how do I recover after an employee took advantage of my trust?

A reader writes:

I manage a small team of remote, non-exempt employees. One of them, Jane, recently resigned, right before being put on a formal improvement plan for performance issues. On her last day told the rest of the team how she was able to take care of personal matters (e.g. attend happy hours, nail appointments) while on the clock and her “hacks” for getting away with it. I know this because the team told me.

I checked in with my team to do damage control. I communicated that this was not acceptable, that I understand any frustration that their peer was able to get away with this, and that I strive to hold everyone accountable to performance goals and timekeeping policies so things like this don’t happen. Everyone seemed to understand Jane was misguided and still be confident in my management.

Overall, I think I’m a good manager and I strive to get even better. I hold my team accountable to clear performance goals, don’t micromanage, and provide generous guidance and support. I’ve gotten lots of positive feedback about my management from current and former employees.

This situation has me feeling like I’ve been taken advantage of and it’s dinged my confidence as a manager. I’m frustrated that this happened under my watch and am feeling like a bit of a fool for not catching it. How can I bounce back after my confidence has been shaken?

Have you figured out how Jane’s “hacks” for using work time for personal things flew under the radar for so long? I think your answer lies there.

In some cases you might not have noticed it because Jane was great at her work and finished things quickly so she had extra time — in which case, generally I’d think that wasn’t a big deal.

But since she had performance issues, it’s not fine that she was surreptitiously using work time for nail appointments and happy hours, and the fact that she was able to do it undetected could be a sign that you weren’t managing her closely enough.


How were you managing her? When you saw she wasn’t performing at the level you needed, even before the improvement plan, did you talk to her about that forthrightly, explain the bar she needed to meet, and dig into what might be getting in the way? Did you check in more frequently to provide coaching and guidance — a sort of scaffolding to minimize problems while she was attempting to improve?

In theory, you could do all those things and someone struggling with their work but determined to sneak out for a 2 pm happy hour without you knowing could still find a way to do it — depending on how your office functions and how much autonomy people have in their work. If you were managing her appropriately closely for her performance and this was still happening, it could be that Jane was simply determined to take advantage of you/your employer. Sometimes that happens, and it’s not necessarily a sign that you messed up — it could just be a sign about Jane. (In fact, in that case, what you learned about Jane at the end might simply confirm that your instincts were good — you were right to see that she wasn’t doing well and that she might not be someone you should keep in the job.)

It’s worth interrogating your own practices to figure out how much of this, if any, you should have spotted it earlier or not, in case there’s a lesson for how you manage in general. But it’s also true that some people just suck. It makes me think of a letter a while ago from a manager who extended a lot of good will and flexibility to a new hire who was missing tons of work due to what they claimed were family problems, and it later came out that no, they were just working a second job during their hours for the first one. I don’t want that manager to over-correct and not offer flexibility to employees who need it in the future … and I also don’t want you to over-correct just because you encountered someone determined to deceive you. But it’s still smart to look as critically as you can at whether you could have spotted it earlier, or not.

I do wonder if you were surprised by the gleeful “look what I got away with” tone Jane took with the rest of your team. Does that seem in character or out of character? If out of character, do you still think that now, looking back over the totality of her employment? Were there signs you missed that you can now see in retrospect? I don’t know what you’ll find when you look at that — again, there’s no surefire way for catching out someone who’s determined to fool you, at least not without forcing you into lots of really bad practices that won’t make sense for 99% of situations — but it’s worth reflecting on too.

Read an update to this letter.

{ 182 comments… read them below }

  1. Roland Deschain*

    The fact that your team told you about what Jane said, suggests they believe the problem lies with Jane and not you.

      1. Ink*

        Because employees under a manager they know to be incompetent/petty/vengeful/etc. either already know and may be taking advantage of the “hacks” and employees who don’t trust their manager to be fair instead of overcorrecting would just let the topic die silently without following in Jane’s footsteps. The fact that they both aren’t interested in doing so AND proactively told the LW about it indicates a pretty good reputation and level of trust.

      2. AngryOctopus*

        Because they think Jane was wrong to do these things, and they informed their manager that she was trying to spread her “knowledge”, but they 1-weren’t into it and 2-wanted OP to know that she was pretty brazen about being a bad employee.

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          I think part of Jane’s “bragging” was to cover how she was let go because she was not doing well. She told the others, “ha, I don’t suck at this job. I wasn’t even trying!”
          And for the remaining employees, telling OP this was a way of saying, “yeah, she might not have sucked at the work, but she sucked at doing it. And we are ok with her being let go.”

          1. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

            Yeah, this smacks of nontruthtelling to me. “I was AWESOME here, I totally had Boss’s number, I am definitely flouncing at the door on my own free will and definitely not because I was having performance issues that were about to come to light.”

          2. Lily Dale*

            That was my thought as well. She’s just trying to save her reputation in a very misguided way. It makes me sad for her, really. What must it be like to live inside that head?

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I agree.

      OP, this reminds me of a comment a few weeks back that resonated: That some managers, and particularly women early in their management career, look at 95% great and think “how can I make the other 5% great too?” And then when trying to be and provide all things to all stakeholders no one is being served well, and it drops down to 80% is good and nothing is great.

      Jane was in the part that wasn’t going well, and she has removed herself. Your team seems to be giving you a vote of confidence in telling you about her parting instructions, which seem to have sounded a lot more glorious in her head.

      1. RVA Cat*

        All of this. The team trust the OP, and were probably shocked by Jane’s brazen lies. Going to a bar or nail salon on the clock is a whole other universe from doing laundry or other minor chores while WFH.

        1. MsM*

          I don’t know that they were necessarily shocked. At the very least, I’m sure they knew work wasn’t getting done.

          1. Expelliarmus*

            I imagine they were shocked at just how brazen she was in her claims; I know I would be.

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          And floridly pronouncing “well, I didn’t even TRY and was getting mani-pedis while you all did my work!” is? Probably not the life hack Jane thought it was.

          If I was somebody stuck doing her work I wouldn’t be all oh, thank you for showing me how to be as shitty an employee as you are, Jane! It wasn’t really going to impress the people she burdened with her tasks.

          1. Sandangel*

            It really sounds like she doesn’t realize how hard she’s telling on herself. She’s literally bragging about being a terrible employee and coworker.

    2. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

      I would also read this as -they were somewhat relieved she was gone and didn’t want you to feel badly that she resigned. e.g. “Looks like we are better off, boss”

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          This was my first thought too. “We knew there were issues – and here’s why there were issues, can you document this so we don’t get stuck with her on a rebound hire?”

      1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

        Indeed, how much you wanna bet that the work Jane ducked out on landed on their desks? Or they suddenly realized Jane wasn’t taking so long to get things to them because she was “swamped” but because she was prioritizing happy hour over her coworker’s ability to move forward with their own projects?

    3. Observer*

      The fact that your team told you about what Jane said, suggests they believe the problem lies with Jane and not you.

      Yes. They may be frustrated that she got away with it. But they also trust you enough to come to you with the issue.

    4. kiki*

      Yes! And honestly it’s probably also a sign that you’re a good manager that Jane removed herself– she probably knew that she wouldn’t able to keep her “hacks” up much longer.

    5. TG*

      Yes – I wouldn’t let a bad person change your approach. Just keep your eyes open to abuse but I think your team respects you or they wouldn’t have told you!

    6. Also-ADHD*

      Also it sounds like her performance wasn’t good and it was noticed and addressed. Her “hacks” clearly weren’t working. She was about to be put on a formal improvement plan because she wasn’t doing what she needed to be doing. It doesn’t really matter that you didn’t know it was because she was doing other stuff—LW recognized the issue.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Yeah, I strongly agree with this. OP managed Jane on her work, which is the ideal. Her work wasn’t good, OP addressed it with her, and she left. If she hadn’t left on her own, I hope that OP would have put her on a PIP and fired her.

        I think the exact reason that someone’s work was bad is often a red herring. If an amazing employee who got all their work done and also went to the nail salon during the workday, would that even be a serious issue?

        1. Lydia*

          I think OP says that was the next step and that Jane, whether she saw the writing on the wall or not, left right before that happened. It sounds like OP was doing well in communicating what was happening with Jane and Jane thought she’d get some sour grapes to spread around.

