genuine question: One of my employees mentioned to me that she has anxiety and depression (context: upcoming surgery)…do I need to ask her if she’s explored her disability options for accommodations at work? Only if the anxiety is interfering with her ability to work?

            3. yala*

              ‘The OP wrote “they have anxiety” in the colloquial way people say “that’s an anxious person.”’

              Are you sure about that?
              At any rate, if they are an anxious person to the extent that it negatively affects their life…then…that’s what anxiety is. But for fun, your comments are echoing the way a lot of folks with anxiety worry that they don’t have *enough* anxiety to warrant accommodations.

              Here’s the thing about accommodations–they’re to benefit *everyone* not just the employee. OP says her work is good so far. If they can find a reasonable accommodation, official or otherwise, the result will be that they have a good worker who does good work.

              And it may be that there aren’t any reasonable accommodations to be made for whatever reason. But not even trying (and especially not trying because you don’t think the person whose anxiety is hindering their job performance is “anxious enough” to warrant accommodation) would be at best, short-sighted, and at worse, potentially an ADA violation.

        3. tamarack etc.*

          Well, the way this reads the employee may be dealing with an anxiety disorder. In this case how should it go? The employee should seek treatment for it – which would be highly likely to improve things, at least in the medium term – and request accommodations they might have figured out with a therapist.

          However, this presumes that the employee is already taking charge of this as a problem that has a solution. And it’s really up to them. As the manager, it’s problematic overstepping to suggest an employee to seek medical intervention! Maybe something like an EAP or helpline could be a reasonable intermediary.

          Alternatively, the employee might come down on the side that this *isn’t* a problem that should be pathologized. I’m not really on board with that, but it’s not my place to decide for them. If this is where things land, then yeah, it’s like having a job that requires climbing ladders when you’re afraid of heights, being an ER worker when you pass out at the sight of blood, or being a computer programmer if you can’t code – non-compatible, and needs a different job.

        4. Holly*

          There are actually quite a few potential ways the manager could consider accommodating the employee. Maybe giving feedback via email, which gives the employee a chance to process it privately, would help. When feedback needs to happen in person, maybe emailing the employee or pinging them and saying, “Hey, can you come see me? I have some feedback on your report I’d like to discuss. It’s mostly great, but I have a few tweaks I’d like us to make.” In other words, giving the employee advance warning so the employee can prepare herself – sometimes that can help.

          Also, is the employee aware of any company resources, like health insurance or PTO to cover mental health/therapy, or an EAP program?

          And with all of this, I would loop in HR. There may be ways that the manager can modify their communication to help (for example, saying “We need to change a few things here,” instead of saying, “You need to go change this,” can often help), and HR might have other suggestions. And regardless of whether HR can be helpful, they need to be kept in the loop and the quest to help the employee needs to be properly documented. You don’t want her coming back later with an accusation that you didn’t even try to accommodate her, if it doesn’t work and you have to let her go, and you certainly don’t want HR caught off guard and knowing nothing about it.

      2. Observer*

        , but disability identification is and should be on the disabled person to initiate.

        She did essentially disclose her disability. The courts have repeatedly ruled that a person does not need to use any “magic words” or specifically mention the ADA for the employer to be required to ATTEMPT “reasonable accommodation”. The legal standard is that the employer should have reasonably deduced, eg if someone is using a mobility aid or mentions a diagnosis.

        1. Lefty2233*

          Agree, I think the situation is at a point where the employee could be referencing a disability, even if they have not mentioned a specific diagnosis.
          So my recommendation would be to have the manager inform the employee of the expectations as Alison suggested, but also let the employee know about their rights under the ADA if accommodations would need to be made, and inform them of the company’s ADA process. I would also provide the employee with EAP information if they would like to be connected with outside resources.

        2. squeakrad*

          She did not seem to disclose that she had anxiety she disclosed she had a difficult background. ALthough I get what you were saying, that does not to me rise to the level of disclosing a potential disability.

        3. Barbarella*

          No. She disclosed anxiety. It is up to *the employee* (and her medical team, if she has one) to determine whether her anxiety reaches the level of a disability and to identify as disabled.

          If it’s easier, think about glasses. Some people wear glasses. Most of those people do not self-identify with their employer as having a disability, even if their vision is sufficiently impaired that they can’t drive without corrective lenses.

      3. hey y'all*

        Barbarella, in the US under the ADA, your statement is not true. The ADA actually encourages supervisors and managers to initiate a conversation when an employee is seen struggling. The word disability never has to be used, a simple ” I noticed that you have difficulty XYZ, what might help with that?” is adequate. Not always a bad idea, especially if the person’s job is at risk if some type of action isn’t taken. I am under a formal reasonable accommodation in accordance with the ADA.

        Supervisors can also recommend that an employee consult with the EAP if there is one.

        Best of luck to OP, tough situation.

        1. Barbarella*

          You actually just said that my statement is true.

          There is a big difference between telling an employee that you have noticed that they are struggling and telling an employee that you have noticed that they are disabled.

    2. cabbagepants*

      At least in my job, both of these would be an undue hardship. I need to be able to talk with other people on my team and exchange feedback and ideas as they come up. There’s no way to have a conversation.

      1. Barbarella*

        IANAL, but that sounds more like a deeply entrenched preference than the type of undue hardship that would stand up to legal scrutiny.

        1. Boof*

          I disagree- asking management to spend prohibitive amounts of time reassuring someone IS undue hardship. Spending a few min, sure. Spending hours on any feedback, especially during a training period when someone probably needs feedback daily if not more often; no! But it’s also really not the right way of managing anxiety; the right way is for the person to find a therapist and possibly try medications depending on a lot of factors; all of that is outside of work’s purview though.

          1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

            I believe Barbarella was addressing the proposed accommodations–in writing or at the end of the day, rather than what the LW is doing now.

        2. DragoCucina*

          I don’t think so. Across industries there are times you need to make real-time adjustments and provide feedback.

          There is a customer in front of you that needs a refund. The supervisor needs to be able to step-in and show how to correctly do the task on the POS system.
          A welder needs to correct something then to ensure that the solid rocket fuel system is entact.
          The anesthetist needs to correct another nurse on a patient care problem.

          There are so many times that correction cannot wait until it’s comfortable for the person to hear.

          1. Ellis Bell*

            Interesting, because in my field it’s really preferable to wait until the end of day and correction in the moment is actually never done.

            1. GlitterIsEverything*

              In medicine, however, if you elect to wait until the end of the day, the person will continue to do the thing incorrectly for the remainder of the day, which can affect multiple patients, with outcomes ranging from “no difference” to “catastrophic.”

              If an anesthetist makes a mistake on the first patient of the morning, and it’s corrected immediately, one patient is affected. If it’s not corrected and allowed to run, it could affect as many as 40 patients in one day (depending on the procedure in question).

          2. Jenny*

            I’ve trained people and being unable to take correction without needing hours of reassurance is completely unworkable. I do a l9t of editing and guidance, I am extremely careful about what I write and make sure to emphasize both positives and constructive criticism. I’ve even shared some early examples of my own work to emphasize that needing corrections in the early days is unreasonable.

            But I definitely can’t spend literal hours on reassuring one person.

            1. What's in a name?*

              I don’t think anyone is saying you should have to spend hours consoling an individual, they are just saying you have to give it some thought and engage the other person before throwing your hands up and saying “I’ve tried everything I possible can”.

              1. Jenny*

                It sounds like OP has here though.

                I’ve been in this situation and you really can be as nice as possible and people will still collapse over any kind of correction. Like “You did an excellent job explaining llama grooming. I really like how you explained why we can’t use plastic brushes on that llama. We do need to address alpaca grooming here too because of Z reason, though. Here’s a guide for reference and a sample letter on alpacas. Let me know if you have any questions”.

                And had that cause someone to spiral and cry in my office.

              2. cabbagepants*

                By the same token, I don’t see anyone saying to not engage and to just throw one’s hands up.

          3. I am Emily's failing memory*

            Yes, there are many roles where a lot can happen in a single day. I’m in a comms-related job and it’s very common to have multiple rounds of edits coming in the last 24 hours before a communication is publicly released, as different reviewers bounce it around and tag in new reviewers they want to also have sign off. It’s also less common but not all that unusual for a mistake to be caught in something that just went out and for there to be a scramble to fix a problem and issue a correction as fast as humanly possible, and the person who made the mistake originally is generally the person who will have to fix it. It would be untenable in those kinds of situations to wait for the end of the day to address the issue.

            1. Jenny*

              For me I’m also reviewing the work of 3-5 newbies at once. It’s absolutely not feasible to either spend hours on one person or to keep work until the end of the day.

          4. lifebeforecorona*

            You make a good point. When I was teaching cooking skills it was important to step in and correct at every stage. Otherwise you end up with a cake made with salt instead of sugar. We may do a lesson learned session after the class but part of training is constant correction and guidance during the process.

