updates: the blame-throwing employee, wearing a wedding ring to an interview, and more

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager and I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

There will be more posts than usual this week, so keep checking back– there’s more to come today!

1. My employee blames others for her mistakes (first update here)

As I said last time, we got new software which would be essential in tracking her productivity and completion of tasks as opposed to relying on Excel spreadsheets that kept mysteriously “disappearing” or becoming corrupted. I was gathering my evidence and around the time I felt I had enough, I was on Indeed searching for a clinician (there’s a country-wide shortage of our clinicians right now, so I check Indeed once a week or so for new resumes) and found her resume posted just the day before. (She’s not a clinician but of course used the key words.) I immediately posted the position and began interviews, and though it took a few months, I found someone who I think is going to be fantastic.

It’s also important to note that her attitude and work quality declined immensely to the point where not only did I have to have a conversation with her (which she denied everything, as per my first email), but my boss had to have a conversation with her after other coworkers complained (where she still denied everything), and multiple patients contacted me about her attitude towards them.

As I also mentioned previously, we work in different locations, and while I tried to work with her at least once a week, I’ve had someone on leave and was training a new person so I haven’t been there in a while except when she called out sick (6 times in the past 3 months, and usually on a Monday…). When I walked in, it was clear she knew that something was up – and she handled it about as well as I expected: pretty much a total temper tantrum.

My character, my boss’s character, my business practices, and more were maligned. She yelled about a whole lot of nonsense, and told me I’d be hearing from her lawyer no fewer than eight times: cheating her out of wages on this final paycheck (you literally have the paystub in front of you!), putting her unused PTO in the same paycheck (she didn’t want taxes taken out of it even though I told her that taxes are taken out from PTO just like regular wages), cheating her out of PTO (even though I enclosed an accounting of every accrual and use from the day she started, because I had a feeling), ageism, that she can’t afford COBRA (I don’t control health insurance prices!), because I was penalizing her for an unexcused absence earlier this week (this was already in the works but that certainly didn’t help), because she decided the termination was retaliation for blaming someone else for another of her mistakes just an hour beforehand, and for breaching a contract (we are an at-will state and have no contract specifying a length of time for the job) – just as I expected and wrote five months ago.

We’ll see whether I hear from her lawyer, but I’m glad I was able to gather evidence I needed before letting her go. If she does find the funds for a lawyer, I’m pretty confident that we’ll come out unscathed. I’m watching our socials/review sites, but hopefully this whole thing is over with.

Thanks for your help!

2. Should I wear my wedding ring to an interview?

I used your advice and did not wear my engagement ring to the interview. I chose a plain band instead.

I’m excited to share that I got the job and start in a few weeks! In previous interviews with this employer, I had shared my desired salary band of $X to $XX. When making the job offer, the HR person offered me $XX right away – and seeing that it is 25% more than I make now – I happily accepted. In hindsight, I don’t think the ring would have affected the salary negotiations, but I do think it would have been a distraction and pulled attention away from the substance of the interview.

Many of the commenters were focused on the issue of me showing up to work with a wedding ring after not wearing one to the interview. The job is mostly remote so it won’t be an issue much of the time. When I do interact with my new colleagues in person, I doubt anyone will remember which ring I wore previously.

This was my first in-person interview as a married person, and the first time I’ve had to consider the fact that some folks may have an unconscious bias that because I’m a married woman, children must be in my immediate future. Who knows if that thought factored into anyone’s opinion – but I’m taking this as a win. Thank you for your great advice and the support of the commenters. I’ll continue to be a dedicated AAM reader!

3. My male colleagues wait for me to set up all our meetings (even meetings I’m not in)

By the time this letter was published, I had proposed a few times and the meeting had been scheduled. (One of the males brought a female associate in to do his scheduling, which reinforced the problem.)

A few complications that might help clarify:
– The meeting I wrote about was a meeting I needed to attend too, not one I was just handing off to the two men. So I was implicated in the scheduling, and I did care (though maybe less than they did) about being included in the final scheduled meeting.
– We are at different organizations, so there was no easy Outlook option.
– Once I dropped out of the conversation, I think the whole thing died. Which does reinforce how much women are relied upon to schedule things!