        2. Hill Rat*

          In the US senate there’s an official barber shop. It’s generally accepted that anyone can pop out during the day to get a haircut!

          1. allathian*

            I’d assume most people there would be exempt. For hourly employees, it’d all depend on how much flexibility they have in setting their own hours.

            The salon I go to is in my office building and I go there on my lunch break.

            1. GythaOgden*

              Yeah, same. I’m paid on a salary basis too despite being in a job that would be non-exempt in the US, and I don’t use business hours for anything except work. The idleness is killing me and I’m climbing out one handhold at a time, but when I’m on the clock I’m on the clock. And I’d be doing that if I was WFH as well.

              Salary/exempt/hourly/whatever, you’re being paid to be available — you need to not only get your work done but be there when something comes up. Someone at the big managerial level might be able to go and get a haircut during working hours, but not any of their reports.

            2. Lizzianna*

              Yup. I’m technically hourly but far enough in my career that I’m treated as salaried and allowed to set my own hours (I’m government, so being truly salaried isn’t an option). I’m responsible for managing my hours – I just have to get my 80 hours in a pay period, if I drop below that I need to account for it with some kind of leave, if I go above it, we do credit hours.

              So it wouldn’t be an issue if I decided to duck out for a few hours in the afternoon to get my hair done, I’ve been doing that for years since my salon’s Saturday appointments book out months in advance. But it would be a problem if I didn’t block it out as “unavailable” on my calendar and I marked those hours as worked on my timesheet and didn’t make them up at some point during the pay period. Our HR takes timesheet fraud seriously, and it’s one of the few things I’ve seen people fired for in my agency.

    7. Peanut Hamper*


      This comment is so full of insight. It’s good to see which way the wind is blowing in a case like this.

  2. Jane Bingley*

    One of the biggest things my work does that I think really helps prevent this is encourage a culture of honesty. Our company is fully remote and people simply keep their calendars up to date with their availability. You see everything from school drop-off/pick-up to midday hair appointments to afternoons booked off because the weather is nice. The expectation is that we manage our own schedules, work the hours we need to work, and keep our colleagues in the loop when we’re not available.

    The end result is that it’s easy and not weird to say something like “I want a manicure before my vacation, I’m gonna duck out midday Wednesday since I’m working late Thursday to meet with Bob anyway.”

    1. Bruc*

      That is great for exempt staff, are they as cool with hourly staff? My company reassigned some people to be hourly, they get to earn some overtime but miss out on “unlimited” vacation. My sister works a remote hourly job, but she is doing customer support so it is very very measurable… her job does let her take health related time as needed but she only gets paid for actual work (plus some vacation hours if approved in advance)

    2. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      For nonexempt employees, “ducking out” for anything is supposed to be accounted for with time worked later or PTO. I suspect Jane was not doing that.

      1. Bruce*

        Glad that your company has some flexibility for hourly staff… mine does too, I don’t manage people anymore but my impression is the hourly staff feels trusted and reciprocates

      2. cabbagepants*

        I don’t agree. I see exempt as being responsible for output, and if it only takes you 35 hours rather than the theoretical 40, then that’s ok. What you describe sounds to me like non-except but on an honor system rather than an explicit timeclock.

      3. Quill*

        Yeah, I have never worked anywhere that you didn’t clock out for anything longer than a 5-10 minute phone call very occasionally.

    3. Anon for this one*

      Yeah that’s all great until you’re trying to keep a cancer diagnosis under wraps and everyone wonders why you just have “appointment” for a half-day every Wednesday. My manager and HR knew, but that’s it.

      1. Easy*

        Management needs to create a culture where people don’t pry into each other’s locked appointments in their calendars.

        It only takes a couple of discussions.

        Fixing this is easy mode.

      2. philmar*

        I work with a guy who has so much leave built up that he just takes every Friday off. Why can’t Wednesday just be a day you’ve agreed to be your half-day with your manager (as far as everyone else is concerned)? It’s a great way to take care of the life admin tasks that are easiest during weekday working hours.

    4. Rachel*

      In the spirit of “you can’t make everybody happy” I would HATE this at work.

      I wouldn’t like the idea that I was obligated to share my off-hours activities, even if it was picking up kids or a dentist appointment.

      Also: you may think this is a “culture of honesty” but trust and believe people are writing down “manicure” and doing something that is not business.

    5. I Have RBF*


      I am 100% remote, and exempt/salary. I can take medical appointments during the day as long as I update my availability and let people know when I’ll be gone. If I get a migraine, I just let people know that I can’t focus on work right then. I often work evenings or weekends if there’s maintenance stuff that can’t be done during regular work hours. It’s a give and take.

      The key is twofold:
      A) Being up front and honest when I can’t work, and
      B) Being readily available and responsive the rest of the time, even if I don’t have anything on my plate.

    6. Angry about calendars*

      I’m sullied by my current work environment where my boss needs every little detail before giving time off. My kid (3!) needs to consult an ortho surgeon so I might be late once or twice in the next few months. They will be forgiving but need every bloody detail that they will then share with everyone. That’s why I don’t like open calendars. Maybe I need an IUD put in. Maybe I need to put my dog down and don’t want to talk about it. Maybe I have diarrhea. In an office with discretion that’s great, in mine it’s asking for unwanted attention.

    7. allathian*

      We have open calendars as well, but we’re also expected to flag personal appointments as private, regardless of whether we’re going to the dentist or simply shopping in the middle of the day.

      The only thing my manager cares about is knowing when I’m available. As long as she can trust me to get my job done and as long as I attend the meetings on my calendar that I’m expected to attend, she doesn’t really care what I do when I’m not available.

  3. Bruc*

    I’ve had a few problematic employees but only one who “sucked”. I was managing him remotely and realized he was stirring up trouble with the other staff at his site and trying to make himself the local authority when he was not qualified at all. Finally had to have someone trustworthy move there for a year to straighten things out, they fired the guy in a month and things settled down. Remote management can be hard!

      1. Critical Rolls*

        On the internet, no one knows you misspelled your name… unless you tell them, haha. (“Bruc! That sounds… European?”)

  4. Purple Cat*

    I think you need to be kinder to yourself. You said she resigned “right before being put on a formal improvement plan for performance issues.” So actually, Jane WASN’T getting away with it, she just thought she was. You correctly spotted her performance issues and were going to take steps to improve it. In a remote non-exempt environment, that’s the right thing to focus on.

    1. constant_craving*

      This is exactly what I was coming here to say. She didn’t get away with it. Performance issues were noticed and an appropriate action for addressing them was being put in place.

      1. Sleeve McQueen*

        Oh the hours I’ve put into writing my notes for PiP ready to have the first conversation about it only for them to pip me (ha!) with a resignation!

        I chose to interpret that as sign I had been so clear about my performance expectations that even someone as clueless as them could read the signs….

    2. reg*

      yes, exactly! LW, whether it was you or another supervisor, her shenanigans were noticed. your system works on some level. reflection is good, but be kind to yourself and the current and future employees who didn’t do anything wrong.

    3. bamcheeks*

      Yes! And it sounds like the reason the team members knew she was skiving off were because she TOLD them. (Which, for all we know, might have been the empty boast of someone who knew she was leaving, not even the honest truth.

      People like Jane are a minority, but you can really ruin good relationships fast if you try to manage good people like they’re the minority of bad actors.

    4. Person from the Resume*

      That’s what I wanted to say too. She wasn’t “getting away with it” and quit before you could fire her since it sounds like she had no intention of working harder ie full time.

    5. soontoberetired*

      Totally. I have worked with people who would disappear during the work day saying they were going to see Person A in building C when they were actually in building B – a bar. they all thought they were getting away with things but the lack of results was pretty darn noticeable, and all eventually lost their jobs.

    6. NotAnotherManager!*

      This was the part that stood out to me. Her “job hacks” impacted her performance in a way that WAS noticed and addressed. I’m guessing her teammates may have also been impacted by her lack of performance, and anyone worth having around is going to know not to take career advice from the weakest performer on the team.

      I also think that the remaining employees sharing her advice should also be taken as a positive. People who don’t trust their managers tend not to share anything, particularly stuff like Jane’s job hacks.

