update: I supervise a manager who falsified an employee write-up … but I don’t think she should be fired

Remember the letter-writer who supervised a manager who falsified an employee write-up but didn’t think she should be fired? Here’s the update.

Thanks for answering my letter.

I saw some questions that came up in the comments so wanted to give more information about what happened.

First, Jason choosing to work on-site did not mean Rachel needed to work on-site.

Some people speculated that Rachel was embezzling or doing something shady and wanted to be at home to hide it. But she had no access to personal information, confidential information, trade secrets, company money, or any financial or banking information. Anything is possible but Rachel doesn’t have that kind of job.

Some people assumed Rachel and I must be friends. We are not. She lives in another city and we have never met in person or interacted outside of work, or about things not related to work or small talk.

Officially Jason had been written up for a minor policy violation, not anything that required a meeting or further action. I have 14 managers directly reporting to me and they have over 150 people reporting to them. No one, including me, Manny, HR, or Jason, knew that the write-up Rachel gave Jason was different than the one that went into his file. Jason thought he had misunderstood the work remote or on-site rules and was taken aback by Rachel’s anger at him and upset she didn’t try to explain the misconception to him (she didn’t because there was not any on his part).

Rachel’s deception came out at his exit interview. He said he left because of the write-up and Rachel’s anger at him.

After the exit interview, when HR compared the copy of the write-up Jason had given them to what was in his file, the discrepancy was realized. HR immediately notified Manny and me by email. Manny spoke to Rachel about it and she didn’t deny it and made the “work from home is perfect for Jason” statement. He fired her on the spot. I was leading a meeting and didn’t see HR’s email until almost two hours later. I did not find out Rachel had been fired until the next day when one of Rachel’s reports asked me for a day off and said he was asking me because Rachel had been fired. HR said they will do more in the future to stop another misunderstanding.

Some commenters asked whether all of Rachel’s work would now need to be reviewed. We did alert the auditor but they found nothing untoward when they looked. Before Jason, Rachel had only ever written up one employee (for being rude to a presenter at a meeting, which was witnessed by others). HR reviewed the files of the rest of Rachel’s reports and they were as they should be. A third party we hired did anonymous surveys and interviews and HR did an interview and no one spoke badly about Rachel.

Manny and I sat down and talked about it. He apologized for not having me there when he met with Rachel, for firing her without discussing it or telling me, and for letting me find out from an employee the next day. He agreed he dropped the ball and should have handled it differently. For my part, I agree that my feelings about being out of the loop clouded my judgment and got my back up and he was right to fire her. Manny agreed to handle it differently going forward. He said he has no concerns about my management or performance.

Thanks for helping me see that my feelings were clouding my judgment and how to properly deal with it. I appreciate it.

{ 211 comments… read them below }

  1. OrigCassandra*

    As close as there can be to a good outcome from this distressing situation.

    I hope you and Manny can get along well together, OP. Manny strikes me as one of the good ones.

    1. Anonys*

      I dont think Manny is neccessarily a bad manager and he clearly made the right call in firing Rachel but in my view he made an extremely significant mistake in not even informing Rachel‘s manager he had fired her direct report. OP finding out about the firing from rachel‘s team is pretty terrible. Also I think he could have waited to speak to Rachel until OP was also available. While she needed to be fired it wasn‘t excactly an urgent situation where it couldnt have waited a few hours.

      Alignment and communication around these kinds of situations are extremely important

      1. Spero*

        Yeah, I wonder if the OP’s reaction would have been anywhere near as upset if he’d fired Rachel and then at least sent an EMAIL to OP informing her. Firing without notice for clear cause isn’t a management misstep, but failing to inform your report that you fired HER report without her involvement absolutely is.

        Also, seeing that the timeline that OP was in a short meeting and saw the email two hours later – I agree he could have waited that long to loop OP in.

      2. STG*

        Yea, I would have been a bit embarrassed as a manager to find this out from someone else.

  2. Roscoe da Cat*

    Good on the OP for sorting through their feelings and handling the situation productively. I think we can understand your frustration at not being informed of such a major action.

    1. SQL Coder Cat*

      This is as good an update as we could have hoped for. Given the additional details you supplied, I’m not surprised you felt blindsided. Good on you OP for separating those emotions from your feelings about the firing itself.

      1. tamarack etc.*

        It looks like a great example for how cognitive dissonance can get us. OP felt blindsided (understandably! I wouldn’t like knowing that one of my reports had been fired from an email I saw hours later, either). But if the firing was a foregone conclusion and her input unnecessary, why would she have needed to know earlier? So her mind comes up with a reason why her input would have been crucial: she finds an angle under which she wouldn’t have fired the employee.

        The one thing that’s missing for me to complete the loop is what needs to be done, maybe, to catch such situations before Jason got disgruntled and left. Maybe stressing that employees should bring up things they feel unjust with their skip-levels. Maybe reviewing all write-ups however minor…

        1. Becca*

          She needed to know either before or immediately after because it’s very undermining to her authority as a manager to be told about it by someone 2 levels below her in the organisation. It gives the impression that Manny doesn’t value her or see it as important to tell her what’s happening to her team, which is not a good perception for people reporting up to her to have.

    2. sacados*

      Totally. “My manager didn’t tell me he’d fired my direct report” is one thing, let alone “I didn’t even know my report had been fired until THE NEXT DAY when I had to find out from an employee” (!)
      I would also be quite upset about that, so I totally understand how that kind of got conflated with the fact of the firing itself.

      1. Somehow_I_Manage*

        +1- that makes sense, and leaves OP in the lurch and undermines their leadership (when the orphan team finds out before he does).

        All in all, kind of a misunderstanding- understandable on all sides.

        1. Kat*

          Manny should have informed OP but the firing was not a misstep. Manny also had authority and a duty to fire that employee.

          1. Janeric*

            Sure but he should have told OP about the firing immediately, in person if possible, over the phone if not.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              Agreed the misstep by Manny wasn’t in firing Rachel (she needed to go) – it was in not making sure that the OP knew about the firing as soon as it happened. When the staff that’s supposed to help you is blindsided it’s never a good thing.

      2. Bob-White of the Glen*

        Totally understand your anger about this. My HR laid off an employee (all budget issues, not the employee’s fault or performance) and that employee had to tell me. I thought they were joking.

        And yes, I am salty about it to this day.

  3. redflagday701*

    We’re never gonna find out why Rachel had it out so bad for Jason, and this update just makes me wonder even more. An apparently otherwise normal manager blows up everything because one employee prefers to come into the office? There has to have been something else going on, but I can’t imagine what.

            1. Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii*

              He does eat a lot of spicy cod for lunch, there are two dangers there!

        1. Jasper*

          yes, but… Rachel is never in the office herself! So how does that impact her? Unless Ross or Monica who *are* in the office have been on at her about something Jason does…

    1. eye roll*

      If we’re taking the OP at their word that there was nothing else untoward going on (which I still feel skeptical about, despite the large amount of CYA investigation they did)… the only thing I can think of is that Jason was high-performing and Rachel feared it would look like being in the office was more productive than being at home as a result.

      1. YeppyYeps*

        Yeah, i learn too towards she probably saw it as a threat – as in he would be getting more attention in the office. If she is sneaky enough, she may have been encouraging the WFH to *control* the “narrative” as it were. There is less casual access to the people she manages. I think we can all use our imaginations as to why she would want that.

        And thanks to this, I have to add another layer of questions I need to ask during the interview process. LOL I always saw managers who encourage WFH to be allies in changing weird work culture norms. How am I still so naïve?

        1. eye roll*

          I suppose it depends on the WFH set-up. It wouldn’t even occur to me that WFH could be used to limit contact with other employees because I haven’t been in the office for years, but I’m still constantly in contact with my supervisor, other supervisors, both of my grand-bosses, and so many other employees. But if OP’s environment has a single point of contact for employees on her team, then that’s also a concern when thinking about what Rachel was planning to do here.