I’d also just add that a number of people in the comments were very pro-Calendly, but I’d remind people to think of the power dynamics. Whomever fills out the Calendly link is taking more time than the other person to schedule the meeting. And very often, as the comments revealed, women are more often asked to do that scheduling, even when the meeting was requested by a man!

4. When I ask for a raise, my company asks what more I’m willing to take on to justify it (#2 at the link; first update here)

I’m still handling my old duties (at my new salary). My hours are still way too many. My workload continues to bloat as new and old responsibilities collide on an already overcrowded plate. And all the things I didn’t have time for before (and tried multiple times to develop a strategy to deal with it) start shouldering their way to the front of the priority list with no real plan in place to deal with it.

I’ve had some follow-up conversations with my boss about my promotion but so far nothing has happened. I’ve heard little bits and pieces about what I will be taking over and finally got a glimmer of what will be coming off my desk. When? Who knows. There’s supposed to be an official announcement and discussion of job duties “soon.”

What is new is… I’m in therapy! After an extremely rough patch at work that left me feeling gaslit and frustrated, I found a therapist! So I have been spending this time trying to learn how to establish healthy boundaries, be okay with leaving at 5 (why is that so hard?!), and deal with the perfectionism I apparently have.

I’m focusing on what I can control right now: me. I am fighting for a healthy work/life balance, trying to convince myself that’s okay and that I deserve it, and making myself a priority. Because as a very wise manager advice columnist once advised, “Don’t invest in their success at the expense of your own.”

So I am trying to invest in myself right now and gain as many new skills and experiences as I can to set myself up for success…wherever that might lead!

{ 62 comments… read them below }

  1. Dovasary Balitang*

    #4 – I really hope you can find better employment and leave that place behind soon.

    1. Country Bumpkin*

      Thirded! I’m so glad you have a therapist, LW. It can be so validating to have an impartial ear, especially after you’ve been gaslit like that. Crossing my fingers for you.

      1. LW4*

        I didn’t think I was making much progress but I found myself in a situation recently and realized I was calmer about it and less worried. That’s a big step for me!

    2. Mad Harry Crewe*

      Yeah. They are using you, they are not going to stop, and this is not going to get better.

      1. LW4*

        I don’t know if “used” is the word I’d pick, though I absolutely understand why people would. I enjoy my work and I really like my boss. There’s a lot of positives and a lot of support from that direction that means a lot to me. There’s a lot going on in the company that’s complicated for all. I’m not making excuses. I’m not blind to the challenges here, especially the stress. but I also have to take responsibility for myself and my reactions, which is why I went to therapy lol. I won’t pretend I understand the slow walk with the promotion and it frustrates me to feel like I could have been a strong asset in that role from the beginning and that I still can’t focus on what I know the job is supposed to focus on. But I’ll use the time to better myself and have things to look forward to that interest and excite me. If it all goes south, I figure I’ll be in a good position. If it all works out? I’ll be in a good position. The next few months will be anything but boring, that’s for sure!

    3. LW4*

      I really enjoy my work. The stress and hours and all that…. Not so much. But I’m hopeful that learning to hold down firm boundaries and making changes to things I can control will improve conditions. It may take time but that’s okay. I’m not blind to the challenges but I’m also very aware of the perks I get too, and there are perks. It’s a balancing act for sure. Right now it’s up to me to make conditions manageable and that’s where I’m focusing my energies.

  2. Amalfi*

    Who schedules meetings is just the weirdest flex. When somebody makes me the scheduler, I just laugh internally. Ok, I get it, you’re super high and mighty. And while OP is dealing with men flexing at her, I will note that the meeting flex is exhibited by all genders, and I laugh at all equally.

    And before we get into the “it makes sense for high and mighty people to spend the same amount of time asking a junior person to schedule meetings that it would take to just do it themselves,” let me say that a high performing workplace understands the morale, and therefore business, impact of senior people handling their own petty tasks.

    1. PinaColada*

      This is such a strange take on it to me, as is the OPs perspective: “I’d remind people to think of the power dynamics. Whomever fills out the Calendly link is taking more time than the other person to schedule the meeting.”