      2. Alanna*

        I’m generally in favor of accommodating employee’s workflow and communication preferences where possible, but dealing with feedback is such a huge aspect of basically any job in existence that I think OP has to hold the line on this one — it’s a valuable opportunity to help them a junior-level employee develop a nebulous but important skill (professionalism).

        Alison’s script in her response is perfect and the only thing I’d add is to be specific about what rolling with feedback looks like. “I’ve noticed that sometimes when I give you feedback it can take you hours to get back on track. I understand it isn’t always easy to hear you could do something better, but getting feedback is a very normal thing. I need you to be able to have that conversation with me, take a moment if you need to, and then move forward with your work.” And then hold the line. It’s very hard not to get sucked into an anxiety/reassurance cycle with your employee, but her feelings are ultimately not your responsibility and learning how to manage them in moments like these are the most important thing she needs to learn for her career.

      3. ferrina*

        The current solution of having the manager talk to her for “a ton of time” in order to regain productivity is probably an undue hardship (and something that the manager may not even be qualified to do), because the manager’s time is needed elsewhere. Not being able to brainstorm as desired isn’t an undue hardship.

        I am skeptical of the feasibility of What’s in a name?’s idea of giving “negative” feedback all at once. It’s a nice idea, but could be really difficult in practice. It depends what her definition of negative feedback is, what the cadence of work is, and who she works with. Different people have different definitions of what “negative” look like- I’ve worked with people who got upset that I said no to a favor that they offered (“I offered an idea, and you rejected me!!”) and people who would tear down a piece of work without seeing it as negative feedback (“it was commentary on the work, which wasn’t what you needed, and that’s totally fine!”). I have no idea where this employee is on the negative feedback spectrum, and other people may not know either. Sometimes it will be clear cut, but what about when it isn’t? For timelines, it depends on how urgent the action is. With the timelines I work with, not being able to give feedback in the morning can significantly delay a project. We’d need to relegate almost all of her project to a second person, which would essentially mean double-staffing a project, at cost to the company (which is likely undue burden). For who gives feedback, you’d need to inform everyone who could potentially give feedback to her. If she gets most work/feedback from her manager, this might not be a problem, but if it’s something where she regularly collaborates with a broader group, this could quickly become an issue (who collects the feedback? What form should the feedback take? Who is responsible for informing the new person that hasn’t worked with the employee before?)

    3. M*

      Yeah this shouldn’t be treated as a disability. Allison doesn’t like this phrasing but this intern needs to grow up and act like an adult.

      1. Katrina*

        If you must preface what you about to say with, “[Name] might not like this phasing, but…” or “People might not appreciate this, but…” or “I don’t mean to be offensive, but…” then perhaps what follows is better left unsaid.

        If your brain chemistry is such that negative feedback is merely uncomfortable rather than crushing for you, consider it a blessing and don’t pass judgment on people whose brains don’t work that way.

        The intern’s anxiety might mean her work options will be limited until she finds ways to manage it better. But let’s not spread the toxic idea that people with mental health issues could all will their problems away if they “tried harder” or “grew up.”

        1. Prospect Gone Bad*

          Not really. If you’ve ever been related to someone or works with someone who takes everything from everyone the wrong way, you will start couching innocuous things in phrases like this even when you are 100% wrong. It is usually a reflection of the person receiving the feedback. You’ve neve been in an office where one person messed everything up and everyone walked on eggshells around them?

          1. Katrina*

            I have ADHD/RSD (Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria). I am the person who struggles with receiving feedback. My inner monologue contains sufficient reminders about how I bother/annoy/inconvenience people, so there is no need to educate me there.

            If I could turn off the part of my brain that instantly converts “hey, you missed a deadline” to “you are the absolute worst,” I would. The best I can do when it flares up is ask for a few minutes to gather myself or to communicate via text in situations where that’s possible. I manage pretty well, but it was a lot of work to get there.

            In any case, I appreciate when the neurotypical people in my life recognize that my disability is not a character flaw. It’s just a thing that exists. I’m not being neurodivergent *at* people. I’m just doing life the best I can.

            1. hey y'all*

              I found a therapist/coach to be very helpful with my RSD. Or just rejection sensitivity, RSD is not officially a thing. It is miserable, I can attest to that. But it can be improved. And it must be to make it in the workplace.

              1. Katrina*

                Yep, same here. And I don’t disagree it must be managed to be successful at work. Mostly I just wanted to speak out against some of the ableist language showing up here.

                My understanding is that RSD is a set of symptoms often associated with ADHD, but yes, I know it is not a diagnosis in and of itself. Mostly I find it a helpful shorthand for “those rejection-related ADHD symptoms you don’t see on TV.”

                I’m glad to hear you’re doing well with therapy/coaching. It’s helped me a lot, too.

          2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

            yeah, there’s the joke about the wife who gives her husband a red shirt and a blue shirt for his birthday. He promptly puts the blue one on to take her out to dinner. She immediately starts crying “what’s wrong with the red one why don’t you like it”. Yeah I had a colleague like that. She seriously let me down on a project and I had to train a guy quick to replace her, and he had to do some serious overtime to catch up on that part. (this was at a point where I’d already shouldered the work of the other guy who was supposed to be working with us on this project, but who at least had had the decency to explain that he would only be working on this during down time, and if his freelancing business took off as he hoped, that wouldn’t be much at all.)

        2. Staying Anon*

          I agree that the wording itself is ableist, especially about “growing up,” but I don’t think the sentiment is necessarily off. Sometimes we do have to work through these things in in environments that aren’t the best for our mental health. I get it completely as I also have anxiety and RSD, so negative feedback is super hard for me to hear.

          I wonder if there is a better way for the LW to address the feedback with their employee. Like, maybe an email would be better and it is the face to face feedback that is the problem.

        3. Lily*

          “let’s not spread the toxic idea that people with mental health issues could all will their problems away if they “tried harder” or “grew up.”

          Thank you for saying this.

      2. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        Fortunately, the law does not agree that mental illnesses are not a disability. (Whether or not she can work at this job with this disability is another question.)

      3. Gerry Keay*

        Anxiety disorders are medically and legally considered disabilities, so not only are you being incredibly unkind, you’re also categorically wrong!

        1. Foxy Hedgehog*

          I agree that the comment is unkind, but the issue here is that the manager asked Alison a question, not the employee, and did not mention any disability that required accommodation.

          It is not in the manager’s job description to diagnose any disability. If there were a disability, I would imagine Alison’s answer would have been different. But for now we have no idea whether or not this individual has a disability; we only have the all-too-common message board armchair diagnoses.

          1. Ellis Bell*

            I could be totally wrong but isn’t there some legal responsibility for merely suspected conditions? It’s not the case that managers have to diagnose, quite the opposite?

          2. anon for this*

            Someone in my family has gone through the process of declaring and having an anxiety and panic disorder accommodated at work, and the accommodations up for discussion were fairly different from what’s being suggested here. The kind of examples that we had were things like protected time off for therapy appointments, a shifted schedule if it was necessary to manage something like insomnia, or access to a private space in the office during a panic attack.

            I am far from an expert, so it’s possible that there are many other accommodations for workplace anxiety, like giving feedback in writing or on an expected schedule. But most of the accommodations under discussion assumed that the anxiety disorder was occurring at work, not being caused by work, and were focused on managing the symptoms, not the triggers.

            1. Boof*

              Yes anxiety accommodations look different than asking for a lot of soothing/softening in day to day life; Catering to anxiety often isn’t effective treatment for anxiety; it can even make the situation worse because anxiety will just move the goalposts- unless the anxiety is purely situational. But the manager both cannot and should not try to diagnose and treat the disorder, just focus on the job and what milestones need to be met kindly but clearly. Maybe suggest EAP if/when the employee says their anxiety is making it hard to receive needed (and, presumably, kindly worded) feedback

            2. Rach*

              JAN is a great resource for possible accomodations. Alternative feedback methods as well as having a support person present are all possible reasonable accommodations.

      4. Seashell*

        You’re going to put all those psychiatrists and psychologists out of business if everyone can just magically fix all their mental illnesses by following your brilliant advice.

        1. Gerry Keay*

          Dang, abd here I was spending literal tens of thousands of dollars over the past decade learning how to manage my mental illnesses — who knew I just could have grown up and saved myself all that time and money!

      5. Another Lawyer*

        As an actual in-house employment lawyer…this is wildly incorrect and could potentially expose the company to significant legal liability. Anxiety/depression can absolutely qualify as a disability under the ADA (and is a messy area that plaintiffs’ lawyers love) which is why it’s important to go through the interactive process to determine what accommodations are needed and whether the employer is able to provide them. And the commenter above who suggested the burden is on the employee to request an accommodation – that’s also not accurate. The employer’s obligation to initiate the interactive process is triggered by the knowledge that an accommodation may be needed, which seems to exist here – I would not want to terminate without first engaging in the interactive process to determine whether this employee actually does have a qualifying disability and exploring whether there is an accommodation that will help (and there may not be!). If the employee denies the need for an accommodation or refuses to engage in the process, then great – proceed to terminate if she’s not working out.