          1. YeppyYeps*

            Yep. That’s where the new question comes into play when interviewing for WFH jobs – how much access do I have and do people have to me.

            1. Momma Bear*

              Having worked FT remote, there is sometimes a problem with people remembering you exist. I’d always ask how the team stays connected for any WFH job. It’s important to have some amount of real interaction with the team.

        2. Be kind, rewind*

          Yeah. The company I was working at when return-to-office decisions were being made… I had a manager who strongly preferred working from home, and I could tell she was influencing my employees to make the same choice for themselves (everyone could pick WFH, in office, or hybrid). So I can definitely see the possibility that this manager was an extreme version of that.

        3. Random Dice*

          You actually don’t need to add another layer of questions for interviews.

          This is like the potted plant pooper.

          Some things are just way outside of the norm, and it’s 100% a bizarre them thing. If you let yourself internalize and try to correct for potted plant pooping in advance, you’re going off the rails yourself, and giving off really weird vibes that will drive off good people who poop in toilets thank you very much.

          Just let this one pass you by with a bemused “huh”.

          1. BethDH*

            No, I think this is an extreme situation that reveals a problem that normally causes much more mundane issues. Making sure your company has thought through and supports ways to keep multiple lines of communication open is relevant for issues like coverage/backup, mentoring, and surfacing small miscommunications early.

      2. KatEnigma*

        Maybe afraid of him getting promoted over her, or one of her favored WFH underlings, in the “people who are in the office are more visible” way, so her solution was to bully him into WFH?

      3. Littorally*

        Yeah, given how many other possibilities have been eliminated by the investigation — which I think was not at all excessive, given how startling this is as a first offense! — this seems like a logical theory to wind up on.

    2. TeenieBopper*

      Sometimes people are just trash bags and look otherwise normal. Rachel blowing up was just her getting found out.

    3. KayDeeAye*

      What Rachel did was wrong, egregious, deceitful, underhanded, etc., etc., etc., and just plain wrong, and she definitely needed to be fired for it…but darn it, it was also just so dang ODD. I want to know why, gosh darn it, and chances are, I never, ever will.

    4. Pareto*

      Some people are militant about remote work (on both the pro and con side), to the point of irrationality and poor judgement. I assume Rachel was one of those people. I work in an industry that has been changed dramatically by the shift to more remote work, and I interact regularly with people who have odd and vehement opinions about it, they definitely exist!

    5. Irish Teacher*

      It’s possible she’s one of these people who feels she’s on a sort of mission or sees this as some kind of moral crusade (maybe a climate change thing? That going to work when you are allowed to work from home is harming the environment unnecessarily). Or she just believes work from home is clearly best for everybody and he should at least try it.

      A bit like the intern that disabled somebody’s caps lock key in an attempt to prove to them that it was better to use the shift key. There are people who feel they are so clearly right and anybody who thinks differently from them is just being stubborn and needs to be shown the error of their ways. The people who try to secretly feed people foods they don’t eat shows this too.

      I also wouldn’t be surprised if there was some age related bias (for want of a better word) coming in. Given Rachel’s comment about how he is young and single so work from home should work for him, I am getting the impression she feels he has no responsibilities or special requirements so he should just do it her way. (Of course, young single people can have all kinds of needs or responsibilities but there are some people who don’t seem to realise this and I wouldn’t be surprised if Rachel were one of them.)

      Of course, there could be more to it, but…I don’t think it’s impossible that it’s simply a case of “work from home is clearly the best way and he has no reasons I consider valid for wanting to go in to the office so he should just stop being so stubborn and do as I say and if he doesn’t, well, he’s clearly being disrespectful to me and I am justified in ‘teaching him a lesson’.”

      1. Moonlight*

        Honestly, I have questions about someone who’s that rigid and demanding though. If someone is so “my way or the highway” and will literally fabricate documents to punish someone for not complying with a flexible policy… I get what you’re saying, but I still find it surprising that such bad judgement/rigid behaviour wasn’t also accompanied by other incidents of “bad” behaviour.

        1. Smithy*

          I think different than the idea of a moral crusade, I see the issues around WFH far more tied to individual anxieties.

          People are worried that at any time their office will announce that something they now love (remote work 5 days a week), will go away. That no matter what management says, flexibility to be in the office will turn into one set day in the office. One set day in the office will become two, and even if full time remote work is still allowed that those who choose it won’t be available for promotions, the best projects or advancement.

          While it may be very true that the OP’s office will 100% never do that, for anyone living in the US – this is a reasonable anxiety to have given how many workplaces have “in office” realities now that are different than they were a year and a half ago. Rachel having spiraling anxiety about this that eventually led to bad behavior, but in other situations might never have been seen. Or just appeared as talking too fast when public speaking or light social awkwardness at conferences. None of that seems odd to me.

      2. Observer*

        A bit like the intern that disabled somebody’s caps lock key in an attempt to prove to them that it was better to use the shift key. There are people who feel they are so clearly right and anybody who thinks differently from them is just being stubborn and needs to be shown the error of their ways. The people who try to secretly feed people foods they don’t eat shows this too.

        Those are good examples. I remember the comments on that thread, and one theme was that it’s important not to try to force your preferred way on to other people. That LW could easily turn into someone like Rachel.

        It’s also worth looking at the discussion on the earlier letter today about whether making people come back to the office is anti-feminist. That whole argument rests on the premise that women benefit from WFH. A lot of people are pushing back on that. The most persuasive people are the ones who say that what companies should REALLY do is provide as much flexibility on the issue as they can, given the needs of the company. Because there really is NOT “one right way”

        1. Smithy*

          Absolutely this.

          There is no doubt that increasing access to WFH to a large group of people improved their individual working life in addition to their work/life balance. And because for so long WFH was seen as a benefit or accommodation, I have seen some people get a lot of anxiety around anything that might take it away. Regardless of any choices in their personal life or how much visibility they have over an entire workplace, the second the idea of one day set day in the office is mentioned are very quick to flag how COVID isn’t over or how productivity never dropped.

          In my personal life, I’ve seen these claims made most by people who are doing things like traveling internationally or only have one direct report. Cause they’re often people I’m not looking to pick a fight with, it’s so clear they’re anxious of losing something that clearly benefits their worklife. And when they’re not people I work with or am managed by, it’s easy to meet them at that more vulnerable, emotional place.

          In no way does it excuse what Rachel did, but I have no difficulty believing it.

        2. chocolate lover*

          You make good points on the need for flexibility and that there isn’t “one right way.” I’m a woman, and for me, WFH full-time was like the 7th circle of hell, for a variety of reasons. I can absolutely see how it benefits many people and why it would be satisfying for many workers, female or male, and I am happy that my own colleagues are getting to at least work hybrid and have more flexibility with their schedule and work locations. But I have NEVER wanted to WFH and it was so detrimental to my own mental health (partly due to the trauma and impact of COVID, but some of it specifically related and still ongoing, to WFH), that it’s probably going to take years to dig myself out of my current emotional state.

          I had to actually PUSH to be in the office for more days, because my University went to hybrid in-office 2 days. I couldn’t deal with that, so I advocated for myself and come in 4 days a week most of the time.

          1. GrooveBat*

            WFH is wretched for me.

            I physically moved my residence so I could live near one of the few offices my company maintains, just to have an office to go to every day.

      3. thatoneoverthere*

        I was just coming here to say something similar. Its possible that this is just one of those hills to die on for Rachel. We probably won’t ever know why. Honestly its probably a good thing this happened to Rachel. Maybe its a lesson learned, that you don’t get your way 100% of the time. You can’t make sh*t up to just punish someone you don’t agree with.

        1. allathian*

          Yes, this. And if Rachel really is that pro-remote, she can always try to get a job with an employer that doesn’t even have any physical offices.

    6. Observer*

      Among the jokes are a few good answers.