      I love being the “scheduler” because then I get to choose the time that’s most convenient to ME. The open times that someone can select on my calendar are not always the most ideal for me, but I understand I’m giving up that prerogative by using the convenience of Calendly or whatever scheduling link I send.

      In no way is it a “flex”, and there are trade-offs on both sides.

      1. Contrast*

        You’re the one being flexed on.

        It’s not that every single time someone tells someone else, “put something on my calendar” is a power play. It’s the larger pattern of admin work being pushed on junior people and women. Now that more than one woman has pointed it out, start paying attention to who assigns the majority of the scheduling tasks and who the tasks go to.

        1. Amalfi*

          “It’s the larger pattern of admin work being pushed on junior people and women.”

          Yep. I had a team lead who was always telling me to set up meetings for the team when she wanted to tell us all something outside our regular weeklies. On that team of the 3 (not including her), I was middle in seniority and the only PhD holder. I was also the only woman (not including her). I was not the only person who knew Outlook.

        2. Green beans*

          admin work, like putting a meeting on someone’s calendar when you’re meeting with them, falling to junior people (assuming it’s an explicit part of the job and it doesn’t prevent them from doing their core work) is fine. admin work falling on women is not.

          1. HoundMom*

            The thing I despise most is when someone who is trying to get a meeting with me tells me to find a time on their Calendly. You are a sales person (mostly male) trying to get a senior woman to include your services to my clients. Or, you suggest it would be “great” for me to organize some of my colleagues to get together so you could buy us coffee.

            Just no. Do your own damn scheduling.

        3. PinaColada*

          No @Contrast, because I said that sometimes I’m the scheduler and sometimes I’m the “schedulee” lol, so your point doesn’t stand.

      2. Phryne*

        I agree. I am support staff and I generally tell the people I support to plan the meeting they want when they want it, because I am widely available. I work fulltime, and any time not presently showing as occupied in my outlook is available to be planned. They on the other hand are mostly part time and juggling many different tasks some of which require specific timing. I could just take the initiative and plan something, I mean it takes 30 seconds tops anyway, but I am giving them the choice. They appreciate me being available at their convenience.
        Then again, people here have better things to do than petty office power games.

    2. what the nope*

      Funny how many meetings don’t (need to) happen when the scheduling onus is left to the (male/entitled) suggestor.

  3. Snarkus Aurelius*

    #3> You really need to hold the line. Even if you’re implicated in scheduling and even if they send you a scheduling link, I’d still say, “I’m free on Wednesday at 2 or Monday at 12,” via email. If possible, I wouldn’t use those links. If I needed a zoom link, I’d ask for it to avoid having to set it up myself.

    And, yes, if a man asks me, “should I set up that call,” I will always say, “yes please,” and provide my availability if he doesn’t have it.

    The responses aren’t about you being stubborn but training men to stop handing off administrative tasks to women or pushing them to admit what they’re doing.

    “I have no special skills” is my go to phrase when push comes to shove. So far, it’s worked. I don’t take notes or make coffee or schedule meetings that aren’t mine.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      Yes, I think it’s time for OP3 to beat the men to the punch and send out her Calendy first (or similar tool, when appropriate). What’s good for the gander is good for the goose.

      1. Whoomp There It Is*

        This. Send your booking link or availability and let them figure out next steps.

  4. Richard Hershberger*

    #1: The important thing to realize is that lawyering up is not an act of magic, turning garbage into a good case. The facts matter, even if she gets a lawyer who advertises about how hard he will fight to get you the money you deserve! (Other lawyers roll their eyes at those guys.) You might receive a lawyer letter. Those come pretty cheap. It sounds like your company is large enough to have a lawyer on retainer, if not on staff. If you get a lawyer letter, you pass it on to them and listen to their words of wisdom.

    1. Quill*

      Those of us in the US are currently getting a front row seat to the fact that lawyers will not take cases for people who are just going to lie to them.

      1. TurnedMeIntoANewt*

        Especially if those clients are known for running out on their legal bills.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          And also known for creating the need for the lawyer to need legal representation of their own while working for said client.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        Fun fact: if you implicate your lawyer in a crime (for example, lying to them and causing them to lie to the FBI), that nullifies attorney-client privilege. All of those conversations you had with them, emails you sent them, notes they took? They are now evidence.