        1. sometimeswhy*

          THANK YOU.

          There are some wildly, wildly inaccurate assumptions are being thrown around the comment section, the same ones I’ve encountered from HR and higher ups as a manager trying to advocate for/work with staff who needed accommodation, and I really appreciate you speaking up here.

        2. allathian*

          Thank you for this! It’s always great when a poster with expertise in the question that’s being discussed has something as constructive as this to say.

      6. Fikly*

        You should consider growing up and acting like someone with less hate toward people whose brains work differently than yours.

        1. Boof*

          It’s an ignorant comment but don’t think it’s hateful (which I consider deliberately malicious instead of deliberately obtuse)

      7. Observer*

        Allison doesn’t like this phrasing but this intern needs to grow up and act like an adult.

        She “doesn’t like” this phrasing because it’s simply inaccurate. Anxiety can very much be a disability, and in the legal context, it almost certainly is.

        Which means that the OP can’t simply tell the employee “Stop being a brat or you’re out of here.”

        That doesn’t mean that the OP needs to keep doing what they were doing, but that’s a far cry from what you are suggesting.

      8. Kel*

        Wow, no. No, no no no. You cannot ‘grow up’ and ‘act like an adult’ and just push through anxiety. Yikes.

      9. NotAnotherManager!*

        I’m really looking forward to sending my child who’s not neurotypically out into the world with people like you. This is why he not only has challenges related to his autism but also has self-esteem issues from people who shame him for not having the same bodily makeup as other people.

        My overarching philosophy is that the vast majority of people want to do well and simply do not have some sort of tool or skill required to do it. Sometimes, those things can be taught/managed, other times they require more than an an employer or employee can reasonably give. Alison’s advice is substantially better, more actionable, and more likely to get results.

        I have raging anxiety and receiving critical feedback has been a work in freaking progress for me for my entire life. I’m pushing 50. I 100% empathize with OP’s employee because I know how that *feels* – both the intense reaction to criticism AND the judgment for the reaction. No one I work with today would ever know it, but that shit still goes on in my head, even if no one sees it. It had nothing to do with “act[ing] like an adult” (which I’ve been doing since I was 15 and my parents checked out on the whole parenting thing) and everything to do with learning some good CBT techniques to manage the intrusive, unproductive thoughts that I can’t control.

        1. Same*

          Totally see myself in your last paragraph. My intense reactions are fewer and farther between after about 6 years of therapy, but I still get upset when I have one.

      10. Anon Supervisor*

        I have a lot of anxiety around constructive negative feedback because of my upbringing. Small mistakes can make me spiral too, so I sympathize. However, it’s 100% on me to work on that issue outside of work so that I’m not constantly dumping on my leader. I still will sometimes confide in her that I’m feeling extra needy just to reassure myself that I’m not going to get fired, but I work to make sure that’s not happening all the time. She needs to be able to give me the feedback I need to succeed and I need to make sure she knows that I’m open to receiving it and putting it into action without a lot of soothing and hand holding.

        1. glouby*

          Do you have a audience-facing script for that type of conversation? Or are those the actual words that you find helpful to use, eg “I’m feeling in need of reassurance, can you give me feedback on X”?


      11. RagingADHD*

        It should in fact be treated as a disability, in that the employee is currently unable to perform their job appropriately, and the accommodation they are seeking (hours of comforting from the manager, or zero feedback) is neither effective in helping them do their job, nor reasonable for the business to continue functioning.

        The problem is that manager and employee are currently treating it as a personality quirk or a bad habit, rather than taking it seriously and addressing it head on. If the employee had a mobility problem and expected their manager to physically carry them around the office for hours at a time, or had a hearing impairment and expected the manager to be their personal sign language interpreter, that would not be reasonable either.

        The employee needs to seek medical treatment and the employee and employer should consider what a reasonable accommodation might be, or whether this condition makes them unable to perform their core job duties.

        Just like any other disability.

    4. Ellis Bell*

      You beat me to it, though only OP can know what’s reasonable for their industry. If the reference to her difficult background means this is a trauma response to criticism, it could well be possible to provide the feedback in a way, or any way, that does not ping old memories. I was also going to suggest feedback in writing where it can be digested without having to respond, or setting the expectation that there will be a set number of “goals” to expect and prepare for, daily or weekly. Another option is to give the employee basic scripts or model a healthy response to criticism so that it’s a ” this is how I’d like you to receive criticism” rather than just a “you have to accept criticism” talk. Some people have been trained to do a shame spiral and perform for absolution; that is their way of “accepting criticism!” It could be helpful to spell out a better set of steps. It may even be possible to say “okay we need to use the feedback responses we spoke about” as a fast way to short circuit a spiral. Any changes to the OP’s way of working really does have to be reasonable though and if the employee can’t suggest a useful accommodation, or follow guidance on receiving feedback then their condition is truly debilitating and OP is limited in what they can do. If that’s the situation, they probably aren’t ready for work and just need to get well.

      1. Observer*

        The problem turned out to be that the OP tried many of these suggestions and they didn’t work – it’s worth going back to the original and the update, because the OP did comment.

        It was clear that the employee was simply not able to deal with the normal give and take in an office. The says that even when asked what works for her, she couldn’t come up with anything reasonable. “Don’t be intimidating” when you can’t define what that means is not useful.

        1. At this time, anon*

          That the OP’s employee couldn’t come up with ideas kind of points to a lack of self-knowledge or maturity. It’s not something I like saying about someone who likely has a legitimate mental health issue, though.

          No one (hopefully) is expecting employees like this to simply not have anxiety; the expectation is that they can gain enough insight into their situation that they can help us meet them halfway.

        2. Ellis Bell*

          Thank you for this redirect. I agree the OP did really thorough work on seeing if she could accommodate the employee.

        3. AcademiaNut*

          The OP was active in the comments of the original letter (as LW #1) and it was clear that the LW was trying hard, but that the employee had difficulties with even the most mild feedback (like pointing out a typo), and had no idea what sort of accommodations would be helpful. She found matter of fact feed back too brusque, and softened feedback condescending, and would spiral based on comments from coworkers as well, so even if the LW found the perfect tone of voice it wouldn’t stop the problems. Trying to work by Slack rather than in person resulted in the employee freezing up and being unable to respond, or initiate questions. Plus, there were both time sensitive issues and training, so the option of giving all feed back at the end of the day wasn’t feasible.

          So, unfortunately, a situation where the anxiety was so extreme that the employee wasn’t able to to do the job.

    5. QuilterGirl*

      Long ago, I used to work with a man who would leave work if something even slightly negative happened (once, because he missed out on cake and concluded no one liked him) and not reappear for days, one time a few weeks. We would have to cover his workload, and he was a Fortran programmer so that was really not easy. I did learn enough Fortran to be dangerous though.

  2. lb*

    I find requiring interns to buy food for the full-time employees deeply, deeply gross. This is probably extremely stressful for anyone who doesn’t have family money to fall back on. (And I challenge the “only $30-40” assumption too, unless that letter is legitimately like 10 years old.)

    1. Tuesday*

      Right! I would be SO resentful if I was an intern there. Contrary to the stereotype, an intern’s job isn’t to be a glorified servant for the office. It’s to get genuine work experience. My bank account was regularly overdrawn in my intern days!

      1. StressedButOkay*

        Yes! Interns are there to learn about either their particular field or get general work experience (or both). The fact that most places use them as coffee fetchers is demeaning. This is worse – not only are they being treated like servants but they’re supposed to pay on top of it. $30-$40 is a lot when you don’t have much money!

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Not only demeaning; if they aren’t being paid at least minimum wage, it’s illegal. Unpaid internships are required to be learning experiences, and that doesn’t mean learning the regular employees’ coffee preferences.

      2. Marzipan Shepherdess*

        I’m sure that the interns there ARE seething at being expected to pay for food munched up by the six-figure suits whose salaries are well over ten times what the interns earn! This stunningly selfish practice has to go ASAP. If the LW can put an end to it, they’ll have the eternal gratitude of all the interns who’ve wondered how they’ll pay for the damn office donuts while still being able to eat anything expect ramen noodles for the rest of the month.

      3. Observer*

        Contrary to the stereotype, an intern’s job isn’t to be a glorified servant for the office.

        True. But not even really relevant – in reasonable households *servants* are NEVER expected to pay for the treats of the employer!

    2. The New Wanderer*

      Agreed. Asking the interns to spend their own money on any work-related things, including food, is a horrible practice. I really hope the LW was able to strike that ‘tradition.’

    3. Coverage Associate*

      Even 10 years ago, my weekly food budget was about $50. Any time work required a meal out or extras, it was hard.

      1. GRA*

        This! When I was an intern I did everything I could to keep my grocery bill to $30-$40 per week … there’s no way I could have afforded this AND fed myself that week.