      Another possibility to think about, is that she has some very strong stereotypes as part of her worldview. And Jason didn’t comply with her stereotypes. That can be really hard for people to deal with. And the reason she gave – clearly something she must have expected would be “understandable” – really does lean heavily on stereotypes.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        Yeah, I think the stereotypes explanation is likely because (as far as we know from letter and update), Jason was the only person Rachel had a problem with. Maybe that’s because he was the only one on her team who tried to choose to work from the office, or maybe there were other people on Rachel’s team who chose to work from the office and she didn’t stop them because they have spouses who work from home or whatever other reason that conforms to Rachel’s stereotypes of who “should” work from the office.

      2. BethDH*

        It’s particularly interesting because the demographic she’s put him in is the one people expect to go back to the office first when there’s a “butts in seats” office. It just doesn’t make sense even in a warped way that she would think his supposed demographic should be more likely to wfh than others.
        So I wonder if she did see it as betrayal or that he wasn’t being an ally for her cause, like the one saying going back is anti-feminist. It’s like how for parental leave to be seen as truly something for all parents, men need to take it too, or it’s still the thing that makes women of child-bearing age get passed over.
        (To be clear, I in no way support her line of thinking!)

    7. Morgan Proctor*

      My guess is that she wanted to add “managed a fully remote team” to her resume.

    8. Falling Diphthong*

      I think that’s very human–to have that one molehill that by Fergus you WILL defend, even while you ignored a sea of mole hills around it.

      Sometimes the molehill is charming and quirky, and sometimes the molehill is the reason you’re about to falsify records.

  4. Lauren*

    I still don’t see an issue with OP’s boss firing Rachel on the spot, without including her. He should have probably called OP/ left a message for OP to contact him ASAP, but that’s the only issue I potentially see.

    I still hope OP does a bit more reflection on this. If I were their boss, I would not be pleased with them wanting Rachel kept on initially, or being upset that I fired her on the spot. What Rachel did was outrageous and boss acted appropriately. It also sends the strong message to everyone that behavior like that will not be tolerated, or given a chance to correct.

    1. Lana Kane*

      I kind of see this situation as unlikely to happen again. This was so egregious that I think an on-the-spot firing was the likely outcome, and hopefully this kind of misconduct doesn’t happen all that often.

    2. Alex*

      Unless the OP was out on leave or otherwise wasn’t contactable she should have been informed the moment one of her employees was fired.
      If a manager isn’t informed that one of their employees is no longer at the company they may ask that person to continue to deliver work which would hardly come across well for the company.

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      I do not have an issue with the immediate firing of Rachel either, but do think Manny and/or HR should have notified OP *immediately* afterward and they should not have heard it from one of Rachel’s other employees. I’ve been fortunate to only once have have a direct report fired on the spot and find out afterward, but it was as soon as the termination meeting ended. (At minimum, I have to plan to handle that person’s work and be prepared for questions from others.)

    4. Twix*

      Based on the update, I get the sense that “LW was upset Rachel was fired without their input” was actually more a combination of “LW was upset Manny brought the issue up with Rachel in the first place without including them” and “LW was upset about getting no notice that a direct report with her own direct reports was fired”.

      1. Kat*

        Manny did not need OPs input. He has authority to make the decision. But he should have immediately called or texted OP. OP was in error thinking this was a salvageable situation and thinking she should have been consulted about the firing ahead of the fact.

        1. Twix*

          Of course Manny had the authority to make the decision, and of course OP was in error for thinking he made the wrong one. But my point is that it sounds like the firing itself wasn’t the real issue. It’s not unreasonable for a manager to want and expect to be part of a conversation like that with a direct report for a number of reasons. Yes, Rachel’s conduct absolutely warranted immediate termination, but that could have not been the case (for example, if a disgruntled employee on the way out had forged paperwork to frame her for misconduct). Manny decided not to loop OP in before knowing that the situation warranted immediate termination, and then didn’t inform OP that Rachel had been fired. It’s pretty reasonable for OP to have felt like they’d been cut out of a process they should have been part of, because they were. It sounds to me like OP’s original letter and position was knee-jerk pushback on the decision because of how it was handled rather than actually thinking that what Rachel did wasn’t a big deal.

    5. Observer*

      Firing on the spot was ok. But there is no “probably” about letting OP know what happened *immediately*. That was out of line and a real failure. I’m glad that Manny recognized that and apologized, and that HR is going to try to make sure that this kind of thing doesn’t happen again.

    6. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I still don’t think he was wrong to fire Rachel on the spot, but he should have immediately looped in the OP; letting her find out from someone else was not good.

    7. Nodramalama*

      Not “probably”. A manager should never find out that their report was fired from another report. The only reason for Manny to not immediately loop in OP is if she was unreachable or on leave

    8. Kat*

      I agree ten-fold. OPs manager did not need permission to fire this egregious employee. Falsification cannot be tolerated.

      1. amoeba*

        Not permission. But I believe if at all possible, the line manager should be a part of that conversation (I can see 0 circumstances in which my boss would do something like that without including me!) – or at the very least, if that’s not possible for some reason (it happened unplanned in a meeting I wasn’t part of, I’m out of office, something like that), let me know the second the meeting ended.
        Finding out my report was fired the next day from another employee (!) – wtf.

  5. Jess*

    At first I thought it seemed too harsh but then I realized Rachel was making up her own rules from thin air for Jason, which seems like a big abuse of power. That, alone, isn’t ok.

    1. Bess*

      The duplicitous write-up is a HUGE issue as well. You can’t trust anything from that manager if they’ll do something like that. I can’t imagine that not being an immediate dismissal unless you work somewhere with a ton of red tape around firing. I’d never be able to trust what this manager was telling me about their employees again.

      1. Miss Muffet*

        Yeah i see this as being the real issue. The rest of it is just weird (this is the hill she wants to die on?) but putting one write up in the HR file and one being delivered to him is such a breach of trust and integrity, you can’t keep that person on.

        1. andy*

          The rest of it is not just weird. She goes out of way to harm people working under her for reasons she knows are invalid. Rachel has no business of being at position of power full stop. Even if she did not falsified written documentation in the process. She is still someone who creates toxic work environment.

    2. Twix*

      I have to disagree. “You can’t overrule a company policy for your direct reports because you don’t like it” is, depending on context, potentially a coachable issue. Weaponizing the write-up process to punish a subordinate for making a decision you don’t like on a personal level and falsifying paperwork to cover it up is a waaaay bigger issue because it speaks to an egregious and ongoing lack of ethics rather than a lapse in judgement or weak management skills.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      If it was just a manager with some weirdness about work from home or working in the office, that’s possibly coachable. This was a bit more than weirdness. As well as the duplicity other people have mentioned, the strength of feeling on the topic, which made her feel that deception was worth it to get her way makes them beyond coaching I think. The fact that she used the lie to hurt her employee takes it from concerning to egregious.

  6. Jmac*

    Rachel absolutely should have been fired on the spot, what she did was egregious. It doesn’t matter who did the firing as long as OP was kept in the loop.

    1. Ginger Baker*

      ^I agree, and it was not clear to me from the previous letter that OP *didn’t find out* the same day *or even from Manny* but from a direct report of Rachel’s the next day. THAT to me, explains a lot of why OP was feeling extra super thrown and out-of-the-loop (and to me is the big failure in this: Manny absolutely should have told OP right away, like immediately, live if at all possible and if not definitely minimum confirming that she saw the email with that info). Can you imagine walking in and your boss was fired and when you talk to your grand-boss about it, they HAVE NO IDEA? That’s just a failure of communication on every level in my book.

      1. Tio*

        Yeah, I think it was warranted but Manny could have waited until the end of the meeting OP was in and they go in together. Then again, maybe he was expecting to hear something at least resembling reasonable and not have to fire her on the spot, so that might have gone a little sideways. But the bad part was that as mentioned OP should have been notified immediately. More understandable why OP was upset now.

      2. Janeric*

        Mmm, if my boss got fired and when I contacted my grandboss for an unrelated issue I found they had not been informed… I would be updating my resume because that sounds like a Significant Communication Issue.