    7. pally*

      Oh exactly! Jane is making these statements to save face with the co-workers (“look how clever I am in getting away with stuff!”).

      OP, look at your successes (those who report to you and are doing well) and all the positive feedback you have received!

      I had a ‘bad egg’ who was eventually fired (unreliable, poor work quality, refused to do tasks assigned to her, less than professional behavior to upper management, spent her workdays clipping coupons). I did all I could to keep her from being fired (redid all her substandard work, made excuses to upper management for her behavior, did a good portion of her work myself to keep us on deadline).

      She contacted some of her former co-workers and told them she was fired because I had a vendetta against her. It was all my doing (because I hated her, apparently). No, the coupon clipping sent my boss over the edge.

      1. BatManDan*

        I would love the details of the situation implied by your last sentence, particularly if there was anything loud, dramatic, or public about “over the edge.”

        1. pally*

          Not dramatic, but humorous in a way.

          All along, my boss would pressure me (i.e., raise his voice) to “make her do her job!” and “don’t you do her work FOR her!” I worked weekends to keep things going and not let him know what I was doing.

          Later, boss explained that this was his way of supporting me (yeah, that’s a whole ‘nother story).

          When the coupon clipping incident occurred, tech was supposed to be inventorying chemicals and supplies. My boss walked through the lab a half dozen times each day during the time before the inventory was due, saw the clipping going on and beelined to me to remind me (loudly) when the inventory was due. “What the hell is she doing??? How many coupons does she have there??” Later, “I’ve never seen anything like this! What the hell?”.

          I, in turn, reminded her when the assignment was due. In addition, I did all the other work so that she could concentrate on the inventory assignment.

          So one hour before inventory due date, she stands up, declares that she will now inventory. At the end of the hour, she says she is nowhere near finished (“Sorry!”). It is also the end of her workday, and she goes home. I’m sure she felt smug.

          I had to tell my boss that I’d stay late to complete the inventory. He told me not to bother. He then went straight to HR and demanded she be fired the next day. They agreed and a letter was drafted. This was presented to tech by my boss. She was escorted around to pick up her things and then to the door.

    8. Queue*

      Yes!!! My thoughts as well. If Jane just sat at her desk and did nothing you would have caught her and put her on an improvement plan. That still happened, she just got her nails done instead of doing nothing.

    9. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Yes – This! You knew something was going on – you were about to put her on a PIP. What you didn’t know were the particular details of what Jane thought she was getting away with. But now (because your team trusts you not to shoot the messenger) you know the details of what Jane thought she was getting away with.

    10. ferrina*

      Joining the chorus- Jane didn’t actually get away with it!
      So these are really her tips for “trading short-term gratification for long-term career growth”

    11. wordswords*

      Yes, this was my thought!

      If Jane had actually been getting away with it, her work wouldn’t have suffered from her ducking out to the occasional personal thing (and I’m including any coverage requirements in “her work”). Instead, she resigned one step ahead of a formal improvement plan for her performance issues. And yeah, those issues might not have been directly connected to her attendance — I have no idea, but I’m betting they were at least indirectly connected. If nothing else, it’s hard to focus on raising the quality of your work when you’re heading out to a nail appointment and hiding that fact from your boss and coworkers.

      In other words, you did catch the problem. You addressed it! And did so effectively enough that Jane decided to go find another job to sneak out to happy hours from.

      Plus, as others have said, the rest of your team came back and told you about Jane’s comments. That’s a far cry from making mental notes on how to do the same, and it suggests that they think you’re an effective manager and Jane was at least somewhat of a drag on the team, or at least that her cheerfully helpful tips fell a lot flatter than she thought they would.

      I’m guessing what’s sitting ill is the smug gotcha tone — the feeling that Jane maybe thinks she’s made a fool of you, taken advantage of your blind spots or generosity, and is bragging about it now. But she didn’t get away with it, whether or not she genuinely thinks she did, and you don’t need to take her narrative about it! By all means, take stock of whether you did actually overlook any worrisome signs, but I don’t think you need to worry too much about course-correcting when from here it sure seems like you handled the situation well.

    12. Ama*

      Yes, this was my first thought too. She obviously wasn’t “getting away with it” because you were taking steps to hold her accountable. And as a bonus, she’s done you the (roundabout) favour of letting you know what she was up to, so you don’t have to spend time wondering why she was struggling/ if you we’re being too harsh/ should have provided her more help etc.

    13. Boof*

      Yes! I mean I don’t know how long Jane was carrying on, but let’s say if it was 3 months or less*, OP probably did everything right and all Jane did was trash her rep and piss off her coworkers.
      … it’d be another thing if say, this had dragged on for a year and multiple coworkers had had to cover her, then maybe a little more damage control and telling the team how things will be caught much sooner are in order
      *it’s gonna depend a lot on the type of work and how obvious it should be there’s a problem ie an hourly position it’s probably clear within a week if someone’s not answering phones/emails/etc vs something with longer training and projects a few months makes sense

  5. GingerApple*

    Some people… are just not kind. Here there everywhere. Jane decided not to be kind… and as long as others are contented then Jane made… a bad choice… and it reflects on her.

  6. Parenthesis Guy*

    How long was Jane an employee on your team? If it was three months, I’m not sure there’s anything you can have done. If it was three years, then that’s a challenge.

  7. mcm*

    I think it depends a little on how long Jane was there. If she wasn’t there for super long in your tenure, I think it’s pretty reasonable to conclude you were managing appropriately, especially since she was about to be on a PIP. Presumably, this step was preceded by conversations with her about her performance and improvement, and ultimately, that’s the step that makes more sense than more closely monitoring how she’s spending her time. I wouldn’t really say she “got away with it,” because it sounds like when her performance suffered due to neglecting work while on the clock, you provided feedback and eventually moved towards a formal PIP to address the work performance. I don’t think not monitoring her hours more closely was a missing piece here, addressing the impact on her performance was the right way to handle it, and it sounds like that’s something you were doing. Maybe if her poor performance went on too long before you started providing that feedback and moving towards a PIP, that would be something to think about in the future, but it doesn’t sound like you were letting the impact of all these distractions slide.

  8. Aepyornis*

    I would argue that she did not really “get away with it”. She may have escaped detection that she was doing things-other-than-work during work hours, but her performance suffered enough that she would have been put on a PIP. That’s… not a very successful strategy and outcome for her. I also wonder whether she might have exaggerated her absences as a way to get back at you and to get the impression of leaving with a win (which failed to impress her former coworkers, as they told you about it). I do understand being unsettled by this – I certainly would be too – but I don’t think this single episode warrants too much doubt in your ability as a manager.

    1. Katydid*

      Yes. Jane has already proved that’s she’s a liar. Why would you believe her parting words? She’s trying (and failing) to save face. Go ahead and do the recommended analysis, for your own sake, but don’t put any weight on anything she has said.

    2. fhqwhgads*

      Yeah, I think this is key. OP may not have known exactly what Jane was doing instead of her work and/or that some of Jane’s timecard was falsified, but OP clearly knew Jane was not performing the job as required. So, did OP really “miss it”? Maybe not. If OP thought Jane were doing enough work, but executing it badly that’s different than if OP could tell Jane was not doing enough work – or was taking much longer to do the amount of work she was outputting or that sort of thing. In other words, was the ducking out in addition to the performance issues, or potentially the root cause of them?

    3. LoV...*

      I came here to say the same thing. OP clearly figured out there was a problem and were addressing it. I don’t think that someone who left before they were put on a PIP got away with anything.

  9. Firm Believer*

    Going remote for a lot of people has been wonderful, but it’s been incredibly hard on many managers and managing a remote force has a lot of challenges that in person management does not have. There will always be people who game the system and pus the boundaries and while I think OP can look at ways in which this could have been spotted earlier, I don’t don’t them accountable for the fact that this happened. It’ll happen again.

    1. Ama*

      My office had someone gaming the system when we were fully in office *before* the pandemic — he was a senior level staff member whose job was to have a lot of external meetings, so he’d claim he was going to those meetings, sometimes he was but they were not as long as he claimed, sometimes he was just flat out lying. And then he used his “busy calendar” as an excuse for none of his other work getting done. The shutdown actually exposed how little he was doing since external meetings were no longer an option.

