my entry-level employee gave me a bunch of off-base criticism

A reader writes:

I have a junior staff person (who has been on my team less than two years) who recently took it upon themself to give me some “constructive criticism” about my management, none of which was relevant or constructive (I did consider it and discussed it with others, and they were all confused as to where it came from).

The criticism was along the lines of … I get in the office too late (I get there at 9, like everyone else, but I actually don’t have set hours nor do I punch a time clock); I let people spend too much time in my office, which related to a new hire who I was training; I hog the spotlight by training new people myself (a big part of my job since I have two advanced degrees, and I’m training entry-level grads) and not letting others do it; I talk to others confidentially too much (!); I shouldn’t help staff finish something before a big deadline if they’re struggling (again, part of my job, our deadlines are firm and if someone can’t finish a project I will help them finish however necessary).

I usually welcome feedback, especially if it makes the office run more smoothly and I know I don’t know everything, but this seemed petty and like a personal attack. I’m also very careful to treat all my employees equally — no favorites, no cliques, no gossip.

When it happened, I was shocked and not sure how to respond, so I just thanked them for bringing their concerns to me. But I’m worried this employee now feels they can give me “performance reviews” whenever they have a grievance. In the future, how do I head off this kind of conversation? How do I express how inappropriate it is for an entry-level employee to do this type of thing to any boss they have without throttling them?

For what it’s worth, this person has a huge entitlement and attitude problem, which I have addressed with them several times but they refuse to try to improve. They’re actively resentful of other employees and we had to address very recently their bullying another coworker who they thought “had it too easy.” So I think I will need to shut it down hard next time or they will think they are entitled to scold me and keep doing it.

I answer this question 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.

{ 165 comments… read them below }

  1. ZSD*

    Does anyone know which day Inc. starts over counting your free articles? Today is the first of the month, but I still got blocked because I’ve hit my free article limit.

    1. Cyndi*

      Weird–I was able to read it, so mine must have reset. Maybe it’s a rolling “last 30 days” situation?

    2. Darkangel*

      Yeah. If they are old letters, I would love the have the link to the older blog post too. Cause I often also can’t read them on INC.

      1. Kermit's Bookkeepers*

        Removed. Please do not post ways to get around paywalls here; they are how writers get paid.

    3. DocVonMitte*

      I had the same question. I haven’t been able to view Inc articles for the past 90-ish days and can’t figure out why. I do wish I was financially in the position to subscribe (but I just got out of homelessness this month so that’s just not going to happen). :/

      1. I'm A Little Teapot*

        Try clearing your cookies/cache, it could have gotten stuck. That will hopefully get you the freebies at least. And congrats on no longer being homeless!

      2. Timothy (TRiG)*

        Firefox has a “forget about this site” option (Ctrl+Shift+H to open the History menu, find the site, and right-click on it). Other browsers probably have the same option, though it may have a slightly different name. That’ll completely clear cookies, local storage, cache, saved passwords, and history items for that site only, while leaving all others intact.

    4. Traveler*

      I think something odd is going on with Inc access, possibly tied to browser cookies? I subscribe to Inc and it’s telling me I have reached my free limit and can’t access the article. I was able to access the article via my phone instead.

      1. Dances with Spindles*

        The same thing happened to me! I was able to change my password, which HOPEFULLY will clear up the problem, but it is annoying when you’re not trying to get past the paywall – you just want to access the content for which you have already paid!

    5. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I also think that Apple News clicks (even if accidental) may count towards article counts.

      1. Quake*

        Oh wow, the letter is pretty different. It’s like the “Director’s Cut” version of this post that makes the offender seem even more outrageous.

    6. Daisy*

      When I followed the link they wanted folks to sign up for free access. No payment necessary, but they wanted an email.

    7. Princess Sparklepony*

      A while ago it made me set up a free account and I’ve had no problems since. They, of course, want your email but nothing more as I recall.

    8. ProcessMeister*

      I didn’t get blocked. Just a message stating, “The page you were looking for appears to have been moved, deleted or does not exist.”
      I’ve never had any sort of paywall notice pop-up (unless I’ve forgotten). The link for me goes to Inc. Australia so may be a different version…?

    9. Michelle Smith*

      No, but there are plenty of ways to get rid of the popup that blocks you from reading your free articles when it bugs out like that, including creating an account on the site or switching browsers.

  2. FrancoTempleton*

    Not sure how proper this is but I’d be looking for the fastest way to fire that employee after being spoken to like that

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      It depends on the context. For this employee, it’s a final straw – so yes, your response would be proper. It shouldn’t necessarily be “the fastest way”, there should be at least a final conversation, but you should absolutely be starting whatever procedures your company requires because there’s really very little evidence that conversation would change anything.

      For an employee with a better track record, I’d want to sit them down and explain why they were wrong and why their behavior is unprofessional. Alison advocates speaking up in the moment, but if your gut reaction is to fire them for speaking to you that way I’d actually suggest waiting, gathering your thoughts, and trying to have a calm and direct conversation. Sometimes, in efforts to elevate themselves or go “an extra mile”, good employees stumble. That can be addressed and redirected. This employee probably won’t be a good case study for that approach though.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’m not a hire/fire manager myself, but I am confident that at my office he’d have been on a PIP after the bullying incident that followed attitude/entitlement discussions.