    2. EPLawyer*

      Well OP does admit it was warranted after she calmed down. Manny did drop the ball. She shouldn’t have had to find out from a report

      But if OP learns from this which I believe she will, it all worked out. By using her words.

  7. Boof*

    Thanks for the follow up LW – makes sense that you were frustrated about the way you found out and took a bit to process what was the exact pain point. Very glad others agreed they should keep you in the loop better, although I imagine this is not a scenario that will come up much!
    We will always wonder WTF Rachel.

  8. starsaphire*

    This is such a great update, because it helps us all remember that the LWs are just people who are dealing with big issues, and sometimes just need a little time for reframing.

    I am really proud of you, LW, for doing some reflecting and for getting back to us. It’s really hard to say, “Maybe I was wrong about X,” and it takes a good deal of courage and grace to get where you are.

    Best of luck to you going forward!

  9. Lauren*

    This update also makes me wonder if OP and their boss discussed the office culture. Perhaps Jason was someone who didn’t want to make waves while he was still there. But I’d be concerned that an employee didn’t go to *anyone* to discuss this issue, until he was quitting. If he took longer to get another job, or just stayed on, this would have taken even longer, or may never have come to light.

    The culture could be great, and this was just one person’s choice in how to handle it. But if I’m the boss in this situation, id be giving this a lot more thought.

    1. KatEnigma*

      But Jason thought that it had gone through all the channels. So he wouldn’t speak up, not knowing that everyone didn’t agree with Rachel. No one knew she’d falsified the report!

      1. Littorally*

        Yeah, agreed. I’ve had minor write-ups in the past and it never would have dawned on me to go to my boss’ boss about them!

        1. CommanderBanana*

          Exactly – especially since doing that might result in even MORE blow-back! If I had given an employee a write-up and they went over my head to my boss to dispute it (this is assuming that the write-up was justified and not something like this situation) I would be pretty angry.

      2. Lauren*

        That’s true. Speaking for myself, though, if I got written up for something like this, I’d still be pursuing conversations with HR and my boss’s boss to be very clear about the write up. I’d want to see where there was any written company policy to back up the supposed offense I’d committed. There should be someone Jason could have gone to, even just to say “hey, does this make sense to you?”.

        People should be able to feel like they can push back (even with higher up positions) when something is clearly not right to them.

        1. KatEnigma*

          Maybe, but it also makes sense that he only brought it up on his way out.

          She was already gunning for him, and he knew it. Questioning something like that to get her in trouble (not knowing she’d falsified the report, so was going to be fired on the spot!) would only make that worse. This squarely falls, to me, under “the way it is, and isn’t likely to change” kind of thing, where you get out first. Because if it had just been “written up for something stupid” Rachel would have been reprimanded, maybe received some additional coaching, but still been there to make Jason’s life even more unpleasant. Especially as they checked and no one else had anything to complain about, and she’d only ever written up one person before, where there were witnesses to the bad behavior!

      3. Observer*

        But Jason thought that it had gone through all the channels. So he wouldn’t speak up, not knowing that everyone didn’t agree with Rachel. No one knew she’d falsified the report!

        Yeah, it’s understandable that he didn’t go to anyone about the write up. But I still want to know why he didn’t go to anyone about the anger Rachel was directing at him.

        1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*


          In nearly any environment I worked in , over 50 years – the manager is ALWAYS right. Even when Rachel was wrong – for the record, she’s right.

          Now, does that mean Rachel’s management likes what she did? HELL, NO. But unless the company is about to be sued over it, or something’s going to result out of it that will cost the company a lot of money, or public embarrassment, they’ll back Rachel.

          Some are blaming, indirectly, Jason, for not pursuing a remedy to this. Jason probably truly believed that, there was no remedy and he opted to move on/forward.

          I asked OP in another question a couple of minutes ago – was there any attempt to reconcile things with Jason after Rachel’s stunt was uncovered? That’s interesting, that’s the $64 question here.

          1. Observer*

            Oh, I was not blaming Jason. I was wondering why he felt he could not push back or go to anyone. And the explanation you provide makes a lot of sense – and it’s NOT a healthy thing. When a company sets up a policy this explicitly, they should not then let a supervisor over-ride it and express anger at their employee for following policy. They SHOULD back the employee, not the supervisor. And, yes, I’ve seen that happen.

          2. Lauren*

            I don’t blame Jason for not pursuing it. I just wonder what the culture is like, because this situation, and having an employee treated the way he was, is something I’d be very concerned about. People should be able to reasonably push back on things they believe are wrong – even if it’s someone in a higher position they’re questioning.

      4. andy*

        Yeah, but that is the thing, falsifying report is not only issue here. Employee was told he is free to choose office or home. He has chosen office and then got formally punished for it. That on itself is grossly unfair and bad leadership.

        In an office with good culture, you would challenge it. You would ask HR whether they are serious, you would go to the upper boss and so on. That Jason did not done that, that Jason thought that exit interview is the only place where he can safely criticize that means that something is wrong. OP knee jerk reaction “hey maybe this is salvageable” does point at hint for why Jason waited for exit interview.

        Falsifying report is how Rachel got caught. But that grossly unethical abuse of power is seen as on big deal as long as it is management who does that is an issue too.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      This is a really thoughtful question. It may be worth looking at whether HR is approachable or if employees feel comfortable in speaking up when they feel wrong footed or penalised unfairly, particularly for a company approved policy. It’s true that some people will never go over their boss’ heads, and maybe this is just one of those times when that power dynamic made a job hunt more appealing. It’s definitely worth considering though.

  10. MEH Squared*

    OP, thanks for the update. Manny really should have told you about it so you didn’t have to find out from someone else. I am glad you were able to step back from your emotions and realize that Rachel needed to be fired, though. Hopefully, this is the end to that bizarre chapter and you, Many, and your organization can move forward.

  11. Jamtoday*

    To be honest, this leaves me with more questions and remaining concerns about LW’s managerial decisions. Clouded judgment shouldn’t justify wanting to put an unapologetic employee who committed fraud on a PIP. I’m glad it has seemingly worked out for all (except for Jason), but I hope LW reflects that they were making judgment calls based on pride.

    And to be fair to LW, I think having over 150 in the reporting line is far too many. It is impossible to have proper oversight with that number. That is the company setting you and the employees up for unchecked power imbalances.

    1. Kit*

      “I think having over 150 in the reporting line is far too many.”

      I don’t think you’re considering the structure the LW is trying to convey accurately. Between all 14 managers that the LW has reporting to them there are over 150 reporting employees. This is very common. I mean just think about a single, say, Wal-Mart store. Those stores can have several hundred employees between all the departments. Hierarchical reporting structures will eventually have all of those people reporting up through department managers to area managers to assistant managers to a single store manager.

      So on average each of the 14 managers the LW directly manages only manages in the realm of 10 or people themselves. Which is a totally reasonable number.

      1. mythopoeia*

        I find it interesting to see others saying 10-14 is a reasonable number of direct reports, because that sounds very high to me. In my line of work, 4-5 direct reports per manager is standard, in order to allow managers time to do the parts of their work that aren’t direct people management.

        1. Kit*

          I’m curious what you mean by “parts of their work that aren’t direct people management.”

          I’ve never been a manager but my observations of managers are that their jobs ARE people management. Reviewing their work, running reports of their metrics, etc. That IS their job. They don’t ALSO do the same kinds of work and tasks that their reports do. They don’t do senior tier tasks in the same vein but of increased complexity. The job of management is to manage and delegate work. At best they step in to cover when someone is out, so they need the skill sets but largely their work is oversight?

          So I’m confused. My own manager has 12 direct reports. A bit on the higher end I feel. And he needs to learn to say NO to doing things that should NOT be his job (running reports for other teams, doing checks or accepting tasks that aren’t our team’s wheelhouse, etc.).

          1. Gerry Kaey*

            That’s simply not true across the board. It would be lovely if people managers only focused on people management, but at least over here in the nonprofit industry, many if not most managers also have their own high level contributions outside of just managing the team.