      You definitely have to manage your staff differently (I’ve at this point managed both fully in person and fully remote and now I’m fully remote managing staff on a hybrid schedule), but the people who are determined to game the system are going to game whatever system they are working in, it doesn’t really matter if it’s remote or in person.

      1. Dona Florinda*

        At a previous job that didn’t go remote during the pandemic, we had an employee who kept delivering the same three reports claiming they were new ones, and that went on for a few months before we realized what was going on. Sure remote work is difficult and has its own challenges, but bad employees will be bad anywhere.

        1. Angelinha*

          I feel like this would be easily caught, though, as long as whoever he was delivering the reports to actually read them!

      2. Nobby Nobbs*

        Call it the work equivalent of the person who claims to be working late to cover an affair- there’s only so much blame you can put on someone who’s actively being lied to for not spotting the truth. That’s the point of lying.

        1. CommanderBanana*

          Hah, I saw a post on IG that boomers want to end WFH so they can go back to having affairs at the office. It made me chortle.

          1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

            Lol, “boomers” have retired. Well, okay, the first half of the cohort has. The earliest boomer was born in 1946 and is almost 80 today. (It amuses me that the subsequent “named” generations pretty fiercely defend their terms, while “boomer” just seems to mean “old person”.)

            1. I Have RBF*

              Yeah, as someone who is technically a “boomer”, but work-wise more Gen X, I have no interest in returning to the f’ing office, and never had an affair at the office or anywhere else. Not all people who get labeled “boomers” are lying, cheating assholes.

            2. londonedit*

              To be fair, there are plenty of people who use ‘Millennial’ as shorthand for ‘young person doing something I don’t like’, when actually Millennials are in their 30s/40s and are not the straight-out-of-uni ‘youth’ that everyone’s moaning about. Personally I can’t stand being lumped in with ‘Millennials’ (I’m an extremely ancient Millennial, or one of those in between Gen X and Millennial that no one knows what to do with) because I can’t stand all the ‘Millennials eat avocado toast all the time/are lazy and entitled/just need to stop buying coffee and then they’d save enough for a house’ crap.

              1. CommanderBanana*

                ^^ Truth. Also the parameters of what generation spans what years doesn’t seem to stay consistent. I’m an elder Millennial, I think?

                People have been complaining about the younger generation since there was a younger generation to complain about, it seems.

      3. Seeking Second Childhood*

        A former co-worker pulled a Jane twice. First he left when he realized he would be put on a PIP for never finishing anything. Then we learned he’d been fired from his next job for telling SiteA he’d be at SiteB, telling B he’d be at A, and not going to either.

        Again, no remote work involved.

    2. just another queer reader*

      I mean, there are lots and lots of ways to slack off while working in person, too.

      Sure, the dynamics are different, and you might not be able to get your nails done, but a person can totally just… not do work while at work.

      (see also: humans aren’t productive every moment of every day)

      1. londonedit*

        I definitely do more work at home. First, it’s quieter and I can concentrate better, and secondly when you’re in the office you go to make a cup of tea and end up chatting to someone for ten minutes, you go and nose around the shops on your lunch break, you pop out for a mid-morning coffee, you end up being pulled into an ‘Oh! Can you just come and have a look at this and give me your opinion?’ etc etc. At home, yes I will put a load of washing on or put away a shopping delivery, but those things hardly take any time out of my working day.

    3. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      When I worked at the office, I spent considerable amounts of time not working, but I managed to put in double the amount of work that my colleague produced, so the boss was still getting great value for money with me.
      When I was doing stuff other than working, it still looked like I was working, so nobody was any the wiser.

      The people who don’t work properly at home, don’t work properly in the office either. If anything, there are people who are better able to pretend to work in the office, mostly by producing a lot of hot air, than at home where they can’t interrupt everybody and gossiping in the corridor is no longer a thing.
      Managers need to manage by looking at work output rather than how long you stay in your seat looking at your screen. That’s as true for WFH as in the office.

  10. HA2*

    It looks like Jane DIDN’T get away with it – she was about to be put on a PIP and reacted to it with “you can’t fire me! I quit!” So whatever you were doing to notice that she was underperforming and needed to be on that PIP was sufficient and correct.

    If she’d been getting away with it for years, that could be a sign that whatever you finally noticed to get her on that PIP should have been noticed and addressed earlier. But that’s about it.

  11. Bookworm*

    I’ve been in Jane’s shoes–not to the extent that I was deliberately getting away with personal stuff just because for the most part but I did NOT feel like I was being managed: in retrospect, it was obvious from the interview process that this was not someone who I felt was invested in my professional growth (heck, I didn’t feel they were invested in me actually doing the job they hired me for!).

    I certainly wasn’t trying to get away with anything and I’ll fully admit that I probably could/should have done things differently. But it was not an environment where I even felt safe working in (hybrid/remote and I don’t care to get into the details) after an incident, whereas before I just felt uncomfortable. The boss was not someone I felt comfortable going to about this and ultimately didn’t feel particularly invested in working for someone who only saw me for my labor above all and literally nothing else (meaning, even work/life balance wasn’t exactly a priority when boss would call/email staff even when they had approved PTO, etc.). I have reason to believe there are others who have had similar experiences with this organization but this isn’t necessarily any sort of swipe at you or your management capabilities, etc. Just offering a slightly different POV from someone who has been on the other side.

    In this case, though, it may be that Jane was just the outlier who *was* looking to get away with stuff (I’ve known people who have done similar things) and it shouldn’t be taken as a reflection on you. Alison’s questions may be valid for preventing future instances, but if in general the others are happy, then maybe it was just a really bad fit. I’m sorry you had that experience.

    1. Budgie Buddy*

      I don’t think this really offers a perspective relevant to OP?

      If a boss isn’t invested in your development, then it’s fine to work to rule while job hunting. Same with a work setup that doesn’t feel safe. In neither case is it justified or useful to slack off during work hours and perform poorly.

      If Jane had an unvoiced beef with the company, she dealt with it in a way that was maximally damaging to her job and reputation while not making much impact on the company.

      Jane might write a similar post to the one you did where she defends her actions by saying she wasn’t trying to underperform, and that she had legit complaints she couldn’t express directly, but OP has to go by Jane’s work.

  12. mb*

    As mentioned above, I would say that the fact that she was about to be put on a pip shows that she wasn’t performing and that you were actually noticing the problem with Jane, you just didn’t necessarily know why. It definitely feels gross that she bragged about this to other employees but that’s on Jane, not you.

  13. Irish Teacher*

    Honestly, every workplace has a Jane and usually, most of their coworkers are rolling their eyes because they think nobody’s noticed and usually…people have. Clearly, in your case, you did notice her work wasn’t up to scratch.

    I don’t think I’ve ever worked in a place where there wasn’t somebody who did a Jane typed “hah, look at my cool hacks for getting away with stuff” and in my experience, most don’t wait until they are leaving. They do it the whole time and usually assume everybody else wants to do the same but just isn’t as clever as them. They are…rarely as smart as they think they are.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Yeah – pretty sure I know exactly what my Jane is up to (she told us in the interview process she wanted to join our remote team because the lack of a commute would give her more homework time) – and yes all the leads (I’m one of them) have noticed that there are issues in her workflow. I just wish the supervisor would listen to us and actually DO something about it.

      But that isn’t my circus or monkeys.

    2. GythaOgden*

      Yeah! We had a really nice young lady working with one team that reception is close to (basically, they fed us what little actual work we had). She was going through tough times and was ill and evidently in a bad relationship with lots of kids. She was on a temp contract with one department that didn’t have enough work to take on permanent employees.

      But there’s only so long you can be out at the front of the building on your phone and not actually doing what you’re supposed to be doing before Words Are Had. And as sorry as I felt for her and as much as I felt at times like her older sister, I wasn’t surprised when her contract wasn’t renewed. You can feel sad for someone personally but compartmentalise that and ‘yeah, I’m not surprised at her contract being quietly dispensed with’.