      1. ferrina*

        Yep. If it was a single instance of a list of grievances, that would be weird but not fireable, but this isn’t a single instance. (IME, it never is). This person has already had a history of poor behavior- it won’t be too hard to find more to put them on a PIP or fire them.

      2. Curious*

        While I agree that there should be documented discipline, I don’t think that a *performance* improvement plan is the way to go, as this is a behavior issue. Otoh, something in the nature of a written “last and final warning” would seem appropriate.

        1. Need More Sunshine*

          Performance at work encompasses behavior in my mind though, and PIPs often address behavior. If it’s a basic workplace expectation to treat others with respect and kindness, then it is a performance problem.

          1. Curious*

            My HR, at a government agency, taught us that there are important differences in how you address performance vs behavior problems.

            Thus, a PIP may require the employee, over the next month or quarter, to improve a measure of accuracy to x%, or improve productivity in some objectively quantifiable manner.

            By contrast, expectations of behavior are not just for the next period, but, rather, always do X or never do Y, as long as you work here. (while I expect that , as a practical matter, there is some limitations period, so screaming again after five years may not result in firing, it’s not a “keep your nose clean for a quarter and we start fresh” thing either.

            1. I am Emily's failing memory*

              At the places I’ve worked, the PIP requirements are equal to the job requirements. The PIP is someone who is performing below what the job requires, and the PIP puts them on notice with a deadline for how long they have to get their performance up where it needs to be – they would absolutely be expected to maintain that level of performance after successfully completing the PIP.

          2. I am Emily's failing memory*

            I think there’s also two kinds of behavioral issues.

            One is when you have to sit an employee down and say, “Jane, we’re hearing from people that in email you often come across as impatient and irritated with people who ask you for help. I know you don’t mean to come across that way, but since we do want people to come to us for help, I need to ask you to be more conscientious of your tone in email – think of it like a customer service communication, and take the extra minute or so to add a friendly greeting before getting down to business.”

            Or, “You often seem visibly distracted in meetings, and ask questions you’d know had been answered already if you were paying attention. Going forward, I need you to focus on the speaker when you’re in a meeting and refrain from working on other projects.”

            Basically, things where the person is not behaving to the professional standard needed, but it’s plausibly a mistake. Something they’ve just been kind of oblivious that anyone was noticing/getting that impression, or they kind of knew but didn’t know that it’s actually important to avoid, and you have good reason to think they’ll be receptive to correcting their behavior once they’re told point-blank that they need to do it.

            Then there’s things where the person is manifesting rudeness, abrasiveness, entitlement, aggression, etc., as a range of unacceptable behaviors where the common thread seems to be rooted in their whole mode of being in the world. Here, Jane isn’t curt in emails merely because she underestimated the value others place on saying “Hope you’re well!” and thought she was just being efficient with her inbox. Rather, she’s curt in emails and in every other communication channel because she has actual contempt for her coworkers.

            That second kind of problem, most of the time there’s no point in bothering with a PIP, because they’re not making a mistake or miscalculating the professional importance of something. They’re not going to go, “Oh, gosh, I had no idea I needed to show respect for other humans, thanks for telling me, I will work really hard to turn this around!” They’re lacking something fundamental.

      3. MassMatt*

        Yes, it sounds to me that his other behaviors alone justify a PIP. I hope LW is not in a workplace that makes firing difficult, or in a situation where they are responsible for results but have no authority to manage.

    3. Antilles*

      This is really situation-specific.
      If this was a one-off and the employee seemed to be coming from a good place, I’d be inclined to let it go – explain that he’s overstepping and to stay in his lane, addressing any of his concerns that are valid (e.g., if his real issue is that he’s not getting proper support because I’m too busy with X and Y and Z), and then keeping an eye on the situation…but generally just leaving it at that.
      But when it comes from an employee with a known attitude/entitlement problem? Then it’s totally a see ya.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Yep. I have gotten all sorts of “feedback” over the years that was earnest and well-intentioned but the person providing simply didn’t have all the information or didn’t understand people’s role’s. I was young once and thought I knew it all/what was best, albeit less brazenly, so I get that you don’t know what you don’t know.

        From someone with the other constellation of issues described? Nope. I especially do not want bullies on my team.

    4. Green great dragon*

      The last thing you want is for people to hear you fire people that criticise you, however unfair that would be. Sounds like this person could be let go for other reasons, but I’d be very careful to focus on the wider problem here. I’d address the off-base criticism in the moment if I could, but try to keep it away from the PIP discussions.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        Sometimes yeah, but it sounds like everyone at the office has had a similarly delightful critique. They’d probably cheer this employee being fired.

        1. Sandals*

          …because if that employee is criticizing the boss, imagine the treatment co-workers get.

          1. Enai*

            The LW already mentioned bullying. I bet the person(s) who complained are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Also, how does the employee treat business contacts and/or customers? This can severely affect the companies’ reputation.