          2. Emmy Noether*

            That depends a lot on the workplace. For one thing, there may be aspects of management that aren’t “people management”, but more strategic, such as deciding which projects to take on an what a realistic timeframe is.

            Also, in many knowledge and creative jobs, people don’t want to do 100% management tasks. They got into the field because they love the work, so they want to continue to do the work at least part of the time. Plus if you rarely do it, you lose your skills, so if you want to be able to cover for reports, you need to keep doing it regularly.

            My company actually makes expctations explicit: team leads should do 20% management, 80% individual work. One step up is 50/50. Another step up is 80/20. Above that is the C-suite, and they’re the only ones doing 100% management. And in our reality, people actually do *less* management and *more* individual work than they should. Mostly because one can’t employ a bunch of scientists and expect them to stay out of the lab once they get promoted.

            There are a lot of companies that are run like you said, managers just manage, but others are run the way I outlined. Depends on what th business is, mostly.

          3. Critical Rolls*

            There’s a lot of variation on this. I manage a small location and (among other things) I do a lot of logistical work around operations, do inventory management, and also directly perform the work of my staff if needed due to coverage or volume issues.

          4. Friday Person*

            I’m not sure it’s really *that* confusing that this is a norm that varies substantially by industry and managerial role? Every manager I’ve had has spent a significant share of their time doing non-managerial work, and often there’s significant overlap between their work and mine, but we’re also mostly subject-matter specialists in the same subject, and not in a field where “running reports of their metrics” is a concept that really exists.

          5. amoeba*

            It really also depends on the level – my boss has around 10 direct reports, who are mostly team leaders themselves. We all work quite independently on our projects. We also have project managers who actually run the projects (and don’t have any reports). So basically, we keep our boss in the loop in a one-on-one every few weeks, but he’s not very involved in most projects directly.
            However, on the team lead level, we generally only have 2-4 direct reports – because we’re much more involved in the projects, working together with the technicials we manage. I think 10 reports would be waaaay to much on my level, while my boss would probably be quite bored managing only two of us!

            Also, we don’t know how high up in the hierarchy the OP is – even if every team consists of only 5 people, that adds up quickly! (OP manages 5, they each manage 5 of their own – you’re already at 30. Add one more level and you’re certainly triple-digit. I mean, the CEO of our company has 20.000 people in their reporting line…)

          6. Ellis Bell*

            This issue is particularly thorny in education, where managers of teachers are themselves busy teachers. It’s common to “keep your hand in” because once you stop personally teaching you can get out of touch very quickly. However there’s hardly any time for thoughtful management and sometimes it shows.

        2. Green great dragon*

          It’s really variable. If you’re managing routine tasks, and only managing, like production lines in a factory, or a call centre, you can have far more than 10-14 and still make it work. If managing’s only part of your work, and tasks are never routine so your reports need much more guidance about their work, 4 or 5 might be more reasonable.

    2. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      150 is not too many when they report to 14 managers, with the 14 managers reporting to OP. That’s a standard setup in many corporations. At some point, the CEO could have tens of thousands of people in the reporting line. It works–if each manager is capable of managing their direct reports competently and ethically. Rachel was not acting ethically, which is why she needed to be fired.

    3. Expelliarmus*

      Agreed on the judgement calls based on pride. It would have been one thing if LW thought “I know she should have been fired but why didn’t you tell me”, but her knee-jerk response was “she shouldn’t have been fired because she’s an otherwise good manager”, which is something that warrants looking into.

      1. Qwerty*

        I think it’s more about the ways our human brains backfill information to justify our current emotion. I had a feeling that OP’s feeling would sort out once they had space to work through the situation

        – OP hears Rachel was fired
        – OP feels upset at the decision
        – Often upset at decision = disagree with decision, therefore backwards justification for why Rachel shouldn’t have been fired gets autopopulated
        – OP digs in

        After talking it through with AAM…
        – OP talks to Manny about how it happened
        – OP & Manny realize how problematic it was to not inform a manager their report was fired
        – Autopopulated reasons get autodeleted

        1. Expelliarmus*

          Good point. It initially seemed hard to imagine because the natural course of thought for me would have been upset at feeling undermined, not at the actual firing, but brains are weird sometimes, I guess.

    4. Happy meal with extra happy*

      I fully disagree. I wonder what else you’d need from OP before you would feel okay about their managerial decisions? Unless you expect managers to be perfect…

      OP had an opinion, thought it might be wrong, wrote into Alison to see if it was wrong, and then changed her opinion/realized why it was wrong once she read Alison’s response. OP didn’t cause any harm with her opinion, and she’s corrected herself.

      Fortunately this is one of the few (only?) comment like this on this letter, but I’ve found it tends to be a trend in update letters where the OP was originally in the wrong. No matter how much they say they’ve grown/realized what they did was wrong, commenters still want to say that they’re a bad manager/person/whatever.

      1. MEH Squared*

        I agree. The OP did not double down on their original position. They thought about it, wrote to Alison, and realized that Rachel needed to go. They talked to Manny about how the news was delivered (or not) to them (the OP), and now it appears Manny and the OP are on the same page. That means if something at all like this happens again, they will be ready to deal with it.

        It would have been one tihng if the OP went around saying that Rachel should not have been fired or loudly talked about how Rachel should have been put on a PIP, but that is not what the OP did. They fully owned that Rachel needed to go. I wonder if it’s because they are not rending their shirt and crying, “Mea culpa!” that some people aren’t satisfied.

    5. Meep*

      So much this! Being upset that Manny didn’t inform her is reasonable. The reaction that Rachel should be on a PIP plan is a different thought entirely. It isn’t “I was hurt because you didn’t tell me.” It is indignant someone was rightfully fired!

    6. hbc*

      Often our reaction in the moment isn’t what it should be, especially if you’re surprised with information out of order (rather than the nice linear retelling that we get from people who write in.)

      I had a case where I went on autopilot to put someone on a PIP, their manager (my direct report) agreed, we were going to do it the next morning. My manager comes into my office at 7:15am and is like “I thought about it last night and it isn’t sitting well with me” and I said “Yeah, you’re right, I had the same thought process last night, this should be a firing.”

      I *like* when someone’s initial instinct is softer than needed and they readjust. I had to make a manager walk back an on-the-spot firing, and that was so much worse.

    7. nodramalama*

      I think this position is both unfair to LW. LW didn’t complain or try to hire Rachel back, or do anything. She was upset and wondered if she was wrong so wrong into Askamanager and then upon reflection changed her mind. I’m not sure what else you want from a manger apart from ifallibility.

      Also, 150 people working under you is very common for big companies. It doesn’t mean they’re direct reports or that LW has granular oversite of all 150 people. It’s why she would have to put her trust in managers like Rachel, which is why she would have felt blindsighted by it all.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        I think people are also not allowing for the fact that deception itself is a recipe for a confused reaction. Your false perception of the person has been built up over time and it doesn’t get dismantled instantly just because logic. OP could have processed this if they’d been in the loop.

  12. Pierrot*

    LW, I am glad you and Manny talked it out.
    It is really strange to me that Rachel chose “Jason working from the office” as her hill to die on since apparently she had only written up one other report and no one else had anything negative to report about her (unless they chose not to share). It’s completely bizarre and I wonder what was going through her head and why Jason’s personal decision bothered her so much.

  13. Littorally*

    Hey OP, glad to see this update, and I’m glad you’ve done a thorough investigation for anything else Rachel might have been up to. For this entire mess to have been the first time she had an issue seems startling, but I guess it takes all kinds to make a world. Some people have not learned the first rule of great drama: start small and build. Due diligence is never wasted effort!

    It does seem pretty unkind of Manny and HR to leave you a full day not discussing Rachel’s termination, and hearing about it from another employee must have been a shock. I can see why you felt so blindsided and upset by it, even if the termination was 100% the right thing to do. (Speaking of due diligence — this sounds like a very opportune moment to revisit some best practices around emergency action!) She needed to be gone that day, but assuming that the meeting you were leading wasn’t an all-day kind of affair, he should have waited until you had finished your thing and then pulled you aside to discuss it as soon as possible. I don’t think this quite rises to the level of “pull you out mid-meeting” severity (though we have certainly had letters here on this site that HAVE been that level, DEFCON 1 type things) but he or someone from HR should have been basically waiting poised to grab you the second you were done.