        1. ferrina*

          Yep. I was never an intern, but in my early underpaid days, a happy hour with friends usually required a month to save up. Money was that tight.

    4. AceyAceyAcey*

      One solution is they could take up a cash collection among the more senior employees, and then hand cash to the interns the day before.

      1. Tuesday*

        This would remove the financial barrier, but I still think it’s kind of degrading to make this a task that only interns do. It emphasizes the power imbalance, plus it’s a pain to have to leave super early to go get donuts somewhere before work!

        1. Lilas*

          Yeah I feel like the impetus behind this gross tradition is that the interns are relatively powerless, even more so than standard employees.

          And +1 to the retort (if employees complain) of, “If it’s not a significant expense, sounds like you won’t mind paying for the donuts yourself this week, Tom!”

        2. rayray*

          I agree. Unless it’s an internship for an office manager or some kind of role that would normally and expectedly include this kind of responsibility, I wouldn’t do it. Interns aren’t there to run errands, they are there for hands on education and development. I know many offices will often send just whoever out to pick things up sometimes, but even then, I wouldn’t send an intern out for these errands. That’s not what they are there for.

      2. Some words*

        From the letter it sounds like they do take up a collection, but it doesn’t cover the food bill so the intern has to pay the bulk of it.

        It’s just so gross that the company thinks this is in any way acceptable. It’s very out of touch. If that $40 is such a small amount to the managers, why then aren’t they contributing that amount out of their own wallets? Suddenly $40 is too big an ask.

        Que the ones demanding food also tsk tsking their tongues that poor people waste so much money & don’t save properly. Okay, I’ll stop before I go on a full lefty rant here.

        LW, please do what you can to sunset this “tradition” immediately.

        1. tamarack etc.*

          Yes – one way to do it would be for the interns to buy exactly as much food as the collection yielded. If it’s $5, then it’s a box of cookies from the grocery store. If it’s $40, then maybe it stretches to donuts for everyone.

          1. Office Chinchilla*

            I was actually thinking this is only acceptable if the higher-ups routinely put in $20/each and the intern keeps the overage – if it’s supposed to be a cute/playful way to slip the interns an extra $100 or so once in a while. (Still not *completely* non-gross, but I’ve worked places that would think this way and they would mean it lovingly.)

            In my temping days, it was extremely common for at least one person on my first day in a new office to try to tell me it was expected for the new person to bring lunch for everyone. I would laugh and say, “Oh, no one explained to you how temps get paid?” Often they’d laugh and walk off but sometimes they would push me, “How do temps get paid?” I would say “PEANUTS! We get paid in peanuts!” And then I would laugh and walk off. I’m certain they were all at least partially joking, but I never really thought the joke was funny.

            1. tamarack etc.*

              The pretext to slip the interns some extra cash is charming!

              I live in a place in which potlucks are part of the culture, and some people like to bake for others. At the same time, there are opportunities for free food (extras from catered events), which always are sent towards students/interns.

              My benchmark is somewhere in the neighborhood of what people *like* to do for each other as a social gesture. There are a bunch of elements that managers need to take into consideration, though. Including big-picture things like absolute level of compensation of the least economically favored employee and relative distance between the richer and the poorer members of the team (eg. economic inequality, which can vary highly), but also specific points like people who just dislike food-centered socializing, the actual economic situation of the team members, whether this is consensually felt as a more-pleasurable-than-not event by all for example.

      3. Double A*

        Unless this is an internship in the service industry, this should NOT be the type of task an intern does anyway. They are there to learn their specific field. It’s a complete misunderstanding of internships to think they should do the grunt work. “Apprenticeship” is closer to what an internship should be.

    5. The Formatting Queen*

      Seriously, this is the worst. Also, how much do you want to bet that some people complain when the donuts come from Dunkin (or equivalent) instead of the fancy bakery that charges 3x more? I really hope LW is able to put a stop to it.

    6. NoxAeternum*

      It’s not just “deeply gross” – it’s hazing, and for that reason needed to be ended immediately.

      I would recommend the manager look up the corporate anti-hazing policy (any decent employer should have one) and keep it in their pocket for pushback, pointing out to those trying to keep the gravy train going that doing so will have professional consequences.

      1. Prospect Gone Bad*

        This is not “hazing.” I agree with you in principle that this is wrong, but I am not on board with the internet trend of taking it from 0 to 100 in terms of the vocabulary used. Then the discussion becomes how this isn’t hazing, instead of the actual issue at hand

        1. Clobberin' Time*

          Yes, it is hazing. I’m sorry that other parts of the Internet annoy you, but this is a completely standard form of hazing: making the new applicants or people lowest on the totem pole perform menial services for their “betters”.

        2. NoxAeternum*

          It is absolutely hazing. It is a practice being pushed onto the juniors to their detriment as a demonstration of the “pecking order” – which is what hazing is. And the whole point of noting that it is hazing is for the manager to point out that if the practice continues, those continuing it will face professional consequences over anti-hazing and anti-harassment rules.

        3. NoxAeternum*

          From where I sit, senior staff forcing juniors to provide food to them at their own expense is a textbook example of hazing. And the point of calling it that is to both point out the seriousness of the behavior and to make it clear that any attempt to continue will have disciplinary consequences.

    7. Carol the happy elf*

      “The interns should be GRATEFUL for the privilege of bringing us our Friday comestibles, but I have noticed that the wine is not enhanced with enough Sugar of Lead for sweetness, and the grapes they feed us (while fanning us with palm branches) are not peeled to exactitude and dipped in fresh honey before drifting them across our lips so that we open our mouths expectantly.

      Additionally, Flavius Turdus has noticed that others in the commodium have been using his personal goosehead wiper, so he requires that an intern either give up his own goosehead wiper, or procure a fresh one for his necessaries.
      After all, “share and share alike” is not a Roman virtue….

      Yeah, yikes! I never had to bring my bosses donuts, and was only rarely HANDED MONEY AND ASKED TO DO A LUNCH RUN.
      This is abomination-grade greed, or abomination-grade entitled stupidity, and the slave class fear to revolt, so you must do it for them.

      1. laser99*

        I loved this so much, I can’t even tell you. Do you write professionally? If you don’t, you might consider it!

    8. Antilles*

      Even if it is only $30-$40 (which could be possible), that’s still a pretty sizable lift. In my industry (engineering), interns typically make between $18-$20 per hour. Presuming an intern works half-time (20 hours), that means the $40 weekly donuts is at least 10% of their gross pre-tax pay for the week.
      For a partner earning six-figures annually, that same percentage of your gross pay would be like “cater from a restaurant out of your personal pocket every single week” levels. Anybody out there think the partners and managers would have been willing to do that?

      1. Meep*

        Engineering field here too! We have had a few potlucks here. I ALWAYS bring 3-4 extra dishes to account for interns, because they shouldn’t have to even bring food to participate. Hell, we make sure our interns have snacks and extra food compared to our employees because even if it is $20/hour (higher for grad students), we don’t have school, student debt, and rent looming over our heads. The least that can be done is buying donuts for interns.

        1. Artemesia*

          In a university department when there were potlucks, the profs brought the proteins — buckets of chicken, hams etc, the staff brought salads and such and student workers who participated might bring a bag of chips or a pan of brownies but no one was keeping score.

          1. Meep*

            Exactly! $5 max for interns if anything.

            I had to put rules on the potluck once it was because our former VP (who got paid the most and has a habit of stealing food directly out of people’s desks) never contributed. But like I said, I brought more and people could claim it without feeling shame. (I.e. “Who made the bean dip?! It is really good.” “Oh, Steve brought it!”)

    9. rayray*

      I agree. I am shocked there’s an entire office where people feel okay with that and actually expect/demand it. I would feel so uncomfortable demanding a kid buy food for a bunch of grown, capable adults. If I want donuts or tacos, I can get it myself and not make a kid buy it for me. This is so disrespectful and just icky to me.

    10. Zombeyonce*

      It’s definitely true that the interns make a lot less than everyone else, but it’s also possible they aren’t paid at all, which makes this all even worse. $30-40 could mean the difference between them surviving or going hungry the rest of the week.

    11. Artemesia*

      I can remember budgeting for food in grad school when it was noodles forever. Interns should NEVER be tasked with bring food to feed the office. This is grossly abusive.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        I mean, we always split the cost of the intern’s meal between us so they wouldn’t have to pay but could come to lunch with us! And here, interns do get paid. Most are paid the minimum which is one third of minimum wage, but my son was paid more than me when you factored in that his accommodation with cleaning lady was also being paid for.

    12. MigraineMonth*

      I was horrified that they forced *anyone* to routinely spend $30-40 feeding their coworkers. I’d be pissed about that, and I’m in one of the higher-paid roles at my organization.

      Given how out-of-touch this is, I’d also take a closer look at the other roles interns are forced into because of “tradition”. Particularly it’s an unpaid internship, the law states that the internship must primarily benefit the interns, not the company (or their entitled coworkers).