  3. Emily*

    “For what it’s worth, this person has a huge entitlement and attitude problem, which I have addressed with them several times but they refuse to try to improve. They’re actively resentful of other employees and we had to address very recently their bullying another coworker who they thought “had it too easy.”” I think this goes beyond just trying to “shut down” this person. They are displaying serious issues that you have addressed with them, but they have refused to change. I think you need to seriously start thinking about whether you can keep this person on your team, LW (I don’t think you should).

    1. KHB*

      Yeah, this is by far the worst part of it to me. If he were just giving his “constructive criticism” to you, the manager, you could reasonably just ignore it and/or address it with him at your convenience. But if he’s bullying other coworkers, despite having been told to stop, that’s a much more serious thing. Time for this jerk to be shown the door.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        It’s funny how many advice column letters are in the form “arson, murder and jaywalking”. Realistically, you don’t need to address the jaywalking at all.

    2. The New Wanderer*

      I wish we had an update from this LW, and that it shows that the LW quickly concluded that this employee crossed the final line and was fired. Given the entitlement, attitude, bullying, and unwarranted criticism, there is no “teachable moment” for that employee, only for the others on the team. And to be clear, the “teachable moment” is that the manager will no longer tolerate a toxic employee.

        1. MAW*

          “You can’t have teachable moments for people who refuse to learn.”

          ^^^so very much this in so many areas in life ^^^^

        2. I have RBF*

          Yeah, verily.

          I have had to just throw up my hands with one person, because all the arguments and debates on technical merit will not budge them from their penny wise, pound foolish stance. (e.g. saving $5 by buying cheap, inferior llama shears that ending breaking at every third use, costing $100 in labor to fix and re-do, plus making the customer unhappy about the delays.)

      1. DyneinWalking*

        Eh, I’d say that firing in itself can be a teachable moment. It’s a very harsh way of driving home a lesson, which is why managers should only use it when all the other options aren’t feasible, but it can be a teachable moment.

        Some people learn from small consequences, others need a whole pile of painful personal consequences before they get their shit together. The way I see it, if someone won’t treat people with basic respect even after several corrections, they are basically choosing to be taught the painful way. I’d prefer it if that wasn’t necessary, but if nothing else will drive home the lesson, well… painful it is, then.

      2. Observer*

        I wish we had an update from this LW, and that it shows that the LW quickly concluded that this employee crossed the final line and was fired

        I would have loved an update as well. But the OP makes it clear in the comments on the original letter that although they have come to realize that firing would probably be the best thing, it’s going to be a long slog at best.

    3. Jenny*

      Can you imagine the absolute horror show that would result if this person was ever in a management position?

      1. Pink Candyfloss*

        Even beyond that: employees like this actively drive away other, good employees.

        1. Jenny*

          Yeah, if I was the bullied coworker and they didn’t fire the guy, I’d be job searching.

      2. Overit*

        I would bet the manager of the job I quit on Saturday was this guy 40 years ago. I quit because she gave me “constructive criticism”, relentlessly for hours, in front of coworkers and customers.
        In fact, she bullied and degraded me.
        Turns out that I am the 8th person to quit in 8 months.
        But since she did this in front of the owner, guess the owner is fine with me leaving and fine with constant turnover.

        1. Observer*

          Either that or he has finally realized why he is having the turnover. If this is the first time she did it in front of her, he may have been convincing himself that it wasn’t “that bad” or that the manager’s story (Which obviously would be far more self serving) was the truth. But seeing it himself could possibly change that.

    4. Engineer*

      Unfortunately, according to the LW in the comments of the original article, while she did have hiring authority, she did *not* have firing authority. Firing apparently had to go through HR and Legal to even be considered.

      Given that, I suspect this employee was allowed to stay on far too long while the department bled good people.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Is having to go through HR and legal code for “it will never happen” or does it just mean that there are procedures that have to be followed?

        The thing is, there being procedures is a Good Thing. Do we want a manager to be able to fire people on a whim? That wouldn’t be good for either the company as a whole or the employees. Having to do paperwork is a terrible reason to keep a terrible employees. Going through legal most likely, assuming this it at-will work, to screen for discrimination against protected classes: also a Good Thing. This is a white male graduate of a prestigious school. (No, the letter doesn’t state this. But come on…) So this part should be pro forma.

        There are outfits that think that legal challenges are magical drainers of bank accounts, so we must go into a defensive crouch to ensure that they never happen. If this is the case here, there really is no helping it. The organization is enthralled by magical thinking, and there isn’t anything for it. But I don’t see the evidence one way or the other.

        1. rat pants*

          I think that’s a fair question (that I doubt we’ll get the answer to).

          I had to fire someone last year but had to have a sit down with my manager/HR first. It was to ensure that all procedures were followed correctly so that there would be no room for an unlawful termination suit or anything similar.

        2. Curious*

          I agree that procedures are a Good Thing — see, e.g., the next letter on CEBro!