    2. pally*

      I never understood the rationale behind such rants. If I wanted to really scare the employer, I wouldn’t say a word about lawyering up. Doing like this employee did only helps the employer get their ducks in order, should there be any actual litigation.

      Let it be a complete, unexpected, unanticipated surprise to the employer.

      Don’t fear the loud, ranting employees voicing wild claims; rather fear the eerily quiet ones.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        We also see stories of companies that roll up into a quivering ball at the mere mention of lawyers. Lawyers are not magicians, but a surprising number of otherwise functional adults think they are.

      2. OP1*

        Not long after I hired her, she started ranting about how she’d sue *two* of her previous employers if she had the money. I knew then that if things went downhill, I’d have to be careful to have all my evidence in a row. She always had the caveat of “if I had the money,” but my luck is such that if I fired her without evidence, her mother would drop dead and leave a decent inheritance, and suddenly she’d have the money!

        I’m not worried at the moment because a) her mother hasn’t died and left her an inheritance, b) you don’t scream these things if you’re actually going to do them, c) we’re an at-will state and technically I can let you go for any reason as long as it isn’t about a protected class, and d) I documented all her performance issues!

        We also have wrongful termination insurance, so it would end up being an insurance claim – for all business owners, I recommend this insurance! But it’d be better not to have to deal with this at all.

        1. INFJedi*

          but my luck is such that if I fired her without evidence, her mother would drop dead and leave a decent inheritance, and suddenly she’d have the money!

          I see that you and I are acquainted with Murphy (‘s law). Got the same “luck” her as well on that front.

          You did your due diligence though.

        2. Zzzzzz*

          Reminder: one doesn’t need money to hire a lawyer—they often work on contingency. Employment law is one of many areas where this is true (not just the “accident” lawyers seen in TV commercials). You win the case, they take a percent. From what LW has described, it doesn’t sound like she can present a coherent case to a lawyer who would take it on (and has to absorb all of the upfront fees/costs of taking on a contingency case).

          1. MigraineMonth*

            The caveat is that lawyers who work on contingency will only accept cases where they think they will win. “My last three employers are guilty of age discrimination because they fired me for doing zero work” is unlikely to be compelling to those lawyers.

    3. Rex Libris*

      I’m struck by the inconsistency in that she can’t afford COBRA, but apparently can afford a lawyer… I’m thinking the lawyer probably won’t materialize.

      1. TurnedMeIntoANewt*

        Maybe she’s assuming that she can get an attorney to take the case on contingency. She’d need a really strong case for that, ideally filed under a statute that allows fee shifting (loser pays the winner’s bills, basically).

      2. pally*

        I’m thinking you are absolutely correct. Employee just trying to sound intimidating.

    4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Agreed – this now former employee can rant about suing their former employer all they want. Actually getting it into court is going to be a whole other ball game. And by being the ongoing problem all they did is ensure that you have plenty of evidence and documentation to turn over to your lawyer should former employee find someone to take their case (and given their ranting about the cost of COBRA, betting they are hoping for a lawyer who will take them on contingency – other people here who are in the legal field can probably tell us how likely that is to happen).

  5. Justin D*

    I had heard of the sexist note taking expectation (and try to never push this onto women I work with) but wasn’t aware that this also existed for scheduling. I mostly go by the rule of whoever needs/wants the meeting sets it up. If I need the meeting, I check their calendar and schedule it, if they need the meeting, they can check my calendar and schedule it. I think that’s the fairest way to do it.

    1. Amalfi*

      Meeting scheduling tends to get pushed onto junior people. There is an unconscious (or perhaps fully conscious!) perception that women are junior to men, even when we are not. That is why OP emphasized in her initial letter that the men doing this to her are equal in the hierarchy.

      The mindset is pretty pervasive, and women absorb it as well.

    2. Snarkus Aurelius*

      I started working in an office in 1999. Back then, men were a lot more obvious and brazen about this behavior.

      Today, they know better than to run to the first woman they see for admin stuff. So they play games like this and/or are passive-aggressive. The tactics in the original letter are very familiar.