    13. bamcheeks*

      Your interns are either pissed off, OR you’ve got a crappy internship programme that selects for people coming from family wealth.

    14. higheredadmin*

      150% sure that LW works in finance/investment banking. It is a whole culture of treating those at the bottom like garbage and justifying it by saying this is what you went through.

    15. Chirpy*

      Yeah, $40 is a week of groceries for me (or was, pre-inflation…). That’s not nothing, even assuming that number is actually correct.

      Maybe you could get a whole office Taco Bell for $40, but it would be difficult to buy a whole meal for just 4 people with that amount pretty much anywhere else.

      1. Sevenrider*

        Off brand hotdogs, off brand chips, day old buns to the tune of around $10 and that was a stretch for me when when starting a new admin office job with a bunch of ladies who had been there 10+ years. I was informed on my first day that they all took turns buying lunch on Fridays. I said no thanks and that I would of course not expect to eat with them on Fridays but would bring my own lunch. I was bullied into bringing something so that’s what I did. I was beyond poor, just moved, student loans, etc. I was never asked to bring in anything again and they all hated me for it for the next five years I was there.

    16. Iron Chef Boyardee*

      I challenge the “only $30-40” assumption too, unless that letter is legitimately like 10 years old.”

      The original letter is from 2019.

    17. NotAnotherManager!*

      Same. When I was an intern (which was admittedly a long time ago), buying food for the office to the tune of $30-40 would have been a pretty substantial portion of my own personal grocery budget.

      This “tradition” seems like a throw back to the times that interns were either from families affluent enough to subsidize them during internships or some sort of hazing situation. Either way, times have changed, and the LW is correct that it’s time to end this practice.

    18. Another former manager*

      I was horrified to read this. If it’s a group lunch we’re either all buying our own or I buy food for my employees, not the other way around.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Great idea. OP, since this is a new employee and you are very hands on, even help her make the call…I mean have her schedule time on her calendar and conference to make the call and get information for a follow up to a professional. And make that appointment.
      I don’t think that is overstepping. I think that is teaching someone how to use a new resource. I am not saying “ask about the call,” just “did you make an appointment? Good. Now about this KPI…”
      Managing her anxiety has to be her responsibility.

      1. Alanna*

        Oh, this absolutely does feel like overstepping to me, especially since LW is trying to get out of the business of managing LW’s emotions. This seems like the ultimate “tight on means, loose on ends” situation — LW needs the employee to stop bringing feelings to work for the rest of the day, how the employee gets there (crying in the bathroom, long walk, making a voodoo doll of the manager) is totally up to the employee.

      2. ferrina*

        Making her schedule time and make an appointment is overstepping. I’d stop at giving her the EAP information and strongly suggesting that she talk to them about options, and possibly get their help setting things up.

        Holding her hand for this appointment creeps to close to managing her healthcare, which no manager should ever be involved in. She may choose not to pursue care at this time- that gets to be her choice.

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          I was seeing it as OP giving employee tangible steps that would empower the employee and disentangle the OP. But reading your replies. Yeah, OP would be mandating treatment. That is not appropriate.
          OP needs less involvement ASAP, not more.

      3. Observer*

        even help her make the call…I mean have her schedule time on her calendar and conference to make the call and get information for a follow up to a professional. And make that appointment.

        Absolutely NOT. The OP was being way too hands on already, and way too enmeshed in this young woman’s issues. It was untenable for the OP, unfair to the rest of the staff, and enabling her to avoid dealing with her problems. The only way an appointment with the EAP, or any other resources was going to help was if SHE did it HERSELF. Someone essentially holding her hand means that she’s not going to move forward without further handholding, which is simply not possible.

    2. Mockingjay*

      Rather than jump to recommending therapy, ADA, or EAP, OP1 could describe feedback as about process, not personality. Rephrasing Alison:

      “Everyone here gets feedback about their work. It’s to ensure the best process and product. Feedback also is a way for me to check your progress as you learn your new role, so you can succeed. It’s not fault-finding [person], it’s error-finding [process/data]. We have checks built into all levels of work and use the feedback to improve how we do things, provide training if needed, and to recognize good work! I need to be able to give you feedback as a regular part of our conversations without it disrupting our workflow. Going forward, when I give you feedback, I need to see that you’re continuing to roll forward with your work. Do you think that’s something you can do?”

      A little context might help shift the Anxious Employee’s perspective of “I’m doing everything wrooong!” to “Oh, I missed a step. Sorry, I’ll double-check in the future.”

      1. Marna Nightingale*

        Fair point: I took it that “has serious anxiety” was something the employee was aware of and has articulated as a problem, and on rereading that’s less clear. Though it sounds hard to not be aware of, that’s pretty severe.

        If they have said that they have anxiety at that level, suggesting EAP doesn’t seem like an overreach to me at all. It’s causing them work problems, it’s obviously not pleasant for them either, and it’s not a problem that has a workplace solution. Isn’t that what EAP are FOR?

        1. metadata minion*

          I agree. We can quibble over whether it’s a diagnosed anxiety disorder, or how aware the employee is of how out-of-scale her reactions are, but at the end of the day her emotional reactions to things are causing serious problems in her daily life. This is a thing therapists and similar professionals are very equipped to deal with.

  3. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    Please don’t talk to your husband’s boss about his work. At all.
    “Thanks for joining us for dinner. Hope you like roast. Ever since you were promoted over him, he’s been unhappy. Can we discuss some ways for you to change how you interact with my husband at work so that he is happier there? Here. Have some more wine.”

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Yeah, this. I just have no idea how such a conversation could go without making things even worse.

    2. Zombeyonce*

      And would she do it while the husband was at the dinner, too? Is he just supposed to sit there and listen while his wife tells his boss everything they’re supposedly doing wrong? How awkward.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        Your comment and Artemesia were what I was picturing. Husband sitting by like a disgraced schoolboy while his mom explained to the teacher that he can’t possibly do all the assigned homework and get his proper rest. “So let’s think of ways to give less homework on Scout and baseball nights.”
        hella cringe

    3. Artemesia*

      Great way to infantalize the husband and ruin what career he has left there. This is such a bright line. The ONLY time to contact the boss is if husband is in the hospital unconscious or seriously indisposed and needs you to call in to call off.

    4. Chikkka*

      What jumps out at me from the letter is that they’ve all been friends for a decade, obviously Boss is a nice enough person for them to enjoy socialising with her. Yet husband absolutely cannot tolerate working under her, to the point he’s willing to leave his job? And the switch from liking her to hating her happened because she won a promotion he wanted?

      Sure, there are plenty of people who behave differently when they’re at work to how they behave socially. But comments like “on eggshells over what she may say or request of him” make me wonder, what is the boss actually requesting he does?

      If the boss is saying abusive things and regularly making unreasonable requests, then that needs to go to HR – why would the LW think an abusive boss is going to listen to her?

      But it does sound like there’s at least the possibility the husband is bitter at losing the promotion, and just can’t handle having to take orders from a woman.

  4. cabbagepants*

    Thanks for the matter-of-fact answer to #1. It would not be appropriate for the manager to try to manage the employee’s emotions or mental health. If the employee has a disability then they need to take the lead in getting a diagnosis and then requesting accommodations.

    1. What's in a name?*

      Sadly, not everyone knows their protections when they have a disability or have the time and financial means to get a diagnosis prior to getting health care through employment (I have many grumbles about this sentence, but I lack a magic wand to fix it).

      An employer can definitely offer help without the employee requesting it.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Right. There’s a middle ground between what the OP is doing and throwing your hands up and saying “not my problem go through proper channels”. That middle ground is often empathy, which is basically what Alison’s answer boils down to. “I see you, I understand this is hard, here’s what I need from you, how do we get there?”

        Now if the answers to that are extreme or if you can’t have a cooperative conversation – yes, someone should explain the ADA process. But with anxiety in particular, the issue itself is often detrimental to the process of seeking formal help. Talking to someone human-to-human is often the best first step. Maybe involving HR if you’re not sure where the lines are, though that might be overkill for an initial conversation.

        1. ferrina*

          Exactly! Love your summary: “I see you, I understand this is hard, here’s what I need from you, how do we get there?”
          At times I’ve even suggested a few options (here’s one thing I’ve heard of, here’s another thing, and here’s another), then what they do with the information is up to them. But that’s not a normal thing I would do- that’s been in very select circumstances.

      2. Barbarella*

        An employer can definitely offer help without the employee requesting it.

        Yes, absolutely. The jump to litigation when all that’s needed is empathy is always a little surprising to me.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Getting formal accommodations isn’t litigation, it’s documentation, and it’s often the correct strategy for long term support, especially if you’re going to be switching companies/jobs/managers at any point. If the employee was writing in, that would absolutely be my advice. And as a manager, I would probably also suggest they look into it.