          I would note, however, that race as a basis for protected class applies to all races, and sex as a basis for protected class applies, at least, to both female and male sexes.

        3. Cat Lady Esq.*

          I have worked in Legal/HR on the legal side (I’m a lawyer) and for us it was definitely about making sure managers were following proper procedures documenting poor performance or misconduct and that the law was being followed.

          My experience unfortunately was that many mid-level managers do not proactively confront and coach their direct reports on performance or behavior issues, and let the situation fester until they throw up their hands and want to terminate the person, but never actually effectively put them on notice that something was wrong.

          I literally had a manager walk into my office one time asking for help terminating an employee. He was sick of the EE and wanted him gone.

          He’d never given him any kind of coaching. No PIP. Every performance review had been a perfect rating. He even put him up for a raise and a promotion the year before.

          I asked him what had changed from his last glowing performance review, thinking maybe this EE was having a personal crisis and needed EAP, support etc.

          Oh nothing had changed, he had hated the guy’s work and attitude the whole time. Felt that giving him good reviews would encourage him to do better work. He was afraid if he did a PIP that the EE would get mad and it would be awkward. He just wanted the guy to disappear and not have to deal with him.

          We obviously took this to the manager’s manager to get him some management coaching, but this is the kind of stuff we screen for. Maybe this guy’s work and attitude were terrible, but without any documentation we cannot take action. We just make sure all ducks are in a row before moving forward with a PIP or termination.

          1. Enai*

            Uhm. Managing by not-managing, eh? How very Zen. Pity you’re not a Buddhist monastery.

    5. Ellis Bell*

      Wow, the first time I read that I did not take in that OP has already addressed this SEVERAL times.

  4. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    “What to say next time…”
    Please don’t wait. You need to revisit this now. Explain to employee that you have reviewed the criticism and realize that employee has a very off view of both your and their own role.

    1. Barbarella*

      Agreed, I wouldn’t wait for a next time. I’d proactively call a meeting with that employee and address this is particular, but also all the things I had been seeing.

  5. RJ*

    Wow. The arrogance of this employee is staggering and it’s time to put steps in motion for their exit. There’s feedback and then there’s smugness. This is certainly the latter.

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      It reminds me of the letter from the new grad who couldn’t understand why companies didn’t want to hire him to be their “idea guy” to generate cool notions for making money. But that kid was mostly clueless, not an actively toxic person whose levels of entitlement and delusion are off the charts.

    2. Random Dice*

      I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that his manager is a woman, as is the coworker he’s been bullying.

      I’ll eat my hat if they’re not both women or female presenting.

  6. mrsfields4701*

    “If you wish to keep your job, this stops now. Are we clear?”

    I am an incredibly longsuffering person, but this person quite frankly has exhausted all of their grace.

  7. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

    Wow, that employee was so far out of his lane, he entirely left the highway and is driving through a field of red flags. The LW didn’t need to mention his sense of entitlement, given the whole thing about how he thought it was his business to tell the LW how to do her job! The only thing that could possibly be his business enough to raise was the training thing–if he wanted to do some training, he could have asked if that was a possibility (not “hogging the spotlight” WTAF).

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      that employee was so far out of his lane, he entirely left the highway and is driving through a field of red flags

      I think this sums up my response pretty well.

      My question is what happened (or not?) when they got out of their lane, and then left the highway?

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I’m picturing the time I overcorrected on a gravel road and ended up in a corn field. Husks everywhere.

        (Fortunately it had already been harvested so I didn’t damage anyone’s crop.)

        1. Peanut Hamper*

          That is two of then, lol! (Lots of corn fields around here, lots of gravel roads.)

    2. Rebecca*

      I am astounded even that training is perceived as something one gets the spotlight for! I’ve never been anywhere where having to train someone wasn’t considered a chore – sometimes a more pleasant chore, but still, a chore and not an accolade.

      He’s delusional.

    1. Yay! I’m a llama again!*

      Was just going to say the same, I’d love to know how this worked out!

        1. Beany*

          Ditto. I hadn’t even noticed the name, but TENG is my family’s favorite Disney film. I even printed out a “No Touchy!” sign for recently baked goods.

      1. Expelliarmus*

        Agreed! I know they said firing was gonna take a long time, but it’s been nearly 5 years so surely something has happened, even if it’s just that the OP is at a completely different job now.

  8. AGD*

    Thanks for this. I get the same thing (I train junior people, who are usually overachievers straight out of college, and a disproportionate number of them end up trying to inform me of how to do my job), and it’s one of the few problems I have with the work I do.

    1. KHB*

      I had a similar thing a few years ago. Everyone on my team provides feedback on everyone else’s work. On New Guy’s first time reviewing my work, he raised some really good points (mostly in places where he didn’t understand something I’d said, so his comments helped me realize that I hadn’t been quite clear). I made the mistake of tell him so – and for months after that, his “feedback” included tons of detailed (and off-base) explaining about how to do my job.

      To his credit, though, he wasn’t being entitled or a jerk about it – he was just the New Guy, who didn’t yet know how much he didn’t know. So I opted to mostly ignore it, in the hope that he would simmer down eventually. And he did.