      My 60s-ish co-receptionist does make curtain-twitchy comments about how much some other people seem to be out at the front of the building when their office is in the back, but it’s not really any of my business, still less my responsibility. We get ringside seats for all the other drama, but don’t participate in it ourselves…

  14. Ama*

    I would like to send this entire post to my CEO though, since she’s designed our return to office hybrid policies apparently as a reaction to a couple of employees who pulled a Jane (without the “here’s how I did it” email) during the shutdown, even though none of them work here any more. She even admits when asked why we have such a restrictive policy that “not everyone did well working from home” but apparently the vast majority of us who did don’t count.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      That’s extremely short-sighted of your CEO, and is pretty much guaranteed to drive away employees.

      1. I Have RBF*

        Plus it will make it harder to hire replacements with a restrictive RTO policy, even if it’s technically “hybrid”. Most senior people in jobs that can be done remotely don’t want to be tied to an office to be micromanaged.

        IMO, remote work is here to stay, and those companies who manage it well can reduce their spending on office space and infrastructure significantly. Of course the corporations that own buttloads of office space don’t like it, but for companies that cheaped out by shoving everyone into cheek-to-jowl open-plans will soon realize that remote only is even cheaper. Yes, it requires retraining managers in how to manage for results rather than butts-in-seats, but in the long run that is a better measure of productivity anyway.

  15. Mae*

    So in my opinion Jane didnt get away with it. You knew her performance was bad and you put her on a PIP. You didnt know why, but the why only really matters if the person is genuinely looking for help to improve and she wasn’t.

  16. Wannabe Expat*

    I want to echo that Jane is the problem here, not the writer, and that the team reporting Jane’s actions to her speak to that. I think one issue with remote work is trust and someone like Jane can ruin trust for the rest of the office. At my partner’s remote lama support job, he’s stuck with tons of software measuring how many calls he takes, how long his time is between calls, and how long he spends responding to a customer’s email. It wears on him. Sometimes he’s afraid to be in the bathroom for too long when it’s not a break because it will influence his down time and he could be written up if he’s outside of their ridiculous metrics. We calculated it once and it came down to something like 7 minutes of down time total between all of your calls a day outside of your breaks and lunch (which they always release people late for). He’s actively looking for another job now. This was his transition job out of food service and into an office environment. If it weren’t for the constant mistrust and measuring tools of the company he’s currently working for, he’d be happy to stay. He’s great at his job and has gotten promotions. I guess the moral is don’t punish the good workers by implementing something that addresses the symptoms of a bad worker breaking trust but doesn’t fix the problem; rather, it makes it into everyone’s problem.

  17. Speak Now TV*

    Going to a nail salon or to a bar is a red herring. The problem is that she didn’t do the work, or didn’t do it well enough. But that would be an issue even if she stayed at home. How she spent her time not-working isn’t relevant.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      It is, to an extent. But she’s bragging about it on the way out the door in a way that definitely feels like a kick in the stomach when you’ve been trying to cut someone slack. I can see how it would shake OP’s confidence. (not that it SHOULD, I just see how it could).

    2. Pierrot*

      If she’s non exempt, it is an issue because presumably she was “on the clock” but not actually working.

  18. Student*

    I’m coming from the angle of being, to my shame, a Jane.

    I don’t have enough work to do. When I try to take initiative, I get shot down. When I’ve tried to get more work from my boss, i get shot down. So… I have a lot of idle time during work hours.

    My boss takes no interest in my work. Asking even basic questions, or showing any amount of interest, would help prevent slacking off. I can tell the minor tasks I do have are all BS, though – things that don’t matter to my boss or anyone else. So I’m not inclined to work much on them. Anything I do is going to be ignored or tossed out – so why spend time polishing trash?

    I have little to no engagement with other people on my team, or anyone else in the org. This makes it easy to get away with doing nothing. There’s no one to call me out, no one depending on me, no one even talking to me regularly. I am permanently under the radar. Consider making sure there’s some regular team interactions to prevent this.

    My boss prioritizes dealing with chaos, fires, and complaints. She doesn’t prioritize things that are not imminent disasters. Make sure you’re carving out some time for managing projects that aren’t burning trash heaps, because if that’s the only thing you invest time and resources in, that’s what you’ll get more of.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Well, except that Jane either wasn’t getting her work done or wasn’t doing it well, so there’s no evidence that she didn’t have enough to do–she just wasn’t doing the job.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I don’t think that’s the same situation. Legitimately having downtime is one thing, and a reality in some roles. And frankly I think it’s fine to do the laundry or do your nails or watch Judge Judy with one ear on the computer if you have legitimate downtime. Jane was “hacking” the system and not flying under the radar – she was demonstrably doing a bad job. You’re not a Jane.

    3. Wannabe Expat*

      Doing your job and meeting your metrics doesn’t make you a Jane. What you do with your downtime at work, when you can’t get or invent more work to do, is up to you. At that point, they’re paying you to be available to do your work so as long as you’re getting it done, the extra time you have is your own.

      1. I Have RBF*


        My workload is light enough that I can spend a few hours here and there reading AAM. I’m still available to do anything that is asked of me, and I often get pulled in to critical issues with zero notice.

        They are actually paying for my nearly 25 years of expertise and the fact that I can solve problems, that would take others several days, in just a few hours. I’m available all day, except when I have a medical appointment or am sick. I frequently get pinged at 5:30 pm for stuff, and I just handle it without complaining about “work hours” or such, because it’s part of my job to solve problems. There is a two-way flexibility, and I do my best to hold up my end of the deal.

        My situation is not the default, though.

        1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

          My job has so much work that you could never finish it all but I still take some downtime in my day so my brain doesn’t explode.

    4. sequinedhistories*

      This comment just discourages me so much.

      I mean, what is the goal of the manager and the business?

      If it’s to get a reasonable job performance for reasonable compensation, then I think it’s a good idea not obsess over how people spend every minute of the work day.

      If you want to squeeze people to get the absolute maximum amount of their labor for the pay you’re offering them, you end up with people having to wear diapers to their job at the Amazon warehouse because they might lose their job for having to pee.

      Especially in the US, I think to many employers obsess over getting their money’s worth out worker to the point that there are a lot of practices that are just outright inhumane.

      OP managed based on this person’s job performance and clearly realized that it wasn’t good enough. She was on her way out! It’s not like she got to sit there 30 years doing half the the job. I think NOT alienating employees with a reasonable work ethic pays off as well.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        I think Student is saying that different types of workers need different types of management. I do better with more active supervision, and it sounds like Student does too. If I’m accountable to someone, say in a weekly 30-60 minute meeting, then my engagement and timely work completion is great! If I feel like it doesn’t matter when I get stuff done, I tend to skive off–until it all comes crashing down.

        Lots of people do much better with more hands-off management, and that’s great! Some folks need a bit more direct supervision than I do, and that’s also okay. I don’t think there’s any reason to feel discouraged. Different folks, in different sorts of jobs, do better with different types of management. All part of being human.

  19. Sneaky Squirrel*

    Echoing all others thoughts that it kind of seems like you did catch that something was amiss if there were plans to put her on a PIP.

    If you were looking for self reflection, you could examine how often you met with Jane and how you were managing her workload. You could also reflect on the turnaround times for the responses Jane’s calls/emails and see if there were signs? It’s completely reasonable to set an expected turnaround time to respond to calls/emails (with the caution being that you also want to set the tone with non-exempt staff that they should also only be responding within their approved work hours).

    1. Person from the Resume*

      Also reflect on if perhaps you should have started the PIP sooner. Had Jane been underperforming and you gave her lots of benefit of the doubt? That’s possibly room for improvement, but you also don’t want to overcorrect into being a harda$$ where you don’t trust your employees. The question is did you trust too much or avoid starting the PIP earlier just because it’s an unpleasant process. And if the answer is “no” continue as is.

  20. McS*

    There’s another way to look at this, which is that you did catch it by being ready to put her on an improvement plan and that your other reports are not incentivised to follow her hacks. She wasn’t even, really. She didn’t want to stay in the job and she has lost you as a future reference. I know it stings that she’s acting like she got away with something, but she didn’t really.

  21. Chilipepper Attitude*

    I worked on a team that had a Jane, or maybe two Janes, who left before I started. I know OP did not ask, but based on how I saw the team discussing the offenders, I would love to know Alison’s take on what to communicate to the rest of the team.