          However that is almost never an overnight process and people need to work and function in the meantime, and at every point need to be treated like humans. That’s why the advice is to manage empathetically.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            This honestly would be my advice as well. I’ve never worked at any company that didn’t require documentation as a part of an accommodation request. A referral to EAP is also a good place to start as well. A manager can only do so much on their own, but if the employee has their documentary ducks in a row a lot more can generally be done to help everybody work together.

      3. cabbagepants*

        A referral to the EAP is as far as I’d go. The employee will know best (with the help of a qualified therapist) what she needs.

      4. Observer*

        An employer can definitely offer help without the employee requesting it.

        Yes, but that’s where it ends. The OP *did* point her to resources and DID ask her what would help her. But she couldn’t come up with anything actionable. And she didn’t get help – not with her problem and not with getting some actionable suggestions.

    2. BethRA*

      “If the employee has a disability then they need to take the lead in getting a diagnosis and then requesting accommodations.”

      As “Another Lawyer” points out above (see #comment-4199350) this is not accurate. If the employee has talked about struggling with anxiety, that can be enough to trigger the need to start the interactive process and see if they need accommodations (and if those accommodations would be reasonable). That doesn’t mean OP should try to diagnose the person, or try to manage their mental health issues – it does mean they should name what the’ve observed and ask what changes might help.

  5. StressedButOkay*

    I am honestly curious why so many spouses think it’s appropriate for them to speak to their spouses boss on their behalf? It seems to come up a lot, even though today’s is an older letter, and I’m just at a loss as to why people think it’s okay.

    Also, OP1, I agree with Alison – I was your employee many years ago. Unfortunately, I was in a very toxic, “we are family” organization at the time and so did not get the kind of messaging and guidance I needed at the time and that she does now. Be gentle, be understanding, but let her know she can’t use you as a therapist and what the professional steps are she needs to take.

    1. Tuesday*

      A few theories:

      1) If the spouse has a friendly relationship with the boss, that might blur the boundaries in their mind. Lots of workplaces are either small enough or social enough that the boss and employees’ spouses could end up spending a bit of time together.

      2) Sometimes one partner is the “doer” in the relationship while the other prefers to go with the flow. If you’re used to being the doer and regularly have to do things like schedule appointments or make plans for your partner, talking to their boss feels like a logical continuation. But it isn’t, and unless you’re REALLY happy being the doer, having a relationship dynamic like this is a recipe for burnout!

      1. Hlao-roo*

        From the letter, theory #1 is likely the explanation (or part of it, theory #2 could also be in play). It sounds like the LW, husband, and husband’s boss were all social together for years back when husband’s boss was his peer (before she was promoted to be the boss).

        There have definitely been letters in the past that were more theory #2 (“my husband emailed my manager about our decision for me to resign” from 2012 comes to mind).

      2. Antilles*

        A couple more:
        3) In plenty of other scenarios, it’s totally normal to jump in and offer to help your spouse if they’re frustrated and not seeing results. If my spouse keeps calling Comcast or our bank or a housing contractor or etc and getting nowhere? It’s often useful for me to step in to back her up, mediate, explain the same thing slightly differently, and/or simply being a different voice on the phone. But work is different because stepping in like this undermines your partner’s professionalism in a way that doesn’t really exist/matter in other scenarios.
        4) The feeling like you should be doing *something* to support your spouse, but just don’t really have a good handle on what to do, so you fall back on the most obvious solution of trying to talk to the other person.

        1. Tuesday*

          Yes, you’re so right! Some spouses get in the habit of seeing themselves as a single unit, which they are for the purposes of their electric or cable bills. But that doesn’t extend to who they are in the workplace, haha.

        2. Ellis Bell*

          I concur with these theories. I also think it can feel easier to speak up for someone else than for yourself and some spouses get into back scratching mode as a result. I think that’s because complaining about your own unhappiness feels like whining or being difficult and helping with someone else’s unhappiness feels like resolving an obvious problem that any reasonable person would want to know about and help you with. I definitely understand the temptation when someone you love is unhappy and there’s no solution. However nice it is for your spouse to have your back socially and emotionally though, it really doesn’t translate to work issues. If you have an issue, it isn’t personal and you can’t make it so by invoking the desire for a happy spouse. I don’t know if it’s the case with this letter, but sometimes there’s a gender element too; men socialised to not complain and women socialised to smooth over all relationships as a special skill.

        3. Weaponized Pumpkin*

          One more, a shade of 3:
          I was the designed monkey-in-the-middle in my family of origin, always translating to fix miscommunications and back-channel sensitive messages. I could see where another meddler/mediator-type would overstep and think this back-channeling is helpful.

          But I would never, ever do this with my partner’s work. (I try to overcome this impulse in overall! It’s not good.)

    2. EmmaPoet*

      I remember one truly disastrous attempt where a spouse tried something like this. Back in 2008, the wife of the then-Administrator at NASA tried to lobby friends and family to sign a petition to keep him on in the job. President Obama was about to transition into the White House the next month, and all department heads from the previous administration are required to offer their resignation. Dr. Griffin had done so, and it had been accepted. This was leaked to the press, and pretty much destroyed any chance of him staying on. It was so cringy, and everyone at the agency knew about it.

    3. Meep*

      I am very defensive of my husband. Like to the point I can safely say I hate his little brother because that kid does not have a humble bone in his body and routinely makes DH feel bad if he is better at something than BiL is. (E.g. They recently went snowboarding. DH has been snowboarding for 6 years at this point. BiL never even looked at a snowboard, but thought since DH could do it, how hard could it really be? Never mind the fact we had to repeatedly tell him to buy effing ski pants and take my dad’s helmet, goggles, gloves, and ski jacket instead of relying on the jacket and basic thermal gloves he had from when he lived in Flagstaff. Took him 3 hours to get down the bunny hill and threw a hissy fit after. The 2nd and 3rd days DH and friends went without him and had a blast.) So I get the need to defend someone you love. I will fight a toddler if they make my husband cry.

      But at the same time, I also acknowledge I sometimes have to let DH deal with his horrid brother as he sees fit. It is his life.

  6. Keymaster of Gozer*

    1: An old boss of mine, who is a friend these days, told me straight up when my mental issues were making work really unpleasant that “you need external help for this issue. Now we can help get you that but you do need to take a step toward getting assistance because your behaviour can’t continue”

    He taught me an important lesson about being a manager: that you can be kind but also draw limits.

    1. Barbarella*

      “you need external help for this issue. Now we can help get you that but you do need to take a step toward getting assistance because your behaviour can’t continue”

      This is just a hair firmer than “essential to your succeeding in your role here.” I like it, and I might even go a hair more firm with “because we won’t be able to keep you past your probationary period if you are not able to find a way to manage your anxiety enough keep the work moving forward.”

      My emotional regulation has been seriously eroded over the last couple years, and I have had a few days where I had to work until midnight bc something dysregulated me enough that I could not work. But, while taking the time to re-regulate, I also made sure I got done what needed to get done.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I read the update to the original letter and the person was eventually let go from the job because she didn’t improve at all and couldn’t do her job.

        I’m sorry it came to that but I believe the company made the right choice. I hope she did go and get some help or maybe found a job that didn’t affect her anxiety quite so much.

        1. Observer*

          I hope she got some help because I can’t think of any job where you can just not get any negative feedback.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Additional. I did go to my doctor and laid out all the stuff that was going on that my boss said was unacceptable and I fully expected the GP to tell me that my boss was just being harsh and uncaring. Instead I got the referral to a specialist team and a diagnosis/started on medication.

      It saved my career and quite probably my life.

    3. JustMe*

      Much more gentle, but I once worked with a psychologist and in the middle of a meeting when I expressed concerns about something she said, “Oh yes, that must be hard when you have high-functioning anxiety.” Dear reader, I had never been to therapy and had never been told I had anxiety. It was later confirmed by two different therapists. Sometimes…it might not be unwise to suggest someone get help.

        1. Barbarella*

          Yes, most of us don’t work for a boss who is a psychologist or has the training to recognize high-functioning anxiety.

  7. NerdyKris*

    Does LW2 work with the same people that write those “Barely scraping by on $250K a year” and “Here’s an absured list of luxury expenses, why can’t I have a little money for myself” articles in the NYT and WSJ? That’s just comically out of touch.

    1. rayray*


      I think many people working full time and making a decent salary still wouldn’t be thrilled to drop $30-$40 on food for their office, let alone every week! It’s really a lot of money for most people. Even if you do have that money sitting around, it’s not at all unreasonable to still not want to treat other people every single week.

      1. Carol the happy elf*

        I’d have been so pissed at that, I would most likely have brought in my half a box of cream of wheat with a crushed corner and a lowered price in magic marker, plus a half carton of milk, some “stolen” sugar packets, and said “I am a college student, living on a scholarship and what my widowed mother can send me. This is what I can afford for breakfast. Chow down.” But unapologetic, mindless entitlement is the windmill I tilt at, too.