    2. Princess Sparklepony*

      I had a temp covering my desk for a week maybe a day or two longer. I came back to a memo telling me how to do my job better! I’d been at the job a few years or more and had it down pretty cold. Some of the suggestions were stuff that I had tried but they didn’t work and others were just dumb. Good thing I didn’t have to interact with the temp when I got back. I would have had some choice opinions to share.

  9. Dust Bunny*

    Nope, time to institute a “no a**holes” rule and relieve yourself and this person’s coworkers of this annoyance.

  10. Maggie*

    “For what it’s worth, this person has a huge entitlement and attitude problem”

    There we go…LW, does the employee actually do their job? One of my teammates is extremely entitled, and she’s lazy and reaches out to others for them to tell her exactly how to do her job. She also never shows up to meetings she’s supposed to be on.

    Can you reach out to her teammates to see how she’s interacting with them? I wonder how much of her job she’s actually doing, and if her skill set isn’t up to par

  11. Jenny*

    He bullied another employee recently and is actively resentful of other employees and he’s actively telling you that helping people get work done is wrong.

    This guy should have already been fired.

  12. Just sayin'*

    What if the employee was right? this boss sounds a bit of an entitled jerk who thinks his degrees confer some kind of power on him. Maybe the first step IS for the boss to listen, then consider actions on the employee.

    1. Jenny*

      You think a boss helping their employees meet deadlines is the entitled jerk, not the guy who told him to deliberately let people fail?

      1. Enai*

        And hurt the company in the process, too! The deadlines need to be met to fulfill some contractual obligation, as opposed to “because the teacher said so”.

        The employee sounds like he doesn’t understand the difference between school, where pupils are evaluated on their work and should be on even footing, and business, where the company gets paid for the collective work and the customer doesn’t care if the load was evenly distributed or some worker needed help or coaching so long as the product is okay.

    2. Jennifer Strange*

      You seem to be projecting here. I didn’t get a sense of entitlement from the LW, and it sounds like all of the other employees thought the criticism was off base. Not to mention, none of the criticism sounds like something for an employee to bring to their boss.

        1. Jenny*

          The manager discussed this with coworkers, the guy’s complaints were absurd, and he has a history of bullying.

          You have to write fanfiction for this LW to be wrong.

          1. Antilles*

            If OP was really an arrogant manager who thought the degrees conferred superiority, they would have just completely blown off the employee’s concerns rather than thinking about it and getting other opinions.
            Nothing here indicates that the LW is an “entitled jerk”.

        2. Onward*

          Literally one of the commenting rules is to give people the benefit of the doubt and trust their accounting of the story. i.e. don’t make up fictions to suit your own agenda.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      I did consider it and discussed it with others, and they were all confused as to where it came from

      Sounds the like the LW is not operating in a vacuum here.

      Also: History of bullying coworkers.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Also, everything the employee apparently complained about is stuff managers are generally supposed to do, so . . .

        I mean, my supervisor helps us when a project is in a pinch; she spends way more time with interns that with me (because they’re students and they need it); she’s better qualified than I am by pretty much all criteria to train people; she runs the staff meetings . . . Literally none of this sounds unreasonable.

        1. Jenny*

          I’m a trainer at my job. It’s actually a role I applied to do and received a two week specialized training in before I started. And especially a guy who’s been there under 2 years? Absurd.

        2. Czhorat*

          Yeah. we’ve seen letters from out of touch or arrogant managers. There area always hints that they are lookign down at their employees.

          In this case, the manager’s concern isn’t only valid, it seems almost too mild for the situation. Someone bullying other employees, having THIS bad an idea of office norms AND not showing willingness to attempt to learn is not going to be a good team member anywhere.

          I’m with Allison – a last and final discussion (because short of TRULY egregious things like open racism, sexual harassment or outright assault) everyone deserves a warning. Then you face up to the fact that the company is better off without him and let him go.

      2. fleapot*

        And “I did consider it and discussed it with others” is really not the behavior of an entitled, power-hungry jerk, especially when the criticism is this far off base. The specific points raised by this employee sound less like a good-faith assessment than an attempt to undermine or unbalance LW.

        If the employee had been shut down abruptly when making mildly misguided suggestions about improving a process they didn’t yet understand, I might see a red flag here–but that’s not even close to what LW describes.

    4. Eldritch Office Worker*

      “I usually welcome feedback, especially if it makes the office run more smoothly and I know I don’t know everything”

    5. sswj*

      Uh, no. Boss is doing the job they were hired to do, employee does not get to tell Boss how to to the job.

    6. Also just sayin*

      *squints* that sounds like what the subject of this letter would say. Is that you bro?

      1. fgcommenter*

        That is a very helpful link. Ames brings up some good points that are in line with the concerns Just sayin’ has.

    7. Generic Name*

      No. It’s not entitled for a boss to think they are more qualified than their junior employee. It’s simply reality. Entitled is when a junior employee tells his boss that he’s more qualified than she is because he has a graduate degree in the field and she “only” has an undergraduate degree (plus 20 years of experience). This happened at my company and the jr employee was fired.