    1. Pareto*

      If OP hasn’t already, checking in with the employee who told her about the firing and closing the loop with them on that weirdness would be a good idea. My confidence in my leadership would be pretty shaken if my boss was fired and her boss didn’t know until I said something the next day.

    2. Highlander Writer*

      Ahem. Am I looking at a Highlander/Methos fan? I always hear that line about the first rule of great drama in his voice. :-)

  14. Sloanicota*

    I’m sorry to be off-topic but is anyone else finding the site redirecting them and/or timing out with some kind of security thing? The site itself is seeming slow too. I don’t think it’s me because I got it on two different browsers on two different machines now.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes — started with a DDOS attack yesterday and I’m still dealing with it now. So it’s been up and down today, but we’re working on it! Apologies for the issues, hopefully shouldn’t last past today.

      1. Minerva*

        Oh no!! Was it a general server attack or against you specifically? Hopefully it wasn’t a disgruntled letter writer or commentor. :(

          1. KayDeeAye*

            I just assumed it was a problem on my end (because it so often is), so this is a bit of a relief for me, though presumably not for you, Alison!

      2. SaskLass*

        Is this why I’ve had to confirm that I’m human to access the site today and yesterday?

      3. Oh*

        Good to know. I was trying to figure out how to screenshot it and message you about it. Hopefully all will be resolved soon.

  15. Eldritch Office Worker*

    The management structure at this company might be a big part of the reason why a) this was able to happen in the first place and b) why OP was frustrated. That’s way too many reports per manager. It’s hard to give appropriate oversight, and it clearly messes with communication from a few different angles. I know OP might not be in a position to address that, but it’s definitely clear how this kind of clusterfudge could happen.

    Thank you for the update OP!

    1. Littorally*

      You mean the 14 reports OP has or the ~10-11 each of their reports has? At some point everyone rolls up to someone.

  16. KatEnigma*

    LW, I suspect Manny was just stunned at the fact that Rachel not only didn’t deny it, but had nothing to justify it. I bet “you’re fired” just came out of his mouth with no other thoughts of anyone. Obviously, he should have informed you of it ASAP, But since he has admitted it was a lapse and apologized for it, I’m glad you are able to put it into perspective. I’d blame the “OMG”ness of it even for his lapse. Luckily, things like that don’t happen very often.

    1. Tesuji*

      Eh, I’m sure Manny wasn’t expecting the meeting to go that way, but that does kind of raise the obvious question of what he expected.

      To me, just the fact that Manny (who is Rachel’s grandboss) dealt with her personally rather than having LW do it (and not waiting for LW to be around) implies to me that he had concerns about LW as well.

      I think that’s one of the things the LW is reacting to, that none of how this was handled seems to me how it would be handled if Manny had full faith and confidence in the LW.

      1. Emily*

        It’s clear from LW’s update though that Manny does not have concerns about her and I think continuing to speculate on it at this point is unhelpful. From everything in the letter, it seems like the firing did happen a bit spur of the moment given how duplicitous and unrepentant Rachel was. I think Manny did the right thing by firing her, but did the wrong thing by not informing LW right away, which luckily Manny and LW were able to discuss, Manny acknowledged things should have been done differently, and LW had time to reflect and realize that Rachel did deserve to be fired and her reaction was more about being kept out of the loop and having to find out from an employee (extremely reasonable that LW would be upset), then actually being upset about the decision that was made.

      2. Bunny Lake Is Found*

        Hard disagree. Given that the 2 write-ups were different and LW was busy, Manny might have legitimately thought the conversation would be Rachel saying she either had no idea what Jason was talking about or Rachel having some sort of reasonable explanation (and LW and Manny meeting later to discuss discipline, if needed). So he figured he would call her and not drag LW out of a meeting for Rachel to just go “huh, that’s weird”. I seriously doubt he anticipated Rachel going all “Yeppers! I falsified that document! I regret nothing!!”

        So many possible explanations that seem much more plausible than Manny knew Rachel may need to be fired and didn’t trust LW. Given the confirmation that Rachel really WAS a totally good manager until this, why the heck would Manny assume firing worthy malice rather than some mistake or confusion?

  17. Madame X*

    I really appreciate this update, so thank you. I’m also glad to hear that the company reviewed Rachel’s work. Finally, it is not surprising that Manny fired Rachel on the spot because she admitted to falsifying documents and lying about the reason why she punished Jason for following company policy. I can imagine that he was taken aback at her unapologetic deceitfulness.
    The only quibble I have is that he should have immediately emailed you or messaged you after making that decision.

  18. CLC*

    Can I asked a dumb question? What is “writing up”? I’ve worked at many companies and organizations (even local and federal government agencies) for the past 25+ years and I’ve never heard of anyone being “written up,” I’ve only heard of it reading stories online. When people do something wrong they are spoken to, given warnings, etc, but I don’t know anyone who has been told “I’m writing you up for this” and having some sort of transparent official documentation process. I would imagine it’s usually reserved for serious offenses but I read stories about companies “writing people up” for small infractions. Can someone shed light?

    1. KatEnigma*

      It’s documenting that “warning” or “talking to” in writing. Many places have strict documentation policies, so they have something to use later if they have to fire you or defend themselves against a wrongful termination or discrimination lawsuit.

    2. Some words*

      From my experience:

      Infraction 1 results in conversation
      Infraction 2 results in verbal warning
      Infraction 3 results in written warning with improvement plan (a “write up”). It generally includes a list of consequences, up to dismissal.

      Of course places handle things differently but this is the approximate progression I’m familiar with.

    3. MassMatt*

      Pretty much what Katenigma said, there are many places where the procedures for discipline, warnings, etc is very regimented. A write-up can go on your record and affect raises, advancement opportunities, etc.

      And there are indeed places where bad managers threaten write-ups for petty reasons, though I hope they are in the minority. Please be in the minority!

      1. Some words*

        A former employer demoted all current supervisors when we got new ownership. As if that wasn’t demoralizing enough they also put us ALL on a written warning that if we complained about the changes we would be fired.

        Yes the place was (and is) a hot mess.

    4. TX_trucker*

      We “write-up” folks for everything … good and bad. For serious offenses there is lots of legalese of violations, PIP plans, suspension, etc. For minor offenses, it usually a simple email or memo that says: on this date we talked about this “thing.” Let me know if the expectation is not clear. But we also provide write-ups for exceptional good service from employees.

    5. Littorally*

      It definitely varies in significance and severity by company, but most large companies (at least in my experience) will have a written component to their discipline process, where the discipline issued is documented, possibly signed in acknowledgment by the employee, and then retained in their HR file.

      For some companies, that’s the final thing you get before you’re put on a PIP or fired; for others, it’s the first step after an informal conversation about how you need to do better.

    6. Cat Lover*

      I work at a medical office but we have a “verbal warning/discussion” which is summarized in writing but not a formal write up, then a “written warning” which is signed by the employee, manager, and witness, then from there is can escalate based on the issue. But it’s super important to have a paper trail for HR purposes.

  19. Kindred Spirit*

    Thank you for the update. I’m surprised that Manny didn’t think it was important to immediately let the OP know he fired Rachel. It sounds like he gets that now and will apply that going forward. I wonder a bit about the company culture…If I worked for a company (or manager) that would write someone up for a “minor policy violation,” that would make me very uncomfortable. Anywhere I have worked (and I have been working for decades), a write up is reserved for serious or repeated offenses. Minor stuff is handled one-on-one with the manager.

  20. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    “Written up” is a disciplinary procedure. Basically, it’s your manager poo-pooing you over an action, or series of actions, and documenting it as a warning.