    In our case, the team did NOT tell the manager that Jane#1 left work constantly during work hours. I think that says a lot about OP; her team told her! The manager finally realized what was happening, got confirmation from the rest of the team, and followed up enough to be able to fire Jane#1. With Jane#2, I think the team felt that she got extraordinary flexibility that hurt the team, but again, they did not tell the manager but were upset by it.

    I don’t have the sense that the team was happy, even after the Janes left, with either situation. I think the manager is great in many ways, but maybe she was too hands-off in these situations.

  22. learnedthehardway*

    OP, you weren’t failing in your role as a manager, here. You were doing the right things and managing in the right way. The proof is that your employees came to you with this information – whatever the reason, they felt that JANE was the problem. (If they had felt you were the problem, they wouldn’t have said anything, and some might have adopted some of her “hacks”.)

  23. Friend of HR person*

    OP, sorry. Live and learn. Many of the “manager” hints people get say to give people slack. IMHO that ONLY works with top performers.

    1. Vaguely Saunters*

      Hmm it depends what is being viewed as giving people slack.

      If that means giving them trust to get their work done and not micromanaging for every item, then I think that holds for most performers. Not only the top performers.
      Most staff will end up feeling resentful or stressed if they work in a team where there’s no slack granted. That approach can make unhappy ‘good’ performers look for other jobs as they’re not thriving or enjoying their work.

    2. Donn*

      Agreed. Early in WFH lockdown, my then-employer switched the staff to laptop computers which people were required to transport between home and office every day.

      Then I realized that most staff take public transit, which made a company laptop a very different animal. What if someone’s going somewhere after work, that isn’t near their home?

      I knew the management would never do it, but I still suggested they give staff the flexibility to schedule a WFH day, to attend an after-work event that was closer to home. I would’ve been responsible about it, but a lot of other people wouldn’t.

    3. sequinedhistories*

      This comment just discourages me so much.

      I mean, what is the goal of the manager and the business?

      If it’s to get a reasonable job performance for reasonable compensation, then I think it’s a good idea not obsess over how people spend every minute of the work day.

      If you want to squeeze people to get the absolute maximum amount of their labor for the pay you’re offering them, you end up with people having to wear diapers to their job at the Amazon warehouse because they might lose their job for having to pee.

      Especially in the US, I think to many employers obsess over getting their money’s worth out worker to the point that there are a lot of practices that are just outright inhumane.

      OP managed based on this person’s job performance and clearly realized that it wasn’t good enough. She was on her way out! It’s not like she got to sit there 30 years doing half the the job. I think NOT alienating employees with a reasonable work ethic pays off as well.

  24. Stevesie*

    I had a startlingly similar situation. Except my employee (hourly with a position providing coverage) constantly called out claiming mostly medical issues. The day I was slated to give her a PIP, she resigned (she was well aware this was on the way). Due to COVID and the nature of her call outs, I let it fester for way too long. She did not smugly say she got away with anything, but I found out later she was talking badly about me to the entire team, telling them I wasn’t accommodating her enough! She was unwilling to go through the FMLA process as well. This person was absent 60 hours her last month with us. It really shook my faith in my ability to manage and took me several months to recover. Some people will take advantage any way they can, not even in a malicious way sometimes.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I think you know this, but just reiterating that giving people flexibility around health issues during the ongoing COVID situation is a positive thing. I’m sorry that happened. But some people (myself included) are having really bad luck health-wise right now and your flexibility is worth the world to us.

    2. not a hippo*

      I went through a similar thing!

      Their poor attendance was getting the attention of the C-suite (never good!)So I sat this person down, said that their attendance was becoming a problem but if they were having issues, they should speak to HR about accommodation. I was willing to go to bat for them, but they also had to meet me in the middle. They refused. They were also struggling in other ways so they were put on a PIP.

      Less than a week after being putting on the PIP, they quit by sending a snotty email that they found a job that was “more accomodating”

  25. Jesshereforthecomments*

    Agree with the advice you’ve gotten, including in the comments. I am the type of manager that reviews myself whenever an issue with an employee arises so I can see if there’s anything I could have done differently. I think it’s a great ongoing practice. That being said, please try not to let this shake your confidence.

    It’s also important that you don’t make changes in reaction to Jane, and to the detriment of your team. So often managers will let one bad egg ruin it for everyone and that is unfair and demoralizing.

  26. Eldritch Office Worker*

    One thing I am very sure of is that my style of management leaves room for bad actors to abuse me, my systems, and my policies. There are checks in place for that, but I’m not over anyone’s shoulders and they could probably get away with being a Jane longer than I would prefer. However, I know those same systems offer my good employees a lot of flexibility and have seen that flexibility improve morale, retention, and overall work product.

    Sometimes a Jane is just the cost of doing business. But as others have said, you WERE addressing this issue. Maybe not as fast as you could have, maybe this will be a learning experience and you’ll be able to look out for some red flags in the future. But I would caution you strongly not to overreact and take any autonomy away from the people who have shown they can handle it. That’s a natural instinct when this happens, but one Jane and a team that tells you about the Jane is actually a really good outcome all things considered.

    1. Admin Lackey*

      +1 If your management is otherwise good and your team trusts you, then you’re a good manager who got taken advantage of. Having a few bad actors who get away with things is just the price of not living on Suspicion Island. And Suspicion Island is not a good place to manage from!

    2. kiki*

      Yes! It’s easy to want to get to a 100% success rate with management, hiring, or most things with work. But managing people can never be perfect! There will always be a person who your style just doesn’t work for or is determined to exploit every loophole. It can be demoralizing to watch, but it’s better to have a policy that works excellently for 90% of your employees than something that is 100% effective but also leaves all your employees feeling demoralized.

  27. Database Developer Dude*

    Just be careful and follow Alison’s advice on how to manage going forward. If you react by swinging the needle too far over to the non-permissive side for everyone, you risk destroying the morale of existing employees, and losing them.

    My civilian position allows me to work remotely. They trust me to get things done…why? Because I get things done.

    1. Lily Rowan*

      Not that I have ever gotten a pedicure during the work day, but with having Outlook and Teams on my phone, I can be pretty responsive even when not at my desk. Of course I am not getting anything actually done during that time.

    2. nm*

      Considering she was about to start PIP they were probably like “just leave! Nobody will stop you!”

    3. NaoNao*

      Likely pretty basic stuff: blocking out the calendar as “busy” for an appointment, setting office hours in Outlook, using thin excuses for missed/late meetings (oh sorry tech issues/whatever), having calls and emails forwarded to a personal phone/bringing a work phone with her, sending fluff progress reports, dancing around meeting requests by putting tentative and then not going, and so on.

      1. kiki*

        Yeah, maybe there were more specific and interesting things Jane was getting away with, but the examples listed were pretty mundane. Even great employees sometimes put a calendar event saying that they’re at an appointment, when they’re really taking off a bit early for a happy hour. I’m sure for Jane these things weren’t infrequent, though.

        1. NaoNao*

          Agreed, and the hacks Jane had were likely specific to her industry, role and even location. For example, she could have said she was “in sales meetings” or heck, she could have said she was “interviewing leads” as a detective for all we know :)

          She could be “at Location B all day” or “at a coworking space” and oopsie, the coworking space doesn’t have wifi, she’ll be “offline” all day.

          She could be “in the stacks working on a special project” (I worked periodical retrieval as a teen in a huge library and spent hours wandering our basement stacks “looking for an item”) or “researching X” or “out getting supplies” or whatever.

    4. BatManDan*

      You’re assuming Jane was telling the truth on the way out the door. I’m not willing to assume one way or the other.

  28. imagined dragons all day*

    The biggest mistake I see in, uh, pretty much everything, is people bending over backwards to prevent the last thing that happened from happening. In dating, this is like “okay my last ex did Thing, now how can I screen out all future dates from that”, or in job, it’s like “okay the last person we hired did Thing, how can we write the job description to prevent it ever happening again”.

    This is also called always fighting the last war.

    You can’t prevent this from ever happening again, and doing things to overcorrect are just going to cause harm to your other employees. For instance, you can constantly be watching their instant message or slack statuses… but what good will that do?