  8. I should really pick a name*

    I feel like #3 is missing some details.
    There’s a lot of distance between being disappointed that she got the job he wanted and

    Currently, he comes home every night on eggshells over what she may say or request of him tomorrow

    Admittedly, it doesn’t change the advice, but I’m very curious.

    1. Alanna*

      But one reason the spouse definitely shouldn’t say anything is she might not even know the details! My husband and I talk about our respective days a lot, and I could certainly give you a summary of what he thinks about his boss and coworkers on any given day, but I would do a much worse job laying out a clear, factual summary of what actually happened to produce those feelings.

    2. E*

      Agree! It sounded to me like the husband was just being a bad sport since there weren’t any details about what, if anything, boss was doing. So unless there are details missing about the boss actually being a bad boss, if wife does want to get involved, she should do so by encouraging her husband to get over it.

  9. DivergentStitches*

    I would highly encourage the young lady with the anxiety to access the company’s EAP (if there is one) to find a counselor to help her. I did that to get a diagnosis to something that was affecting my work in a big way, and it was a game changer for me.

  10. Boof*

    Ah yes, LW2 – i think a good retort to any “but it’s nothing so they can do it” is always “since it’s so little why don’t you do it”!

  11. dackquiri*

    I’ve been working on my own case of (admittedly less debilitating) rejection sensitivity, and I can’t speak for everyone who suffers from it, but I do know that my path through it involved recognizing and letting go of my mindset from school, where:

    – “Feedback” is akin to “bad grades”
    – Bad grades mean I screwed up
    – While I should consider this something to pay extra attention to for the final exam, bad grades still bring my overall average down.
    – Ergo, bad grades’ primary purpose is to rub my nose in my screw-ups. Shame. Shame. Shame.
    – Ergo, it is always better to get it right in the first place.
    – Ergo, if I am receiving negative feedback, it is most important to be ashamed of and apologize for the mistake, rather than avoid it going forward. (but if i make the mistake again, so help me god)
    – The only good thing that offsets bad grades are good grades.
    – But positive feedback tends to feel more like social-nicety level compliments. So, they’re nice, but they aren’t “good grades”.
    – Ergo, nothing offsets negative feedback.

    While this is obviously a horrible mindset just on the basis of being healthy and practicing self-care, the double whammy in the workplace is most feedback is more complex than “you need to brush up on Byzantine era leaders”. And I’ve seen coworkers get so defensive the actual content of the feedback goes in one ear and out the other, and it’s made me realize what I must be like to deal with when *I* do it.

    It might help if you can frame the feedback as “next time” things, reiterating “It’s OK, I wouldn’t expect anyone to know that detail off-hand” or “Hey, no worries, you did great work on this, I just know you’re up to handling next-level details” or something similar. (If it’s honest, of course. I wouldn’t get in the habit of parroting aphorisms or sugar-coating with untrue puff-phrases.) But given how severe it sounds, this might not be a gap you can bridge from one side; she will likely need to be chartering some inroads on her own. (I don’t know if it’s crossing lines to lead off the discussion Alison recommended with “I’ve noticed that processing feedback has been rough on you; have you considered bringing this topic to a therapist”)

    1. Alanna*

      I’m also very rejection-sensitive, and I am also a manager who needs to get better at giving feedback (they’re linked, go figure). I’d warn OP to stay away from constant softening language like this. It’s my go-to crutch to say “this totally isn’t a big deal, but…” or “hey, this is just a quick heads up for next time, it’s not a serious problem…” or “I understand, we all struggle with this, but…”

      And then sometimes it’s performance review time and I’m looking at a lot of “hey no big deal buts” that added up to, actually, a pretty big deal, and I’m feeling like a jerk because I never conveyed that actually, this was a problem that they needed to fix.

      1. Momma Bear*

        I was thinking about rejection sensitivity, which is not uncommon for folks with anxiety or ADHD. Perhaps part of the solution is to steer the employee toward the EAP and encourage her to get outside support for their reactions to feedback. There may be times when the employee really isn’t going to handle it well, but you have to keep rolling. I’d keep it simple and direct, maybe suggest the employee take a coffee break before tackling it (if there’s time) and report on progress by COB. Sometimes having a deadline helps get things done. But really if it is so much an issue that the employee can’t function later, then she needs more support than her boss can give her. You can be understanding and still need to move forward.

        1. Alanna*

          Literally while I was typing that comment, my boss gave me a polite, normal piece of feedback (“Did you think about X when you decided on this course of action? Remember we need to think about X every time”). I immediately decided that I was terrible at my job, had hit my ceiling of ability, should probably just quit and let them hire someone who would be better at it.

          But what I actually said was, “Oh, I didn’t realize we needed to take X into account on this type of task. I’ll do that from now on.” And then I spiraled emotionally for a few minutes on the inside before finding something easy to work on while I took a couple deep breaths. And now I’m fine.

          I’m sure my boss would hate to know that I interpret feedback that way, even briefly, because I know intellectually that it’s just feedback, I’m overall pretty good at my job, it’s normal not to be good at everything all at once, and my company absolutely does not want me to quit. But the point is that he doesn’t know. A lot of the comments here are like “God forbid someone have anxiety!!!” but the point is not what you feel — it’s how you behave when you are feeling that feeling.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Same – mine is less grade-affiliated, but equally unproductive. I’m sad that other people experience this. It sucks.

    2. Lionhead Bunny*

      Well put. It took me years to learn that a criticism of my work was not a criticism of my very being.

  12. Fern*

    The first letter made me think it could be written about my former foster daughter- she’s so anxious (for good reason) and in her second job since leaving college. She’s so smart and wonderful but any negative feedback can send her spiraling. I hope that LW1 can use this script to help the employee change and not have to fire them.

  13. Bad Wolf*

    Good lord, what sort of psychotic hazing ritual is this to make interns feed the staff?
    My job, we often get freebees from vendors. Senior (very wealthy) folks love to dig through and pick out choice items. I always have the interns get first dibs before letting the vultures descend. On one project, Budweiser gave us an entire truck full of beer. We only needed a couple cases for our actual “work.” So every Friday, I let each intern take a case home. At the end of the project, we threw them a party with what was left plus food we paid for.

    1. River*

      Where I work, the higher-ups tend to get first dibs on food/treats. I’ve noticed it. I drop off my lunch in the fridge in the break area most mornings, while one of them is walking in at the same time into the break room with the food.

      One of the higher ups will bring in treats/baked goodies or will order breakfast like bagels and cream cheese, etc. and let the higher ups know to take some before she sends out the email to everyone else that “hey there’s food in the break area”. Once the higher ups get first dibs then the rest of the company gets the email that there’s food in the break room. I always thought that was pretty unfair.

  14. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

    I agree with what’s been said about the LW not having to spend a lot of time helping her new hire manage her emotions. The only other thing I’d add is for the LW to think about how she provides feedback. It may just be a semantic thing but I can’t think of a time I’ve given what I would call negative feedback to a new hire who was doing a decent job. I’ve given a lot of course correction or additional information to people in those positions. Sometimes prefaced with “I should have mentioned [whatever it is they need to do differently].” I think it works for all kinds of feedback to focus on the task rather than the person.

    1. Jenny*

      It’s interesting because I’ve given a TON of feedback in my time and I’ve learned you can be extremely nice about feedback and there are people who will either fight you or collapse no matter what you do.

      I have, no joke, been involved in training at least 50 people. And the vast majority of them have been absolutely fine. But I have had both the “I can’t be wrong” mentees and the “I am a bad person and a failure” mentees. And both are incredibly derailing.

    2. Becky*

      I don’t have anxiety but from how others I know have described it, even minor course corrections or additional information can lead to a spiral like the LW describes her employee has. Sure some people can say “oh, got it, I’ll do it that way next time” and be fine; however anxiety and anxiety disorders can often involve catastrophizing – where your brain goes to the absolute worst possible interpretation and everything is a disaster.

      It is possible that the LW needs to modify how she is giving the feedback but given the description of the employee’s reaction unless LW is flat out being severely verbally abusive this is more likely to be some level of catastrophizing by the employee.

      1. Alanna*

        Yeah, of course some people need better bedside manners, but I have a truly fantastic manager — decisive, professional, kind, motivating — and he can say something to me like “I think I told you earlier that the report needs to be printed on green paper, not pink, it’s not a big deal but Big Boss Bob is really into green at the moment” and I will go into a spiral (internally!!!) for several minutes about how someone who can’t even select the right report color definitely doesn’t deserve to be a Senior Director of Report Production.

        Whereas my boss is like, cool, reminded her to fix the report color going forward, check, next task. (And when I’m managing people, I really try not to catastrophize and assume THEY will immediately catastrophize. Sometimes you gotta tell people to change the report color!)

    3. fgcommenter*

      It may just be a semantic thing but I can’t think of a time I’ve given what I would call negative feedback to a new hire who was doing a decent job.