    It can be fatal to one’s career in a company. When it comes to promotions, or transfer/advancement opportunities, THAT’S ON YOUR RECORD.

    Worse – you often can’t reply to a write-up. On an annual appraisal, you have a chance to respond and even refute what was said — but in many cases you can’t reply to a write-up.

  21. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    Just curious. Was there any reach-back to Jason after all this happened?

    I can understand, it could be dangerous from a company standpoint (you’re giving Jason grounds for an unfair termination suit)… but…. did your team think about contacting Jason and inviting him back to work?

    Was the thinking, “yeah, Jason got screwed but we want to put this entire ugly incident behind us”… or what?

    1. François Caron*

      I was wondering the exact same thing. Even if Jason decided to leave on his own, the circumstances could still be legally interpreted as a wrongful dismissal. If Jason is informed of what happened at the company, his lawyer could subpoena both company documents and company personnel to get to the bottom of this and demand compensation.

    2. cncx*

      I agrée, I was in an ugly situation that could have been interpreted as constructive dismissal and while I wouldn’t have necessarily gone back to the company I would have been pleased if HR closed the loop, like saying my file stated I was eligible for rehire/left in good standing. It would have helped me move on and digest the whole weird situation, and if there was a way to do that without exposing the company legally I think it would have been kind to Jason.

  22. Aphrodite*

    OP, have you considered reaching out to Jason and letting him know that you’d welcome him back if he wanted to come either now or in the future? (I am assuming his work was good.)

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      I was a bit taken aback, that Jason’s future was affected and no reconciliatory action was taken — BUT — BUT — while I’m not a lawyer, an acknowledgement that “yuh, Jason, we screwed you over but we want to make good on it” could open Pandora’s Box for the company, from a legal standpoint.

      Jason may have moved on, but OP’s company may not want to give him armament in a constructive discharge suit.

      1. Bob-White of the Glen*

        I’m not how what he’d get in a lawsuit. It was an unfair write-up, and he decided to quit over it, but he wasn’t terminated, and I don’t see any grounds for hostile workplace (maybe marital status?) But he wasn’t wrongfully terminated. He was stupidly lost and I think the company can reach out (if they want him back) without fear of a lawsuit to say so, but there may also be reasons against that.

        1. Littorally*

          Agreed. My understanding is, for a lawsuit, he’d have to show there was either protected class issues or whistleblowing/retaliation issues in play.

          Constructive discharge to make an unemployment claim doesn’t require those things (at least in most states, afaik), only that conditions have been made intolerable, but unemployment is different from a basis for legal action.

          1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

            If a manager plants untrue, damaging, defamatory or slanderous stuff in your personnel file, the employee can take legal action. Even if he quits and moves on to another situation.

            I am getting the impression that Jason had bogus stuff put on his record that he hadn’t known about. If he were to find out about it and demand that the record be set straight, and the company refused – THAT also is lawsuit time.

            I actually had something like that happen – I had been written up for mistakes – one BIG one – that my manager had made and he was blaming it on me. I was informed that a “correction” would be made.

            On the day I gave my notice, I went to HR and demanded to see my file. He hadn’t removed it. If it weren’t IMMEDIATELY removed or corrected with an apology – I was walking out right there and then and seeking legal redress.

            They came clean.

            1. Nodramalama*

              I don’t really understand what the loss/damage you’re identifying that would make a successful lawsuit. It’s not an unfair dismissal case and for defamation and libel you can’t just demonstrate something is untrue…

              1. I AM a Lawyer*

                There seems to be a common jump to recommending defamation suits in the comments lately, and I’m not sure why that’s happening. At least in the US, those are very hard claims to win and very expensive to litigate.

              2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

                Punitive damages, Nodramalama. And if something is UNtrue – and it was planted there with malice (which it often is, in an employment situation) .. then libel comes into play.

                He was driven out the door based on fabrications. That changes the equation away from “he left for a different job”.

                1. Nodramalama*

                  That’s not really how punitive damages works. And depending on the situation, there is a likelihood that the published requirement of defamation wouldn’t be met here

        2. cncx*

          In my jurisdiction (not the US) write-ups affect bonuses and people can and have gone to court successfully to get their bonuses in constructive dismissal cases.

  23. Still*

    What a calm and thorough update. It really sounds like you and the company have it covered.

    While I agree that Manny was right to fire Rachel, I think he definitely should have informed you right away! She was your report, you should be the one delivering the message to Rachel’s reports, not finding out about the situation from one of them! I’m glad he’s acknowledged that he should have kept you in the loop.

  24. Observer*

    OP, thanks for coming back.

    I want to say that Manny and HR definitely messed up in not informing you RIGHT AWAY. Like waiting for you to come out of the meeting and pulling you into their office right away. And I get why that would throw you off.

    But I’m going to agree that your reaction really did go past reasonable. Because you went past “he should have talked to me before he took action” which is not really correct, but certainly understandable, to “she should not have been fired anyway and I would not have done that.” And you didn’t think that and then think “Nah, she still needed to be fired” or even “Maybe she should have been fired, let me get a guy-check.” You laid out in writing how you believe that she should not have been fired, and that she “probably” needs a PIP.

    I’m glad you were able to step back and recognize how egregious her behavior was. But I think it would be worthwhile for you to think about how you react when someone steps on your toes. Because even though your reaction was not disastrous, it could have done you a lot of harm. If you over-react this way on a regular basis you are likely to make some poor decisions that could harm you and / or the people around you.

    Also, I think it’s worth thinking about the culture and communications in your organization. Both in your department and in the broader organization. Because while it’s completely understandable why Jason never came to you or anyone else about the write up – Rachel was really cunning about that! – I have to wonder why he didn’t talk to anyone about Rachel’s anger. At the same time, the fact that one of your direct reports got fired and you were not told? That’s really, really bad internal communications. How on earth did that happen?

    In terms of the issues within your department, you probably have a lot of ability to influence things. It’s not clear how much you can influence the broader situation, but I do think you have the standing bring it up and point out that similar failures down the line could have more significant fall out for the organization.

  25. hi there*

    This was a beautiful letter series to illustrate how professionally misunderstandings can be handled. It showed how to work through tough feelings and experiences. Thanks for sharing, OP, and for the update – as well as to the AMA team for presenting to us readers!

  26. I AM a Lawyer*

    Is it common to fire people on the spot? This would not be able to happen in my organization (for one thing, we’d have to have final wages, including the accrued vacation payout, ready when we notified the employee because of state law regarding final pay so that alone prevents it). I’m interested in how common this is, though I understand the offenses for which someone would get fired on the spot are probably relatively rare.

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      YES, if the offense is egregious. HR can work out the details regarding final pay, etc.

      How it generally works out is = “you are suspended with pay as of now, you will be terminated (tomorrow/Friday/whatever). Report to HR tomorrow afternoon at 1.”

    2. Lady_Lessa*

      At one of my previous employers, a production worker who was sexually harassing the lab tech was fired that same day.

      My two regrets are that she didn’t talk to me about it (result would have been similar) and that I wasn’t there to catch him in the act. (He dropped by when he knew that I wasn’t in the lab because our hours were different)

    3. Sparkles McFadden*

      In my experience, on the spot firing happens when the person has done something serious enough that no one would be able to trust that person again. It’s usually related to finances, harassing someone, or, as in this case, document falsification. You need to get the person out and cut all access while you assess what else the person might have done.

    4. allathian*

      I work for a governmental agency in Finland. Firing someone for performance-related reasons is extremely difficult, it requires at least one verbal warning, a written one (PIP) where the person is put on notice of a possible firing if things don’t improve, and following the PIP, which has to be long enough for the employee to have a realistic chance of showing improvement, the person is fired with at least one month’s notice if they fail to improve. In practice this process takes at least six months. I have enough tenure that they’d have to give me three months’ notice. The employee may or may not be required to work out their notice period, depending on how poor their performance has been, but they will be paid for their notice period regardless.