    Someone took advantage of flexibility. That doesn’t mean restrict the flexibility.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      ^^ This. Jane is gone, and that’s good – don’t punish all the non-Janes for the Sins of Jane. That’s almost guaranteed to drive good employees off.

    2. Warrior Princess Xena*

      To a certain extent it IS good to learn from your latest mistake. I’d agree that the solution is not necessarily to remove the flexibility, but it is good to better refine the flexibility. Maybe the PIP should have gone into effect earlier. Maybe it’s time for a weekly check-in meeting to track how projects are going. Maybe you schedule more regular 1 on 1s! But there’s always something to be learned. The challenge is to not overcompensate.

      1. kiki*

        It is good to learn from your latest mistake, but it’s also important to assess if a real mistake was made. It sounds like Jane was an employee determined to take advantage of any flexibility given. She was also an employee who was likely going to be fired soon (I’m assuming she wouldn’t survive her PIP). Jane likely sensed that and removed herself on her own. Could Jane’s “hacks” have been detected sooner? Maybe! But would the cost (increased monitoring, demoralizing other employees) be worth the faster resolution? I don’t think so, honestly, since it seems like the rest of the team is doing great.

  29. Js*

    the way I see it, you were about to put her on a performance improvement plan anyway so you’re fine. obviously you took the steps needed to get to that point… but she beat you to it.

    good riddance, right?

  30. Thank God (or something) I no longer work there*

    We had someone who was supposed to be providing technical support to another work site. There was a lot of behind his back joking that “going to site B” was code for “going to the casino”. Right after he retired we combined into one facility. They didn’t have him there for technical support nearly as often as he claimed. Maybe he wasn’t going to the casino but wasn’t spending that much time at site B either. Short of checking with people at site B (“Is George really spending that much time at your site?”) it would have been hard to tell. Sometimes when you take a position of trust George’ll abuse it and it’s really on them not you.

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      Someone at a former job had the nickname “Layby Larry” because of rumours that when he’d be travelling to site visits he’d park his car somewhere and take a long break first before actually going to do his job. I don’t know how much it actually happened, although I do remember one day when he’d set off for one of our satellite offices, and the builder doing construction works at his home address was desperately trying to reach him about something and he wasn’t answering his mobile. When I tried the satellite office myself to pass that on, I remember being surprised that he hadn’t arrived yet, given the time he had set off, and someone later told me that was probably what had happened.

  31. Just Another Cog*

    She didn’t get away with it though. She wasn’t performing and was going to be put on a plan.

    And that’s the thing, I think, when you’re managing remote employees. If they’re getting all the work done, communicating clearly about progress etc, and not letting down the team by not being available when availability is expected … then it’s not “getting away with it,” its being a remote employee who is meeting performance expectations.

    That’s the messaging for the rest of the team, too. “Well, she thought she was getting away with it, but I think we all know that it was affecting her work and being noticed by management.”

  32. Sara without an H*

    Hi, LW — You don’t say how long this situation went on, but it looks to me as though you managed correctly. Jane wasn’t performing to required standards, you followed up on that and were about to put her on a PIP, which she quit to avoid. Her “hacks” don’t seem to have impressed your team — if they were thinking of adopting any of them, I don’t think they would have told you what Jane said.

    I can think of one thing that I’d investigate if I were in your position. Did any of your team wind up doing Jane’s work while she was off getting her nails done (or whatever)? We’ve heard before at AAM from people who felt obligated to clean up after a low-performing coworker, to keep the work moving, meet deadlines, serve clients, and so forth, but didn’t like to inform management because that would be “tattling.” It would be worth it to follow up and make sure this wasn’t happening. Assure your people that, if they’re routinely picking up a coworker’s slack, you would like to know about it, not to punish anybody, but to see if there’s a problem that needs to be addressed.

    You’re doing fine. Please, please, please don’t overcompensate by micromanaging your good employees. Just ask HR to flag Jane as “ineligible for rehire” and move forward.

  33. Extra anony*

    I think a lot more remote workers do this than they admit. I certainly do take advantage of getting errands done while officially on the clock, and I’ve caught my colleagues – and boss – doing it as well. Boss doesn’t care as long as we are responsive when needed and on top of our workload. We also are willing to put in extra hours on a tight deadline so I think it works out. If you really care about your employees not doing personal stuff on the clock and complying with the exact hours, I think a more involved management style is needed – like daily check ins, monitoring their calendars and chat programs etc – and it can seem micro-manage-y.

    1. Avery*

      I think the difference is, you’re responsive and on top of your workload, even if you take breaks to run errands now and then.
      I’ll fully admit that I’m the same way as a remote worker. I start later than most and only sometimes make up the time on the other end, I take extra long “lunch breaks” to walk my dog and get some fresh air, I read AAM on the clock!
      But also I bust my butt when I’m working, I work late as needed, sometimes I even get work projects done during what would normally be my off time, and if I get contacted by work when having a late breakfast or taking a long lunch break, work absolutely takes first priority.
      Maybe you’re taking advantage of the flexibility of remote work, but you’re not taking advantage of your boss or your employer. You’re just enjoying being able to get work done on a timeline that’s not strictly 9-5. Nothing wrong with that.
      (And also, I’m exempt and salaried, and assuming you are as well. If you’re hourly and/or in a position where coverage is key, that’s a whole different story.)

  34. Raida*

    I love the idea that someone quits, tells her teammates about how she’s gotten away with slacking, and then the team finds out she was on her way out due to poor performance, disproving her opinion on how well she’d done.

    I’d suggest looking at what technology is available to you from an overview perspective – can you baseline hours ‘active’ in the system, times of day emails are sent, that kind of stuff? If so, then using it to *baseline* staff (not watch them) and be able to see where they have a change and if it lines up with a change in output, quality, focus, etc would help with you drilling in quickly on patterns.

    Having said that, if I wanted to I could create a meeting in Microsoft Teams for two hours, join it on my phone, go to the movies and come back to work and appear fully as though I’d been working from an ‘active’ standpoint, and further checks on URLs accessed, emails sent, mouse movement would not disprove that because in a meeting it’s fine to not be touching the computer.

    But if you were to get a list of URLs sorted by amount of time interacted with them by user, and there was 2 hours of use in the period of the day that no emails were sent and no files accessed – that’s a clear indication that someone’s just browsing the internet instead of working.

    Just something to consider – see what is available as data, what it looks like aggregate, and use it for variations from the norm

    1. Helen of What*

      This is way too much to be scouring data for when most employees, especially non exempt ones likely have goals they need to be hitting and the manager can use those metrics to determine productivity.

    2. GythaOgden*

      Yeah. I was off sick once in March. I charged my work phone to be able to call in via Teams, but once that was done I just left it on my bedside table with my personal phone and turned over and went back to sleep. I keep phones on because in normal times my personal one is welded to my hand, and it also functions as my main phone line so yeah, I need it to be receiving calls.

      At 3pm I go to call out for the following day because ain’t no way I’m well enough to go back in. I’m greeted on Teams by my supervisor telling me to turn my phone off when I’m not in. I’d evidently been showing as online all day, I’m guessing sending mixed messages to people who were trying to let me know that they had someone coming in or asking me about the post. Clear communication — either you’re on and present or have dispensation to be offline — is important because people frequently message just one of us receptionists no matter how many times I ask people to copy both of us in.

      So I’m not surprised if Jane managed to scam her company in this way.

    3. Fishsticks*

      Yikes, that’s a little invasive for a team that WASN’T doing what Jane was. You don’t want to punish the class because one person misbehaved. That’s a great way to lose all the trust and good relationships OP has built with their team.

    4. Saberise*

      She didn’t say she told the team that Jane was on her way out for performance issues though. She may not have. I know that we had one co-worker that we found out on a Wednesday that Friday was her last day. We know she was rather bad at her job but have no idea if she actually quit or was fired. For years we wondered why she got away with the stuff. Our boss has been very closed lipped about it all. So Jane’s co-workers may feel that she got away with it.

  35. sequinedhistories*

    It sounds like she was on-track to lose her job, so it doesn’t sound to me like she actually WAS “getting away with it.”