      Exactly. Negative feedback may be common, but it is not mandatory or inescapable.

      Course correction and additional information are superior. Business processes are the result of testing, trial-and-error, discovering what doesn’t work, etc. so someone trying to go through the process should likewise not be expected to immediately find the correct path. It’s like a maze where you can only see a small area around your current position; going down a wrong path is not indicative of a flaw in the entity trying to solve the maze, it is a natural result of a non-omniscient entity trying to use logic to find its way through the maze; so instead of applying negative feedback that faults the entity (“that was wrong of you to do that”), you apply course correction and/or additional information (“that way will lead to a dead-end”, “at this juncture, direction x is the only path that isn’t a dead-end”).

  15. Tesuji*

    LW #2: I feel like the advice makes a lot of assumptions about the power level of the LW that aren’t apparent from the letter. I’m wondering if there were details cut that would make the advice make more sense.

    If the LW does have standing to unilaterally change that (which the response says it’s assuming), then sure, the stated advice is great. Otherwise, it feels a little tone-deaf to have the advice be “Just declare that people don’t have to do this thing you don’t want them to do” with a subtext of “What kind of ____ boss are you that you haven’t done this obvious thing already.”

    To me, the LW is saying that they’re just a manager, and the reference to ‘colleagues’ makes me infer that she’s not the one in charge here, but rather is bothered by a policy made at a level above her. If that’s the case, the advice given isn’t really that helpful.

    If the actual question is “How do I handle when people at a level above me have made a decision that I think unfairly impacts people at a level or two below me?”… well, that seems like an interesting question, and I wish that was the question that had been answered.

  16. Michelle Smith*

    I cannot emphasize enough that Alison’s answer about rejection emails is important (LW4). Please don’t do anything that will decrease the reputation of the company, like talking about the last minute internal candidate, but MY GOODNESS having an interviewer genuinely and believably tell you how strong of a candidate you are can be a huge life raft to a drowning job seeker. Not as good as a job of course, but still. I looked for my last job for 2 years and though about some pretty dark things along the way. One of the things that helped me soldier on was a couple of interviewers taking the time to let me know that I was a strong candidate, so I could maintain my self-esteem. (Trust me, rejection after rejection starts to wear on even the most self-assured.) Another thing that was really nice is that a couple of interviewers later reached out to me about jobs that I’d be perfect for on other teams/with other organizations. If these candidates are as strong as you thought, please consider doing that too. Nothing engenders more goodwill than your willingness to refer me to a job that you’re not even hiring for.

  17. Fluffy Fish*

    OP1 – I would go so far with Alison’s script to add that not only is it essential to her role with you, it is going to be an essential skill in most all workplaces.

    It would be a kindness to spell that out for her that it’s not “the job” its jobs in general and will hopefully help her realize its something she really needs to figure out or the issue will follow her to the next job.

    1. El l*

      Agree. That’s why OP can only point her in the right direction of, “Figure out ‘your deal’, and figure out how to function anyway.” Even if OP bends over backwards or treats it as some kind of disability, others will not.

      If she’s entering the workforce now, she can expect 50 more years of negative feedback. Time to figure out how to make your peace with it.

  18. Katrina*

    Unless I’m misreading, it sounds like the employee has disclosed that she has been diagnosed with anxiety. In which case, she does have a disability, and using the language of the ADA is neither wrong nor insulting. It is, in fact, the appropriate thing to do. (Reasonable accommodations may not be possible without undue hardship, but there needs to be a conversation before that conclusion can be reached.)

    1. Katrina*

      I’m sorry–this was a reply to another comment. I have no idea why it showed up both in the correct thread and down here at the bottom on the comments.

    2. Barbarella*

      “Unless I’m misreading, it sounds like the employee has disclosed that she has been diagnosed with anxiety. In which case, she does have a disability”

      Condition =/= disability

      Think of wearing glasses-most people who wear glasses do not think of themselves as disabled and do not choose to self-identify as disabled at work, even though they need something (glasses) to participate in major life activities.

      It is up to the individual to decide that her anxiety rises to the level of a disability, not her boss, not a bunch of armchair commentors.

  19. RB*

    For the husband’s boss thing, she mentions that he would lose his pension if he left the agency. Surely it would just mean that he would forgo future contributions? Don’t most pensions have a vesting period, usually five years, at which point you can leave the firm and still be entitled to the benefit when you retire?

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      Yes. I’m assuming its shorthand for drastically affecting his pension.

      I’m in that situation now. If I stay another 7-8 years, I can retire and immediately start collecting my retirement.

      If I leave, not only will I not get the full amount I’d get if I stayed, I can’t collect on it for almost 20 years and is effectively leaving over a million dollars on the table.

      In order to offset the money I lose, I have to find another job at or above a certain salary.

      1. Loves libraries*

        My husband is in a similar situation. He retires at the end of March from a job that’s been awful for over a year.

    2. Magenta*

      I was coming to ask this, I’m in the UK and pensions belong to the Employee. When they leave the pension is frozen so no future contributions are made, but they get the benefits on retirement. Depending on the type of pension you can leave it where it is, or move it to another provider, but it is your pension, you can’t lose it. There may be a minimum wait period before you can join the pension scheme (usually 3 months) but once you are in it is your money, I once left an employer after only paying in for a short time and got to take it in cash, I think it was around a thousand pounds so not worth the provider keeping it open, but there would be no way I would have lost it.

  20. Peonies*

    I wonder if the employee with anxiety might benefit from a referral to the EAP, assuming there is one.

  21. NotAnotherManager!*

    The answer to “should I contact my [spouse’s/partner’s/child’s/friend’s] boss?” is ALWAYS “absolutely f’ing not” UNLESS that person is unable both to come to work and to call out for themselves. In all other circumstances, NOPE.

  22. Raida*

    I would treat this as a medical condition – an anxiety disorder.
    If she fails to take responsibility for her own health, get a diagnosis, try treatments, support groups, whatever, then the employee is refusing to act to get themselves in a position to fulfil the role and their manager cannot be expected to do all the heavy lifting.

    Do you have an EAP? Does the business cover any kind of medical stuff? How would someone with an injury at your workplace be expected (and supported?) to get through it to a level of acceptable performance?

    Talk to HR, or another manager that you believe has handled the difficult conversations around personal medication issues at work. Look for some support on how to proceed.

    As it stands, it sounds like her anxiety is easily going to stop her from doing her job, because she ain’t even going to finish training. And the fact that you’ve supported her to get her through anxiety, rather than her straight out offering you the most successful support methods and least successful ones from experience, means that she isn’t doing her part. Hard with anxieties, I know. But still not untrue. She has to be a responsible party, she has to be able to work with a new manager or team and come ready with support procedures, all that jazz

  23. fine tipped pen aficionado*

    phew the comments on this one are extremely disheartening and hard to read. sending love to my comrades with disabilities, mental illnesses, and neurodivergence.

  24. Another former manager*

    I’d feel more positive about the feedback and Allison’s answer if if the feedback was phrased as “constructive” versus “negative” and the LW had indicated they tried more than one way to provide it to the employee. The same approach does not necessarily work with everyone.

    Coming from a background where perfection was the minimum expectation, I feel for the employee. I hope she can get some therapy to help her understand that feedback about her work is not a personal attack, though it can certainly feel like one.

  25. LilPinkSock*

    LW #2, if your colleagues believe that $40 a week on an intern’s stipend is “immaterial”, they can pony up for it themselves. When I was an intern, that was my entire grocery budget for myself.

  26. Onward*

    For those fighting about the ADA in the comments — what accommodation could there be for this? I don’t think you would ever get away with “this employee can’t hear any kind of negative feedback”. I’m not sure what accommodation would be possible here, so it seems like a bit of a moot point?

    1. Barbarella*

      For example:
      -Sending feedback over email to allow the employee to regulate themselves before having a conversation about it.
      -Giving the employee unpaid time to regulate during the day as long they still work their allotted hours and accomplish their tasks.

    2. Observer*

      The idea is that some people with high levels of anxiety have coping mechanisms that might mean that someone like the OP might need to make some changes, but it could still work. There have been a number of suggestions up and down the comments, including the other response to your comment.

      In theory what would hopefully have happened would have been that the OP has a conversation where they more or less use Allison’s script and the employee comes up with some things that would help, like “can we do this at the end of the day, so I can process at home” and “For things that must happen during the day, could you email me and then come to my desk in about 15 minutes to discuss?” (Or any of the other suggestions that have been made). At that point the OP could see which of those ideas are reasonable in their environment and try to implement those.

      What actually happened – based on the OP’s comments on the original post and their follow up letter – is that the OP tried to essentially do this, but the employee could not come up with anything actionable. Not just nothing that was practical in that environment, but nothing at all other that vague stuff like “don’t be intimidating” and “don’t be condescending” while pretty much everything the OP said fell into one of those categories according to the employee. So, yeah, *that* is untenable and she was let go.

Comments are closed.