      A couple years ago, the top boss of our National Audit Office was fired for embezzlement because they used the air miles on their company-provided card for private travel when they should’ve used them for business travel. They traveled a lot every year, and the funds they embezzled amounted to a 5-digit figure. They sued to get their job back, but the courts agreed that what they did was inexcusable for someone in their position. Their agency’s responsible for ensuring good fiscal management across the whole public sector. Their actions severely damaged the organization’s credibility and reputation. They were suspended without pay pending the investigation, then fired.

  27. Lizzianna*

    I’m glad to read this update.

    I would also be upset if my boss fired one of my team members and didn’t tell me. I don’t necessarily think there was anything urgent enough that Manny couldn’t have looped you in a few hours later, even if firing was the obvious outcome. And even if it was time sensitive, firing an employee is urgent enough to pull someone out of a meeting. But it sounds like Manny understands that, so I hope you can both learn from this and move forward.

  28. Delphine*

    I’d definitely be frustrated if I had to find out from an employee the next day that my direct report had been fired. I can see how you jumped from that to where you were in the letter, OP. A simple defensive reaction.

  29. Meep*

    I feel like we are really glossing over the fact LW didn’t think this was a fireable offense..m

    1. ecnaseener*

      We’re glossing over it because LW admits he was wrong to think so. What more would you like to have happen?

      1. Meep*

        There is no admission of “being wrong” here. It is “I felt attacked because I found out from an employee” which is a separate issue than “Rachel should’ve been put on a PIP not fired!”

        1. Myrin*

          She recognised that her initial feelings had clouded her judgment and that Manny was right to fire Rachel – that is an admission of “having been wrong”, even if it’s not spelled out.

    2. thatoneoverthere*

      People aren’t allow to change their minds or learn from their mistakes? If so Allison would be out of a ton of content to post!

    3. Nodramalama*

      Why are some people in the commetariat so focussed on raking the LWs through the coals? They were gracious enough to provide an update after getting a pretty harsh reception the first go around and literally said “Manny was right to fire her”. What do you want from LW?

    4. Bunny Lake Is Found*

      Actually, that aspect was covered very thoroughly in the original letter.

    5. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      RIGHTIO! Manny was layin’ down the law = falsifying employee info is a terminable offense.

  30. Susannah*

    I’m glad you talked it out with Manny, LW -and thanks for the more detailed account.

    But honestly I just do not get why she cared whether the employee worked from home or came into the office. Still just baffling to me…

    1. Emily*

      My mantra has become “people are weird” when people act like Rachel does and care so much about something that should.not.matter and makes no sense to the rest of us. Someone upthread mentioned the letter about the shift key v. caps lock debacle and I think this is a very similar issue. Rachel had very strong feelings against Jason working in the office for reasons that only make sense to Rachel. I have some family members who will sometimes have very weird/illogical thought processes and when that happens I tell myself, “people are weird”.

    2. thatoneoverthere*

      If the last 3 years, has taught me anything its what Emily said….”people are weird”. People get weird “Hills to Die on” and won’t let go of it. We may never really know why Rachel wrote up Jason. Poor Jason probably doesn’t even know himself.

  31. Hi, I'm Troy McClure*

    OP, it sounds like you really reflected and had a good outcome all around (besides the original rough situation). It’s so easy to get caught up in initial feelings, and so much clearer when the dust settles.

  32. Auga*

    I know doing this on CEOBro update day is probably pointless, but I’d still like to nominate Rachel for Worst Boss of the Year!

  33. Sparkles McFadden*

    Thanks for a thorough update! It’s sounds as if there were a lot of communication issues that are being address as a result of this, which is great. I am glad it all worked out and that you are feeling better about the situation.

  34. Sharpie*

    I can’t help hoping Jason was offered his job back or, at the very very least, offered a really great severance package and reference going forward. Firing Rachel was absolutely the right thing but it still leaves Jason suffering from what she did to him otherwise.

    1. Kevin Sours*

      I doubt he was offered his job back but at the exist interview point he almost certainly had accepted another job and it would have been a futile gesture.

  35. Cj*

    I missed the original letter, and have a question on one of the comments that was left there .

    rebelwithmouseyhair said that they were accused of low productivity, but what actually happened was that some of the project managers weren’t recording their contributions in order to make the margin look better.

    Can somebody explain to me what is meant by margins in this case, and how not recording Rebels contributions would make them look better?

    I’m in a profession where we are judged by how much we bill clients, so I don’t have any reference for this.

    1. Candi*

      Labor and/or time would be the most likely. Like something takes 500 man hours if you properly consider all work put into the project, but by not recording a person or two properly the project manager makes it look like it took only 375 man hours, making them look better and the project less cumbersome than it was.

      Besides the blatant problem with lying about what work people did, this kind of stunt has another problem. It lies to upper management what the true cost of work is. Just as when workers add unpaid time to their schedule to “help out the company” or “assist their coworkers”, or when they pick up responsibilities outside their job description that add to their workload, it keeps upper management from realizing the true cost of doing business, contributing to the already-bad tendency of expecting unrealistic turnaround times and low costs for miracles.

    2. The Rat-Catcher*

      “Margins” here likely means the gap between one metric and another. If I’m making 25 widgets a day and you’re making 50, I don’t look great. If I make 25 and you make 15, I look great. So maybe I fudge your numbers a little. It’s horrible and generally a fire-immediately kind of offense.

  36. Adrian*

    Late to this party, but I did wonder originally if LW was more upset about not being told directly about Rachel’s firing. Preferably before it happened, but certainly asap after.

    This situation at a past employer of mine was similar, but with one big difference. One day Jack from the head office showed up at a field office, and fired employee Janet on the spot. No one was expecting Jack’s arrival, or Janet’s firing.

    Later I heard that Janet was thrown under the bus to protect Chris, another executive at the head office. Apparently Chris didn’t supervise Janet properly on a project, and Janet made a big mistake she otherwise wouldn’t have.

    Of course, the head office wouldn’t have alerted the field office if Janet’s firing really was to protect Chris. But if I managed the field office, it would have been my cue to dust off my resume.

  37. Love to WFH*

    Off topic but — how often are people “written up”? I see that mentioned frequently here, and of course this is mostly a blog about Things Going Wrong.

    I’ve been working for many decades, and I’ve never been written up. I don’t recall any coworkers mentioning being written up. I’ve been a manager for quite awhile, and I’ve never written someone up.

    At reviews, I’ve discussed what’s going well, and what could be better, but adding a note to an employee’s file (wherever that would be) hasn’t every come up.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      I get the sense that it’s more common in retail, food service, call center, and maybe manufacturing environments (safety-related issues?) than in office jobs. We don’t really do write-ups other than, if your supervisor has provided you feedback post-project or as part of regular check-in meetings and you continue to perform poorly, one of the steps in the termination process is to have a more formal meeting with HR, after which you get a document that outlines the discussed performance deficiencies and sets a formal timeline for check-in/follow-up. We also don’t call it a write-up.

      My mom used to work in a call center, and she got written up for not providing enough notice about it (because stomach bugs often let you know they’re coming 2 business days in advance). In that case, it was a form the team leads had to check the boxes for what policy was violated, the dates of the violation, and the date the employee was provided the write-up. It also advised that the employee could be terminated after X number more write-ups.

  38. All Het Up About It*

    Thanks for the update OP!

    Given your additional details, I completely understand your frustration with Manny and his communication with you regarding your direct report! And it’s so easy in these type of situations for our emotions to hide the real issue from us because everything starts to get glommed together.

  39. TG*

    I am glad you were able to see past your initial thoughts because she absolutely deserved to be fired and I think your initial anger about being left out of the process clouded your judgement.
    She left your company up to a lawsuit and it’s lucky that the employee didn’t sue!
    I also speak from experience; a PIP against me was filled with quotes the people they were attributed to told me they did not make so let’s just say it went away and I was promoted out of the department I was in a month later with the full support of the VP because he knew if I took it higher there’d have been big trouble. And the manager who gave me that PIP? Demoted and left within 4-5 months.

Comments are closed.