    8. Peanut Hamper*

      Went back and read the original letter and LW also included this:

      We already have twice yearly reviews where this employee could give feedback to my boss about me but they “thought that my boss wouldn’t do a good enough job” (which, what?).

      Yeah, no, both you and this employee are out of line.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        This proves he’s doing it to be a bully and is not some out of touch dream child–someone as clueless as he’s pretending to be in order to unload this crap would skip merrily into those reviews with a bullet point list of ways LW could improve and be genuinely shocked when Grandboss laughed in his face or sternly guided him back to his own little garden.

        That he knows not to do any such thing means he’s well aware that such actions would probably get him fired (that he doesn’t think LW would mention any of this to her boss on her own is another problem, but nobody said bullies were all smart, all the time.)

    9. Ellis Bell*

      Did you miss this bit: “I did consider it and discussed it with others, and they were all confused as to where it came from”? So, that was OP’s first step. It’s pretty obviously bad and inept feedback though. Very much from a person who is all mouth and no trousers. The most revealing thing about it is that none of it is to do with the employee’s own (entry level) job. Not only are they a bad snoop, they can’t possibly know why other people are meeting in offices, or why someone way above their level has been chosen to do training. If they were talking about their own on the job experiences, that might be different.

    10. Fluffy Fish*

      You’re kidding right?

      Explaining that you are the trainer because you have advanced knowledge in the field in which you are training new-grads…is entitled jerk behavior?

      Maybe your first step should be why someone neutrally mentioning their qualifications for a job tasks makes you think they are entitled. It really comes across as insecurity that other people have advanced degress.

    11. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      Interesting, I took the mention of the degrees, especially in the context of the rest, as more indicative of a sense of imposter syndrome.

      And I really think you misread that line–she’s saying that it takes degrees to provide this training, it’s not something people without those credentials can appropriately do.

    12. Lady Blerd*

      Huh? Nothing in the letter suggests the OP is lording his diplomas over their employee. It sounds to me that that the new person has a skewed sense of hierarchy in the work place and assumes that OP is simply first among equals when that is not the case.

  13. Naomi*

    Wow, I looked up the old post and the original version of this letter was longer and has more details that just make it worse.

    1. The Eye of Argon*

      Same here. The OP posted in the comments and said that they realized the jerk had to go, but they didn’t have the power to fire the jerk. Their boss did, and while their boss was supportive, it was very very difficult to have anyone fired at that company.

  14. Jessica*

    Wow, Alison’s reply here is solid gold. Sometimes I feel like the most useful magical management tool I don’t have would be the ability to freeze time by twitching my nose like Samantha Stevens* so I could write a quick SOS to AAM and get some advice before I had to reply to whatever someone just said to me. (Of course this would require Alison to also be a witch, but that seems pretty feasible.)

    * for anyone who missed this pop culture reference, Samantha was the protagonist of the 1960s-70s TV show Bewitched.

    1. Unkempt Flatware*

      Alison would be a sort of Clara-Endora combo. A sweet, strong, sage sorcerer.

  15. E Bennett*

    One of my wisest colleagues tells her students “Do not listen to criticism from a person from whom you would not accept advice.”
    That not only applies here, but I agree with everyone who wrote that the employee needs to be disciplined and/or fired.

  16. Jenny*

    I went back through the original letter and comments and it appears LW didn’t have the authority to fire. But pushing their boss to fire would be a good call too.

  17. Hills to Die on*

    I would have them on such a tight leash they would leave before I could collect the documentation to justify firing them. Hell freaking no.

  18. Samwise*

    The OP said they considered it, asked others, and determined it was inappropriate and off base.

    What part of that is entitlement and jerkishness? (Spoiler alert — none of it)

    Also, what about commenting rules, which start with “be kind”?

  19. Barbarella*

    This is interesting context from a comment by the OP on the original post:

    It’s all happened in the last 2 months, I would say. Before that there weren’t really any problems. Coincidentally the new hire that is apparently in my office too much started about four months ago, so I think that was a trigger.

    My approach stands, in that I would not wait for a next time, but would proactively have a meeting to address the latest event and all the preceding events. However, knowing that this started happening in the last two months after close to two years with no incidents changes how close I am to writing them off.

    I mean, the behavior has to change. But knowing that something triggered it gives the opportunity to try to understand what’s going on with them and possibly address that rather than just labeling them as an entitled jerk. Possibly they can be reformed to their previous behavior.

    I wonder whatever happened with this.

  20. BellyButton*

    “at this stage in your career you’re not in a position to credibly give input on things outside your scope — you don’t have the context or the perspective for it, as this conversation has underscored.” *chef’s kiss*

  21. GeologistSteve*

    Perfect timing. I was recently in a conversation with a peer (same level although I have worked at this org about 2 years longer) who shared “feedback” from a lowest-on-the-hierarchy employee in the spirit of “I’d want to hear *any* feedback from *anyone* so I am giving you this feedback from Julie.” It was petty, off base, and from a conversation weeks ago. I was stunned so I said thanks and then the meeting ended quickly after that (time was up in our scheduled slot anyway).
    The peer told me that this employee is working on “imposter syndrome” as her area of growth… I am wondering how soon I need to eye the door…

  22. The Ginger Ginger*

    If it was a good employee doing something like this I’d ask them to clarify what about the things they were saying was causing problems for them. i.e. are you concerned about how much time I spend with someone in my office because you need easier access to me when problems are coming up? That way you can tackle their ACTUAL concerns with usable strategies instead of giving credence to feedback which may or may not be valid or actionable on your part.