  36. Not a Jane*

    I heard an epic Jane story from one of my friends. Someone in customer service that worked from home would call her own cell phone from the computerized work call system and would just leave herself connected to herself for hours and go do other things. It took the company A MONTH to figure out what she was doing. It wasn’t a one time thing, either. She was let go as soon as her work caught on.

  37. Scarlet Ribbons in her Hair*

    Another epic Jane story:

    I know someone who convinced his company to hire his niece Jane to fill a vacancy. TPTB said okay. Jane did not have to show up for an interview. She did not have to take any tests. She did not have to send in a resume. She did not have to provide any references. Her uncle merely told her that the job was hers, and he told her when to show up.

    Everything went well until one day, when her uncle was away on a business trip, Jane started screaming that she had just received a call on her cell phone notifying her that her grandmother had just died. She immediately ran out of the building. Co-workers quickly figured out that her grandmother must have been her uncle’s mother. (In previous conversations with her co-workers, she had let them know that she had only one grandmother.) So people started calling Jane’s uncle on his cell phone to express their condolences.

    Fine, except that the woman hadn’t died. I suspect that Jane decided that she wanted to take the rest of the day off, and probably a couple of days afterwards, and she didn’t think that the company would say okay if she asked, “Hey, can I take off the rest of the day and a couple more days and still get paid?” So she figured that if she said that her grandmother died, she would be able to get the time off and still get paid. I don’t know if it occurred to her that people would figure out that her grandmother was her uncle’s mother. (I once read about a guy who called his wife’s company to say that she would be out that day because her FIL died. When he was asked, “You mean that your father died?” he said, “Uh… yeah.”) Maybe she thought that since her uncle was away on a business trip, the company wouldn’t be able to contact him. I have no idea what her uncle thought when he heard people telling him that his mother died. But whatever he thought, he eventually found out the truth, and he told his company that Jane had lied, and she was fired.

    I once read online about a man who, whenever he started a new job, wrote “maternal grandfather, maternal grandmother, paternal grandfather, paternal grandmother” on a piece of paper, and whenever he felt like taking a few days off with pay, he claimed that one of his grandparents had died (and he crossed the corresponding grandparent off of his piece of paper, so that none of his grandparents “died” twice).

    I’ve read of people screaming that whenever one of their relatives dies, and they want the time off, their company requires a death certificate or an obituary with their name in it (proving that they are a relative of the deceased). and they don’t think it’s fair. Maybe it’s because the company got tired of getting screwed over by employees pretending that their relatives died just so they could time off with pay.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Lol! I’m flashing to the MASH episode where half of Klinger’s family is dying and the other half is pregnant.

    2. Database Developer Dude*

      I was working for a company that did give bereavement leave for a parent, but not a parent-in-law, and the CEO justified it by saying they didn’t want someone to claim multiples. I’m like “what am I, Elizabeth Taylor?”

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, and it’s not as if there can’t be multiple parents as well. Or did they refuse bereavement leave for a stepparent or a parent’s subsequent spouse, even if you didn’t consider them a stepparent because you’d never lived in the same household with them?

  38. Knope Knope Knope*

    It sounds like you identified her performance problems, we’re ready to put her on a PIP and effectively managed her out before it got to that point. It doesn’t sound like she got away with anything.

  39. I am a Jane too.*

    I am a little bit of a Jane, but my manager is fully aware & fine with this as I meet my KPIs without exception every quarter & it is very unusual for anything to be left incomplete before COB each Friday. If I need to go to an appointment or want to take a long lunch to catch up with a friend I do, I just let my manager know where I will be & an approximate return time.

    As of the new financial year (July 1st here) I am being paid the same amount but moved to a four day week as my manager identified that I do not need to be in the office five days to get my work done so I now have every Wednesday off work (my choice to take Wednesday as it seems to be the day when the least amount of meetings occur).

    If you are meeting agreed upon targets & your boss isn’t a giant bottom face then this arrangement can work.

    1. allathian*

      You’re not a Jane because you meet your performance metrics. You aren’t slacking off just because you work shorter hours with your manager’s agreement.

      Jane quit before she could be put on a PIP. That isn’t bad in and of itself, either, lots of people do that. Jane erred in bragging about her hacks for slacking off even as she was about to be put on a PIP.

  40. Tiger Snake*

    LW, I’m seeing that you’re reeling, and I’m worried. Often when we’re in that position and mindset, we react instead of reflect. We try and make up for the ‘problem’ by overcompensating.
    I’m concerned you’re going to bounce into the other direction too hard, and start micromanaging your other employees because you’re reacting to the news; and that’s not really want anyone wants here. Let’s not shoot the messenger who just wanted you to make sure you were giving the correct reference.

    So, be careful. Be kind to yourself and your team, and remember that even though they’re far away they’re all individuals – how best to manage them is going to be different for each person. You’re management maybe wasn’t the best to keep Jane on track, but any issues with your other employees will be different problems. Remember you have a whole set of management tools, don’t just use the hammer.

  41. Lobsterman*

    I don’t understand this question. Jane did a bad job. She got fired. OP did a good job noticing that Jane was doing a bad job, and then firing her. OP’s team then told OP that they agree with how OP handled it. Everyone got the result they should have gotten.

    1. allathian*

      Jane didn’t get fired, she resigned before she could be put on a PIP, and potentially get fired if she didn’t improve.

      But it all sounds like good riddance to me.

  42. Uncomfy Truth*

    As Alison said, the worst thing you can do now as a manager is over-correct and not have trust in employees going forwards. As with all types of micromanagement, a lack of trust in your team creates distrust in management, paranoia, low productivity, and high turnover.

    While Jane could just be an awful, lazy person in the workplace, these types of employees are pretty rare, really, and she’s fixed the problem by resigning and removing herself from your team. And there are some other possibilities.

    Jane could be boasting about goofing off on company time and sharing “hacks” on how others can do the same on the way out, but not because it was actually true. It could be purely to stir up trouble, and make her displeasure with the manager and company heard.

    Or Jane could be angry or resentful over you saying she had performance issues, or wanting to put her on a PIP: if she feels she has been unfairly treated, this may or may not be justified on her end. I’ve been the exasperated manager of a difficult employee more than once, and only you can say whether you had done all you could to set her up for success. But for the sake of completeness, it’s important to note that many managers do not do this effectively, or at all, or they jump immediately, or too early, to the PIP option, instead of correctly classifying it as a last resort.

  43. 143*

    I think Jane is just rattling OP’s cage because she’s leaving and doesn’t like OP as a manager. It probably never actually happened, and no one who actually successfully gets away with swinging the lead on company time tends to admit it, even to former colleagues, because that’s their secret.

    Ignore it and continue being a good manager that trusts your staff, OP.

  44. 143*

    I feel for you, OP, and have been in your shoes before. It’s frustrating and disheartening.

    But no matter how frustrated I might get as a manager with an employee, I always remember that the people most likely to not do the right thing in workplaces are those with power, because they’re the ones who will be protected. People work because they have to; they’re not going to put their livelihood at risk for fun.

    But even if Jane is one of the bad apple employees that do exist, they are extremely uncommon, and she is no longer your problem to deal with.

    The best thing you can do for yourself, employees who work with and for you, and for your employer, is to remain an upstanding example of a good manager, who has trust in their people, as well as someone who operates with compassion, flexibility, objectivity, and fairness.

  45. Banana Tuxedo Junction*

    As someone who literally used to wet-set her hair and/or play video games during Zoom meetings at my old WFH gig, this is outrageous. Plausible deniability is the key!

  46. Jerusha*

    I don’t think this is an indication that anything in your managing necessarily needs changed. As many other posters have noted, Janes are just going to Jane, and you can’t stop them. You can only manage them out when you catch them, and it sounds like you were doing just that.

    If you do anything differently, it might be worth thanking your team for trusting you with what Jane said to them. If appropriate (Alison? Any other opinions?) I might add something like, “As you would expect, disciplinary action, including discipline for poor performance, is handled between an employee and the company, and the employee’s teammates are not privy to those discussions. However, let me assure you that Jane was not ‘getting away with’ her job performance – her performance had been noted and was being acted upon when she chose to resign”

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