      For example, at my government job, we had a guy come in from the private sector with zero experience and a lot of connections and misplaced confidence. He was super pissy that A) he had to make his own coffee and B) he had to go get it himself. Every morning. Never once did he *refer* to a woman doing it or *ask* a woman to do it, but he only complained *to* women about it.

      The punchline? This man was born in 1982, not 1922.

  6. ASGirl*

    #2 – I was 23 years old and engaged, I wore my engagement ring to an interview for an assistant position at a custom blind store franchise (2001). The 50 year old white male manager who was interviewing me commented on the ring then asked me when my wedding is and what my family planning was. I was flabergasted that this was asked in an interview. Eventually I found out they were illegal questions to ask but that was five years down the road. I didn’t get the job and I was glad that bullet was dodged.

    1. Amalfi*

      It’s not illegal to ask. It’s illegal to base hiring decisions on it–which is why employers who care about complying with the law don’t ask.

      1. Willow Pillow*

        That’s not universal – it is illegal to ask about protected classes in Canada, for instance. Even then, this illustrates how the law itself isn’t a sufficient protection – the people it’s intended to protect need to understand it and have the resources to right violations.

  7. Alex*

    #1 I’m sure you were annoyed with this person but it’s not exactly ideal that you decided to move them on because you found out they were job searching. Whilst I have no doubt that she needed to be fired it should be her performance that leads to that conclusion and if other employees found out what the final straw was it may make them feel as though they will have to hide their future job searches.

      1. Rex Libris*

        I just read it as “I was ready to fire her, and coincidentally discovered she was already job searching.” Not necessarily as a cause/effect thing.

        1. ferrina*

          This is how I read it, too. I thought OP was on Indeed to post or prepare their own job description to replace the unfortunate employee and stumbled across the resume, not that the resume prompted the job replacement.

        2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          This wasn’t just a one thing (job searching employee) to me either. It felt to me like this was the ongoing problem person, who was constantly trying to create human-sized speed bumps, and just coincidentally OP found out that person was job searching.

          My wish is that everyone gets exactly what they deserve out of this situation.

    1. OP1*

      No, it was her performance that was the catalyst for all of this. However, because she was constantly talking about wanting to sue previous employers, I had to get all my ducks in a row – getting my ducks in a row happened to coincide pretty neatly with finding her resume.

    2. Generic Name*

      I am currently job searching, and this is exactly why I’m not uploading my resume to indeed. I know my company uses it to hire.

    3. MigraineMonth*

      Yeah, the catalyst for firing Problem Employee shouldn’t be be discovering that they’re job-searching. The real issue is if your non-problem employees are job-searching because of Problem Employee.

  8. Angela Zeigler*

    #3 –
    “Oh, I’ve noticed you don’t usually schedule our meetings- Would you like me to walk you through the process sometime? Alternatively, here’s a link to a tutorial from the vendor: (link)”

    “Hey Shinji, this idea sounds great- go ahead and set up that meeting when you can. Thank you!”

    “Thanks for taking the initiative and bringing this up. I should be available on [day] and [time]. I’ll keep an eye out for the meeting invite. Thank you!”

  9. ferrina*

    #4 – Congrats on the therapist!! That can be such a big step, and I’m excited for you!! Setting boundaries when you don’t know how and fighting perfectionism are so hard.

    Yes, you do deserve to have a work-life balance. You do deserve to be paid fairly. You do deserve to have a reasonable workload. Everyone deserves these things. You sound like a lovely, conscientious person. I hope you’re able to soon get to the point where you feel good about leaving this job behind (it sounds pretty unhealthy). I wish you all the best!

  10. TurnedMeIntoANewt*

    OP2, I agree that people will probably not remember what ring, if any, you were wearing unless it was noticeable enough to be a point of conversation.

    1. Phryne*

      Yes, I think the original question becomes more easy to answer when you rephrase it to ‘should I be wearing flashy jewellery (or clothing for that matter) to an interview’. The answer being ‘not unless you want that to stand out about you’.
      The fact that the ring has great symbolic value for you is not relevant to your interviewers, they just see the face value.

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