    This person isn’t good, or even reasonable, so I’d skip it and go directly to what Alison is saying.

    1. Barbarella*

      Well, comments from the OP on the original letter said that the problems started within the last two months. So asking for clarifications (AFTER saying what needs to stop) is reasonable.

  23. Falling Diphthong*

    OP, for most of the letter I was thinking “a young person with an excess of gumption.”

    Then I got to the last paragraph. And I echo Alison: Why are you keeping this person?

    You don’t need to think about maybe shutting this down hard the next time. You need to shut it down hard, with extreme prejudice, this time.

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      It’s like reading a bio of a bratty cat and then the last sentence is “oh, and he sets fires with his mind.”

  24. Falling Diphthong*

    Another example of how excess of gumption always crafts a better story hook than inadequate gumption.

  25. Kat*

    Every office needs a 360 review. This way an employer can find out if there is a problem with a manager.

    1. Observer*

      Which is irrelevant here. The OP provided enough information to make it clear that the employee was the problem. Their additions in the comments simply cemented that.

  26. Jesshereforthecomments*

    The only thing I’d add to Alison’s response is that you should have two fire eaters in the room when next meet. Hopefully the firelight will reflect in your eyes as you stare this person down and deliver the great script Alison provided.

    But seriously, second, thirding, fourthing, etc. what everyone else is asking – why is this person still working there? I hope you are at a place that gives you the proper authority you need to put people on PIPs and to let people go who are not meeting expectations (and that includes “soft skills” like this).

  27. jezebella*

    I can absolutely guarantee that this guy did this on every course evaluation in college. He probably commented on what professors wore, what they looked like, their accents, and complained about things like “the art history professor shows too many slides”. He got away with it because evals are anonymous. [source: 7 years of course evaluations, which I quit reading after year 4, because of this nonsense] That entitlement doesn’t work in the real world, kiddo.

    Shut this ish down with a quickness, OP.

  28. It's Marie - Not Maria*

    While I am usually in favor of giving one stern talking to for employees who appear to be unaware of professional norms – this was completely not their place to say these things to anyone. Not sure exactly where the employee thought they were qualified to give this type of feedback, but they showed they weren’t qualified by doing it, and their behaviors. I would have one final, formal documented discussion with the employee about your expectations for their position, what your position does and why, and remind them they are not a Manager. Then when they eventually try this again, you walk them out the door.
    In 10 years or so, unless this employee somehow miraculously matures, you will see a string of short tenured jobs where they “just were providing feedback that no one wanted to hear.”

    1. I have RBF*

      Yeah, verily.

      I would never even consider giving that kind of “feedback” to a boss, because it would essentially be criticizing them for doing their job!

  29. Rainbow*

    It sounds like this person has issues with others, maybe around jealousy. Practically none of this was any of their business whatsoever.

  30. Beboots*

    This post reminds me of a slightly (but only slightly) more extreme version of one of the employees on my team. This employee had given me strange advice based off of what I feel is a fundamental misunderstanding of my role and theirs. Like, one bit of feedback they gave me was that I talk too much, and when I asked them to provide an example, it wasn’t like, about making sure I make space in a conversation when giving direction to employees or anything, it was citing an incident where they’d been invited to a training session I was delivering for employees in a different department. (They had attended because this was framed as a training opportunity for this employee.) This wasn’t a knowledge-sharing session, this was a specific talk I was supposed to give to this other team. And this employee told me I talked too much in that “meeting”?? Gang, the supervisor of that other team would have been supremely annoyed if I hadn’t gotten through all that content! (I had even received feedback from other attendees of the training, including their supervisor, thanking me for the specific knowledge I provided them.) Anyway, only one example of very off-base feedback from someone very junior without a perspective on what people’s roles actually are.

    1. Bearly Containing Myself*

      I may be off base, but was it a young man complaining and are you a woman?

  31. Sally*

    Agh! ANyone elses Inc just take them direct to, which then proceeds to give a 404 (not found) because obviously it doesn’t have the same articles?

    1. Avian Avatar*

      Same here. I’m sure I posted a comment about it a few hours back but I can’t seem to find it

      1. linger*

        I’m having a more fundamental problem: as of March 2, Cloudflare is suddenly setting some kind of access challenge to askamanager which isn’t correctly processed by any of the browsers working on my usual, admittedly ancient, machine. Unusually, this has struck Safari, Firefox and Chrome simultaneously (running last versions compatible with MacOS 10.7; no upgrades possible). Temporarily on newer borrowed machine (where the challenge resolves as a simple “I’m a human” checkbox) to be able to post this.

          1. Essess*

            If that DDOS had happened one day later, I’d be suspecting CEBro from the update letter on Thursday. LOL

          2. I have RBF*

            Yeah, I’ve been seeing the Cloudflare choke off and have abandoned several comments due to apparent site instability.

            I’m sorry that you have had to deal with a DDOS attack.

  32. Really?*

    Junior was bananas, and most of the commentariat on the original letter felt Junior should go. OP/Letterwriter — if you are out here, please let us know what happened?

  33. GreenDoor*

    This employee really does need a dressing down. But say the employee wasn’t an arrogant arse, but was someone who want to *respectfully* have the “You’re my boss but you’ve got some room for improvement” conversation with their superior in a way that is productive and doesn’t fracture the relationship? I’m not talking about making suggestions for process/service improvement. Rather, how do you safety critique your boss’s leadership? I push back on my boss all the time, but I’m her #2 and I’ve been here forever so I’ve got clout and standing to do it. But what if you’re newer or more junior or not at all a person of influence in your organization?

    1. Mango Is Not For You*

      I think you have to wait until you do have some clout (experience + tenure + capital) to effectively critique on the level that this employee attempted. If someone who worked for me for years, was well-regarded by their peers, and had considerable experience in our field brought these things to me I would listen. Maybe not agree, maybe not take action, but at least hear them out and seriously consider the feedback.

      If Joe the New Guy who can’t get along with any of his teammates and isn’t exactly a rockstar performer wants to tell me how to do my job, he can do it in his resignation letter.

    2. Observer*

      But what if you’re newer or more junior or not at all a person of influence in your organization?

      Then you need to do a lot of *honest* self reflection, some reality checking with other people in and out of the organization, and some research to make sure that what you think is going on and what you think should be going on is accurate.

      We get a lot of letters here from people who are indignant about some really off base (they think) thing the boss is doing. And most of the time they are wrong. Most of the time when someone relatively new to their job and / or to their does a gut check here and they are right, they do NOT come in with “My boss is doing a, b and c wrong!”. It’s “my boss is doing this thing. Am I off base in thinking this is nuts?”

    3. I have RBF*

      If my boss is doing a thing that adversely affects the group or the organization, I very carefully prepare my observations, document the impact, sanity check it with my peers, and then present it to my boss as a process improvement, not criticism, and am willing to have it end up as “That’s nice, but we’re still doing it my way.”

      If the thing they are doing makes my job too miserable, and they won’t budge, well, I was looking for a job when I found that one, and I start looking again.

      I seldom have to do this, BTW. If a manager is actively toxic, I don’t even bother with the feedback, I just start looking. With over 40 years of professional employment, I’ve learned when things are fixable, and when they aren’t. YMMV.

  34. Dances with Spindles*

    PIP for this employee – NOW! Be absolutely specific in your requirements; spell them out in excruciating detail because your employee will find even the smallest opening to argue their way out of responsibility and actually following your instructions. And document every such interaction you have with them; a complete write-up as soon as possible after the encounter. Yes, it’s a nuisance, but it’s not nearly as bad as continuing to deal with an arrogant, presumptuous bully. Frankly, I doubt that this employee CAN be “salvaged”, but be sure to establish an ironclad paper trail before firing them.

    Not to mention that your other employees are noticing how this one is treated – and if you keep that person on, you may well lose the respect of those employees (“Why isn’t LW cracking down on that PITA? Why does she let them get away with treating us like dirt?”) And then you will lose those other employees themselves, as they leave to find jobs where their boss does NOT allow an arrogant bully to make their jobs a misery.

  35. Goodnightkiwi*

    Does anyone else just get a 404 error (page no longer exists) when following the link to this?

    1. AmusingSoprano*

      Me too. By your moniker I’m guessing you’re a Kiwi, so am I – I wonder if that has anything to do with it?

  36. AmusingSoprano*

    I’m getting a 404 Not Found for the page on Inc, is this happening to anyone else?

  37. Original OP*

    This was my letter. I remember writing it and being incredibly frustrated because I couldn’t fire her without making a massive stink and throwing my weight around – ah, the joys of middle management. The coworker she was bullying happened to be much quicker to learn our processes and had a better attitude than she did and the problem employee began actively excluding her and being snarky and rude whenever they encountered each other.

    After I wrote in and read all the replies I realized that keeping this person around was ruining the culture of the office and even though firing her was outside of my control, she didn’t have to be my problem. I began documenting thoroughly every single problematic interaction I had with her or observed and passing it on to all three of the grand-bosses who did have the ability to let her go – and cc’ing HR. They very quickly got tired of having to micromanage her tantrums and attitude once I stopped handling the issues for them. I left that job shortly after for unrelated reasons and last I heard she got herself fired.

    The bullying never got better and I’ve refused to give references for this person when contacted. This happened early in my management career and since then I’ve learned that if I don’t have the ability to fire someone I don’t have the responsibility to fix their behavior either – I make it the problem of the people who do and keep bringing it back to them over and over until they handle it.

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